When you visit Anna Maria Island, you’ll be immersed in an atmosphere reminiscent of Old Florida: brightly-painted beach cottages, warm and welcoming locals, and a relaxed pace of life. The island’s seven miles of white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters aren’t bad, either. With so many charming aspects of this part of Florida, choosing favorites seems an impossible feat, but I’ve managed to come up with a few things. Have a look at my picks for the top five areas of Anna Maria Island.
1. Best Location – Holmes Beach: Count yourself lucky if you’ve scored yourself a beach rental in the gem of Holmes Beach. Situated at the center of the island, Holmes Beach hosts upscale resorts and beach condos, as well as quaint beach cottage rentals. Holmes Beach is also home to Manatee Beach, one of Anna Maria Island’s most popular beaches, which has everything from volleyball courts and a fishing pier to waterfront cafés. There’s even a world-class restaurant, Beach Bistro, whose international acclaim and high Zagat ratings rival the best restaurants in the country. If you’re in the mood for something less formal, Holmes Beach also features two burger joints, Skinny’s and Duffy’s Tavern, which are rivals for the title of best burger on Anna Maria Island. With easy access to the towns of Bradenton Beach and Anna Maria, when you stay in Holmes Beach, you’re at the center of it all.
2. Best Areas for Water Sports – Coquina Beach and Manatee Beach: If you’re looking for fun in the ocean, you’ll want to visit Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach and Manatee Beach in Holmes Beach. Coquina Beach is Anna Maria Island’s best spot for surfing and wake-boarding but their waves aren’t big enough to rule out swimming. You can also enjoy the safest swimming on the island at Manatee Beach, where the waters are calm and lifeguards are always on duty. Both beaches also offer great opportunities for fishing, kayaking, and paddle-boarding Coquina Beach and Manatee Beach are easily accessible whether your holiday rental is in Holmes Beach or Bradenton Beach.
3. Best Area for Shopping – Bradenton Beach: If you’re the kind of traveler whose visit doesn’t feel complete without a good shopping trip, then book a vacation rental near Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach. Although there is plenty of shopping to be found throughout Anna Maria Island, the best is in Bradenton Beach. Try Bridge Street’s eclectic mix of stores, the Saturday Farmer’s Market on Old Main Street, and the Bridge Street Sunday Market. The Bridge Street shops feature everything from high-end boutiques to touristy venues specializing in unique Florida kitsch. I particularly enjoy the markets for their fresh produce and the original island crafts for sale from local artists and artisans.
4. Best Area for Quiet Relaxation – Anna Maria: I adore the town of Anna Maria for its quieter, artsier, and homier feel than other parts of the island. In the town on Anna Maria, one gets a little more seclusion without feeling isolated. Case in point? You can spend a day lounging on the sands of Bean Point beach in Bayfront Park and never encounter another visitor. (Due to strong currents, water sports at Bean Point in Anna Maria should be avoided). The famous Anna Maria City Pier is the life of this tiny city, with a restaurant, shopping, and unobstructed views on the Gulf – the pier is also the ideal spot for taking in the majestic island sunsets. Choosing a vacation rental in Anna Maria means that no matter how you fill your days, the only sounds you’ll hear at night are waves crashing and palms blowing in the wind.
5. Best Area for Variety – Bradenton Beach: The majority of the island’s hustle and bustle (a relative term for a place where the speed limit never tops 25 miles per hour) is found in the lovely town of Bradenton Beach. Surrounded by beaches and filled to the brim with shopping opportunities, Bradenton Beach has a little bit of everything. For active days, try snorkeling and swimming at Coquina Beach, or a short nature hike through the Coquina Baywalk. And though Anna Maria Island is full of wildlife in its natural habitat, there seems to be an abundance of animal life at Bradenton Beach, from shorebirds high above to manatees swimming along the coast. When you stay in Bradenton, you’ll never run out of things to do and places to visit. For even more fun in Bradenton Beach, there’s miniature golf, para-sailing, jet-skiing, and even sailing.
The reality is, no matter where you stay or what you do while visiting Anna Maria Island, you’re sure to have a fantastic time. After one visit, you’ll have your own list of favorites, and you’ll want to come back and revisit them time and again.