Anna Maria Island is a quaint beach town on Florida’s west coast. This hidden gem is reminiscent of coastal old Florida. The pace is a little slower on Anna Maria Island – you will truly feel like you’re on Island Time. You’ll get to experience a relaxing Florida beach vacation without all the hustle and bustle.
Anna Maria Island, also known as AMI by locals, will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s the first place my now-fiancée and I ever vacationed to. We loved it so much, we returned each summer for a yearly vacation while we were living in Tampa.
Things to Do in Anna Maria
- The beach, obviously! Anna Maria is known for some of the best beaches in Florida. They are pristine and the water is crystal clear. Our favorite beach is the north end near Bean Point. The beach is pretty secluded and private, plus you’ll have a great view of the Sunshine Skyway and some of the nearby islands in the distance.
- Gift shopping – There are lots of little beachy gift shops all around the island. You’ll find quite a few on Pine Avenue. Shop for seashells, t-shirts, postcards and handmade treasures.
- Rent bicycles, mopeds, golf carts, etc. It’s an easy way to get around and explore the island, and fun for the whole family.
- Bishop Museum of Science and Nature – a short drive into Bradenton, this is the largest natural and cultural history museum on Florida’s gulf coast. It’s home to a Planetarium and the Parker Manatee Rehabilitation Habitat. The facility temporarily houses manatees that will be released back into the wild, and was previously home to the oldest known captive manatee in the world, Snooty.
- Anna Maria Island Historical Society Museum and Old Jail – Featuring exhibits on local Anna Maria history, this free museum is worth checking out for an afternoon. We recommend the scavenger hunt in the museum, especially if you have kids. The Old Jail is one of the most photographed spots on the island.
- Fishing at the pier – There are three piers in Anna Maria – Rod and Reel Pier, Anna Maria Island City Pier, and Bridge Street Pier. Try your luck fishing, or grab a bite to eat and admire the views. And keep your eyes open for dolphins and manatees!
- Free Anna Maria Island Trolley – Use the free trolley to easily get around the island. Hop on and off wherever you want, from the north to south ends of the island.
- Catch the Sunrise or Sunset – Anna Maria is an island, so you can actually view a beautiful sunrise and beautiful sunset over the water each day!
Where to Stay
You won’t find any high rise commercial resorts on Anna Maria Island. Most of your lodging options will be locally owned B&Bs or vacation home rentals. But if you are looking for a low-key, no-stress beach trip to a truly peaceful coastal town, Anna Maria Island is a great option.
We have stayed on the island quite a few times, and we have always stayed at Anna Maria Resort and Motel at the north end of the island. We love this stay because the rooms have full kitchens and they have a few different options for number of beds. The resort itself has a lovely pool and hot tub, grills, plus complimentary beach chairs, umbrellas, etc. and it’s steps away from the north beach. Seriously, it’s across the street. You’re in a secluded residential part of the island, but you are just a short car ride away from restaurants, gift shops and more.
Make sure to book your stay well in advance, especially in the summer. Due to the small size of most of the local inns, rooms book up quickly.
Our Must-Try Places to Eat
Sandbar – This is one of our favorite dining experiences on the island. Not only is the food and atmosphere great, but they have an outdoor patio right on the beach. Seriously, you can dine with your toes in the sand while enjoying the sunset. Make sure to make reservations as the wait can get long, and make your reservation for an hour before sunset if you are trying to catch it.
The Waterfront – Another one of our can’t-miss restaurants while on the island. They serve some of the consistently best seafood we’ve ever eaten. Enjoy the outdoor patio or a craft beer or cocktail from the bar. We seriously dream about the crab cakes and get them every time! Pictured here, as a sandwich.
Rod and Reel Pier Restaurant – The pier is “a little bit of old Florida” you can’t miss. Enjoy the two story restaurant right over the gulf. It’s perfect for watching the sunset, marine life, or fishermen hauling in their fresh catch.
The Donut Experiment – Serving up build-your-own donuts in tons of flavors. They have almost everything you can imagine, from maple bacon to Fruity Pebbles to key lime. Be prepared – there’s usually a wait and it can be challenging to find parking nearby on the weekends.
Two Scoops – A delicious ice cream parlor featuring 32 ice cream flavors to try, plus breakfast, lunch and baked goods. A must-try for that late night sweets craving!
North Shore Cafe – This cute little cafe is great for a morning or afternoon pick me up. The outdoor seating is nice and shaded with a water view. And you’ll find this cute mural there!
There are so many more amazing local restaurants to try on the island, these are just a few of our favorites!
The information in this post was accurate at the time of publishing to the best of the author’s knowledge. If you are planning to visit any of the sites mentioned in this post, we recommend checking the most up-to-date information on their respective websites.
Post updated April 2022. Originally Published April 2020.