Anna Maria Island
By enjoyFloridaBeaches.com Staff October 5, 2015
Anna Maria Island is a barrier island on the Gulf of Mexico, famed for its "Old Florida" character and seven miles of inviting white sand. This island community is a perfect winter getaway, and one of the best beach destinations for full time residents.
Anna Maria Island is home to three cities: Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach, and Holmes Beach, each with their own appeal, which is due in part to limiting commercial construction in order to maintain the island's look and feel.
Anna Maria Island has a long, wide, white beach that is unbroken for seven miles that consists of 6 beaches: Coquina Beach, Manatee Beach, Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach, Cortez Beach, and Anna Maria Beach.
The beaches on Anna Maria Island are great for sunbathing, swimming, fishing, shelling, nature walks, and other beach activities. Visitors enjoy beachside cafés, seafood restaurants, and boutique shops in a family-friendly environment.
Bradenton Beach has the most commercial activity, featuring a commercial strip of Old Florida styled hotels, restaurants, and shops. Holmes Beach, located in the center of the island, is less commercial and features a small strip mall with a large chain grocery store and pharmacy. Anna Maria, the northern most town on the island, is the least commercial and features very nice restaurants, shops, and boutiques.
Popular eco-activities on the island include watching birds and dolphins, watching for nesting sea turtles in May through October, and eco-tours.
Anna Maria Island does not permit high rise buildings, which helps retain its Old Florida charm. So accommodations consist of small resorts and hotels, perhaps more on the boutique end of the spectrum, B&Bs, and almost 1,000 vacation rentals.
Because Anna Maria Island is long and narrow, there is a good chance your accommodations will be on the beach or have a view of the beach, if you stay in a hotel or B&B. Also, many of the island's vacation rentals are on the beach, and have a view of Tampa Bay or the Gulf of Mexico.
There are a variety of restaurants on Anna Maria Island, including top rated restaurants for seafood. Eateries on the island are mom and pop operations, resulting in an absence of region and national chains, which adds to the charm of the island.
Top rated restaurants include Blue Marlin Seafood, The Waterfront Restaurant, The Feast Restaurant, and The Sandbar Restaurant.
Things To Do
Though Anna Maria Island is a small, narrow island, there is a great deal to do, most of which involves the beach and water. Popular activities include sunbathing, swimming, fishing, and numerous other beach and water activities. Eco-adventures are also popular, and tours are available from local vendors in addition to rentals.
Shopping options on the island are void of chain stores, with the exception of a chain grocery store and pharmacy. So even the shopping experience has an Old Florida vibe.
Beach weddings are very popular on Anna Maria Island, so depending on the time of year you may pass by multiple weddings a day.
Local hotels and restaurants host weddings, with area vendors providing services for couples tying the knot on this charming strip of paradise. Area wedding planners, such as Gulf Beach Weddings, also have packages for beach weddings, and offer a range of services to fit every budget.
One of the most popular sites on Anna Maria Island to have a wedding is The Sandbar Restaurant, which is located on the northern end of the island where there is very little commerce.
For information about permit requirements and restrictions for beach weddings, contact the administrative office for the city on the island in which the wedding will take place.
Anna Maria Island is located in Manatee County, just south of Tampa. The island is about 17 miles from the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, and 50 miles from the Tampa International Airport.
Two bridges serve the island, at Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach, and the Anna Maria Island Trolley provides free and enjoyable island transportation.