31 Cool Things to Do in Anna Maria Island Florida

Our favorite things to do in Anna Maria Island include savoring scintillating sunsets, enjoying the cleanest and whitest beach sand in the world, and eating amazing grouper tacos with your toes in said sand.

Anna Maria Island Florida is my favorite beach. There I said it. I got that out of the way.

gorgeous clean white sand of Anna Maria Island beach
gorgeous Anna Maria Island beach

31 Cool Things To Do in Anna Maria Island Florida

Anna Maria Island beach IS, though, my favorite beach. Favorite or best beach is a subjective designation and I really hope your favorite beach is different than mine. Certainly, Anna Maria Island beach may not be my favorite beach forever or even at the end of this year.

Our Anna Maria Island travel guide is based on experiences from several Anna Maria Island trips including one when Bradenton Gulf Islands tourism hosted me.

Getting to Anna Maria Island FL

Anna Maria Island is about a 25 minute drive from Sarasota airport (SRQ) and 75 minutes from Tampa airport (TPA). A visit to Anna Maria Island is a fantastic Tampa day trip or longer day trip from Orlando.

Check smaller airlines for nonstop flights into SRQ—like Allegiant (from Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and Pittsburgh) and Elite Airways (from Portland Maine, White Plains New York, and Pittsburgh). Here is a convenient and useful resource list of nonstop destinations from SRQ airport.

Three distinct towns make up Anna Maria Island (AMI): Homes Beach, Anna Maria, and Bradenton Beach.

McCool Travel tip: Getting around Anna Maria Island is easy peasy lemon squeezy on the Island Trolley. With 35 stops, there is one within a block of wherever you stay and want to go. An Anna Maria Island Trolley passes each stop every 20 minutes until 9pm and 30 minutes from 9pm to 10:30pm.

This is especially convenient for people desiring a carless vacation. Fly into Sarasota Airport, take a taxi, Uber/Lyft, or shuttle 30 minutes to AMI and then relax during your weeklong Anna Maria Island vacation.

Anna Maria Island Activities

Best Things to Do in Anna Maria Island: Sunsets on Anna Maria Island Beach

See also Best Places to Watch Anna Maria Island Sunsets.

Anna Maria Island has the loveliest soft sugar white sand which can be found all along Florida’s gulf coast. The sand is cool even on scorching hot days. So nice! Recommended places to watch glorious Anna Maria Island sunsets include near the 65th Street entrance, Manatee Public Beach (directly across from the main bridge entrance to Anna Maria Island), but really any beach will do.

The remarkable US Gulf Coast sunsets are one of the best photo nature spots in Florida.

Anna Maria Island sunset at Kokonot Hut
Anna Maria Island sunset

Head to Bean Point, at the top of Anna Maria Island (north end) for wider beaches, sand dunes, but also breezier winds and multi-directional currents (careful when swimming). In addition to unobstructed sunset views over the Gulf of Mexico, you can see Edgmont Key straight north and the magnificent Sunshine Skyway Bridge to the northeast.

McCool Travel tip: Turn left (south) when driving onto Anna Maria Island from the Manatee Avenue bridge and in less than one mile find a parking spot steps from the sand of Coquina Beach. Besides Coastal Mississippi, this is one of the most convenient and FREE places to visit the beach along the entire US Gulf Coast. This is one of my favorite Coastal Scenic Drives in the entire US.

Also see my favorite South Florida Hidden Gems

Morning Beach Walks on Anna Maria Island

While sunsets are for socializing with rum drinks—oohing and aahing at the vibrant sky show—beach mornings are for early day activity. Daybreak is a nice time to say hello to temporary neighbors and commiserate about the people “back home” suffering through another harsh winter.

Anna Maria Island Fishing Excursions

Egmont Key Adventures is conveniently located across the street from the Waterline Marina in the center of the Anna Maria Island commercial district. Egmont offers offshore, nearshore, and inshore excursions. Captain Harrison took us on a half day adventure and we caught plenty of snook, pesky needlefish, redfish, and a trout or two.

fisherman holding fish in Anna Maria Island
Egmont Key Adventures fishing excursion is one of the fantastic things to do in Anna Maria Island

McCool Travel tip: arrange for take-out sandwiches, amazing sweet treats, drinks, and sides from Scott’s Deli.

Anna Maria Island Piers

Two Anna Maria Island piers offer much different experiences. Both piers are free to stroll or fish from and free parking is nearby.

The historic Anna Maria City Pier is on the upper, northeast terminus of Pine Avenue. A gift shop and snack bar are located in the building at the end and the views of the Sunshine Skyway and Tampa Bay are phenomenal.

The historic Bradenton Beach City Pier (aka Bridge Street Pier) has a lot more activity and commerce leading into it. Excellent views here of the Cortez fishing village, Sarasota Bay, and Sarasota. Anna Maria Oyster Bar is a great restaurant on the pier, for breakfast or fresh seafood later in the day. The comfy swings at the end of the pier are a great way to spend some down time.

Hikes Near Anna Maria Island

Besides walking the seven miles of gorgeous US Gulf Coast beaches, on and between the piers, and elsewhere on the island, head east on Manatee Avenue for some really nice hiking spots.

Neal Preserve is a 120 acre wetland habitat with an observation tower. It is a fantastic spot for bird watching and sunsets.

Perico Preserve is another wetland habitat that is wonderful for bird spotting and getting away in nature. It features a nice boardwalk and observation decks.

Robinson Preserve has three separate sections. One is along the causeway (Manatee Avenue) on the east side of Perico Bayou. The other two Robinson Preserve areas can be accessed off 75th Street. The upper and largest section (off 17th Ave) has a great observation tower. The other section (off 9th Ave) has an excellent playground (The Nest), kayak storage, and excellent hiking trails.

Look for migrating wood storks in the winter and eagles all year.

gorgeous banyan tree
banyan tree at Robinson Preserve Bradenton Florida

Anna Maria Island Events

A great thing to do in Anna Maria Island in the winter is attend the Bradenton Blues Festival but there are hundreds of Florida Gulf Coast events year round. For a complete and current list of Anna Maria Island and Bradenton area events, check with Visit Bradenton tourism website.

Bradenton Blues festival is one of the best things to do in Anna Maria Island
Bradenton Blues Festival is one of the most fun events near Anna Maria Island

Anna Maria Island Farmers Market

Visiting the Anna Maria Island farmers market is one of my top things to do in Anna Maria Island.

The AMI farmers market is a fantastic way to support local businesses while also getting fresh food or custom products. The small Anna Maria farmers market is at AMI City Pier Park every Tuesday from mid October through mid May, from 8:30am to 2pm.

There are usually several produce vendors, one or two fresh guacamole stands, a seafood vendor (with seafood salads and chowders), the local turtle rescue organization, and a few craft booths (one local artist makes jellyfish planters out of seashells).

For fresh produce and food (eggs, etc.), also try Geraldson’s Family Farm across the bridge in northwest Bradenton.

fresh vegetables Geraldson's Family Farm Bradenton
fresh vegetables Geraldson’s Family Farm Bradenton

For the best places to eat in Anna Maria Island, see my favorite Anna Maria Island Restaurants.

Flyboarding in Anna Maria Island

Flying above the water was one of the coolest activities I have done. EVER! I felt like James Bond and Travis Pastrana at the same time. Visit TOP GUN Flyboards to learn about the most fun you can have with your clothes on.

McCool Travel note: unfortunately TOP GUN Flyboards is no longer in business but check with activity desks for other Anna Maria Island adventure activities.

Things to Do in Anna Maria Island: Where to Stay AMI

The vacation rental scene dominates lodging on Anna Maria Island. That is a good thing because, as you probably know, I consider vacation rentals a better value than hotels—lower prices, more space, and better amenities.

Our Anna Maria Island vacation rental house was arranged through Island Real Estate. They manage hundreds of AMI vacation properties and the website has convenient search criteria—like gulf front, pet friendly, with pool, and specials.

Anna Maria Island rentals are also available from several other sources including

  • Mike Normal Real Estate
  • Sato Real Estate
  • Anna Maria Vacations
  • Anna Maria Island Accommodations
  • AMI Locals
  • Anna Maria Island Rentals
  • Anna Maria Life Vacation Rentals
  • Suncoast Vacation Rentals
  • VRBO
  • Airbnb

Some of the best Anna Maria Island hotels I want to try include Waterline Marina Resort, Anna Maria Island Inn, Rod and Reel Resort, Anna Maria Beach Resort, Bali Hai, and Bungalow Beach Resort.

Right across the bridge and located on Anna Maria Sound is One Particular Harbour, a Margaritaville residential concept. Also attached to this fun Margaritaville location is a Compass Hotel for short term stays. Fins Up!

Future Things to Do in Anna Maria Island

The McCool Travel team has not been everywhere on AMI yet. If you know of any activity, shop, or place not mentioned, let me know.

Check out this very vibrant Facebook group all about AMI.

McCool Travel bonus: Beer Can Island is at the northern tip of Longboat Key closest to Anna Maria Island, just a 10 minute drive from Manatee Beach. It is a fun and a great Florida hidden gem. There you can swim with dolphins and manatees.

When you drive to Anna Maria Island from Tampa area, make sure to visit the fishing piers connected to Sunshine Skyway Bridge. It costs $3.20 (per vehicle) to visit either Skyway State Fishing Pier (it is a Florida State Park).

BUT (McCool Travel tip) you can visit both fishing piers within one hour, so do it! If you only have time to visit one, go to the north fishing pier (it is longer).

Sunshine Skyway Bridge view from the Skyway State Fishing Pier
Sunshine Skyway Bridge from north Skyway State Fishing Pier

Best Anna Maria Island Restaurants

Anna Maria Island Restaurants serve the freshest Gulf seafood. I include two dozen favorite Anna Maria Island restaurants in my dedicated article.

Anna Maria Island Day Trips

Located midway between Tampa and Punta Gorda, Anna Maria Island is a magnificent Southwest Florida Gulf Coast island. Sarasota, Naples, Captiva Island, and Indian Rocks Beach are easy day trips from Anna Maria Island.

Anna Maria Island is one of my favorite Gulf Coast Spring Break Destinations for families.

Let me know your favorite things to do in Anna Maria Island.

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Things to do in Anna Maria Island include world class sunsets, the cleanest and whitest beach sand in the world, and flying above water. What? Yes, flying!

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