Anna Maria Island is on the west coast of Florida. Neighbored by the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay, there are three separate towns along the seven-mile-long island. These are Bradenton Beach on the south end, Anna Maria on the north side, and Holmes Beach settled in between.
You won’t find high-rise condos and luxury hotel chains here. There’s less commercialization and more chill. When you visit, prepare to drive slowly. Speed limits across the island top out at 35 miles per hour. All three towns are extremely walkable, and the beach is never far away.
Each beach town also has its own restaurants, shops, live music, and entertainment. These attractions can be found on Main Street in Holmes Beach, Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach, and Pine Avenue in Anna Maria.
We can provide dozens of reasons to visit Anna Maria Island, but for the purposes of this blog, we are narrowing those reasons to three.
Come in the summer, when the beaches are full of sunbathers and swimmers or in the winter, when the water stays warm and the sunsets are majestic. Just make sure you visit.
Here are the top three reasons you should.
1. You Get to Be at the Beach as Much as You Want
What do you imagine when you plan a beach vacation?
You’re likely thinking of sand, saltwater, and sun. Anna Maria Island has all of those things in abundance.
The beaches here have fine, white sand that slips through your toes. It’s perfect for sandcastles. It’s accommodating to beach blankets, towels, and sand chairs. You can decide how you spend your time at the beach. Maybe you like to soak in the water until your skin wrinkles. Luckily, the surf on the Gulf Coast is far more forgiving than that on the other side of the state. Waves are gentle and the water is warm. You can float around in it serenely for hours or play with the kids in safety.
Lots of beach areas can be found on Anna Maria Island. You can either try a different beach each day or find the one you like best and settle in for the duration of your visit. The point is: you have options.
If you’re traveling with little kids or a big crowd of family members and friends, you might find your best bets at some of the well-equipped public beaches. Here are our favorites:
- Coquina Beach. Found on the south end of the island in Bradenton Beach, Coquina boasts the longest part of shoreline on Anna Maria Island. There’s lots of free parking, if you’ve brought your car, and there are also plenty of facilities that allow you to spend an entire day on the beach. Facilities include restrooms, shaded picnic tables, grills, showers, and a playground. Lifeguards are on duty at Coquina Beach, and some of the most popular activities here include swimming, snorkeling, and seashell collecting.
- Manatee Public Beach. Heading over to Holmes Beach, you’ll find that the Manatee County Public Beach is also worth a visit. Covering seven acres, there’s free parking, ADA accessible wheelchairs to manage the sandy terrain, restrooms, picnic tables, a bike rack, and grills. Lifeguards are on duty here and the best part of this beach? The Anna Maria Island Beach Café, which opens at 7:00 a.m. and serves a strong, sustaining cup of coffee.
If you’re on more of a romantic getaway and you’re hoping to avoid the crowds, there are some gorgeous beaches with clear water, serene surroundings, and fewer people. Try Bean Point Beach, on the island’s northern tip, in the city of Anna Maria. You’ll find sunset views that take your breath away as well as seabirds scampering across the water’s edge. The trade-off to your privacy is that there are no facilities, including parking. Lifeguards are not on duty at Bean Point Beach.
Another benefit to your beach vacation on Anna Maria Island is the legendary Gulf of Mexico sunsets. You won’t have to fight tall buildings to see the view, and many of the local restaurants offer outdoor seating with sunset views.
2. This Isn’t Like the Rest of Florida
Florida draws a lot of tourists. More than 30 million a year, according to Forbes.
Maybe you’ve visited other Florida vacation hotspots: Orlando, Miami, Daytona Beach, Cocoa Beach, Tampa, Jacksonville, and The Everglades.
Anna Maria Island is different.
This part of the state is what locals like to call “Old Florida.” This means that little has changed over the decades. The businesses are locally owned, and the local fishermen are likely to share stories about the fiercest storms, the luckiest catches, and local pirate legend Jean Lafitte, was shipwrecked near the island in 1821.
When you spend some time in Anna Maria Island, you’re not going to be drawn into overpriced gift shops and crowded beach bars. The vibe is far more laidback, and the tourists who find their way here know they’ve stumbled on to something special.
The beach is surely the main draw, but there’s also lots of “Old Florida” history. There’s hiking and wildlife watching. You can take a dolphin watching tour, book a deep sea fishing charter, or do some bird watching at Leffis Key Preserve in Bradenton Beach.
Even the piers are a little different in Anna Maria Island. They are quiet, understated, historic, and irresistible. For example, the Bradenton Beach City Pier is a wooden fishing pier of 300 feet. It was once the original Skyway Bridge which connected St. Petersburg to Bradenton Beach.
Another great one to visit is the Bridge Street Pier, also on Bradenton Beach. Keep walking down Bridge Street until you see the water, and that’s where you’ll find it.
Take some pictures under the pretty white clock tower and watch the boats come in and out. The Anna Maria City Pier is 77 feet long and a testament to creative engineering. It’s weathered many tropical storms, fierce winds, and hurricanes.
3. Location is Everything When Renting an Anna Maria Island Vacation Home
Perhaps the best reason to visit Anna Maria Island is the astonishing selection of vacation homes.
There isn’t a bad neighborhood on the entire island. When you’re looking for a place to stay, choose an apartment, condo, or house that’s furnished, rented for the short term, and ready for you to move in for a couple of days or a few months.
Hotels aren’t exactly plentiful here, and that’s a good thing. It means you can enjoy the privacy and space that comes with renting your own villa, cottage, or condo that’s just steps from the beach, the restaurants, and the shops you can enjoy.
You won’t be just another guest when you rent the right vacation place in Anna Maria Island. And that’s an excellent reason to visit.
Here’s why location matters so much when you’re trying to take some time away:
- You don’t want to worry about anything. Cook your own meals when you want. Stay up late or rise with the sun. Sleep in until noon. You can find a home that’s perfect for the solo traveler if that’s you or a place that accommodates you, your partner, your kids, and the friends who came along with your kids. You can even find a pet-friendly rental that allows you to bring your dog.
- You want to walk. Anna Maria Island is an extremely walkable island. You can go out for leisurely strolls, walk to dinner, and enjoy a healthy jog or bike ride as the sun comes up or goes down. Find an Anna Maria Island vacation rental that has a parking space, and leave the car in it. You’re on vacation.
- Local shops are better. Anna Maria Island is unique in that you find a Super Target or a Walmart on every corner. We have locally owned, family-run businesses, and we prefer to keep it that way. It gives you something special when you’re on vacation. When you rent your vacation home, make sure you talk to the property owner or manager about their favorite restaurants, bars, bakeries, and stores.
Visit Anna Maria Island for the beaches, the location, and the history. It’s unique. It’s different from any other spot in Florida you may have visited. You can come with a list of things you want to do or no agenda at all. The three beach towns will accommodate whatever you’re looking for, and while it’s delightfully isolated from all the traffic, crowds, and city life you want to leave behind, it’s also not so far off the beaten path that you can’t experience a little of that if the mood hits. Anna Maria Island is less than an hour from Sarasota.
We are looking forward to helping you enjoy everything that Anna Maria Island has to offer. We’ve been here, renting vacation homes, for years. We know the area, we know the beaches, and we know the best spots to settle in for a beach-style break.
When you’re ready to plan your trip, take a look at the Anna Maria Island vacation rentals we have to offer. And contact us at Anchor Down Vacation Rentals with any questions you might have about the area or our rental homes. Book directly through our website to save money!