Weekend Getaway: Anna Maria Island
Anna Maria is a barrier island about seven miles in length located south of Tampa Bay and in Manatee County on the west coast of Florida. It is an absolute treasure that is geographically stunning with gorgeous blue waters and sandy beaches accessible only by fabulous bridge crossings. This “Island in the Sun” was originally used for hunting and fishing by various Indian tribes and was not inhabited by permanent residents until the 1890s. Anna Maria preserves the feel of old Florida while still feeling fresh with charming restaurants, shops and entertainment. The island is broken up into the three cities of Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach and Anna Maria City that each seamlessly blend together.
Traveling Gals Tip: Always check local events calendars to see what special events are going on in the area during your stay!
Anna Maria City is farthest north on the island. The bay side has views of St. Petersburg and the striking Sunshine Skyway Bridge. A highlight of Anna Maria City is Pine Avenue. This street is lined with cute shops and restaurants and ends at the bay leading onto the City Pier. This pier and the next pier over “The Rod and Reel” both have great restaurants. These are also the piers where the locals fish. It is great chatting with the amateur fisherman and grabbing a bite afterwards. Plus you can’t beat the scenery! The hidden gem of Anna Maria City is Bean Point. Bean Point is the northernmost tip of the island where the Gulf of Mexico meets Tampa Bay. It is nestled past the City Pier in a residential neighborhood. Its entrance is a tree lined path between two residences and you can only park on the street. It is a serene oasis and the perfect place to watch the sunset as the cruise ships go by on their way out to the Gulf. You may have to ask directions, but it is worth it when you find it!
Holmes Beach is the next city on the island. It is mainly residential, but also has a very nice public beach as well as stores and restaurants scattered throughout. The Manatee Public Beach has a parking lot, restrooms and concession stands. It is a popular place to spend the day.
Bradenton Beach is the southernmost city on the island. It is home of Historic Bridge Street. Bridge Street is charming street full of shops and restaurants. It has its own pier for fishing and boating which also has a restaurant. This is a very enjoyable place to walk around, grab a bite, listen to music, rent a boat or do some fishing. The beaches and beachfront restaurants are also favorites amongst the locals and tourists alike. It is also right next to public beaches that anyone is welcome to utilize. Be sure to arrive early to park and spend the day!
If you are planning a trip to Disney World or the Orlando area, Anna Maria is an incredible day trip to the beach that can be reached in under two hours. Since there are strict codes and building restrictions on Anna Maria Island you will not find the normal chain stores and restaurants. It is a delightful alternative to the east coast beaches and a wonderful place for a one of a kind experience.
Have you visited the Sarasota, FL area? What was your favorite thing to do here? Let us know in the comments!