The most cool, happy, and fun things to do in Anna Maria Island include savoring world class sunsets, enjoying the cleanest and whitest beach sand in the world, eating amazing grouper tacos with your toes in said sand, and flying above water. What? Yes, flying!
Anna Maria Island Florida is my favorite beach. There I said it. I got that out of the way.
Superlatives are typically not my thing. McCool Travel articles are not full of “best” or “must see” or “worst” attributes. Well, at least I hope not. I better double check. Let me know if you see any and I will buy you a margarita, probably at an Anna Maria Island bar, such as The Doctor’s Office (see below).
16 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 but 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.
This article is based on experiences from several Anna Maria Island trips including one when Bradenton Gulf Islands hosted me (and other travel writers) for a Guy’s Getaway weekend.
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). If more convenient, make the two hour drive from Orlando airport. 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.
Anna Maria Island Activities
1. Anna Maria Island Beach sunsets
The remarkable US Gulf Coast sunsets are one of the best nature spots in Florida for photos.
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My latest sunset was a couple of hours ago at Manatee Beach on #AnnaMariaIsland. I know my Twitter peeps are encouraging a #California versus #Florida battle for #SundaySunsets. We can all be friends and agree both states have amazing sunsets. Right? I will keep doing research. . . #seetheworld #traveltheworld #sunset_hub #sunsetbeach #sunset_ig #sunsetporn #travellover #travellife #travelwriter #sundayfun #beachlife #saltlife #loveFL #bradentonarea #menwhoblog #mccooltravel #funness
Anna Maria Island has that lovely soft sugar white sand found all along Florida’s gulf coast. The sand is cool even on those scorching hot days. So nice! Recommended places to view the glorious US Gulf Coast sunsets include near 64th Street (near Beach Bistro), Manatee Public Beach (directly across from the main bridge entrance to Anna Maria Island), but really any beach will do.
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.
2. 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.
Good morning from Holmes Beach on Anna Maria Island. Yassssssssss! Visit Bradenton Gulf IslandsIsland Real Estate – 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.
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.
McCool Travel tip: arrange for take-out sandwiches, amazing sweet treats, drinks, and sides from Scott’s Deli.
5. Anna Maria Island Events
We were in town for 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.
Where to Eat in Anna Maria Island (and Drink)
6. Beach Bistro in Holmes Beach
Yes, I expected to eat fresh seafood in Anna Maria Island. No, I did not expect to eat at one of the most highly rated restaurants in the USA. Beach Bistro is one of 11 US restaurants with a 4.9 Zagat rating. Goodness. We started with lobster appetizers in two forms: phenomenal lobstercargots and lobster Novey style (named for owner Sean Murphy’s home of Nova Scotia).
Expertly prepared entrees and desserts arrived amongst many different exotic and elegant drinks. Beach Bistro also hosts nightly sunset celebrations and has a lively “Old Florida” bar environ.
7. Ginny’s and Jane E’s Bakery
A perfect place for breakfast in Anna Maria Island is Ginny’s and Jane E’s Bakery Cafe. It is quirky, fun, cool, and serves amazing food.
Definitely order a righteous cinnamon roll at Ginny’s and Jane E’s Bakery. My favorite breakfast menu item is the Cuban Egg breakfast sandwich. Que Bueno!
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Cuban egg sandwich for breakfast. OMG. Ginny’s and Jane E’s in Anna Maria Island is amazing. Oh, and their cinnamon roll is off the chain. . . #BradentonArea #annamariaisland #ginnysandjanees #travel #traveltheworld #seetheworld #travelfood #flfoodfind #lovefl #mccooltravel #funness #travelingtheworld #saltlife #travelawesome
On my third visit to Ginny’s and Jane E’s Bakery, I discovered that they have amazing key lime pie. For only $3 a slice. Thus the next day I made my fourth visit!
8. Sandbar Restaurant
Ironically there are not too many places along the Florida Gulf Coast where you can eat with your toes in the sand. The Sandbar Restaurant on Anna Maria Island is an epic Florida waterfront restaurant and they have one of the most fun gift shops as a bonus!
McCool Travel tip: the grouper fish tacos cost $9 less than the grouper platter and has about the same amount of rice and grouper. Better deal!
9. Gulf Drive Cafe and Kokonut Hut Tiki Bar
I absolutely love putting my feet in sand while staring at the water when I eat. Nothing makes me feel more like wasting away, Jimmy Buffett style. So, Gulf Drive Cafe passed that test. Then the food was pretty darn good. Breakfast omelets were huge, quite decent for four hungry guys. The giant thatched roof tiki bar was not open during our breakfast visit but I imagine it draws a super fun crowd later in the day. Something for me to go back and experience. Want to join me?
Oh, and the tropical holiday decorations at Kokonut Hut Tiki Bar are really fun.
10. Star Fish Company, Cortez Florida
Even at 11am there was an impressive line of local residents ordering food at the hidden gem seafood wholesale market Star Fish Company in the tiny hamlet of Cortez, Florida. The CASH ONLY, no frills “restaurant” is out back, overlooking the absolutely magnificent Sarasota Bay. Worth the wait? This blackened grouper was 1/3 the price of nearby sit down restaurant versions and twice as tasty. One of the most memorable things I ate in 2017.
11. The Doctor’s Office
Experience an extensive menu of house blended or custom craft cocktails at Doctor’s Office. I opted for custom, request something spicy and rummy from the bartendress. Located in a former doctor’s office (duh), when it is at full occupancy, a rope across the entrance says “NO NEW PATIENTS AT THIS TIME. SORRY.” So cool. The Doctor’s Office is owned by Sean Murphy of the above Beach Bistro.
12. Anna Maria Oyster Bar
Located on the Historic Bridge Street Pier, Anna Maria Oyster Bar is another local institution. For no other reason than basking in this glorious setting while your friends back home are shivering in the winter, go to Anna Maria Oyster Bar. While I ordered an omelet, my friends all opted for the Hangover Sandwich. McCool Travel tip: order the Hangover Sandwich. Ha!
13. Cookout at the Crib
Preparing our own feast at our vacation house was one of the highlights of our guy’s getaway weekend in Anna Maria Island. Plenty of yummy fresh food and drinks are available at the nearby Publix but the highlight was grilling the fish fillets from our fishing trip.
14. Skinny’s Place
For a quick bite, head to Skinny’s Place, the kitschy, quirky, “Old Florida Original” little burger beach shack, est. 1952, located right across the street from Manatee Public Beach.
15. Florida Craft Breweries Near Anna Maria Island
Two fun local Florida craft breweries within a few miles of Anna Maria Island are 3 Keys and Motorworks. Motorworks Brewing has a huge indoor area and an outside beer garden highlighted by magnificent live oak trees (love them!), music stages, kid and dog friendly space. Try their phenomenal seasonal beers. 3 Keys Brewing is popular for their beer and food. Tuesdays is $5 burger day and their burgers are absolutely delicious. Unfortunately their fish tacos were disappointed but their craft beer is fantastic. And 3 Keys has epic beer flight boards in the shape of the state of Florida.
16. Where to Stay in Anna Maria Island Florida
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 vacation rental house was arranged through Island Real Estate. They manage hundreds of homes and the website has convenient search criteria, like gulf front, pet friendly, with pool, and specials.
sweet Anna Maria Island beach houseAnna Maria Island Beaches | Anna Maria Island | Island Real Estate – Anna Maria Island | Visit Bradenton Gulf Islands
Fancy a December morning swim? Yes, please. Good morning from Holmes Beach on Anna Maria Island. Island Real Estate – Anna Maria IslandVisit Bradenton Gulf Islands
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!
Another Anna Maria Island lodging option is a vacation rental, including a condo, apartment, or house. >>> To receive $40 off your first Airbnb rental, use this Airbnb discount code.
McCool Travel bonus: I have not yet been there but on reliable advice I was told to visit Beer Can Island. There, my friend told me, you can swim with dolphins and manatees. Beer Can Island is at the tip of Longboat Key closest to Anna Maria Island, just a 10 minute drive from Manatee Beach. I will check out Beer Can Island on my next trip.
And if 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).
Day Trips Near Anna Maria Island FL
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. Plan your Southwest Florida US Gulf Coast getaways with our guides:
- Fun Things to Do in Pass-a-Grille On a Florida Gulf Coast Getaway
- 8 Great Places To Eat in Naples Florida
- South Seas Island Resort: Relaxed Luxury Getaway on Captiva Island
- 15 Fun Things to Do in Punta Gorda Florida on the US Gulf Coast
- 15 Cool Things to Do in Sarasota Florida
- Things to Do in Indian Rocks Beach
What are some of your favorite things to do in Anna Maria Island Florida?
For more information about things to do in Anna Maria Island, visit:
- Sun, Sand, and Fishing on a Guys Weekend in Bradenton Florida
- Looking For Some Fun In The Sun? Then Head Down To Bradenton Florida
- Five Fun Things To Do on Anna Maria Island, FL