Located on the coast of beautiful Manatee County, Florida, Anna Maria Island is a fantastic vacation destination for visitors of all ages. It’s a seven-mile island that’s made up of three cities: Anna Maria City, Holmes Beach, and Bradenton Beach. The area is known for its gorgeous beaches with sugar-white sand and crystalline water, as well as plenty of exciting shops, restaurants, entertainment venues, and other attractions. There are a wide variety of Anna Maria Island vacation rentals, and many of them are located minutes from the area’s top hot spots. Here are 10 of the best things to do when you’re visiting Anna Maria Island.

1. Bean Point

beach

On the northernmost tip of Anna Maria Island, you’ll find lovely Bean Point. A favorite beach hangout among the locals, Bean Point is a hidden gem that is rarely overcrowded. Enjoy picturesque views of the Gulf of Mexico, and be sure to keep your eyes peeled for manatees. The area is home to quite a few vacation rentals, so it’s a fantastic area to scout for beachfront property.

2. Historic Bridge Street and Bridge Street Pier

pier
Historic Bridge Street offers a wide variety of attractions in a two-block radius. In addition to frequenting a variety of eateries, bars, boutique shops, and galleries, you can relax on the Bridge Street Pier, which juts out 300 feet over the scenic Sarasota Bay. Bring a fishing pole if you want to catch some of the area’s famous local seafood, or stop by Anna Maria Oyster Bar for a delicious meal right on the pier.

3. The Waterfront Restaurant of Anna Maria

waterfront resturant
Anna Maria Island is known for its incredibly fresh seafood. The Waterfront Restaurant is one of the best places to enjoy a bite while you take in the gorgeous views of the Sunshine Bridge and Tampa Bay, as well as the surrounding palm trees. The restaurant is most famous for its seafood, but you’ll find a wide variety of other exquisite dishes, including vegetarian options. Locals love the lobster bisque, and adults will enjoy the extensive wine and beer list. As an added bonus, the restaurant is just a quick walk from the Anna Maria public pier.

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4. Two Scoops Ice Cream

two scoops ice cream

After enjoying dinner at The Waterfront Restaurant, why not grab dessert at Two Scoops? It’s a charming ice cream shop that’s located right across the street from the Anna Maria public pier. Grab a cone, sundae, cookie, or other dessert, and hang out on the pier enjoying your treat while you listen to the soothing sound of crashing waves. It’s the perfect way to cool down at the end a fantastic day on Anna Maria Island.

5. Bayfront Park

bayfront park

Located in the northern section of Anna Maria Island in Anna Maria City, Bayfront Park is a serene, family-friendly beach. Besides providing the classic Florida beach experience, Bay Front Park boasts some great amenities, including covered tables for picnicking, public grills so you can cook up some hot food, and onsite restrooms. There’s even a playground on the beach where the kids can let out some energy.

6. Rod & Reel Pier

fishing pier
Flickr/Barbara Eckstein

 

Rod & Reel has been giving visitors “a little bit of Old Florida” since 1947. It’s a family-friendly restaurant that really captures that iconic Florida vacation feel. Enjoy dining inside the two-story restaurant, or head out to the quaint, covered outdoor deck to enjoy the breeze while you eat delicious locally caught seafood and other traditional Florida-style comfort dishes. You can even bring a fishing pole and cast your line into the Gulf of Mexico directly off the restaurant’s pier.

7. Coquina Baywalk

Coquina Baywalk

Located in the protected Leffis Key Preserve, the Coquina Baywalk is one of Anna Maria Island’s most beautiful spots for a nature walk. It’s a spacious wooden boardwalk that’s roughly one mile long, providing a picturesque view of approximately 30 acres of restored natural habitats in Leffis Key. As you walk through the beautiful tidal lagoons, you’ll probably see a variety of aquatic and bird life, as well as a huge variety of plant life, such as mangroves, southern red cedars, and Jamaican dogwood.

8. Manatee Public Beach

Manatee Public Beach

Located in Holmes Beach, Manatee Public Beach is one of the best family-friendly beaches on Anna Maria Island. There’s a free island trolley that will bring you directly to the beach, making it one of the most accessible attractions on the island. Enjoy sunbathing and swimming, and then explore the beach’s gift shops, volleyball courts, and playground. The beach boasts plenty of amenities, including changing cabanas, public restrooms and showers, and picnic areas. If you want to travel light, simply rent accessories, such as beach umbrellas, chairs, and even private cabanas.

9. Mote Marine Aquarium and Research Facility

Mote Marine Aquarium and Research Facility

The Mote Marine Aquarium and Research Facility is just a 20-minute drive south of Anna Maria Island, and it’s a fantastic place for curious visitors of all ages to learn about aquatic life. The facility is home to more than 100 different species, and there are scientists who are happy to teach your whole family about these fascinating creatures. Be sure to visit the Ray Touch Pool to pet a stingray, and then watch an informative and engaging presentation at the Immersion Cinema. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, take the one-hour boat tour, and see a variety of animals such as dolphins, osprey, and manatees in their natural habitats.

10. Artists’ Guild of Anna Maria Island

Artists' Guild of Anna Maria Island

Before you leave Anna Maria Island, stop by the Artists’ Guild of Anna Maria Island to bring home a one-of-a-kind souvenir. The gallery sells original art made by more than 75 local artists, and many of the pieces are Anna Maria Island-themed. Enjoy admiring the gorgeous artwork, and then bring home your favorite piece to hang on your wall at home. The gallery also offers classes and workshops if you’d like to create your own masterpiece to commemorate the trip.

 
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