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If lazing on a 7-mile-long stretch of sugar sand sounds like paradise to you, check out this guide on things to do in Anna Maria Island in Florida.
A little livelier than its neighboring barrier islands, Siesta Key and Longboat Key, Anna Maria Island (AMI) is a popular vacation spot for Floridians seeking sun, laidback living, and good seafood.
Now let’s get into what to do on Anna Maria Island, once home to the Tocobaga People.
Best Things to Do in Anna Maria Island
To help you get your bearings as you read our guide, we’ve started in the south and then make our way up to the north of the island.
AMI Tip: While the Gulf side is very appealing, there are Anna Maria Island attractions on both sides so consider this during your itinerary planning.
Things to Do in Bradenton Beach
Hop Aboard Anna Maria Island Trolley
If you want to enjoy a car-free vacation to Anna Maria Island, consider using the free trolley.
This air-conditioned bus covers stops from Coquina Beach (Bradenton Beach) at the bottom of the island all the way to the City Pier (City of Anna Maria) at the top.
Starting in the south of the island, let’s take a look at the Anna Maria Island activities in the Bradenton Beach area.
Coquina Beach for Families
Coquina Beach welcomes you to AMI as you drive over the bridge from Longboat Key.
This white sandy shore is ideal for families as there are lifeguards on duty, and there is a shaded area with picnic tables for lunch.
Adjacent to the beach is Coquina Bayside, where you’ll find boat launches.
Both areas have restrooms and lots of parking.
It is worth noting before we dive into all of AMI’s beaches that camping is not permitted on them.
Leffis Key Preserve for Hikes
Next to Coquina Bayside is the home of the 26 ft marshy hill at Leffis Key Preserve (2351 Gulf Drive South).
This natural area has mangroves, trails, and boardwalks, which are wheelchair and stroller-friendly.
Enjoy views over Sarasota Bay while stretching your legs at Leffis Key.
Cortez Beach for Sunsets
Cortez Beach is a great beach for those who want to be within walking, or stumbling, distance to the Bridge Street entertainment area of Bradenton Beach.
The beach has a pier for fishing, a large stretch of sand for bathing, and incredible sunsets.
The downside to Cortez Beach is that there is no public restroom or shower, and parking can be tight, so it is not the best option for full-day trips to the beach and may not be the best AMI beach for kids.
However, it is perfect for couples, with watching sunsets being one of the most romantic things to do on Anna Maria Island!
Another plus about Cortez Beach is the shelling opportunities.
While the main part of the beach is sandy, and there is a grassy embankment, there are sections full of shells for those who love to take a souvenir home with them.
A gentle reminder that you should never take anything still alive from the beach, including shells.
Historic Bridge Street For Entertainment
No trip to AMI is complete without a wander along the island’s Historic Bridge Street (200 Bridge Street).
This is the lively and more touristy area of the island, with its cafes, restaurants, bars, shops, and attractions.
It leads to Bridge Street Pier.
Island Time Bar & Grill For Live Music
Island Time Bar & Grill (111 Gulf Dr S) is a popular bar, day and night, at the start of Bridge Street.
The bar schedule features live music most nights of the week.
The food menu consists of various seafood options like oysters, shrimp tacos, and lobster fritters.
Daiquiri Deck For Views
Enjoy a chilled daiquiri and the sea air breeze at the Daiquiri Deck’s rooftop (107 Bridge St).
This modern, family-friendly AMI bar offers shade from the scorching sun, views over the Gulf, and live music.
Bridge Street Festive Fun
If you visit Anna Maria Island at Christmas, you’ll get to see Bridge Street’s decorations and a huge tree with ornaments and a star.
If you’re not from the south, you might find turquoise waters and tinsel a little strange at first, but how delightful is the winter sun?!
Do some holiday shopping at the Bridge Street stores for unique items that you can’t get back home.
Fudge Factory For The Sweet Tooth
Everyone’s favorite vacation souvenir can be found at the Fudge Factory (117 Bridge St).
The store makes around 30 different flavors of fudge and has 40 types of ice cream with creative cones!
I’m salivating, just typing about it.
Play Mini Golf With The Kids
See how many balls you can pot at The Fish Hole Miniature Golf (115 Bridge St).
This family-friendly adventure golf course has 18 holes and is open until late, making it one of the best things to do with kids in Anna Maria Island at night, as it doesn’t involve alcohol.
Bridge Street Pier
The stunning Bridge Street Pier (200 Bridge Street) is worth a stroll, especially if you are a keen photographer looking for nature shots.
A fan of fishing? Bring your rod to Bridge Street Pier.
You’re only steps away from the Anna Maria Oyster Bar.
The bridge was once the only way to enter the island back in the 1920s!
Bridge Street Clock Tower
One of the main features of the pier is the beautiful clock tower which you can walk under.
Like many attractions on the coast, the tower’s bell has suffered from the salt air in the past!
Don’t bother checking the time on the clock face; you’re on island time in AMI.
Bridge Street Market
If you ask locals ‘what to do at Anna Maria Island,’ they’ll say spend a penny at the Bridge Street Market.
Vendors line the pier selling crafts, jewelry, and fresh produce every Sunday in winter through spring.
Things to Do in Holmes Beach
Holmes Beach is a fun spot for those who want their vacation itinerary to be water-based.
It is also home to a couple of restaurants loved by locals and visitors, as well as a gigantic fish…
Parasailing For Thrill Seekers
Experience AMI from the sky during this parasailing tour.
The trip starts with a short boat ride manned by a professional crew who then kit you out to fly 350 feet (107 meters) above the water.
Remember to pack your camera!
Parasailing is especially loved by teens.
Kingfish Boat Ramp For Boat Launching
For a well-used boat ramp, consider Kingfish Boat Ramp (752 Manatee Ave) in Holmes Beach.
This launch is popular as there are lots of fishing spots close by.
Many of the chartered boats around the island leave from this ramp.
Manatee Beach For Families
For a bigger beach with access to restrooms, showers, a cafe, and parking, go to Manatee Beach (near Gulf Drive).
This lively area is popular with visitors of all ages, and there are lifeguards at the tower.
Plus, grills and picnic tables mean you can make a full day of it.
There are also volleyball nets for those wanting to throw a ball around.
The free trolley stops at Manatee Beach, and cyclists can use the bike racks, making it one of the best free things to do on Anna Maria Island!
It is worth noting that dogs, glass, and fires are not permitted here.
Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe For Rentals, Food & Drinks
This popular beachfront cafe hits the spot for cool drinks, filling meals, and tasty snacks.
Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe (4000 Gulf Drive) is more than just a cafe located at Manatee Beach as here you can rent beach equipment, drink at the Bamboo Beach Bar, and listen to live music!
There’s also a gift shop for those looking for beachwear or souvenirs.
Hurricane Hanks For Seafood
Expect huge portions at Hurricane Hanks (5346 Gulf Dr) in Holmes Beach, with a menu made up of seafood, steaks, pasta, salads, burgers, and sandwiches.
This is a popular joint, and food is made from quality ingredients, so do assess your hanger levels before you make an order, as there might be a bit of a wait.
Hurricane Hanks offers indoor and outdoor dining.
The Ugly Grouper For Food & Live Music
The Ugly Grouper (5704 Marina Dr) isn’t just a restaurant; it’s a huge social complex with live music performances, games like corn hole, and a 3,000-pound metal fish sculpture!
There’s plenty of outdoor seating and parking for cars, trucks, and buggies.
Getting a picture with the metal grouper is one of the more unique things to do in Anna Maria Island!
Things to Do in the City of Anna Maria Island
The final city in our Anna Maria Island travel guide is the City of AMI.
Located in the north of the island, you’ll find less crowded beaches, the island’s biggest park, and a historic pier for fishing.
Drinks at Sandbar Seafood & Spirits
Dip your toes in the sand while you dip your shrimp in sauce at Sandbar (100 Spring Ave).
Sandbar has been serving customers since 1979, but the location dates all the way back to 1911, when Anna Maria was only accessible by boat.
The team is committed to bringing a bit of ‘Old Florida’ to the Gulf Shores.
Bean Point Beach
Located at the northernmost end of Anna Maria Island, Bean Point Beach is a little slice of paradise with views over Passage Key, the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, and St. Pete.
But the trick is, you have to find parking to access it.
This is not a typical public beach, so you won’t find any amenities, and you have to carry your gear from the car, so keep that in mind while deciding which AMI beach to spend the day at.
If you’re up early enough to catch the sunrise, this beach is a great spot.
Some say Bean Point Beach contends with Siesta Key as the best beach in Florida!
What do you think? Tell us in the comments.
The Island Players
After a day of sunbathing, appreciate the arts at The Island Players (10009 Gulf Dr).
Actors and crew perform a handful of shows throughout October to May, some of which sell out, so be sure to book tickets in advance.
The theater building was once the home of the William H. Gillette family of Parrish; it was placed at its current location in 1912 after it was delivered by barge down the Manatee River!
Dine, take out, or get delivery from Pizza Social (308 Pine Ave).
The menu consists of handcrafted Italian pizza, garlic prawn dough nuggets, and fresh salads.
There are also gluten-free options.
Rod and Reel Pier For Casual Meals
Enjoy views from the north of the island at Rod and Reel Pier (875 N Shore Dr) where you can sit in our take and dine at the pier.
There’s also rod rental if you’re trying fishing for the first time or didn’t pack your kit.
Rod and Reel have been serving traditional fare since 1947.
Anna Maria Bayfront Park
Anna Maria Bayfront Park is popular with families as it has a large picnic area and grills.
Other amenities include a play park, restrooms, and ample parking.
It is located on the north end of the island, on the bay side, and offers views of the City Pier.
Anna Maria Island City Pier
AMI City Pier (103 N Bay Blvd) was built in the early 1900s for steamboat passengers sailing across Tampa Bay.
Today, the 700-foot-long pier is where you can relax on benches while people fish.
There’s a bait shop on the pier, too.
Things to Do Near Anna Maria Island
Once you’ve done all of the things to do in AMI above, you might want to consider getting off the island or hopping over to another.
Bradenton is a city on the mainland that can be reached by bridge from Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach.
This is a typical built-up small city where you’ll find commercial dining, independent restaurants, gas stations, laundry, mechanics, and normal daily life businesses.
You’ll also have more choices when it comes to food, including drive-throughs if you just want to dine and dash.
Bradenton is a bit cheaper when it comes to accommodation compared to AMI.
Siesta Key Beach is known as the US’s number one beach, and for good reason.
This stretch of the Gulf has unique quartz sand, which is extra powdery.
The beach has world-class facilities with free parking, showers, restrooms, shaded picnic tables, and a wheel-friendly path down to the sand.
Visitors can make use of the beach shop, cafe, and chair/umbrella hire.
From Siesta Beach, you can walk to Siesta Key Village, where you’ll find a handful of restaurants and bars.
You can read all about the best things to do in Siesta Key here.
Sarasota, aka Florida’s circus city, is famous for being the winter home of The Ringling Brothers.
Not far from Downtown, you can visit the Venetian Gothic Ca’ d’Zan mansion, which is now a museum celebrating the life of the brothers whilst displaying John Ringling’s European art.
The city has a number of cultural offerings, from theater, improv, opera, ballet, and trolley tours of Newtown.
St. Armands Circle is a popular dining spot with locals.
Check out our guide, things to do in Sarasota.
AMI Travel Information
The island is split into three cities, Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach, and Anna Maria, so even if you’ve visited before, new experiences await in Manatee County.
The beach runs as one continuous sandy path with Coquina Beach (Bradenton Beach) in the south and Bean Point Beach (City of Anna Maria) in the north.
Buildings are no taller than three stories, and you won’t find the golden arches by any of these Gulf of Mexico beaches; that’s the Anna Maria Island way and why it’s one of the best small beach towns in FL.
Visitors can fly into Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport and drive to Anna Maria Island in around 40 minutes. We discuss how to get to AMI in more detail at the bottom of the guide.
How to Get to Anna Maria Island
Hopefully, our guide on things to do around Anna Maria Island has helped you traverse from inspiration to the booking stage!
If you are now fully in planning mode, you’ll need to know how to get to AMI.
Since Anna Maria Island is a barrier island, you should work out which of the access points is best for you.
To do this, consider where you are traveling from and where you are staying, then decide which bridge is best.
If driving from Sarasota, you can head through Longboat Key to the southern tip of AMI at Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach.
Or, from South Bradenton (city), take State Highway 684.
Finally, the Anna Maria Island Bridge crosses the Anna Maria Sound and connects the City of AMI in the north with Bradenton.
Note: Since the Gulf of Mexico suffers from the issue of Red Tide, which can cause respiratory illness and eye irritation, it is always best to check the Florida forecast on the NCCOS website.