You'll find a lot of things to do on Anna Maria Island on Florida's beautiful west coast. From beaches to food to shopping, there really is something for everyone.
Because of the wonderful weather on Anna Maria Island, there's a lot to do outdoors. The average high temperature is in the lower 90s and the average low is in the mid-50s, though from personal experience, it rarely gets that low.
Anna Maria Island Things to Do
You'll find a plethora of things to do on Anna Maria Island. I've been here for eleven years and I'm still discovering new spots!
Where is Anna Maria Island?
If you look at a map, Anna Maria Island is a barrier island in southwest Florida, about halfway down the state, on the west coast, right on the Gulf of Mexico.
As I live in Bradenton, I can tell you it is hot and humid in the summer, and perfect in the winter!
We go to the beach on Anna Maria Island all year long and have spent New Year's Day in our beach chairs many times.
Beaches on Anna Maria Island
Anna Maria Island is just seven miles long and you can access the beach from both the Gulf of Mexico and the Sarasota Bay.
Right on AMI, you have Anna Maria Beach, Manatee Public Beach, and Bean Point. These three beaches all offer something different.
Anna Maria Beach
We often head to Anna Maria Beach and sit in front of the Sandbar Restaurant. This is a fun spot as the restaurant is right there for lunch or dinner.
There is a decent amount of parking in the area, but it does fill up. If you don't arrive early, you may have to search a bit, but there has never been a time when we couldn't find a spot. The best parking is across the street from the Sandbar where there is a small lot.
Manatee Public Beach
Manatee Public Beach is the most crowded of all the Anna Maria Island beaches. There are several reasons for this.
For one, many people walk to the beach from where they are staying. This is the busier part of town with a lot of restaurants and shops. Parking is pretty easy as there is a huge public lot.
There is a restaurant right at the beach that serves all-you-can-eat pancakes for breakfast. A lifeguard is on duty and there are volleyball nets right in the sand. You can also rent beach chairs and umbrellas.
Bean Point is a gorgeous beach, much more secluded, and therefore not as crowded as the other two beaches. Parking is a bit challenging, but it's worth it. There are no facilities on Bean Point.
Within the area, you have seven additional beaches. Check out Cortez Beach, De Soto National Memorial Beach, Beer Can Island, Coquina Beach, Holmes Beach, Whitney Beach, and Palma Sola Causeway - which often has horseback riding on the beach.
Learn more about each beach, including locations and hours, by visiting the Bradenton Gulf Islands website.
Pack those swim goggles and fins as the water is clear for snorkeling on Anna Maria Island!
Exploring the Island
The Historic Anna Maria City Pier is a must-see. The Pier was built in 1912 to have a place to dock both small and large ships.
Now the Pier is used for sightseeing, dining, and fishing.
Bridge Street Pier
I can't believe we haven't spent more time in this part of Anna Maria Island. There are so many restaurants we need to visit!
Anna Maria Island Historical Society
If you'd like to learn about the history of AMI, the Anna Maria Island Historical Society is a good place to start, and it's right on Pine Avenue.
This 1920s icehouse hosts exhibits on local history and the city's original jail.
To get a closer glimpse of Florida marine life, get out on the water for a dolphin cruise. We saw so many the day we went out!
It seems the folks at Paradise Boat Tours know just where to look! Dolphins love to follow boats, as you can see!
Shopping on Anna Maria Island
If you enjoy shopping for beachy attire, accessories, and decor, add this one to your list of things to do on Anna Maria Island.
Pine Avenue, known as the Greenest little Main Street in North America is my favorite area to shop.
Here you'll find everything from shabby chic beachy furniture to starfish earrings.
There's even a shop that carries everything from olive oil to wine and cheese!
Be sure to check out Beach Bums where you can rent bikes, kayaks, paddleboards, beach chairs, and umbrellas.
Ginny and Jane E's has become an institution on Anna Maria Island! This is a fun stop for gift items and decor. Ginny and Jane Es is also a great spot for breakfast or lunch!
Scavenger's Marketplace AMI
Every time I visit this shop, it reminds me of the show Pickers. Treasures abound in every room! You'll find a lot of local handmade gift items and decor.
Sun and Surf
If you like tropical birds, you have to stop at Sun and Surf. It's just down the sidewalk from Scavenger's, on the corner of the plaza. The owner wheels out the birdcages and visitors stop by just to see them.
The shop has clothing, shoes, swimwear, and more, but has become known as the store with the birds.
City of Anna Maria Farmer's Market
If you happen to be visiting on a Tuesday, head to the end of Pine Avenue and check out the Farmer's Market. It's not huge, but it's definitely worth a stop.
Where to Eat
You'll find a plethora of great food on Anna Maria Island. Sometimes when I'm traveling I'll choose a restaurant based on location, and I'm often disappointed. I find that if a restaurant has a fabulous view, they really don't need to have great food.
I'm here to tell you, Anna Maria Island is a culinary hotspot and hidden gem. These are just a few of my favorites to whet your palette.
North Shore Cafe
North Shore Cafe is next to a beautiful inlet and has seating out back with Adirondack chairs set along the water. It's a lovely way to start the day.
North Shore Cafe is open for breakfast and lunch. They have specialty coffees and teas, breakfast bowls and sandwiches, as well as beer and wine. Note: North Shore Cafe is closed on Tuesday.
Ginny and Jane E's
I mentioned the fun shopping at Ginny and Jane E's, but I wanted to circle back and make sure you got a peek at the food. They are known for their Cinnamon Buns and Pecan Rolls. It was a hard decision but I went with the cinnamon bun this time.
The menu offers loads of savory breakfast items, too, as well as a lunch menu. You can even order a beer or mimosa. There are a handful of tables outside and lots of seating inside, as well.
Beach Bistro is our favorite restaurant on Anna Maria Island. Though the food is superb, it's not all about the food. Dining at Beach Bistro is an experience, from the service to the wine list to the view.
Truth be told, this is not a restaurant we would visit on a regular basis as it is a bit pricey. We consider Beach Bistro a special occasion restaurant. But what better special occasion than a vacation?
Order the scallops!
The menu is set up in Acts, beginning with the Prelude and ending with The Curtain. I think once you see the menu, you'll want to add this to your visit to Anna Maria Island.
The Waterfront Restaurant
The Waterfront Restaurant is the perfect spot for lunch or dinner before or after your shopping trip on Pine Avenue. This restaurant has a huge menu for lunch and dinner.
Below is the Steamer Bowl. The menu says Clams or Mussels, but you can mix the two. We got the Tomato Basil Sauce. Delicious!
Tip: Ask to sit in the garden. It's lovely!
The Chateau Anna Maria
This is one of our newest restaurants and we are so lucky to have it! Located on the first floor of the Waterline Marina Resort, The Chateau Anna Maria has a wonderfully eclectic menu.
Open for lunch, dinner, and brunch on the weekends, this restaurant has a large open dining room with beautiful traditional decor.
The food is American gusto and French-inspired. What inspired the chef to create this Graham Cracker Crusted calamari, I don't know, but I'm so glad he did!
You know I'd have to order something that original, and it was fantastic from the tender texture to the hint of graham cracker breading.
Anna Maria Oyster Bar on the Pier
You'll find Anna Maria Oyster Bar on the Pier at the end of the historic Bridge Street Pier. Referred to as fast-casual, this is where to go for a laid-back lunch or dinner after spending the day on the beach.
The menu is all about fresh seafood served in a casual atmosphere. Eat outside with a water view or inside if the temperatures dictate a little air conditioning.
I have to suggest a starter of the fish dip. It was delicious.
Don't forget to try the oysters!
This is without a doubt one of our favorite bars on Anna Maria Island. It reminds me of a Speakeasy and has such a friendly vibe.
If I were to give you a bucket list of things to do on Anna Maria Island, The Doctor's Office would be on that list.
Where to Stay on Anna Maria Island
There are no large resorts on Anna Maria Island, and honestly, I hope it stays that way.
You'll only find one hotel on Anna Maria Island that is part of a chain, and that's Waterline, which is lovely. I haven't stayed there, but the restaurant inside is fabulous.
Our favorite place to stay is Mainsail Beach Inn right on Anna Maria Island Beaches. We absolutely loved it. If you're vacationing at the beach, don't you want to stay on the beach?
Not only is it Oceanfront, but this wonderful boutique hotel is right next door to Beach Bistro, so you can walk to dinner.
Getting to Anna Maria Island
Getting to Anna Maria Island from Sarasota International Airport typically takes 30-40 minutes.
Driving from Tampa to Anna Maria Island takes about an hour depending on the time of year. The season is typically from October until May as that's when the snowbirds visit.
Let me know if you visit Anna Maria Island. I certainly haven't been everywhere and I'd love to know what you do while you're in my area!
If you're thinking about adding a trip a little farther south to your itinerary, you really should check out this list of things to do in Naples Florida. We found so much to do that we had to spend three days to fit in all in, and I still wish we'd had more time to relax!
Really, any time of year is the best time to visit! The weather can be very warm in the summer, so for those who love the warm sun and warm water temperatures, summer is best. The winter is a bit more comfortable as temps are typically in the 70s, but the water is not as warm. My kids would have no problem swimming on Christmas day when they were younger!
You can fly into Sarasota Bradenton International Airport or Tampa International Airport. From someone who travels a lot, Sarasota Bradenton International Airport (SRQ) is a dream! It's small and so convenient. Tampa (TPA) is a nice airport, too, but it's much larger and a bit farther away.
You can easily Uber to Anna Maria Island from either Sarasota Bradenton International Airport or Tampa International Airport and take advantage of the free Anna Maria Island Trolley which runs 6:30 am until 10:00 pm every day. If you do decide to rent a car, it's easy to do at either airport.