Anna Maria Island might just be our favourite beach town. About one hour away from Tampa on the Gulf of Florida, this slice of heaven is seven miles of beautiful white sand and crystal blue water. It is full of small town charm, quaint cottages, no high rises or chain restaurants, a 35 mph speed limit and IG-worthy beach views. If you love laidback vibes and slow island life, then this might be the place for you. Even though it isn’t a large island, there are sure lots of fun things to do on Anna Maria Island!
1. Explore the island on a bicycle
Not that you can’t drive here, but Anna Maria Island is notorious for its lack of parking space. Some days, you can get from one side of the island to the other faster on a bike than a car! Biking is a great way to discover the island, plus, you avoid all the stress of trying to find a parking spot. Popular bike rental companies include Beach Bums, AMI Beach Fun Rentals, and Fun and More Rentals. They offer free delivery of their bikes as well as complimentary helmets and locks!
2. Hit the beach
Of course one of the top things to do on Anna Maria Island is to hit the beach. Seriously, there are no bad beaches here. Bean Point at the northernmost point of the island is the most secluded one. Bayfront Park between City Pier and Rod n Reel Pier offers views of Tampa Bay, Egmont Key, and the famous Sunshine Skyway Bridge. For families with kids, this beach also has a playground, pavilions, picnic tables, and grills. If you want to try catching a few waves while you’re here, head over to Holmes Beach in the middle of the island. Manatee Beach is the most popular beach with the most amenities, and it is also the best spot to go shelling! Bradenton Beach is also popular thanks to its ample parking, shops and restaurants. But if you want to get away from large groups, head over to Coquina Beach instead.
3. Do some watersports
Other than just lazing around on the beaches, another great way to experience the island is to do it from the water. The wetlands in Sarasota Bay is home to many kayak trails, which you can see all mapped out in this guide by Manatee County. Bradenton Beach is great for snorkelling and parasailing, and AMI Adventure Rentals offers some great packages. You can also do a paddleboard yoga session, as well as beach horseback riding. The horses actually swim in the water with you on their backs! Don’t worry – they are never forced to swim and this is actually their favorite part!
4. Build your own donut
At The Donut Experiment, every donut is your own creation. You can pick your own icing, toppings and drizzle for your own unique donut. There’s a huge selection to pick from and endless combinations for the donut of your dreams. If you arrive to find a line, hang tight, because these donuts are well worth the wait! Not to mention it only costs $1.35 per donut and $13.75 for a dozen, making them the ultimate, affordable snack!
5. Shop on Pine Avenue
After you get your donut fix, continue shopping on Pine Avenue. You won’t find the typical souvenirs and cheesy tees here. What you will find instead are specialty shops, handmade goods and boutique items that you won’t find anywhere else! Head to Olive Oil Outpost for infused olive oils, flavoured balsamic vinegars, pesto and sauces that are sure to jazz up every meal. If you love a good find, Pineapple Marketplace is a one-stop shop for collectors and treasure-seekers. Come see what amazing decor and funky finds you can pick up!
6. Do a dolphin tour
Anna Maria Island is known for its large population of bottlenose dolphins. They’re very playful and sometimes you can spot them frolicking in the water from the beach! For a more up close encounter, you can do a dolphin tour. Not only are you sure to encounter plenty of playful dolphins, you may also catch sight of sea turtles, manatees, eagles, osprey, and more! The expert guides have an intimate knowledge of the island, and can give you the best possible views of these beautiful creatures in their natural habitats.