Travel U.S. Cities

11 Best Things to Do on Anna Maria Island

By
on
April 1, 2021

Are you looking for a list of the best things to do on Anna Maria Island?

In this article, we highlight the best family-friendly activities on Anna Maria Island, as well as show you the many reasons that this United States vacation destination is the ultimate beach-lovers paradise.

Whether you’re looking to relax on the beach, go fishing, watch dolphins, or dine on delicious seafood, there are literally so many fun things to do on Anna Maria Island.

Look no farther for the 11 best things to do on Anna Maria Island to find your piece of paradise!

This post may contain affiliate links, which means that we may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. For more info, see disclosure.

What to do in Anna Maria Island at The Pier
Anna Maria Island Pier

Things to Do on Anna Maria Island

Anna Maria is a barrier island located on the southwest coast of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico.

Anna Maria’s 7-mile long coastline is home to three laid-back, beachy communities: the City of Anna Maria (to the north), City of Holmes Beach (in the center), and the City of Bradenton Beach (to the south).

All three cities provide access to spectacular beaches, accommodations, and amazing outdoor activities that offer a friendly “Old Florida” feel.

Regardless of whether you’re dining and drinking on the shore or dipping your toes into the aquamarine waters of the Gulf of Mexico, an Anna Maria Island vacation will have you feeling relaxed, rejuvenated, and refreshed.

Anna Maria Island beaches
Head to the beach on Anna Maria Island!

1. Head to the Beach

There are a total of 6 pristine beaches on Anna Maria Island!

Though each beach on Anna Maria Island is unique in its own way, they all offer the same picturesque aquamarine-colored water, as well as lucious pure-white sand that is always cool to the touch.  

You can’t go wrong in choosing to go to either of these beaches, though your choice(s) may come down to their proximity to your overnight accommodations or where you are able to find parking.

Here’s a quick snapshot of each:

Bean Point

  • Located on the northernmost tip of the island.
  • The most secluded and tranquil of the island’s beaches (a hidden gem!).
  • Street parking only.
  • Breathtaking views. Best place to watch the sunset.
  • No lifeguards.

Bayfront Park

  • Located on the northern tip of the island in between Anna Maria City Pier and Rod n Reel Pier.
  • Views of Tampa Bay, Egmont Key, and the famous Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
  • A large park area with a playground, pavilions, picnic tables, and grills.
  • Free public parking.
  • No lifeguards.

Holmes Beach

  • Located in the middle of the island.
  • Best beach for surfing.
  • Most utilized by nearby condo and vacation-rental beachgoers.
  • Limited parking found here.
  • No lifeguards.
Anna Maria Island map

Manatee Beach

  • Located in the middle of the island.
  • Busiest beach on the island with the most public amenities.
  • Best beach for shelling (go early to find the best shells!).
  • Home to AMI Beach Cafe.
  • Large public parking area.
  • Beach equipment rentals available (chairs, umbrellas, cabanas).
  • Lifeguards present.

Bradenton Beach

  • Located in the small community of Bradenton Beach.
  • Best spot for snorkeling on the island.
  • Most utilized by nearby condo and vacation-rental beachgoers.
  • Home to The Beach House and Gulf Drive Cafe restaurants.
  • Very limited public parking.
  • No lifeguards.

Coquina Beach

  • Located at the southern tip of the island.
  • Long, narrow beach good for shell picking.
  • Similar amenities as Manatee Beach but often less crowded.
  • Has an awesome boardwalk that you can walk, run or ride on.
  • Large public parking area.
  • Beach equipment rentals available (chairs, umbrellas, cabanas).
  • Lifeguards present.

Additional planning tip: Though parking at the beaches is free, it can be hard to get a spot, especially on the weekends or holidays.

Plan to arrive at the beaches early in the morning, or later in the afternoon (after 3:00 PM) when people are beginning to leave.

Don’t forget to bring along these must-have beach essentials that will maximize your fun and safety while on the beach!

Discover the best things to do on Anna Maria Island from Top US Family Travel Blog, Travel With A Plan! #familytravel #Florida #AnnaMariaIsland

2. Bike the Island

Similar to when visiting Siesta Key and other small beachside communities, one of the best things to do on Anna Maria is to rent bikes!

Being that vacationing on the island is all about getting away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, bike rentals allow you to never have to start your car engine once you’re settled in.

In fact, there’s no easier way to get around Anna Maria Island and to avoid the stress of having to find a parking spot than to bike to-and-from all of your favorite spots.

Along with being a convenient mode of transportation, biking is a fun entertainment option too!

Popular Anna Maria bike rental companies such as Beach Bums, AMI Beach Fun Rentals, and Fun and More Rentals offer free delivery of their bikes, rentals for one or multiple days, and complimentary helmets and locks.

Dolphin tour, an Anna Maria Island activity
Dolphin Tour

3. Take a Dolphin Tour

Hands-down one of the best Anna Maria Island activities is to take a guided dolphin tour offered by our favorite, The Salty Dolphin!

Anna Maria Island is known for its large population of bottlenose dolphins that love to frolic and play in their local waters. The best part about taking a guided dolphin cruise is that your captain will know just where to find them!

For both adults and kids alike, there’s something so special about seeing dolphins in their natural habitat swimming and playing alongside one another.

For only $35/person, we loved getting to spend 1.5 hours learning about the local wildlife, watching seabirds, searching for manatees, and being treated to the beauty and splendor of Anna Maria Island’s resident dolphins.

This is an experience you don’t want to miss!

Things to do on Anna Maria Island from Top US Family Travel Blog, Travel With A Plan!
The Donut Experiment

4. Build Your Own Donut!

Every now and again, you taste something so delicious that your taste buds will never let you forget how great it was.

In comes what you will experience when customizing your own freshly-made cake donut at The Donut Experiment!

This ultra-adorable hang-out located on Pine Avenue is filled with friendly staff just waiting to assist you at the donut bar and to serve you up a cup of piping hot coffee or other specialty drink.

After the donuts are cooked right in front of you, they’re dipped and dunked into the icing, toppings, and drizzle of your choice making for a completely fun and unique experience.

Additional planning tip: If there’s a line to order, hold tight. These melt-in-your-mouth donuts are well worth the wait. Plus, for only $1.35 per donut and $13.75 per dozen, they make for the perfect, affordable snack!

Best restaurants in Anna Maria Island
Delicious food in Anna Maria Island

5. Dine with a View at Anna Maria Oyster Bar

Our favorite restaurant on Anna Maria Island is Anna Maria Oyster Bar, otherwise known as ‘AMOB’.

Along with its prime location on the Bradenton Beach Pier, AMOB has a fun and family-friendly atmosphere, amazing staff, and a food and drink menu that is off the charts (be sure to try the White Sandy Beaches or Toasted Monkey cocktail)!

You can’t go wrong in ordering their Calamari, Tuna Stack, or Jumbo Chicken Wings as an appetizer followed up with perfectly cooked seafood, Gulf-fresh fish, oysters, steaks & chicken, hearty soups, or pasta.

For a chance to dine right on the ocean and eat amazingly fresh food in a great atmosphere, we definitely count a visit to Anna Maria Oyster Bar as one of the best things to do on Anna Maria Island!

Additional planning tip: There is limited parking directly in front of the restaurant. Simply pull up to the hostess stand and a staff member in a golf cart will assist you in finding their nearby available (free) parking.

Things to do in Anna Maria Island, mini-golfing
The Fish Hole

6. Sink a Putt at The Fish Hole in Anna Maria Island

Just a short walk from Anna Maria Oyster Bar, be sure to get in a round of mini-golf at The Fish Hole located on Bridge Street.

This 18-hole miniature golf course is surrounded by tropical plants and shade trees and features a fun, nautical décor that fits in with the vibe of Anna Maria Island.

Though the course itself is not challenging it is both affordable ($9.49 per person) and well-maintained, as well as provides the perfect opportunity to have some family fun.

Additional planning tip: Bring along some change! There is a fish food dispenser located next to the gigantic 3,000 Koi pond found at the course. Our kids loved seeing and feeding the dozens of resident Koi here!

*Walk and go mini-golfing after dining at AMOB and you won’t have to find a new parking spot.

7. Take the Free Island Trolley or Monkey Bus

We mention utilizing free transportation as one of the best things to do on Anna Maria Island for its convenience and awesomeness.

With a few differences, both the Anna Maria Island Trolley and Anna Maria Monkey Bus offer free rides and stops up and down the island to avoid the hassle of driving, traffic, and parking.

The Island Trolley operates 7 days a week on a fixed route and starts service at 6 AM. It runs at 20-minute intervals until 9 PM, then every 30-minutes until 10:30 PM. Trolley stops can be found every 2 – 4 blocks.

Island Beach Monkeys, “The Monkey Bus”, on the other hand, travels all over Anna Maria Island by request only. You can call 941-565-6542 to schedule a ride anywhere on the island (and beyond) from 12 AM to 3 AM, 7 days a week.

“Rides for Tips” is their slogan as there is no official charge for this service.

Additional planning tip: For the Island Trolley, look for teal-colored, open-air trolleys. Monkey Buses are brightly colored, covered minibusses.

8. Go Fishing

Whether you’re an avid fisherman looking to book a deep-sea adventure or simply want to test your luck and throw in a line from shore, Anna Maria Island offers great fishing opportunities.

First off, Anna Maria Island is home to several companies that offer chartered fishing trips where the bait, tackle, rods, boat, and a guide are all provided at a cost.

Many people rank these experiences as some of the best money they’ve ever spent fishing, however.

For a land-based experience, both the Rod and Reel Pier and the City Pier, along with Bradenton Beach Pier are excellent spots to fish from. At all three of these places, you can rent rods and purchase bait for low hourly rates.

At Rode and Reel Pier, for instance, we paid $2.00/person to fish, $2.00/hour for pole rental, and $3.50 for a bag of frozen shrimp bait. We excitedly caught snook and snapper.

All in all, fishing from the piers is truly one of our favorite things to do on Anna Maria Island for the endless smiles that it provides.

Additional planning tip: Those in your group who are 16 years or older will need to purchase a local license to fish. If fishing from a pier as a non-Florida resident, however, you do not need a license are you are covered by the pier’s license.

Shopping in Anna Maria Island
Shops in Anna Maria Island

9. Browse the Island’s Specialty Shops

Anna Maria Island is home to an abundance of dessert shops, jewelry stores, boutiques, clothing stores, art galleries, and other specialty gift shops.

The hand-made goods and boutique items are ones that you simply won’t find elsewhere!

Both Pine Avenue (near Anna Maria City Pier, Bayfront Park, and the Rod and Reel Pier) and Historic Bridge Street (in Bradenton Beach) are home to unique and creative shops that are some of the most popular and fun places to visit on Anna Maria Island.

Here’s a list of our favorite shops that you won’t want to miss:

  • Olive Oil Outpost (Pine Ave.)
  • Three Island Monkeys (Pine Ave.)
  • Pink & Navy (Pine Ave.)
  • Bridge Street Bazaar (Bridge St.)
  • Back Alley Treasures (Bridge St.)
  • The Uptown Lot (Bridge St.)
Things to do in Anna Maria Island, watch the sunset
Anna Maria Island sunset

10. Dine and Watch the Sunset at The Sandbar

The Sandbar is another hugely popular restaurant and tops most people’s list as one of the best things to do on Anna Maria Island.

Located on the north end of the island, the Sandbar is situated on the sandy shoreline of the Gulf, meaning that it is no joke that you literally ‘dine with your toes in the sand’.

Not only does The Sandbar offer an epic, family-friendly dining experience in an unbeatable location, but it is also the perfect spot to watch an iconic Anna Maria sunset.

There is nothing quite as breathtaking as watching the gigantic sun sink below the horizon over the Gulf of Mexico (with unobstructed views). This is something you definitely need to do each and every night when visiting here.

Additional planning tip: Expect long waits to be seated at The Sandbar, especially during peak tourist seasons. Be aware that the food is just a great as the view!

Other great restaurants on Anna Maria Island include:

  • The Wicked Cantina – Amazing Tex-Mex food and the best margaritas!
  • Waterfront Restaurant – Awesome dinner option with a huge porch; great food and cocktails!
  • Shore (on Longboat Key) – Memorable higher-end dining experience with amazing food and views (be sure to make reservations)!

11. Explore the Local Area

When talking about fun things to do on Anna Maria Island, it is necessary to mention its close proximity to so many other amazing coastal and local communities.

Anna Maria Island is only a short drive from places like the fishing village of Cortez, Longboat Key, Bradenton, Sarasota, and Siesta Key.

In fact, check out both our favorite things to do in Sarasota and the absolute best things to do in Siesta Key, as these are two of our other favorite family vacation spots.

Needing a theme park fix?

Travel 2 hours and 30 minutes northeast and you’ll find plenty of things to do in Orlando including Magic Kingdom, Universal Studios, SeaWorld, and Legoland.

In short, you will definitely not be at a loss of finding things to do when visiting Anna Maria Island and the surrounding area!

Oyster Bar
Anna Maria Oyster Bar

Things to Do on Anna Maria Island: Insider Tips

  • Parking ordinances are strictly enforced on Anna Maria Island.  If it says ‘No Parking’, don’t do it unless you want a ticket. Likewise, if you park on the roadside be sure your tires are off the asphalt street or you will get a ticket.
  • Drive slowly on Gulf Drive as pedestrian crosswalks are everywhere. Florida law requires that you stop and give the right of way to pedestrians
  • The months of May to October are considered ‘Turtle Season’ All outdoor lights must be dimmed, beach toys/equipment removed from the beaches, and holes filled in. This prevents nesting turtles and their hatchlings from running into hazards or from becoming disoriented.
  • Be mindful of ways to beat the Florida heat if visiting during the sweltering hot months of June, July, or August.
  • The closest major airport to Anna Maria Island is the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, but it offers limited service. Tampa International Airport (TPA) is larger and is located one hour and 15 minutes north with interstate access.

People Also Ask

Where is Anna Maria Island?

Anna Maria Island is located southwest of Tampa, Florida. It is a barrier island bounded west by the Gulf of Mexico. Anna Maria Island is located close to the cities of both Bradenton and Sarasota.

What is so special about Anna Maria Island?

Anna Maria Island is a low-key place. There are amazing vacation rentals, beautiful beaches, unique seaside dining venues, local art, and plenty of outdoor activities. In other words, there is truly something for everyone here!

What is the best time to visit Anna Maria Island?

The best months to visit Anna Maria Island are from January through March, and then again in October. The humidity is much lower than during the summer months and is it usually not as busy either.

Is Anna Maria Island expensive?

Because there are no fast-food chains or high-rise hotel chains, you’ll spend more on food and lodging in Anna Maria Island. Also, most accommodations here have ocean or beachfront views making prices higher than when staying inland.

Thanks for reading! What is your favorite thing to do on Anna Maria Island? Our fellow travel readers would love to know!

Jen

If you like our list of the 11 Best Things to Do on Anna Maria Island, click here to read our Related Posts:

*Before leaving, be sure to check our Travel Resources Page to find exclusive travel discounts and to book hotels, rental cars, and guided tours.*

"If you like it, Pin it!" quote
Discover the best things to do on Anna Maria Island from Top US Family Travel Blog, Travel With A Plan! #familytravel #Florida #AnnaMariaIsland
Discover the best things to do on Anna Maria Island from Top US Family Travel Blog, Travel With A Plan!
TAGS
RELATED POSTS
16 Comments
  1. Reply

    Kathryn Dickson

    June 6, 2021

    Sounds like the perfect family getaway for a week! Especially for us Canadians dying to head south right now.

    • Reply

      Jen

      June 6, 2021

      Yes…anywhere in Florida is a hot spot right now! Thanks for checking out my article!!

  2. Reply

    Harmony, Momma To Go

    June 2, 2021

    Been dying to visit this area – you know I am always in Naples and SWFL – but where does one stay on AMI? Up in Sarasota? are there only beach house rentals and not hotels? I need to explore this area – I mean beach and make your own donuts, Im sold!

    • Reply

      Jen

      June 4, 2021

      It is beautiful! There are several resorts and condo complexes (VRBO or direct rental) on AMI. We haven’t stayed in any, and instead, always stay on Siesta Kay and do day-trips to AMI. If you ever go and stay there, let me know your recommendation 🙂

  3. Reply

    Sarah Blevins

    June 1, 2021

    I have been wanting to get to Anna Maria Island for some time now! We spend a lot of time on 30A in the panhandle and it seems to have a very similar vibe! Saving this post for our trip!

    • Reply

      Jen

      June 2, 2021

      You will love it there! The beaches and restaurants are fantastic!!

  4. Reply

    Linzey

    June 1, 2021

    What a neat little island! How have I not heard of this; it looks absolutely amazing. Like a secret gem! Thank you for sharing! Definitely adding this to my list 🙂

    • Reply

      Jen

      June 2, 2021

      It is truly a hidden gem – so close to more talked about places like Sarasota and Siesta Key. Thanks for reading!

  5. Reply

    Julie

    June 1, 2021

    We’ve had Anna Maria island on our list for a long time!! I’m all about the dolphin tour…and we can’t pass up a good donut!!😆

    • Reply

      Jen

      June 2, 2021

      Yes, the dolphin tour was awesome! To see so many dolphins out in their natural habitat was great – the kids loved it!!

  6. Reply

    Nicolette

    June 1, 2021

    My kids would love the build-your-own-donut place! And, I would love staring at those gorgeous water views!

    • Reply

      Jen

      June 4, 2021

      Yes! I tell ya…our kids LOVED it there! I would love to go back someday and explore more!!

  7. Reply

    Colleen Lanin

    April 12, 2021

    Why hadn’t I ever heard of Ana Maria Island before?! It looks so beautiful!

    • Reply

      Jen

      April 12, 2021

      Yes! It is a hidden gem…yet so close to so many other amazing destinations in Florida. The island is great even if just for a day trip!

  8. Reply

    Keri | Bon Voyage With Kids

    April 12, 2021

    We love Anna Maria island and it is such a great place to visit for families. We haven’t tried the dolphin tour yet, but it is such a great idea to add to our list for the next visit!

    • Reply

      Jen

      April 12, 2021

      What was cool about the dolphin tour is that there are so many different pods of dolphins that call Anna Maria home. They are everywhere!

LEAVE A COMMENT

Welcome Friends!

We are the Brommer family from Minnesota, and I'm Jen - the travel planner for our family of 5! We are passionate about traveling together for it's what keeps us happy and healthy at home. The free family vacation itineraries and tips you'll find here are crafted with love to be shared with you. We hope our experiences inspire you to start planning your next family adventure!

Looking For Something?
Travel With A Plan packing checklist

Get Your Free Family Vacation Packing Lists Here!

TMOM Travel Writer