Few things are as fun as planning a vacation.

At least that’s the expectation. Vacation planning is exciting, but it’s also overwhelming. Lazy planning or a lack of planning can turn your high expectations into a nightmare. Reservations may not be made, the latest weather pattern might be missed, and you might find yourself completely disorganized when it comes to what you’re doing and where you’re going. 

Don’t let your vacation spiral, especially if you’re lucky enough to be visiting Anna Maria Island. 

It’s pretty hard to get stressed here. However, you want to make the most of your plans – so make sure your plans are in place. 

We’re here to help. With a little bit of preparation and effort, you can have a better time in Anna Maria Island than you even thought possible. 

Anna Maria Island: Get a Lay of the Land

If this is your first time visiting our little section of Florida’s Gulf coast, you’ll want to understand what Anna Maria Island encompasses and where you actually are. 

Anna Maria Island is actually a barrier island on the Coast of Manatee County. It’s on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico and separated from Longboat Key by Longboat Pass. Tampa Bay is to the north and there are about seven miles total to the entire island. 

Anna Maria Island is small, but it contains three separate towns. 

Each town has its own unique center, where you’ll find shops and restaurants, as well as live music, farmers markets, and beaches. 

Starting on the south end of the island, you’ll find Bradenton Beach. One of the most picturesque and popular beaches here is Coquina Beach, where there’s plenty of free parking, picnic tables, and lifeguards on duty. Bridge Street is where you’ll find most of the action. 

In the center of the island is Holmes Beach. Manatee Public Beach is here, and a great spot for families with kids who require shallow, calm water, playgrounds, and bathroom facilities.  

On the northern part of the island is the City of Anna Maria. Pine Avenue is the main street here, and there’s an island museum in addition to restaurants and shops. There’s a city pier and Bean Point Beach, which is quiet and serene. You won’t find big beach parties or lifeguards on duty, but you’re sure to enjoy the astonishing views and the wading seabirds. 

Arrival and Transportation in Anna Maria Island

If you’re driving into the area, you’ll find Anna Maria Island is just off Interstate 75. 

If you’re flying, the closest airport is Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. From there, you should plan on a half-hour drive before you reach Anna Maria Island. Some visitors find a larger selection of flights into Tampa International Airport. If you fly into Tampa, getting to Anna Maria Island will take just over an hour. 

Most people like to have a car available when they travel. This will be helpful for you if you’re planning to take trips outside of the area, into Tampa or Sarasota or even out to Orlando. While you’re in Anna Maria Island, however, you might find it’s easier to park the car and walk or bike ride to wherever you’re going. It’s a great way to see some of the spots you might miss from your car. It lets you enjoy the fresh air, abundant sunshine, and sea breeze. 

There’s also a trolley that’s free for vacationers to use. The Anna Maria Island Trolley Service operates from 6:00 in the morning until 10:30 at night. It travels daily from one end of the island to the other, and you can grab a trolley at any stop every 20 minutes or so, depending on traffic. You’ll find a trolley stop every few blocks, and it’s a great way to keep cool and rested if you’ve been walking a lot in the heat.

Think About What to Do in Anna Maria Island

Will your vacation be all about the beach or are you planning to do some boating, fishing, shopping, and shell-searching?

Before you visit, plan what you want to do. But don’t over-plan. You might find yourself suddenly inspired to do something different. 

If you’re looking for ideas, here are some of our favorite things to do in the area:

  • Any of the beaches. Coquina Beach, Holmes Beach, Bradenton Beach, Bean Point and all the others. Each beach has a personality of its own. What you’ll find in common is the white silky sand, the warm, calm waters, and the absolute joy of being surrounded by salt and sun. Try a few of the beaches and pick the one you like the best. Maybe you like joining a volleyball game that’s already in progress (Coquina is probably for you). Perhaps you like to sit in the sand and read a good book, unbothered by crowds (try Bean Point). 
  • Leffis Key for hiking and wildlife watching. The preserve includes a 26-foot high hill from which you can enjoy sweeping views of Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. You’ll enjoy a nice hike while looking at sea oats and sea grapes. There are lots of birds, the occasional tortoise, and often signs of manatees and dolphins. Start at the trailhead and follow the footpaths that wind around the hill and take you over boardwalks. Bring a camera for the viewing platforms. 
  • Stroll to the Anna Maria City Pier. Follow North Bay Boulevard in Anna Maria, and you’ll run into the city pier, where you can fish or watch people fish. There’s a restaurant and a bait shop as well as picnic tables if you want to bring your own lunch or snack. 
  • Get outside. There are plenty of places to join a fishing charter, rent a kayak or a canoe, or take a sunset cruise. You can ride a jet ski or borrow a bike. 

If you’ve come to shop, you’ll find souvenirs, boutiques with clothing and accessories, home items, and gifts. There are plenty of stores selling beach items, including bathing suits and towels, sunscreen and umbrellas. 

For food, we recommend you keep an open mind. You’ll find plenty of high quality seafood restaurants, and there are also pizzerias, delis, and cafés. You can find a good steak, a steaming plate of pasta, and a list of craft beer and cocktails. 

When you’re planning a trip, keep an idea of what you want to do in mind so you can pack appropriately. But don’t try to schedule every minute of your vacation to Anna Maria Island. You want to leave some time for casual exploration. 

Pick a Place to Stay in Anna Maria Island

Romantic GetawayThe most critical part of the planning process is perhaps finding a place to stay while you’re in Anna Maria Island. 

There aren’t a lot of chain hotels, and the best way to experience this area is by renting a home away from home. Vacation rentals are available in a number of sizes and layouts. If you’re looking for something to accommodate a romantic getaway for two, we’ve got several one-bedrooms close to the beach. If you’re traveling with a large family or a group of friends, we can find you a house that fits everybody. 

This is where you want to plan ahead. The best vacation rentals get grabbed quickly. Take a look at what’s available and start your planning process with just the right home. 

As you’re deciding where you want to stay, factor in these key details:

  • Location. Are you more interested in a water view or do you want to be within walking distance of nightlife and food?
  • Size. How many bedrooms do you need? Is outside space critical? What about parking?
  • Amenities. If there are small children, you may need cribs or cots. If you’re planning to do a lot of your own cooking, you’ll need a nice kitchen with all the necessary utensils, pots, pans, and supplies. 
  • Budget. Decide how much you can spend on lodging before you start looking around.

Working with an experienced vacation rental company can save you a lot of time and stress. You’ll save money, too, because you’ll have some good choices in front of you that keep you within your budget and provide the best options. 

Talk to your vacation agent about what you’re looking for, what you plan to do, and what you can’t live without. You’re likely going to benefit from the personalized help by hearing about the best vacation properties available during your vacation dates. 

We help travelers all the time, and we love talking about the fun that can be had in Anna Maria Island. When you’re planning your trip and looking for a place to stay, make sure you contact us at Anchor Down Vacation Rentals. When you book directly through us instead of a third-party app, you save money. You also get some customized help that meets your unique travel needs. 

Contact us at Anchor Down Vacation Rentals, and let’s start planning your trip.