Last updated on February 3, 2024
The Gulf Coast of Florida draws visitors with its pristine beaches of glorious white sands. They beckon you to walk along the peaceful shores digging your toes into the soft billowy sand and immersing you into the beach lifestyle and abundance of nature. These include sea turtles, shorebirds, dolphins, and manatees. The beaches of Anna Maria Island captured my fancy. This resort town, with its laid-back atmosphere, is good for the soul of any city girl. Let me guide you as we discover what to do on Anna Maria Island.
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Anna Maria Island
Anna Maria Island is a barrier island on Florida’s Gulf Coast. The island is seven miles long and consists of three cities: Anna Maria, Holmes Beach, and Bradenton Beach. The Island’s broad beaches make it the perfect getaway for travelers.
Being a southern California girl, I am used to the beaches of Santa Monica and Malibu, where the beige sand is warm, rough, and gritty, which often burns your feet. What struck me most about the beaches of Anna Maria Island was how cool the white, soft, and silky sands were to the touch.
There are seven popular beaches: Anna Maria, Holmes Beach, Manatee Beach, Bradenton Beach, Coquina Beach, Bean Point Beach, and Bayfront Park. Each beach offers something different, whether more family oriented or secluded.
Watching the sunset at the beach is one of the most glorious moments while visiting Anna Maria Island.
You will find birds perched everywhere you wander on the island, from pelicans to storks. Every boat welcomes you aboard with its avian captain, especially when fishermen dock their boats at sunset. Birdlife greets you while walking the beaches along the pier. They are fearless, especially approaching humans who bring them an array of food.
Dolphins and manatee make their home in Tampa Bay. Considered the Anna Maria Island mascot, the Florida manatees are an endangered species. They are herbivores feeding on floating plant species. Seagrasses, a favorite of the manatee, thrive in shallow coastal waters; therefore, you often find this aquatic mammal, often known as sea cows, swimming in shallow water areas. The best time of year to see the manatees is from November to early March because the manatees move closer to shore, searching for warmer waters. During the rest of the year, it is best to see the manatees by taking a boat tour.
What To Do On Anna Maria Island – Activities
Besides the pristine white sand beaches, Anna Maria Island offers many other activities, including popular activities like fishing and boating. Remember that anything you do is at a laid-back pace. If you do not want to use a car, the best way to get around is with the free Anna Maria Island Trolley. You can also take advantage of the Monkey Bus, but please remember to tip the driver.
Take a walk down Pine Avenue, enjoying the shops, eateries, and an eclectic array of vacation homes along the way. You can rent bicycles or golf carts to get around. If you love donuts, stop by The Donut Experience, where they make donuts to order in front of you.
Anna Maria Island, Historical Society Museum, features the island’s history. The museum complex includes the museum, built in 1920 as an icehouse, which later became an automotive garage before becoming the museum. Belle Haven, the 1920s cottage that resided on the City Pier until it fell into the ocean, moved to its current location to preserve its history. The old city jail was built in 1927 and used to stop the rowdies at local bars and dance halls. What made the jail unique was it had no roof, only bars on the windows, exposing prisoners to mosquitoes and forcing them to clean up their act. The building became a destination photo op and one of the most popular stops on the island.
Pine Avenue ends at the pier. The Anna Maria City pier was constructed in 1911 by the Anna Maria Development Company. The pier was built for ships to dock and import fish to Tampa and St. Petersburg. The original pier was damaged during Hurricane Iram in 2017. The pier reopened in 2020 after reconstruction. Take a walk along the boardwalk projecting 700 ft into Tampa Bay.
This is an excerpt from an article on Anna Maria Island I wrote for Wander with Wander.