With its pristine white sand beaches, crystalline waters and laid back, old-school vibe, it’s no wonder that holidaymakers love the petite Anna Maria Island, located just over the causeway from Sarasota, Florida. And at seven miles long, it really is petite. But for all that, it has fantastic shopping, wonderful food, and a blissful absence of chain stores and high-rises. A veritable island oasis, here’s a run down of some of the best things to do on Anna Maria Island during your stay.
Being an island – and a beautiful one at that – there’s no shortage of scenic sandy spots on Anna Maria Island. If you’re visiting with your family, head to Cortez Beach for a family-friendly vibe. Or, during the summer, enrol the little ones in the Eternal Summer Surf Camp; it’s one of the best free things to do on Anna Maria Island.
But it’s not just kids who get to have all the fun in the water. Stop off at Beach Bums and rent yourself a kayak or a paddleboard (you can even rent bikes should you want to explore inland). If you’re a less-than-confident kayaker, never fear, just sign up for one of their kayak tours and discover some of the island’s hidden creeks and spectacular wildlife.
Speaking of wildlife: one of the best things to do on Anna Maria Island is turtle spotting. The area is known for its Sea Turtles and, if you’re lucky, you might spot them between May and October.
If you’re after a lively beach vibe, Coquina Beach is the place to be; it’s the longest stretch of sand on the island and is usually filled with merrymakers, sunbathers and picnickers. But if you fancy a more restful ambience, Holmes Beach is your best bet – stick around to watch the sunset for an unforgettable beach experience.
Shopping and art
You might think that a little island like this would only have souvenir shops and 7-11s, but, thankfully, you’d be wrong; shopping is, in fact, one of the top things to do on Anna Maria Island. Wander in and out of the stylish boutiques on Bridge Street in the Bradenton Beach area or Pine Avenue to find great gifts and holiday mementos. Don’t miss the Olive Oil Outpost on Pine for its award-winning selection of all things artisanal, from cheese to salami.
The Holmes Beach area also has charming little shops and art galleries; check out the Artists Guild Gallery to see if any of the one-of-a-kind works of art on offer catch your eye. And if you’re around Bridge Street on a Sunday, stop by the weekly market for open-air shopping and local food.
Food and drink
Those with a sweet tooth should make a beeline for The Donut Experiment, or grab a cinnamon roll at Ginny and Jane E’s on Gulf Drive. And seeing as you’re on an island, spectacular waterfront dining is in order. Head over to Sandbar for seafood and spectacular sunset views out over the beach, or grab a smoked margarita on the open-air patio of the Waterfront. Another great spot (and one that’s loved by the locals) is Sharky’s Sea Grill for the fresh catch of the day and relaxed atmosphere.
But if you’re on the island with your special someone, then make sure to book a table at the romantic Beach Bistro. With one of the highest Zagat ratings in Florida and beautiful views out over the beach, it’s guaranteed to be a meal to remember.
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Have you been to Anna Maria Island? What were your favourite things to do there? Let us know in the comments section below.
Written by Giverny Tattersfield