Overlooking the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay, Anna Maria Island is an unassuming beach destination with plenty to offer for those who seek it out.
Just across the bay from Sarasota, Florida, the island is a charming alternative to the city, drawing regulars and first timers from across the country. Historic communities, idyllic beaches and small businesses are just some of the reasons to not only visit Anna Maria, but keep coming back. Just a few minutes off the mainland, Anna Maria Island feels worlds away, making it the perfect respite.
Ready to learn more about this Florida getaway? Here are 15 things to do in Anna Maria Island that we know you and your crew are going to love!
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FIRST, RENT A BIKE IN ORDER TO GET AROUND LIKE A LOCAL
Touring the island on two wheels is an easy way to get around without missing anything along the way; the island is home to a number of businesses that offer bike rentals. A network of bike paths, pedestrian walkways and quiet roads is open for cyclist use, and you can easily pedal across the narrow island.
Starting in Holmes Beach, ride slightly south to BayFront Park before heading west to Gulf Front Park for a midday picnic.
If you’re venturing all the way to Bradenton Beach on the island’s southern tip, get on the Coquina Bike Path and follow the coast all the way to Gulf Drive. From there, you’ll have an easy ride to the heart of town before circling back. Pedaling from Holmes Beach to Bradenton Beach should take about 20-30 minutes, meaning you’ll get your daily workout in without tiring yourself out.
Biking is the perfect family friendly activity, and it’s one of the best things to do in Anna Maria Island!
THEN VISIT THE BEST BEACH IN SW FLORIDA
Heading south on Gulf Drive will take you right to Coquina Beach, a local favorite known for its pristine white sands. Other than enjoying the beautiful beach itself, you can grab a bite at the nearby cafe, set up a homemade picnic, try your luck at the adjacent Longboat Key Fishing Beach or grab a one-of-a-kind souvenir at the local market.
Whether you’re arriving by car or bike, Coquina Beach is the ultimate weekend destination for swimming, lounging, and more. If you have the chance to stop by at sunset, be sure to bring your camera. Combine your beach day with a visit to the Leffis Key Preserve and enjoy the views from both sides of Anna Maria Island.
MEANDER THE MANGROVE ON THE COQUINA BAYWALK
The Coquina Baywalk is a network of paths that runs through Leffis Key, making it easy to navigate the mangroves with the whole family. Totaling less than 1 mile, the Baywalk can be a short jaunt into nature while enjoying nearby Coquina Beach or lunch on the waterfront.
Wooden boardwalks lead to observation platforms overlooking the bay, while shady paths weave through native flora. Easy and enjoyable, the Baywalk is a great way to wind down while admiring Florida’s coastal habitats. This restored habitat is now home to a diverse body of wildlife, and includes signage and benches for you to rest on while waiting for a glimpse of an egret or pelican.
THEN KAYAK THE MANGROVES TO SEE WILDLIFE
If strolling Leffis Key awoke the explorer in you, get even more hands-on with a kayak tour through the area’s mangrove tunnels and waterways. This eco-focused kayaking tour departs from nearby Sarasota and totals about two hours, making it a memorable way to spend an entire afternoon.
Family and beginner friendly, each tour takes participants on an adventure to see Little Sarasota Bay’s manatees, dolphins, seabirds and other native creatures. Led by an expert guide, kayak tours keep you active while you gain firsthand insight into Western Florida’s unique marine ecosystem.
Exploring Florida’s diverse coastal waters at your own pace is the best way to connect with the environment around you, while learning how to maneuver a vessel as well. If you’re driving from the Holmes Beach area, the Sarasota departure point for tours is about 40 minutes away.
Tripshock is a great place to book your Guided Kayak Mangrove Tunnel Tour!
HIKE LEFFIS KEY PRESERVE
Home to a small network of walkable boardwalks, Leffis Key Preserve is your go-to for the best local views of Sarasota Bay. The preserve’s 26-foot hilltop is a perfect vantage point, and the panorama extends all from the bay to the Gulf of Mexico.
Abundant wildlife, rich plant life, and fishing opportunities make Leffis Key ideal for a morning jaunt amid the mangroves before hitting the beach or the city.
LEARN ABOUT THE ISLAND HISTORY AT ANNA MARIA ISLAND HISTORICAL MUSEUM
Located on the island’s northern tip, Anna Maria Island Historical Museum is a treasure trove of local legends set in an icehouse dating back to the 1920’s. After going through a number of iterations since then, the building now houses artifacts and displays chronicling the island’s history and the lives of its residents.
Visitors can take a photo by the city’s tiny jailhouse, and learn about everyday life on Anna Maria at the restored Belle Haven historical cottage. Enjoyable for the whole family, this small museum has done a great job preserving the community’s history and making it accessible to visitors from across the country.
EXPLORE ANNA MARIA ISLAND HISTORIC GREEN VILLAGE
If you venture to Pine Avenue, Anna Maria Island’s main street, you’ll undoubtedly come across the Historic “Green Village,” a stretch of historic homes and small businesses located near the City Pier. You can find unique jewelry, clothing, gift items, food products and even outdoor gear rentals among the shop offerings.
The village is a certified Net Zero Energy development kick-started by a couple who dreamt of creating an eco-friendly complex in one of Anna Maria Island’s most picturesque districts. Art galleries and live music make this entertainment and shopping destination the perfect pit-stop in one of the most walkable parts of the island.
COOL OFF AT SMALL TOWN CREAMERY
When the heat gets sweltering and even cooling off in the ocean isn’t enough, head to Small Town Creamery to pick up a scoop (or three!) of renowned local goodness.
The recipient of multiple blue ribbon awards, this Holmes Beach business is a joy to behold, featuring not only frozen flavors, but also a photo booth and a larger-than-life Mr. Sprinkles sculpture to delight the youngest customers.
Fudge, candy, coffee and cool beads round out the ice cream menu, making this dessert destination a must-stop before heading back to the beach.
WATCH THE SUN SET AT BEAN POINT BEACH
If you follow Anna Maria Island’s North Bay Boulevard to Bean Point, you’re likely to catch one of the best sunset views on Florida’s Gulf Coast .This hidden gem offers street parking, a waterfront seafood restaurant and plenty of space to spread your blanket out.
Rivaling both Coquina and Cortez Beach, Bean Point is a must, especially if you’re looking for the perfect evening panorama. Renting a bike and wondering where to pedal? Take a leisurely ride to Bean Point Beach before circling the tip of the island and heading back south.
EXPERIENCE “OLD FLORIDA” AT CORTEZ BEACH
Located towards the southern half of the island, Cortez Beach represents Florida’s bygone oceanfront communities. Still operating as a fishing village, Cortez is filled with boats, fresh seafood and families who can trace their roots back to when the village was first established.
The local Maritime Museum preserves this history carefully, inviting visitors to drop by a former schoolhouse on the Cortez Nature Preserve. Touring the village on foot is the best way to make sure you don’t miss a hidden shop or restaurant.
HANG WITH THE FISHERMEN AT BRADENTON BEACH CITY PIER
Extending eastwards from Anna Maria Island, Bradenton Beach City Pier is one of Anna Maria Island’s most popular attractions. Formerly part of the original bridge connecting Anna Maria to the mainland, the pier was revamped as a local gathering spot and fishing destination.
The pier also includes the Historic Pier Restaurant, a bait shop and a shaded pavilion area, making it the ideal finish line on any afternoon stroll around Bradenton Beach.
SEE ANNA MARIA ISLAND FROM ABOVE
Are you ready to fly?! Parasail high above the coast and get an exciting bird’s eye view of the beautiful landscape that will leave you breathless – and with plenty of memories to take back home!
Under the leadership of a professional crew, your journey will begin with the captain giving you a safety speech and an overview of parasailing procedures while headed out. Once you reach the parasailing grounds, get ready to fly high! This parasailing adventure includes flights that dip your toes into the water, tandem and triple flights, 8-10 minutes of air time, and more.
For ages 5+.
Book your Parasailing Adventure here!
TAKE A STROLL FROM THE PIER TO A PERFECT HAPPY HOUR
Back on the north side of the island, Anna Maria City Pier is conveniently located within walking distance of some of the area’s best nightlife destinations. After enjoying a golden sunset on the pier and packing up the picnic tables, head across the island until you almost hit the beach. The walk west on Pine Avenue shouldn’t take you any more than 15 minutes, and will lead you right to Sandbar Seafood and Spirits, a favorite local haunt for fresh food and refreshing nightcaps.
If you’re driving back south and would rather stop along the way, check out The Doctor’s Office, located just north of Holmes Beach. Housed in a former medical office, this bar now serves a different kind of remedy, offering a creative cocktail and light food menu.
TAKE A DOLPHIN TOUR
Anna Maria Island is famous for its coastal wildlife, including a sizable bottlenose dolphin population. There’s no better way to get to know your marine neighbors than a boat cruise into the Gulf of Mexico and surrounding bays.
A private tour lasts about two hours and gives you a firsthand glimpse of the region’s unique waterfront habitats. Along with dolphins, you may also see sea turtles, manatees and a number of majestic seabirds.
Anna Maria’s diverse ecosystem gives you the chance to experience its flora and fauna simultaneously, under the guidance of a local expert. Dolphin tours are an unforgettable way to tour the island from an entirely new perspective. Don’t forget your camera!
TRY DONUTS TWO WAYS FOR BREAKFAST
Tired of searching for the perfect sweet snack? At the Donut Experiment, you’re the one who gets to choose what your donut looks and tastes like. While the bakery does the heavy lifting by actually preparing the donuts, customers can choose the icing, toppings and drizzle they prefer. The result is a truly custom dessert! Don’t miss out on the Experiment’s Special Donuts, which include the Key lime, Sriracha and Daily Special.
The Donut Experiment is located just off Gulf Drive near Anna Maria Island Beach, meaning you can enjoy a full-on beach day and pick up a treat without skipping a beat.
Located on Lido Key, Meaney’s Mini Donuts is well worth the drive south across the islands. As the name suggests, Meaney’s serves a variety of bite-sized pockets of goodness in innovative flavors. Fresh baked and decadent, these go best with a beach morning and an iced coffee to beat the heat.
AND POPPO’S TACOS FOR LUNCH
Once lunch comes around, head straight to Poppo’s Taqueria for the best burritos and tacos near Anna Maria Island Beach.
Steps from the water, this counter-serve spot promises great service, fresh ingredients and Mexican flavors that complement both the sun and the sea.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO FLORIDA
- YOUR FLORIDA VACATION
- SARASOTA: 40+ Memorable Things To Do In Sarasota For A Weekend Of Fun
- FORT MYERS: 19 Things To Do In Fort Myers For Fun In The Sun
- CAPE CORAL: 21 Things To Do In Cape Coral, Florida
- VENICE: 13 Things To Do In Venice FL For Fun In The Sun
VACATION RENTALS IN ANNA MARIA ISLAND
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