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.


You might also like…

New Smyrna Beach Travel Guide

The Secret to Packing Like a Pro

15 Essentials for your Carry-on Bag



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

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The Secret to Simple Travel Packing

I love to travel.  If I had all the money in the world I would spend my days exploring the beauty around the world.  Now, getting packed for travel as a family of 6 is a whole other story.  How much do you pack?  How do you squish it into an amount you can successfully wheel through the airport and fit into a trunk of the car?  So, today I am sharing my best secrets for simple travel packing so you can get the task of packing taken care of and enjoy your trip!

The Secret to Simple Travel Packing

Don’t Pack Too Soon

In the excitement of the anticipated trip, we want to start packing weeks in advance.  Not only will all that visual clutter drive you bananas after a while, but you might also still be using a lot of what you will need to pack.  You are much more likely to forget something if you pack too soon.

It’s great to think about what things you need to buy ahead and take care of that but I have found the sweet spot is 48 hours before you leave.  It gives you time to do last-minute laundry and time to run and grab anything you need at the store.


Check the Weather 

Another reason I like to wait to pack is that the longer you wait the more accurate the weather forecast will be.  It’s important to pack based on an accurate weather forecast.  


Make a List 

Now that you know the weather, make a list of all the things you need to take on your trip. When we write items down on a list we are far less likely to forget.  As you are packing, make a list of things you need at the store or you need to still add-in so you don’t forget that.  Then, cross things off as you pack!



Think Through Your Vacation Activities

What are you doing on vacation?  Do you need a nice outfit?  Think through what you are doing and make your list accordingly.

Don’t just think of clothing and accessories but items that are specific to where you are going.  If you are going to the beach, make sure to pack a collapsible beach bag, sunglasses, sunscreen, a hat and goggles for the kids. 



Determine How Much You Need to Take

We can tend to overpack but before you start to pack ask yourself if you have access to laundry!  If the answer is yes, you can bring way less.  If I have access to laundry and I am gone for a week, I usually bring 4-5 outfits based on our activities.

If you don’t have access to laundry, bring an outfit for every day and then bring layering pieces, accessories and shoes that coordinate with those outfits.  For example, bring a denim jacket that is a good neutral and pairs with everything and a metallic sandal that can go with anything.  

The more you can mix and match, the less you will have to bring.  Shoes and layering pieces don’t get “dirty” and can be worn multiple times.


Avoid the Urge to Buy All New 

I don’t know about you but my closet and my kid’s closets have never looked so shabby until I get ready to pack for vacation.  Avoid the urge to buy all new clothes.  Save your money and spend it on experiences while on vacation.  It’s ok if you need a new swimsuit or pair of sandals but avoid the urge to buy a new complete wardrobe.  I remind myself I will never see most of those people again so it doesn’t matter!



Use Packing Cubes

Gather all of your clothing on your list and group people’s attire into piles on a bed or table.  Then, grab a packing cube and load each person’s clothes into their own packing cube.  Packing cubes help keep clothes wrinkle-free and reduce the space needed in a suitcase.  when you arrive you can pop each person’s packing cube into their own assigned drawer avoiding a suitcase explosion.

On the way home, just stuff all the dirty clothes in selected packing cubes while keeping clean unused clothes in other packing cubes.  

If you are traveling to different places on different days, you might choose to organize your packing cube by day instead of by a person.  Then, assign a suitcase specific days so you only have to open up the one you need.



Get Travel-Sized Toiletries

Rather than taking full-size bottles of your favorite products either by travel size products by the company or invest in small clear 3.4 oz bottles.  3.4 oz is the amount you are able to carry-on so should you change your mind and want to take something on board, you can easily switch it out.


Buy the Right Bag


Most airline carriers have weight limits.  Sometimes, it’s 50 lbs and sometimes it’s 40 lbs.  Grab a luggage scale here.  When shopping for luggage, remember two keys.  Make sure it is lightweight and not too big.  

Bags that are too large will exceed the weight limit before you fill them.  Airline carriers are hard on luggage so you don’t need to spend a lot of money on a bag.  We get our bags at TJ Maxx. 


Just Remember…

The goal is to bring what you need to enjoy your trip.  This is your trip and your vacation.  What might work for others might not work for you, pack what you want so that you can enjoy your trip or vacation fully.  

Make sure your luggage meets your airline carrier’s weight requirement and can fit into your rental vehicle. What are your best simple packing tips?


You might also like…

15 Carry-on Bag Essentials, read more here.


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

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15 Carry-On Essentials For Adults & Kids

It’s time to fly but what do you pack in your carry-on so that you can enjoy your flight but also keep things simple and easy to manage.  If you are traveling with kids, you might also want to know what to pack in their bags.  So, let’s get to it.  What are the 15 carry-on essentials?

What are the 15 carry-on essentials?



A Versatile Bag

First of all, pick a carry-on that is easy to carry when traveling.  I like a bag that can both be slung over my shoulder or worn as a backpack especially if I am traveling with kids.  I usually pack a smaller crossbody purse inside of my carry-on as well.  

If you are also packing your clothing and toiletries in a rolling suitcase, make sure your carry on is the size of a backpack, briefcase or smaller to avoid extra fees at the gate.


Don’t forget your ID!  Keep all identification like passports and IDs in your carry-on and make it easily accessible along with your tickets so you don’t have to dig through your whole bag at check-in and security.

Travel Documents and Information

Also, keep all hotel and rental car information as well as attraction tickets with you in your carry-on.  In case there’s a delay or your bag gets lost, you want this information with you.


If you have special jewelry or a gift that is valuable or irreplaceable, place that in your carry-on bag.


Keep all medication with you in carry-on luggage.  Make sure if it’s a prescription the label is still intact.  Also, take along over the counter medication like IB Profin for both you and any kids you are traveling with.

Insurance Card

Make sure you pack your insurance card in the event you or a family member gets sick.



Liquids in a Clear Quart Bag

If you pack liquids in your carry on, remember they need to be 3.4 oz or less and in a clear quart-size bag.  Do yourself and the people behind you in line a favor and have that ready to go in an outside pocket so you can grab it easily when you go through security. 

Empty Water Bottle

Pack an empty water bottle to fill up after security.  Airplanes are notoriously dry so make sure you hydrate on the flight.

Antibacterial Wipes

Avoid unwanted germs that could ruin your vacation by wiping down the tray table and armrests with an antibacterial wipe.  Not to mention wiping your hands before having a snack.


Pack a set of headphones.  Most planes have televisions in the seat with a lot of entertainment options.  Airlines often charge for a pair of uncomfortable headphones so bring your own and don’t forget to bring some for your kids.  


In the event you have a delay or cancellation, you will want your chargers.  Pack them in a bag in your carry-on so they are easy to locate and corral.

Books & Magazines

A flight is a perfect opportunity to get caught up on some reading so pack a book or magazine.


Airplanes and airports can get chilly.  Consider bringing or wearing an extra layer in case you get cold.  If you are wearing sandals, consider packing a pair of socks to keep your feet warm.


Many flights still offer a small complimentary snack but airport food can be extremely expensive and limited so shop ahead and bring along your favorite snacks.

Baby Essentials

One time we got stuck overnight in the Denver airport.  I learned they don’t sell baby items like wipes and diapers and had limited complimentary options.  Bring enough diapers, wipes, formula and baby food for a 24 hour period!



What are kid’s  carry-on essentials?

Backpack They Can Carry Themselves

You might be tempted to put all the toys in their bag but if you want them to carry it, keep it light.  Backpacks can get heavy walking in the airport.  

A small rolling suitcase is a good alternative but it can be hard for kids to navigate down the narrow aisles of the plane and often don’t fit under the seat making it hard to access items in flight.  

Charged & Loaded Electronics

At home, our kids have technology limits meaning they can play on their iPads for 30 minutes every day but on travel days they get unlimited use!  As a result, they are very entertained either by the in-seat tv entertainment or their iPads.  

Download a few new apps before leaving home and they will be excited to play.  You can also download shows and movies from Netflix to watch offline, just make sure you do that before leaving home.

Small Bag of Toys

We do pack a small bag of little toys our kids like to play with that would be both good to play with on the airplane, at the airport and on vacation.  Things like a toy phone & purse, a small baby doll, matchbox cars, a deck of cards and colors with a plain sketchpad are good choices.  

I have also linked some more simple airplane favorites below.



Empty Water Bottle

Pack an empty water bottle or sippy cup.  You can even have the flight attendant fill it up with your child’s desired beverage and avoid a spill in your seat.  


Pack a variety of snacks and include some with protein especially for a long day of travel.  Food in airports is expensive and not kid-driven so shop ahead.  Also, pack gum or lollipops for take-off and landing to avoid ear irritation from the change in altitude.

Blanket or Stuffed Animal

If your child has a favorite blanket or stuffed animal pack that in their carry-on.  It will be perfect to cuddle up to especially if the flight falls during nap time.



Just Remember…

You have to carry this bag around for the duration of your travel so make sure you pack all the carry-on essentials and leave the rest at home or pack it in your checked luggage.  Now, that you have your carry-on bag packed you are ready to fly!  Enjoy your trip. What else do you pack in your carry-on?


You might also like…

The Secrets to Simple Travel Packing, read more here.


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

Let’s Connect | Instagram | Facebook | Pinterest


New Smyrna Beach Florida Trip Guide

We just got back from a week at the beach and there’s nothing quite like spending a beach in a lounge chair watching your kids dig in the sand and ride the waves.  All that sunshine and the soothing sounds of the ocean makes my soul feel at rest.  How about you?  

While New Smyrna Beach has been in the news a lot for their large, toothy residents (aka sharks), we didn’t see one.  Instead, we find it to be the most delightful, non-commercialized beach town around with miles of white sand beaches.  A perfect destination for any beach lover.  

Where is New Smyrna Beach located?

New Smyrna Beach is located just 74 miles east from the Orlando International airport on the Atlantic ocean.  It sits just north of the Canaveral National Seashore and just south of Daytona Beach.  With a population of under 25,000, it’s the quaint small, beach town you are looking for.  You can ride your bike on the beach to Flagler Avenue, the main drag for lunch of shopping.

Where to stay in New Smyrna Beach?

New Smyrna Beach has lots of rentals and 2 hotels on the beach.  We have stayed at the Coconut Palms beach resort for the last 25 years.  It’s just a short walk to Flagler Avenue and situated right on the beach.  It has daily activities, a nice heated pool, and great views.

If you are in need of baby items like cribs, high chairs or even beach accessories, we have had great luck with renting from Sandy Andy’s.  He drops it off prior to your arrival where you are staying and picks it back up.  Check out what they offer here.

Best places to eat in New Smyrna Beach?

Breakers Restaurant by far is our favorite beachside lunch place located directly on the beach.  You can’t miss its iconic pink exterior.  Breakers boasts the best burgers in town but their key lime shrimp skewers are also amazing.  Don’t forget to try a Mai Tai or Margarita with your meal.  

JB’s Fish Camp is short drive south down A1A and located on the Indian River.  As the name indicates it’s a casual place filled with wooden booths where you can get your hands dirty eating fresh seafood.  Our family’s favorite is the spiced peel and eat shrimp!  Don’t worry napkins are provided and I like the hush puppies too.

Flagler Tavern is located on Flagler Avenue and is a “bit” less casual but still family-friendly. They are known for their grouper and oysters.  Scott got the Oysters Rockefeller and I got the Grouper Francaise and both were amazing!  We also shared the mini fishbowl signature drink with my sister.

Treats on the Beach is located half a block off the beach on Flagler Avenue and is a little ice cream stand with LOTS of choices from soft serve to hard scoop ice cream plus lots of other options.  A great place to stop for a mid-afternoon pick me up or after-dinner dessert!

What’s there to do in New Smyrna Beach?

Besides the obvious swimming, boogies boarding and playing in the sand.  We have found purchasing a boogie board at the local grocery store or Walgreens to be the same price as renting and then we leave it behind for other guests to enjoy!

My cousins took a surfing lesson (you can find who they used here) this last time.  Once you have taken a lesson, you could rent a surfboard for the week; 

We also have enjoyed the Marine Discovery Center Nature Cruise.  You ride on a pontoon boat and experts point out wildlife and pull-up specimens from the rive for you to interact with plus you can enjoy seeing all the sights as you cruise down the river.  They also offer kayak and walking tours.  You can find more information on their website here.

Rent a moped, bike or golf cart and drive north down New Smyrna Beach toward the inlet.  It’s a fun way to enjoy the beach.  You can rent equipment at Wildside Beachwear on Flagler Avenue right across from Breakers Restaurant.

Of course, you can also rent jet skis or go deep-sea fishing as well.

New Smyrna Beach is a short drive to the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse and the National Canaveral seashore which usually boasts lots of shells since the beach is largely unpopulated.

I didn’t even mention the shopping.  Flagler Avenue is full of darling boutiques, eateries and coffee shops.  You can also check out Canal Street just across the causeway for more fun shopping as well.

Why pick New Smryna Beach?

If you are looking for that quaint small beach town feel with a cute little downtown full of local eateries and shopping with a great white sand beach, New Smyrna Beach is for you!  

Please note, they do allow cars to drive on the beach so don’t let that surprise you.  My family has been enjoying this little hidden gem for over 25 years and it feels like our home away from home. The people are friendly, the atmosphere is relaxed, the food is amazing and the views are hard to beat.  

Don’t let the sharks keep you away, you are much more likely to see sea turtles and dolphins!  It really is Florida’s best-kept secret.

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

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