Are you wondering, “Where is Anna Maria Island in Florida?” Well, Anna Maria Island is a Gulf Coast island near the Tampa Bay area of Florida. This barrier island has so many gorgeous beaches and it is just a short drive across the Anna Maria Island Bridge to Bradenton. I just got back from a super fun trip that I took in partnership with the Bradenton Area CVB so let me share my favorite Anna Maria Island tings to do with you here and photos from my AMI vacation.
15 Fun Things To Do In Anna Maria Island, Florida
1. Relax On The AMI Beaches
I might as well start with the obvious because it is probably the number one thing you came to Anna Maria Island to do. Get some beach time and take in your vitamin sea! There is no one Anna Maria Island Beach. The island is about 7 miles long with beautiful white sand beach pretty much the whole way. I stayed at Anna Maria Beach Resort in Holmes Beach and I walked up to Bean Point Beach and down to Manatee Public Beach. All of the beaches are fantastic from Bradenton Beach to Coquina Beach! If you are hunting for certain amenities you might want to read this post on the best beaches.
Since I am big into eco-friendly choices, I loved that five AMI beaches are being Blue Wave Certified and declared eco-friendly by the Clean Beach Council in Washington D.C. There is a real interest in conservation on Anna Maria Island. Several locals I chatted with mentioned local conservation initiatives. This means all the beaches were extremely clean and the water was lovely. It was warm enough to go for a few swims even during the first weekend in November when I visited.
2. Enjoy The AMI Restaurants
Eating out is always fun when you are vacation because you get to try the food specialities of the area. I wrote a whole post Anna Maria Island Restaurants you don’t want to miss. Long story short- there are some great restaurants to try while you are on the island. Don’t miss the Donut Experiment or all of the homemade ice cream shops too!
3. Ride Bikes
Everything is pretty close by when on Anna Maria Island. Getting a bike and cruising leisurely to your destination is a great way to enjoy Anna Maria’s laid back island vibe. My bike rental was from Beach Bums and they provided everything to make it easy including a helmet and bike lock. Biking is a great way to avoid looking for a parking spot too!
4. Explore Bridge Street
This “Anna Maria Hot Spot” offers cute gift shops, great eateries, mini golf, coffee shops, and there was even live music when I passed by the Island Time Bar and Grill! Historic Bridge Street offers a walkable community with spectacular water views from the both the pier and the gulf beach. You can learn more at visitbridgestreet.com
5. Look For Dolphins
I was lucky enough to spot a dolphin right off the historic Bridge Street pier and it surfaced several times. Actually, I would have missed it if my mom hadn’t spotted it first and pointed it out to me. We also enjoyed a dolphin boat trip through Paradise Boat Tours. Our guide, Jake, was very knowledgeable and made the wildlife tour through the pristine coastal waterways a real pleasure as well as a learning experience. Our captain found some dolphins and we also looked for manatee. This was a super special experience. We got to see a mommy dolphin with her baby and a few other dolphins too and when you spot them, they usually surface several times. 95% of Paradise Boat Tours see dolphins so it a great way to get an up close personal look at the amazing creatures. The guided tours really offer a wealth of information on the local wildlife.
6. Explore Pine Avenue
Pine Avenue is another popular spot for the whole family on Anna Maria Island with lots of great shops, places to get food, and local art. It is also know for its focus on local and sustainable and is a LEED certified Green Village. It features award-winning, energy efficient, storm-strong buildings with native landscaping and rushed- shell sidewalks. Pine Avenue has a definite Key West vibe with cool community gardens and boutiques selling recycled, refashioned or vintage goods and/or items produced by local artists. Find out more here.
7. Paint A Sand Dollar
Shiny Fish Emporium offers a unique experience for vacationers and local families to paint a sand dollar! My mother and I had the best time and we painted both the front and back because we didn’t want the fun to end. You can see our painted sand dollars on Instagram. What a fun tradition that would be to do each year with your family and end up with cool keepsakes that can also be used as ornaments or decor.
They also had a very wonderfully curated array of specialty gifts, kid’s crafts and activities, and confections! My mom stocked up on really nice souvenirs such as a t-shirt with a local art design, super cute dish towels with beach plant art, and great some unique cards.
8. Do Some Shelling
The Anna Maria Island Beaches were fantastic for shelling. There was a wide variety of shells and a large quantity. My mother and I had fun collecting shells on our walks along Holmes Beach. We met a man who had found a shark’s tooth and a lady who told us she always makes a frame with the shells she finds to commemorate her trips. You can read more about the types of shells you may find here.
9. Sand Art
Whether you want to write your names in the sand, build sand castles, or make sand sculptures, there is just something about that sand that invites you be playful and to leave your impermanent mark.
10. Bird Watching
You don’t have to look hard to spot birds on Anna Maria Island! There are so many cool species to enjoy. In fact, one morning I walked out on my patio at Anna Maria Beach Resort and there was a snowy egret walking right up towards me. He passed by slowly casting me some curious looks and I looked curiously right back at the beautiful fellow. I spotted brown pelicans, cormorants, sea gulls, sand pipers, cattle egret, ibis, and more. You can see some of the species you may expect to spot here.
11. Visit The Piers
For great views of wildlife and boats, visit the piers. I noticed at least 3: Rod n’ Reel Pier, Anna Maria City Pier, and Bradenton Historic Street Pier. It is always fun to walk out on piers and feel the breeze and sun wash over you. Sometimes you may spot birds, dolphin, fish, crabs or other wildlife. Just FYI, the Anna Maria Island Trolley (a free trolley service that travels the entire island) stops at the Anna Maria City Pier.
12. Go Fishing
The rustic “Old Florida” fishing pier, Rod n’ Reel Pier, is a popular with the anglers as you may have guessed. I also saw lots of fisherman along the beaches. They were pretty popular with the herons who seemed to stake out their favorite fishermen!
13. Enjoy Your Hotel Amenities
I stayed at the Anna Maria Beach Resort and I spent some time enjoying their hot tub. Not only was it relaxing, it was also a great place to socialize with the other guests and exchange info about out AMI experiences. So check out the pool, the deep bathtub, or the yard games and get your money’s worth out of the amenities.
14. Ocean Kayaking Or Paddleboarding
Rent a kayak or a paddle board and enjoy some adventure right in the Gulf waters. I didn’t get to do this on my AMI weekend getaway because you can only fit so much in but I did see several other people out there enjoying kayaking and paddle boarding. #jealous
15. Mini Golfing
Get your mini golf on at The Fish Hole adventure golf course located on Historic Bridge Street. With misters and lights around the edge of the course, you can stay cool play day or night. Explore their botanical gardens with plant identification tags and feed the fish in their 3,000 gallon Koi Pond!
Short AMI Video with more photos:
There you have it- 15 awesome Anna Maria Island things to do! I hope you found this Anna Maria Island Visitors Guide useful for selecting the best places to visit and the best things to do. Anna Maria Island is the perfect place for a family vacation and it is sure to be one of your favorite places on the Gulf of Mexico. Which of these Anna Maria Island activities do you want to try first?
Let me know if you have any questions or would like to add any suggestions for your favorite things to do on Anna Maria Island in the comments below or tag me on social at @familyfocusblog #BradentonArea or #DineBradenton.
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