33 Best Things to Do on Anna Maria Island, FL | Travel With A Plan (2024)

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Are you looking for a list of the best things to do on Anna Maria Island?

In this article, we highlight the best family-friendly activities on Anna Maria Island, as well as show you the many reasons that this United States vacation destination is the ultimate beach-lovers paradise.

Whether you’re looking to relax on the beach, go fishing, watch dolphins, or dine on delicious seafood, there are literally so many fun things to do on Anna Maria Island.

Look no further for the 33 best things to do in Anna Maria Island to find your piece of paradise!

33 Best Things to Do on Anna Maria Island, FL | Travel With A Plan (1)

Table of Contents

Things to Do on Anna Maria Island

Anna Maria Island, Florida, is a barrier island located on the southwest coast of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico.

Anna Maria’s 7-mile long coastline is home to three laid-back, beachy communities: the City of Anna Maria (to the north), the City of Holmes Beach (in the center), and Bradenton Beach City (home of Beach Bridge Street Pier/Bradenton Beach City Pier, to the south).

All three cities provide access to spectacular beaches, accommodations, and amazing outdoor activities that offer a friendly Old Florida feel.

Regardless of whether you’re dining and drinking on the shore or dipping your toes into the aquamarine waters of the Gulf of Mexico, an Anna Maria Island vacation will have you feeling relaxed, rejuvenated, and refreshed.

33 Best Things to Do on Anna Maria Island, FL | Travel With A Plan (2)

1. Head to the Beach

As the absolute best free thing to do on Anna Maria Island…head to the beach!

After all, there are a total of 6 pristine beaches on Anna Maria Island to choose from.

Though each beach on Anna Maria Island is unique in its own way, they all offer the same picturesque aquamarine-colored water, as well as luscious, pure-white sand that is always cool to the touch.

You can’t go wrong in choosing to go to either of these beaches, though your choice(s) may come down to their proximity to your overnight accommodations or where you can find parking.

Here’s a quick snapshot of each Anna Maria island beach:

Bean Point Beach

  • Located on the northernmost tip of the island.
  • The most secluded and tranquil of the island’s beaches (a hidden gem!).
  • Street parking only.
  • Breathtaking views. Best place to watch the sunset.
  • Quiet atmosphere with little around but natural beauty.
  • Great for beachcombing.
  • No lifeguards.
  • No amenities.

Bayfront Park

  • Located on the northern tip of the island between Anna Maria City Pier and Rod n Reel Pier.
  • Views of Tampa Bay, Egmont Key, and the famous Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
  • A large park area with a playground, pavilions, picnic tables, and grills.
  • Great spot for birdwatching and exploring.
  • Free public parking.
  • No lifeguards.

Holmes Beach

  • Located in the middle of the island.
  • Best beach for surfing.
  • Most utilized by nearby condo and vacation-rental beachgoers.
  • Limited parking is found here.
  • No lifeguards.
  • White sands are perfect for sunbathing.
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Manatee Public Beach

  • Located in the middle of the island.
  • Busiest beach on the island with the most public amenities.
  • Best beach for shelling (go early to find the best shells!).
  • Home to AMI Beach Cafe.
  • Large public parking area.
  • Beach equipment rentals are available (chairs, umbrellas, cabanas).
  • Lifeguards present.

Bradenton Beach

  • Located in the small community of Bradenton Beach near its historic Bridge Street.
  • Best spot for snorkeling on the island.
  • Most utilized by nearby condo and vacation-rental beachgoers.
  • Home to The Beach House and Gulf Drive Cafe restaurants.
  • Has a picturesque fishing pier.
  • Very limited public parking.
  • No lifeguards.

Coquina Beach

  • Located at the southern tip of the island.
  • A long, narrow beach that is good for shell picking.
  • Long stretches of white sand to enjoy.
  • Similar amenities as Manatee Beach but often less crowded.
  • Has an awesome boardwalk that you can walk, run, or ride on.
  • Large public parking area.
  • Beach equipment rentals are available (chairs, umbrellas, cabanas).
  • Lifeguards present.
  • Home of the Beach Market (outdoor market with local vendors) and located right across the street from Leffis Key Preserve.
  • Amenities make it a great family-friendly option.

Though parking at the beaches is free, it can be hard to get a spot, especially on the weekends or holidays. Plan to arrive at the beaches early in the morning or later in the afternoon (after 3:00 PM) when people are beginning to leave.

In addition, don’t forget to bring along these must-have beach essentials that will maximize your fun and safety while on the beach!

2. Bike the Island

Similar to when visiting Siesta Key and other small beachside communities, one of the best things to do in Anna Maria is to rent bikes!

Being that vacationing on the island is all about getting away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, bike rentals allow you to never have to start your car engine once you’re settled in.

In fact, there’s no easier way to get around Anna Maria Island and avoid the stress of having to find a parking spot than to bike to and from all of your favorite spots.

Along with being a convenient mode of transportation, biking is a fun entertainment option too!

Popular Anna Maria bike rental companies such as Beach Bums, AMI Beach Fun Rentals, and Fun and More Rentals offer free delivery of their bikes, rentals for one or multiple days, and complimentary helmets and locks.

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3. Take a Dolphin Tour

Hands down, one of the best Anna Maria Island activities is to take a guided dolphin tour offered by our favorite, The Salty Dolphin!

Anna Maria Island is known for its large population of bottlenose dolphins that love to frolic and play in their local waters.

The best part about taking a guided dolphin cruise is that your captain will know just where to find them!

For both adults and kids alike, there’s something so special about seeing dolphins in their natural habitat, swimming and playing alongside one another.

For only $35/person, we loved getting to spend 1.5 hours learning about the local wildlife, watching seabirds, searching for manatees, and being treated to the beauty and splendor of Anna Maria Island’s resident dolphins.

This is an experience you don’t want to miss!

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4. Build Your Own Donut!

Now and again, you taste something so delicious that your taste buds will never let you forget how great it was.

In comes what you will experience when customizing your own freshly-made cake donut at The Donut Experiment! Bonus – it’s one of the most unique things to do on Anna Maria Island.

This ultra-adorable hang-out located on Pine Avenue is filled with friendly staff just waiting to assist you at the donut bar and to serve you up a cup of piping hot coffee or other specialty drink.

After the donuts are cooked right in front of you, they’re dipped and dunked into the icing, toppings, and drizzle of your choice, making for a completely fun and unique experience.

Biting into these fresh and delicious donuts tops our list of things to do in Anna Maria Island, FL!

Additional planning tip: If there’s a line to order, hold tight. These melt-in-your-mouth donuts are well worth the wait. Plus, for only $1.35 per donut and $13.75 per dozen, they make for the perfect, affordable snack!

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5. Dine With a View at Anna Maria Oyster Bar

Our favorite restaurant on Anna Maria Island is Anna Maria Oyster Bar, otherwise known as ‘AMOB’.

Along with its prime location on the Bradenton Beach Pier, AMOB has a fun and family-friendly atmosphere, amazing staff, and a food and drink menu that is off the charts (be sure to try the White Sandy Beaches or Toasted Monkey co*cktail)!

You can’t go wrong in ordering their Calamari, Tuna Stack, or Jumbo Chicken Wings as an appetizer, followed up with perfectly cooked seafood, Gulf-fresh fish, oysters, steaks & chicken, hearty soups, or pasta.

For a chance to dine right on the ocean and eat amazingly fresh food in a great atmosphere, we definitely count a visit to Anna Maria Oyster Bar as one of the best things to do on Anna Maria Island!

There is limited parking directly in front of the restaurant. Simply pull up to the hostess stand, and a staff member in a golf cart will assist you in finding their nearby available (free) parking.

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6. Sink a Putt at The Fish Hole on Anna Maria Island

Located just a short walk from Anna Maria Oyster Bar, play a round of mini-golf at The Fish Hole located on Bridge Street.

This 18-hole miniature golf course is surrounded by tropical plants and shade trees and features a fun, nautical décor that fits in with the vibe of Anna Maria Island.

Though the course itself is not challenging, it is both affordable ($9.49 per person) and well-maintained, as well as provides the perfect opportunity to have some family fun.

Additional planning tip: Bring along some change! There is a fish food dispenser located next to the gigantic 3,000 Koi pond found at the course. Our kids loved seeing and feeding the dozens of resident Koi here!

Walk and go mini-golfing after dining at AMOB, and you won’t have to find a new parking spot.

7. Take the Free Island Trolley or Monkey Bus

We mention utilizing free transportation as one of the best things to do in Anna Maria Island for its convenience and awesomeness.

With a few differences, both the Anna Maria Island Trolley and Anna Maria Monkey Bus offer free rides and stops up and down the island to avoid the hassle of driving, traffic, and parking.

The Island Trolley operates 7 days a week on a fixed route and starts service at 6 AM. It runs at 20-minute intervals until 9 PM, then every 30 minutes until 10:30 PM. Trolley stops can be found every 2 – 4 blocks.

Island Beach Monkeys, “The Monkey Bus”, on the other hand, travels all over Anna Maria Island by request only. You can call 941-565-6542 to schedule a ride anywhere on the island (and beyond) from 12 AM to 3 AM, 7 days a week.

“Rides for Tips” is their slogan, as there is no official charge for this service.

Additional planning tip: For the Island Trolley, look for teal-colored, open-air trolleys. Monkey Buses are brightly colored, covered mini buses.

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8. Go Fishing

Whether you’re an avid fisherman looking to book a deep-sea adventure or simply want to test your luck and throw in a line from shore, Anna Maria Island offers great fishing opportunities.

First off, Anna Maria Island is home to several companies that offer chartered fishing trips where the bait, tackle, rods, boat, and guide are all provided at a cost.

Many people rank these experiences as some of the best money they’ve ever spent fishing, however.

For a land-based experience, both the Rod and Reel Pier and the City Pier, along with Bradenton Beach Pier, are excellent spots to fish from. At all three of these places, you can rent rods and purchase bait for low hourly rates.

At Rod and Reel Pier, for instance, we paid $2.00/person to fish, $2.00/hour for pole rental, and $3.50 for a bag of frozen shrimp bait. We excitedly caught snook and snapper.

All in all, fishing from the piers is truly one of our favorite things to do in Anna Maria Island for the endless smiles that it provides.

Additional planning tip: Those in your group who are 16 years or older will need to purchase a local license to fish. If fishing from a pier as a non-Florida resident, however, you do not need a license; you are covered by the pier’s license.

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9. Browse the Island’s Specialty Shops

There aren’t many things to do in Anna Maria Island when it rains, so your best bet may be shopping!

Luckily, the area is home to an abundance of dessert shops, jewelry stores, boutiques, clothing stores, art galleries, and other specialty gift shops.

The hand-made goods and boutique items are ones that you simply won’t find elsewhere!

Both Pine Avenue (near Anna Maria City Pier, Bayfront Park, and the Rod and Reel Pier) and Historic Bridge Street (in Bradenton Beach) are home to unique and creative shops that are some of the most popular and fun places to visit on Anna Maria Island.

Here’s a list of our favorite shops that you won’t want to miss:

  • Olive Oil Outpost (Pine Ave.)
  • Three Island Monkeys (Pine Ave.)
  • Pink & Navy (Pine Ave.)
  • Bridge Street Bazaar (Bridge St.)
  • Back Alley Treasures (Bridge St.)
  • The Uptown Lot (Bridge St.)
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10. Dine and Watch the Sunset at The Sandbar

The Sandbar is another hugely popular restaurant and tops most people’s lists as one of the most romantic things to do on Anna Maria Island.

Located on the north end of the island, the Sandbar is situated on the sandy shoreline of the Gulf, meaning that it is no joke that you literally ‘dine with your toes in the sand’.

Not only does The Sandbar offer an epic dining experience in an unbeatable location, but it is also the perfect spot to watch an iconic Anna Maria sunset.

There is nothing quite as breathtaking as watching the gigantic sun sink below the horizon over the Gulf of Mexico (with unobstructed views).

This is something you definitely need to do each and every night when visiting here.

Additional planning tip: Expect long waits to be seated at The Sandbar, especially during peak tourist seasons. Be aware that the food is just as great as the view!

Other great restaurants on Anna Maria Island include:

  • The Wicked Cantina – Amazing Tex-Mex food and the best margaritas!
  • Waterfront Restaurant – Awesome dinner option with a huge porch; great food and co*cktails!
  • Shore (on Longboat Key) – Memorable higher-end dining experience with amazing food and views (be sure to make reservations)!

11. Explore the Local Area

When talking about fun things to do at Anna Maria Island, it is necessary to mention its close proximity to so many other amazing coastal and local communities.

The best day trips include the fishing village of Cortez, Longboat Key, Bradenton (check out Cortez Beach!), Sarasota, and Siesta Key.

For some ideas on things to do near Anna Maria Island, check out both our favorite things to do in Sarasota and the absolute best things to do in Siesta Key, as these are two of our other favorite family vacation spots.

Needing a theme park fix?

Travel 2 hours and 30 minutes northeast, and you’ll find plenty of things to do in Orlando, including Magic Kingdom, Universal Studios, SeaWorld, and Legoland.

In short, you will definitely not be at a loss to find things to do when visiting Anna Maria Island and the surrounding area!

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12. Try a Watersport

Because of its relaxed, non-commercial setting, Anna Maria Island is the perfect spot for a serene vacation.

That being said, you can definitely still find thrills on your trip!

There are tons of exciting water sports to try on Anna Maria, with adrenaline-pumping options including parasailing, jet skiing, kiteboarding, and windsurfing.

For more low-key options, we recommend snorkeling, kayaking, or a gentle paddleboard around the calmest waters.

Find more information on watersports on Anna Maria Island, including rental options, here.

Things to Do on Anna Maria Island: Insider Tips

  • Parking ordinances are strictly enforced on Anna Maria Island.If it says ‘No Parking’, don’t do it unless you want a ticket. Likewise, if you park on the roadside, be sure your tires are off the asphalt street, or you will get a ticket.
  • Drive slowly on Gulf Drive, as pedestrian crosswalks are everywhere. Florida law requires that you stop and give the right of way to pedestrians
  • The months of May to October are considered ‘Turtle Season’. All outdoor lights must be dimmed, beach toys/equipment removed from the beaches, and holes filled in. This prevents nesting turtles and their hatchlings from running into hazards or from becoming disoriented.
  • Be mindful of ways to beat the Florida heat if visiting during the sweltering hot months of June, July, or August.
  • In addition, be sure to consult our Florida packing list so that you can pack the appropriate clothes, accessories, and fun Florida extras!
  • The closest major airport to Anna Maria Island is the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, but it offers limited service. Tampa International Airport (TPA) is larger and is located one hour and 15 minutes north with interstate access.
  • Anna Maria Island in Florida is not to be confused with Santa Maria Island, which is located in Portugal.

People Also Ask

Where is Anna Maria Island?

Anna Maria Island is located southwest of Tampa, Florida. It is a barrier island bounded west by the Gulf of Mexico. Anna Maria Island is located close to the cities of both Bradenton and Sarasota.

What is so special about Anna Maria Island?

Anna Maria Island is a low-key place. There are amazing vacation rentals, beautiful beaches, unique seaside dining venues, local art, and plenty of outdoor activities. In other words, there is truly something for everyone here!

What is Anna Maria Island known for?

Anna Maria Island is most known for its gorgeous beaches, complete with soft white sands, turquoise waters, and plenty of activities to choose from.
The area is also well-known for its Old Florida charm; it has impeccable small-town vibes, prioritizing local businesses and fostering a deep sense of community.

What is the best time to visit Anna Maria Island?

The best months to visit Anna Maria Island are from January through March, and then again in October. The humidity is much lower than during the summer months, and it is usually not as busy either.

Is Anna Maria Island expensive?

Because there are no fast-food chains or high-rise hotel chains, you’ll spend more on food and lodging in Anna Maria Island. Also, most accommodations here have ocean or beachfront views making prices higher than when staying inland.

What are some Anna Maria Island things to do at night?

From dive bars (Drift-In) and sports bars (Slim’s Place) to stylish dockside bars (Bridge Tender Inn), and live music on the weekends (Cortez Kitchen), there are several fun things to do in Anna Maria Island at night. I wouldn’t consider it to have a huge party atmosphere, however. Just laid-back fun.

Does Anna Maria have a boardwalk?

Yes and no. Many beach towns have a bustling boardwalk complete with vendors, restaurants, entertainment, and more touristy fun. Anna Maria Island is a much more low-key destination.There are, however, some casual piers, including Bradenton Beach City Pier and Bridge Street Pier.
Also, some of the beaches do have wooden pathways that weave in between sand dunes as a conservation effort. These paths are wonderful for long beach walks. And if that doesn’t suit you, there are miles of shoreline to explore!

More Fun Things to Do on Anna Maria Island

Here’s a recap, plus some additional things to do that the entire family will love!

This list is a recap of all of the fun things to do in Anna Maria that are listed above – with a few additional activities that we’ve discovered on subsequent visits!

Anna Maria Island Attractions

  1. Relax at Bean Point Beach
  2. Picnic and swim at Bayfront Park
  3. Spend the day at Holmes Beach
  4. Hang out at Manatee Public Beach
  5. Go to Bradenton Beach
  6. Go shell picking at Coquina Beach
  7. Browse the Beach Market at Coquina Beach
  8. Rent bikes from Beach Bums and bike the island
  9. Go on a dolphin cruise with The Salty Dolphin
  10. Build your own donut at The Donut Experiment
  11. Take photos from the Bradenton Beach Pier
  12. Dine with a view at Anna Maria Oyster Bar
  13. Go mini-golfing at The Fish Hole
  14. Take the free Island Trolley
  15. Ride the Monkey Bus
  16. Go fishing (and rent equipment) from Rod and Reel Pier
  17. Book a deep-sea fishing excursion for a day on the water
  18. Go shopping on Pine Avenue
  19. Go shopping on Historic Bridge Street
  20. Dine and watch the sunset at The Sandbar restaurant
  21. Visit nearby towns like Bradenton, Sarasota, and Siesta Key
  22. Get ice cream at Two Scoops or Small Town Creamery
  23. The next night, get ice cream at Dips (then compare the two)
  24. Take a guided kayak tour with Happy Paddler Kayak Tours
  25. Visit the Anna Maria Island Historical Museum, run by the Island Historical Society: Located on Pine Avenue; get a glimpse of Florida’s history and learn about the rich history of the island; take a photo at the Anna Maria City Jail, one of the most photographed places on the island.
  26. Visit the Anna Maria Historic Green Village: Also located on Pine Avenue, an art gallery, jewelry and gift shop, village bakery, and outfitter shop that are all run on natural energy.
  27. Play on the playground at Coquina Bayside Park
  28. Go parasailing with Anna Maria Island Parasailing
  29. Rent a pontoon through H2O Watersports
  30. Take Sailing Lessons on sunfish sailboats from Bimini Bay Sailing
  31. Get coffee or a fresh smoothie from Ginny and Jane E’s Cafe
  32. Have barbecue at the Smokehouse
  33. Rent a kayak from Happy Paddler
  34. Rent a golf cart from Anna Maria Golf Carts
  35. Try windsurfing along the crystal blue waters
  36. Visit a nature preserve like Leffis Key Preserve or Neal Preserve
  37. Go birdwatching
  38. Tour the island by segway with Zegway by the Bay
  39. Treat yourself to a spa day
  40. Relax with yoga on the beach
  41. Take in the local art at a festival or show

*All photos courtesy of VisitSarasota.com unless otherwise noted.

Thanks for reading! What are some of your favorite things to do in Anna Maria Island FL? Our fellow travel readers would love to know!


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33 Best Things to Do on Anna Maria Island, FL | Travel With A Plan (2024)
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