top of page

Fun Family Things to do at Anna Maria Island Florida!

Updated: Apr 24

Sunset on Anna Maria Island
Sunset on Anna Maria Island

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 perfect for a family vacation. 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 family things to do and enjoy in Anna Maria Island. The whole family will love this place. Also, this blog contains some of my favorite restaurants, a quick history lesson, and other nearby islands you will want to explore. So much information you will be ready to pack your bags and head to Anna Maria Island immediately!

Traveling into Anna Maria Island

When traveling to Anna Maria Island, I tend to drive over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge from the St Petersburg area of Florida, Clearwater Airport is another great option to fly into for a trip to Anna Maria Island. But my most common way is to fly into Tampa and rent a car from there. My favorite place to rent a car with is Thrifty but you will have many options to choose from, but I tend to find the cheapest rates with Thrifty Car Rental.

Flying into Sarasota is another great option when traveling to Anna Maria Island, in fact it is even a little bit closer. Typically for me when I would be pricing flights, I would not choose Sarasota because it was more expensive to fly into, but it is a great option.

Another option, which I have done, and is great for those of you wanting to split your vacation up to enjoy the Magic of Disney World for part of your vacation. Fly into Orlando Airport and visit Disney World, Epcot, or any other Orlando activities that you would like to do. Anna Maria Island is only a 2-hour drive from Disney World, if you drive Interstate 4 and Interstate 75. Some of the cheapest flights to Florida are to Orlando, so if you don't mind the drive in the rental car, go for it.

Family things to do in Anna Maria Island

Manatee Public Beach: This beach is the perfect place to relax and soak up the sun. It's free to the public and with plenty of things to offer like picnic tables, volleyball courts, and a playground where you will see all the young kids playing. Manatee Beach is the most popular public beach on the island, so be prepared for crowds at times. Other beaches on the island are Holmes Beach, Bradenton Beach, Cortez Beach, and Coquina Beach, which are all great. 

  • Holmes beach is where I usually stay while visiting the island. I love the ocean there; it is not as crowded and if you come when the tides are right you can swim out in the ocean and spot a sand dollar on the bottom at the ocean floor. While staying in Holmes Beach, between 7 and 8AM, I would walk across the street and a few blocks back to the bay. This is a great spot to see Manatees. But I have seen them on the ocean front side too.

  • Bradenton Beach is the most popular area, with businesses. When you cross the bridge from Bradenton to Anna Maria Island, you are in Bradenton Beach. This is the busiest part of the island.

  • Cortez Beach is a great beach area that is not crowded but lacks facilities unless you walk in business. Check out the South Pier in Cortez Beach, some great fishing also happens on Cortez Beach.

  • Coquina Beach is on the south end of the island and has a great park with a concession stand, picnic tables and activities for the young kids. While there, take a stroll on the Coquina Baywalk, this is a very family friendly beach area. Check out the Coquina Beach Market while in the area. One thing I have to say is the public beaches of Anna Maria Island are the best I have ever been too.

Mini Golf: Check out The Fish Hole Miniature Golf in Bradenton Beach This is the perfect activity for families, even the older kids will enjoy some putt putt action. Another option for mini golf is located off the island in Bradenton, Smugglers Cove Adventure Golf, where there are real alligators located at the park and you can feed them by using fishing poles. There is an educational alligator exhibit also located there.

Bean Point: This secluded beach is one of Anna Maria Island's best-kept secrets. It offers breathtaking views. This is the Northernmost part of the island and a little bit of a walk to get too, but worth it. Parking in the area can be hard as this is more of a private beach area, but tourists and locals come here all the time, they just might have to walk a bit to get to it. Named after the areas first resident George Emmerson Bean.

Pelican at Rod and Reel Pier
Pelican at Rod and Reel Pier

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) I love watching the pelicans on the pier.

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. My favorite shop is. Shiny Fish Emporium, but there are many shops and eateries along Pine Avenue.

Anna Maria City Pier: Near Pine Avenue is a great pier to walk on, you can spot many birds hanging out in the area nearby or on the pier, looking for their next fishy snack. Herons and Pelicans can be found here or at the Rod and Reel Pier.

Bayfront Park: Is a small park on the north side of the island, where you can actually see the Sunshine Skyway and you can even spot Egmont Key. The playground has been removed but will be replaced soon. This is a great place for a walk on the bay side.

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. There are many tours offered to kayak through the mangroves, to look for manatees and dolphins too. I highly suggest one of the tours in the Viator link below.

Other tours I highly suggest are charter fishing tours, parasailing, Glass Bottom Kayak tours during the day or night, and there is even a scavenger hunt tour at Anna Maria Island. One of the best is the Anna Maria Island Dolphin tours. Also, if you notice Anna Maria Island is full of golf carts. You can rent golf carts to drive around the island. It is very popular for island driving.


Beach House Waterfront
Yummy food from the Beach House Waterfront

Anna Maria Island is known for its fresh seafood. Some popular spots for food include The Sandbar Restaurant, The Waterfront Restaurant, and The Donut Experiment for sweet treats. The Sandbar Restaurant is my favorite restaurant near Pine Avenue. Enjoy the beach views while there where you can basically be feet in the sand and enjoy the smells coming from the kitchen. I love the scallops, they are amazing.

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. The Beach House Waterfront is one of the best places to eat for this section of the island and it will remind you a lot of the Sandbar Restaurant by being right on the beach.

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. Also, there is La Creperie, Nutella crepes are so good.

History Lesson

starfish found on the edge of the water
starfish found on the edge of the water

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.

Ibis on waters edge
Ibis on waters edge

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.

Club Bamboo South at Bradenton Beach
View from Club Bamboo South at Bradenton Beach

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. I have to tell you about my favorite seafood restaurant on Siesta Key. Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant is a wonderful seafood restaurant on the bay, where you can dine outside or inside. On my trip I was astonished to see the neighborhood the restaurant is in. I even saw Peacocks living and showing off their tail feathers at a house just down the street from the restaurant. 

  • 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. You can even take a sunset electric bike ride of the island which is wonderful. Siesta Key is very close to Sarasota, so pop on over to the mainland to explore the Big Cat Habitat and Wildlife Sanctuary, or The John and Mabel Ringling Museum of Art.

Great Blue Heron stealing a fish on Anna Maria
Great Blue Heron stealing a fish on Anna Maria
  • 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. The most private beaches and best seashell collecting will happen on this island. There are other historical monuments on the island. This island actually has an address in St Pete, but you can spot it from the north end of Anna Maria Island.

  • Lido Key: Situated between Longboat Key and the city of Sarasota, actually it is part of the Sarasota City limits. Lido Key offers beautiful beaches and an array of shopping and dining options at St. Armands Circle. A cosmopolitan life with the sand just steps away.

Beautiful Blue Waters o Anna Maria
Beautiful Blue waters of Anna Maria
  • Manasota Key: A bit more off the beaten path, Manasota Key has four beautiful beaches and is a great place for finding shark teeth. Located on the south side of Sarasota, actually in Englewood, and the farthest away from Anna Maria Island.

  • 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. It changes in size regularly due to it basically being a sandbar and the tides help to form those changes. but it is surrounded by mangroves.

Extra Info

Something that is near and dear to my heart, the sea turtles of Anna Maria Island. Check out this website and learn more about the Anna Maria Island Sea Turtles Watch and Shore Birds Monitoring. You can donate time, or money to this cause and learn so much more about this wonderful area. Make sure to watch for nests and do not disturb them. Also, at night avoid using flashlights on the beach and turn off outside lights to avoid confusing the turtles. 

Beach with palm trees
Beach with palm trees

If you are looking for a place to stay like a beach house Anna Maria Island Rentals is a great place to contact to find exactly what you are looking for in a vacation house rental. There are a few hotels on the island, but they are small scale hotels, and no chain hotels on the island. This is what gives the island its wonderful feel. If it's like you are staying at a beach community, not a beach full of large hotels with tons of tourists.

An off-island attraction I have to mention is Robinson Preserve, Located in Bradenton only 7 miles away and on a good traffic day only 15 minutes away from Anna Maria Island. This is a large preserve perfect for exploring 682 acres of tidal marshes and mangroves. A pedestrian trail, picnic shelters and kayak launch areas plus many other activities are located here. If you would like a day away from the beach but want a walk to explore nature, this is the place to come, it is breathtaking. Your family will love it.

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. Spend your days soaking up the sun, beach days are the best. Explore every nook and cranny of the island but most of all enjoy your time on Anna Maria Island!

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on them and purchase, I might receive a commission that doesn't cost anything extra for you.

Recent Posts

See All


Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
bottom of page