24 Hours in Annamaria Island
LYING BETWEEN THE TURQUOISE WATERS OF THE GULF OF MEXICO AND PENINSULAR FLORIDA IS A LAID-BACK AND NATURAL BEACH DESTINATION CALLED ANNA MARIA ISLAND.
It is located at the southern mouth of Tampa Bay near Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach. What makes the island so quaint are the strict regulations that govern the type of buildings and businesses that are allowed on the island. However, some of its most thriving businesses are its dining options, offering seafood that is highly encouraged to try. Discovered by the local Timuncan and Caloosan American Indian tribes and later developed by George Wilhelm Bean and Charles Roser around 1898, the island makes you feel as if you have journeyed back in time.
DINE IN THE BLUE
One of Anna Maria’s most beloved qualities is its food. It offers various options from beach casual to a more elegant dining experience. A few popular places to eat on the island include Sandbar, Beach House and Blue Marlin. While Sandbar and Beach House are located directly on the beach and offer beautiful views, they are two of the more touristy options. Blue Marlin is located in an original 1920’s cottage on historic Bridge Street where the first bridge to Anna Maria Island was located. It also has a courtyard, “The Trap Yard,” which offers live music on the weekends and a covered deck. Because Blue Marlin is so popular, reservations are recommended.
Duffy’s Tavern is a hole in the wall kind of place with delicious burgers, while The Waterfront Restaurant is an award-wining restaurant with indoor and outdoor views of the Bay. Next, the Bridge Street Bistro in Bradenton is known for its spectacular views and seafood, and Ginny and Jane E’s is a quaint and unique island bakery, café and store that offers a look into the island’s history with every visit. If you’re craving some breakfast or dessert, Rod n’ Reel Pier offers breakfast over the water while Two Scoops is an island landmark that overlooks the Bay.
SHOP ON PINE
Most of the shopping on the island happens on Pine Avenue, Anna Maria’s main street that runs from The Gulf of Mexico to the Historic City pier. It is has one-of-a-kind shops, boutiques, restaurants and “Old Florida” cottage style accommodations. Two of the most popular shops to check out are Island Cabana and Pink & Navy Boutique, which are both resort style fashion boutiques.
Besides embracing the island’s natural beauty and frolicking in its turquoise waters, there are a variety of other activities offered on the island to keep you and the family entertained. While golfing and fishing most commonly come to mind when thinking about the island, there is something offered for everyone.
One of the island’s most treasured attractions is the Anna Maria Island Trolley. It is a great way to tour the island and transport you to all your favorite restaurants and shops. The trolley runs from 6 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. every 20 minutes from the Anna Maria City Pier on the north side to Coquina Beach on the south side with stops two to four blocks apart along the route.
Another great way to spend time in Anna Maria is out on the beautiful water itself. Don’t have a boat to explore the waters with? No worries – Anna Maria Island Boat Tours offers an excursion to Egmont Key as well as a dolphin watch and sightseeing tour. Because Anna Maria is a seven-mile long barrier island surrounded by crystal blue waters, boating around the island is one of the best ways to fully immerse yourself into the Anna Maria culture.
For those interested in offshore deep sea fishing, take your own boat or board the Miss Cortez for a fishing trip just as the locals do. The Gulf of Mexico is a vibrant body of water for fishing with barracuda, grouper, snapper, king mackerel and sharks among many other species. Anna Maria’s Historic City Pier is also a great option for a more peaceful fishing experience. It dates back to 1910 and stretches over 700 feet into Tampa Bay. From the pier, saltwater fish such as cobia, tarpon, redfish, snook, grouper and more are commonly caught.
Golfers also have plenty of options with 10 unique golf courses within a 30-minute drive from the island. The only golf course located on the island, Key Royale Club, is a members only club and requires a hefty guest fee for entry.
Another popular activity on the island is bike riding. Biking is the best way to discover all the small streets and avenues throughout the island. Bike rentals are available from a vacation rental company on annamariaparadise.com.
While all the attractions mentioned above are wonderful ways to experience the island, the main reason most visitors come to the island is to relax and enjoy the leisure of a tropical lifestyle for a while. A trip to Bean Point beach is a must if lying on the beach with a good book and then going for a gentle swim in the water is what you consider to be a perfect day in paradise.
WHY ANNA MARIA?
Anna Maria Island’s purpose is to serve as an escape from the hustle and bustle and return to sweet simplicity, and will leave you feeling refreshed with its “Old Florida” lifestyle and scenic views at every turn. It a place to embrace paradise in your own way, by relaxing near the water or exploring all the adventures it has to offer. A 24-hour trip may just be your answer to letting go and taking that much needed break.