Anna Maria Island Florida Trip Guide

We just got back from an amazing week on the Gulf Coast of Florida.  We spent lots of time on one of my favorite barrier islands in Florida, Anna Maria Island.  Not only are the white sand beaches and crystal clear turquoise waters enough to draw you in but Anna Maria Island is a quaint town full of shops, restaurants and fun things to do.  It makes this area a perfect family-friendly vacation destination for sure.

Since spring break is coming, I thought I would share some of our favorite restaurants, activities and the #1 prime beach location on the island so you can enjoy the area as well.

Things to Do on Anna Maria Island

Bean Beach

The best beach on Anna Maria Island in my opinion.  Anna Maria Island actually consists of 3 towns.  Bean Beach is named for its bean shape that wraps around the northern tip of the island with a view of the gulf, the Intercoastal waterway, and the Sky Harbor bridge.

Find Bean Beach by taking Gulf Drive north.  At the corner of Coconut Drive and Gulf Drive, there is a small public access to the beach.  You can park along the road but your tires must be completely off the blacktop and in the grass.  We usually park along Coconut Drive or along North Shore Drive.  

There are no public restrooms located along this part of the beach, just an FYI but the seagulls don’t try to steal your food and the beaches are a lot less crowded.  

Bike and Golf Cart Rental

The Island is easy to navigate by golf cart and bike.  You can rent them by the hour, day or week.  Check out more information here.


Gulf Drive Cafe Anna Maria Island


Best Places To Eat on Anna Maria Island

The Sandbar

The Sandbar is located right near Bean Beach on the beach.  After a day in the sun, you can put on your cover-up and head over in beach attire.  Grab a spot on their large covered open-air patio.  

They are the #1 Gulf Coast Wedding destination so if you go for dinner, chances are you will get to watch a wedding on the beach. Order the stuffed shrimp, they are delicious.

Waterfront Restaurant

This restaurant is owned by the same people that own The Sandbar.  If you are looking for a little bit nicer place to enjoy a date night, this would be the place.

Gulf Drive Cafe

This restaurant is located a little south of the Holmes public beach.  There is parking across the street from the large tiki bar.  Grab a sea turtle mule as you dip your toes in the sand at this restaurant located right on the beach.  There is nightly live music and their grouper and pineapple tacos are delicious.

Two Scoops Ice Cream

Who doesn’t love a little ice cream after a day in the sun? Stop in and enjoy a delicious variety of hard scoop ice cream and enjoy it overlooking the public pier.  Located near the Waterfront Restaurant, it might be the perfect place for dessert after dinner.

The Donut Experience

A perfect stop in the morning.  With lots of different options, there is a donut for everyone in your party.


Other Things to Do Near Anna Maria Island

St. Armand’s Circle

Looking to do a little more exploring down the key, you must check out St. Armand’s Circle.  Literally a circle in shape, dozens of shops and restaurants line the circle.  A fun place to visit day or night.  Many of the shops on the circle stay open until 10 pm making it a fun place to spend a date night.

Colombia Restaurant

Looking to explore a little further down the key.  Head to St. Armand’s Circle and try the Columbia Restaurant.  Not only is the ambiance of dining on the circle so fun, but the Spanish food is also out of this world.

Settimi’s Gelato

While shopping on St. Armand’s Circle, you must stop at Settimi’s for gelato.  A creamier Italian version of ic cream.  You can sample before you select your flavor.  Might I suggest the cappuccino or tiramisu?  

The Spice & Tea Exchange

One of our favorite ways to commemorate a trip is to take home some local tea. The Spice & Tea Exchange on St. Armand’s Circle has lots of great choices to enjoy in the store or take home with you.


Circus Sarasota


Sarasota Activities

Mote Laboratory & Aquarium

The Mote Aquarium is a non-profit research aquarium open to the public.  The aquarium features several local fish and wildlife including sharks, manatees, otters, alligators, fish and sea turtles.  My kids especially loved the touch tanks where you can touch starfish, stingrays, and other sea creatures.  Find more information here.


Mote Aquarium Eco Boat Tour


Eco-Boat Tours

We paired an eco-boat tour with our day at the Mote Aquarium.  You can get a combo ticket for both the boat tour and aquarium.  The boat tour takes you around Sarasota Bay to see wildlife like dolphins and different sea birds.  

In addition, they drag a net on the bottom of the bay to show you, various other sea creatures.  The boat tour lasts 2 hours and a fun way to get out on the water.  

You can reserve your boat tour ahead to ensure you get the time and day you want which is suggested during peak season.  Find more information here.


Smugglers Cove Adventure Golf Bradenton


Smugglers Cove Adventure Golf

Looking for a break from the beach?  How about a round of miniature golf?  Our kids loved this course and feeding the alligators they have on-site.  Check out more information here.


Circus Sarasota

Sarasota was the winter home of John and Mable Ringling so the circus is an important part of the Sarasota culture.  If you are in town when the circus is under the big top, you should get tickets.  

They invite acts from all over the world to perform under a traditional big top tent.  You can find more information about circus dates and tickets here.  You can also visit the Ringling Circus Museum, check it out here.



City of Cortez

Cortez is the last working commercial fishing village on the gulf coast of Florida.  It’s located on the mainland off the Cortez Bridge the connects to Anna Maria Island.  

Tide Tables Restaurant

This restaurant is located just off the Island by way of the Cortez Bridge. Very casual dining means you can come to your beach attire for some fresh fish and seafood.  The fried shrimp platter was delicious.

Starfish Co. Dockside Restaurant

Another restaurant located in historic Cortez and a diamond in the rough.  You literally drive through the commercial fishing area to get to this outdoor restaurant.  Order your food at the window and find a seat.  While you wait, you can watch the marina and the dozens of pelicans waiting for leftover scraps.  Go early to dinner or late to lunch to avoid long wait times.


So Much to See and Do…

Not only are the beaches beautiful, but there is also so much to see and do to keep you entertained for a long time.   You will quickly learn while people fall in love with this part of the gulf coast of Florida.  What are your favorite things to see and do near Anna Maria Island?  Share in the comments below.


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Until next time keep on keeping on with a simple purposeful life!

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