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The Ultimate Anna Maria Island Vacation Guide: Things to Do

Anna Maria Island, with its stunning beaches, charming old-Florida ambiance, and endless outdoor activities, is a perfect destination for a memorable vacation. Whether you're planning a family trip or a getaway with friends, this guide will help you make the most of your time on the island.

1.Embrace the Beach Life

    The heart of any Anna Maria Island vacation is the beach. The island boasts several beautiful beaches to explore:

    • Anna Maria Beach: Located at the north end, this beach offers serene sunsets and is a prime spot for fishing. It’s not uncommon to spot dolphins out in the Gulf.

    • Holmes Beach: At the heart of Anna Maria Island, Holmes Beach can be easily accessed on foot from both of AMIBeachClub’s properties. The Manatee Public Beach in Holmes Beach is Anna Maria Island’s most popular beach. It has a large free parking lot and an array of amenities, including toilet facilities, lifeguards, picnic areas, volleyball courts, and a beachside café. This beach gets very busy so arrive early to beat the crowds.

    • Bradenton Beach: At the south end, you'll find plenty of restaurants and beachfront shops.

    • Bean Point Beach: A hidden gem at the northern tip, it's known for its crystal-clear waters and is a favorite spot for watching the sunset. Parking can be difficult so we recommend arriving by bike or taking the trolley to the Sandbar and walking north (approximately 10 min).

    2. Water Adventures

    The Gulf of Mexico provides endless opportunities for water-based activities:

    • Boating and Water Sports: Rent a paddleboard to explore the beautiful waters of the Gulf or a kayak to discover the inland waterways of Bimini Bay (this is a great place to spot manatees in the wild). Local rental companies for paddleboards, kayaks, boats, jet-skis and parasailing include: Bradenton Beach Marina, Fun & More Rentals, H2O Watersportz.

    3. Explore the Outdoors

    Aside from the beach, Anna Maria Island offers a range of outdoor activities:

    • Biking: Rent a bike to explore the island's flat terrain and scenic paths. AMIBeachClub has 6 bicycles available to rent, please contact us for further details.

    • Robinson Preserve: Just over Manatee Avenue bridge, a sprawling nature preserve on the mainland with walking trails, kayaking, and birdwatching opportunities.

    • Marie Selby Botanical Gardens: A short-drive down to Sarasota, the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is a captivating living museum that beckons visitors with its lush beauty and rich botanical diversity.

    4. Discover the Arts and Culture

      While known for its natural beauty, the island and its surrounding area also has cultural gems to explore:

      • Anna Maria Island Historical Museum: Discover the island's history and its interesting exhibits.

      • The Ringling Museum: Located in nearby Sarasota (approximating 35 min drive), The Ringling offers a delightful blend of art, history, and stunning gardens. The Ca’ d’Zan, the Ringlings’ winter home, offers a glimpse into John and Mable Ringling’s taste and lifestyle, transporting visitors back to the glamorous age of the Roaring Twenties.

      5. Dining Delights

      Anna Maria Island boasts an array of dining options. Below are some of AMIBeachClub’s favorites:

      For a full-list of recommendations visit the Places to eat page.

      6. Shopping

      Browse the island's shops for unique gifts and souvenirs or go onto the mainland for a wide selection of stores:

      • Pine Avenue: Stroll along this historic street to find local art, fashion, and gifts. There are also a few ice cream shops to stop-in for a sweet treat.

      • Ellenton Premium Outlets: Home to 130 designer and brand outlet stores for the whole family, Ellenton Premium Outlets is conveniently located off I-75 and US-301 in Ellenton. It is an outdoor mall with covered walkways so you can still enjoy the Florida sun while you shop. Stores include Polo Ralph Lauren, Kate Spade New York, Tommy Hilfiger, and Nike.

      • St Armand’s Circle: Just drive south down Longboat Key (about 17 miles) and over the bridge of New Pass, lies St Armands Circle. There are over 100 shops, boutiques and restaurants for you to stroll around. For lunch, we recommend a visit to the Tommy Bahama Restaurant or The Shore at St Armands.

      • The Mall at University Town Center (UTC): At UTC Mall, you'll find an impressive selection of shops, from high-end department stores to boutique brands. Stores include: Apple, Saks Fifth Avenue, Anthropology, Lucky Brand and Lululemon.

      7. Plan a Day Trip

        Venture beyond Anna Maria Island for more fun:

        • Day Trip to Tampa: Enjoy attractions like Busch Gardens or the Florida Aquarium, both within a 1.5 hour drive.

        • Day Trip to Orlando: Florida is world-renowned for its theme parks. Walt Disney World is approximately a 2 hour drive from Anna Maria Island while Universal Studios, including the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, is a little over 2 hours. A long-day out but you’ll be glad to be back on island time after a busy day at the park.

        • Day Trip to St Peterburg: Approximately a 45 minute drive, visit the Salvador Dali Museum in St Peterburg. Housing the largest collection of Salvador Dali's works outside Europe, the museum invites visitors to immerse themselves in the surreal and captivating world of Dali.

        Practical Tips

        • Sun Protection: Don't forget sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses to stay safe from the Florida sun. But if you do forget, stop by one of the stores on East Bay Drive (including Publix, CVS, Walgreens and the Island Bazaar)

        • Transportation: Consider renting a golf cart from Beach Bums or Zoom Around to explore the island at a leisurely pace. Alternatively, rent one of AMIBeachClub’s 6 bicycles - contact us for further details. There is also a free island trolley service which runs daily around the island (approximately every 20 min) with a trolley stop located just outside both properties. Alternatively there is the Monkey Bus service which operates on tips only.

        • Reservations: Make restaurant and activity reservations in advance, especially during peak vacation seasons (January-March) and the holidays (Spring break, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas).

        • Avoid the traffic: Anna Maria Island is a popular destination, and traffic can get congested, especially on weekends. Plan to arrive early in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid traffic jams.|Call us on 941.209.8769 (7 days a week 8AM-8PM EST)