Anna Maria Island is a small barrier island that lies along the Tampa Bay in Florida on the Gulf of Mexico. The island boasts miles of beach and plenty of water access, making it the ideal place to settle down for a quick or lengthy vacation. Connect with the kids while exploring nature, boating, and lounging in the sand. Because of the numerous beach vacation rentals on Anna Maria Island, you can stay close to the water at all times. The island also offers plenty of other family-friendly activities. Here are 11 of the best.

1. Swim

Surrounded by Gulf waters, Anna Maria Island is perfectly positioned to provide you with the best swimming possible. Opt for a beach rental and enjoy the water at any time of day, or camp out at one of the public areas for the day. Both the City Park and Holmes Beach offer access to sand and water. Walk over the Sandbar or some food. On the Tampa Bay side of the island is Bayfront Park. Although the beach isn’t wide, it offers access to calm waters, which is perfect if you have young children.

2. Kayak

Release all your children’s pent up energy in a constructive way with some kayaking. Bring your own boats or rent some at beach Burns or AMI Paddleboard Adventures. Opt for a kayak tour, and glide by Robinson Preserve where you can catch a glimpse of some of the native wildlife such as seabirds, crabs, and fish.

3. View Dolphins

Educate your kids about marine life by taking them on a dolphin and manatee watching tour. You can go out in your own boat or find a tour provider such as Paradise Boat Tours and MV Minnow Boat Tours. These services not only offer a guaranteed glimpse of dolphins swimming, but they also provide a scenic look of the area.

4. Visit the Piers

There are several piers where you can take a family walk (or even fish). Both the Rod and Reel Pier and City Pier boast restaurants on-site with fresh seafood. The Rod and Reel Pier doubles as a historic place, meaning that you can include a little history lesson in your family outing. Plus, you can shop for souvenirs, fish, or just take in the local color. Continue your history tour at Bradenton Beach Bridge Street Pier. While in the area, stroll down historic Bridge Street, which reaches from one side of the island to the other. Stop at some of the shops along the way or enjoy some good food and Blue Marlin Seafood or The Freckled Fin restaurants.

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5. Hike

Between swimming sessions, take the kids for a hike to appreciate nature in a new way. Neal Preserve, which lies just across I-64 from Anna Maria Island on Perico Island is 120 acres. The wetlands have salt terns, mangrove forests, and oak hammock uplands, the perfect place to view pelicans, herons, and cormorants. North of Neal Preserve lies Perico Preserve, 176 acres of wetlands and marshes. Hike to one of the observation decks for a great view of the local wildlife. Robinson Reserve, on the mainland Florida a mere boat (or car) ride from Anna Maria Island, boasts 487 acres. Climb the Robinson Tower for an excellent view of the wetlands, or hike along trails. Open up your children’s eyes to environmental responsibility with education classes, and then have lunch at one of the picnicking areas.

6. Parasail

If your family’s the adventurous type, opt for a session of parasailing. You can double or triple up if you have timid kids. Regardless, you get a unique bird’s-eye view of the island and an exciting experience.

7. Go on a Segway Tour

After a long day swimming or hiking, take a load off with a Segway tour of the island. Segs by the Sea offers instruction, rentals, and tours of the Segways. You can go on a short one-hour jaunt of the local sites or a longer journey among the beaches.

8. Stop for Some Eats

While eating when on vacation is obvious, there are a few places that your kids are sure to love visiting. For instance, The Donut Experience is almost an attraction in its self. You get to create your own made-to-order pastries by choosing a variety of toppings from fairly ordinary Oreo cookie and rainbow sprinkles to the bizarre and bizarrely delicious bacon, sea salt, and fruity pebbles cereal. If you really want to go crazy, try the house-special: sriracha. Another option is the Cupcake Delights bakery with more than 100 flavors available.

9. Beachcomb

Take advantage of all that sand, and take your kids out to enjoy the sand and search for shells. Some shells that wash up on the beach include coquinas and clams. Fashion the shells into jewelry to make a memento of your time with the family.

10. Tour Historic Sites

Make your vacation about learning by visiting the local historical sites. Start at the Anna Maria Historical Society for an overview, and then continue on to some of the old buildings such as the old jail, Roser Church, the first Anna Maria bridge, and of course, Bridge Street.

11. Fish

While you’re visiting one of the piers, bring your rod and reel for a relaxing afternoon of fishing. Rent some gear if you’re just starting off. If you want to go on a fishing adventure, go through a fishing service such as Captain Josh Fishing Charters, Captain Mike’s Charters, Cortez Deep Sea Fishing, and Reel Diversion Charters.

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