Updated: Sep 5
Anna Maria Island, is a charming barrier island located in the Gulf of Mexico off the west coast of Florida, A little bit over an hour south of Tampa and just 40 minutes north of Sarasota Florida. Anna Maria Island is a hidden gem with its fantastic white-sand beaches, charming old-Florida atmosphere, and stunning sunsets. I have traveled to this beach several times and have seen manatees, dolphins and tons of sand dollars while swimming in the ocean that is a beautiful shade of blue. Here are some of the best things to enjoy on this beautiful island, my favorite restaurants, a quick history lesson, and other nearby islands.
Manatee Public Beach: This beach is the perfect place to relax and soak up the sun. It's free to the public and offers amenities like picnic tables, volleyball courts, and a playground. Other beaches on the island are Holmes Beach, Bradenton Beach and Coquina Beach, which are all great.
Bean Point: This secluded beach is one of Anna Maria Island's best-kept secrets. It offers breathtaking views of the Gulf of Mexico and is a fantastic spot for shelling.
The Rod and Reel Pier: This iconic landmark offers fishing opportunities and a restaurant serving delicious seafood. It's a great place to enjoy a meal while watching the sunset. Check out eh Southern Style Krabcake (and yes, it is spelled with a K)
Pine Avenue: Known as the "Greenest Little Main Street in America," Pine Avenue is lined with colorful boutiques, local eateries, and art galleries. It's a great place to shop for unique gifts and souvenirs.
Kayaking in the Mangroves: Explore the island's natural beauty by kayaking through the mangroves. You might even spot some local wildlife, including dolphins and manatees.
Anna Maria Island is known for its fresh seafood. Some popular spots include The Sandbar Restaurant, The Waterfront Restaurant, and The Donut Experiment for sweet treats.
Also check out Holmes Beach, Bradenton Beach and Coquina Beach area on Anna Maria Island, there are plenty of vacation homes and small hotels in this area with several other restaurants like the Beach House Waterfront, Anna Maria Oyster Bar on the Pier, and Smoqehouse.
There is a Publix on Anna Maria Island for grocery shopping, but Publix has an excellent Deli. If you go to their deli try their chicken tender sub, or make it a buffalo chicken sub. In that same shopping plaza there is a Mexican and Chinese restaurant, and La Creperie. I haven't tried any of them, but I am sure they are great.
Before European settlers, Anna Maria Island was home to Native American tribes, mainly the Timucuan and Calusa tribes. They thrived on the island's abundant seafood and left behind numerous shell mounds, some of which can still be seen today. The first Europeans to arrive were Spanish explorers in the early 16th century. The island was named "Ana María" after the Virgin Mary and her mother, Anne. In the late 19th century, George Emerson Bean (Bean Point named after him) became the first permanent resident, establishing a homestead on the island's northern end. He partnered with Charles Roser, inventor of the Fig Newton cookie, to develop the city of Anna Maria. The Tampa and Bradenton areas grew rapidly in the early 20th century, leading to increased interest in Anna Maria Island. The island's first bridge was built in 1921, connecting it to the mainland and sparking a boom in tourism and development. After World War II, Anna Maria Island saw another surge in popularity. Many soldiers who trained in the area during the war returned with their families to vacation or live. In recent years, preservation efforts have aimed to maintain the island's old-Florida charm. Building height restrictions and a commitment to local businesses have helped Anna Maria Island resist the high-rise hotels and chain stores that characterize many Florida beach towns. Today Anna Maria Island is now a beloved vacation destination known for its pristine beaches, excellent fishing, and relaxed atmosphere.
As you can tell by the quick history lesson there is plenty to learn, if interested check out the Anna Maria Island Historical Society Museum and learn more about the island's history, which features exhibits on the area's fishing industry, early settlers, and more.
Nearby Islands to check out.
Anna Maria Island is part of a chain of barrier islands on Florida's Gulf Coast. Here are some of the nearby islands that you might want to explore:
Longboat Key: Located just south of Anna Maria Island, Longboat Key offers a blend of upscale living with a touch of old Florida charm. It's known for its quiet, clean beaches and excellent dining options.
Siesta Key: Further south from Longboat Key, Siesta Key is famous for its white sand beaches, which are considered some of the best in the world. The island also has a vibrant nightlife scene. This beach has also been highly rated as having clearest water.
Egmont Key: Accessible only by boat, Egmont Key is a state park located at the mouth of Tampa Bay. It's home to a historic lighthouse and offers excellent snorkeling opportunities.
Lido Key: Situated between Longboat Key and the city of Sarasota, Lido Key offers beautiful beaches and an array of shopping and dining options at St. Armands Circle.
Manasota Key: A bit more off the beaten path, Manasota Key has four beautiful beaches and is a great place for finding shark teeth.
Passage Key: This is a small island located about a mile north of Anna Maria Island. It's a National Wildlife Refuge and popular with birdwatchers.
I hope you have enjoyed this post on Anna Maria Island, one of my favorites and remember, the island operates a free trolley service, making it easy to explore all these wonderful attractions. Enjoy your time on Anna Maria Island!
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