Anna Maria is the name of the Island, but it has three separate cities: Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach, and Anna Maria.
Anna Maria is my favorite island because I grew up in Bradenton and spent the best times of my life on this island and these beaches. I surfed here, walked the beaches, watched a thousand sunsets, and I still come here to really relax and recharge my batteries. While many things have changed since my childhood in the 60's and 70's, no high-rises have been built, and the trees and foliage are more verdant and beautiful than ever. But there are more people on the island now, and traffic is heavier, especially January through May.
Recent years have seen record-breaking levels of visitors to the island, partly due to heavy promotion campaigns.
People often ask me what the beach is like at a certain place on the island, so I've been working on a project to photograph the beach at each street-end access. This can be very helpful information when choosing a rental accommodation on Anna Maria Island. Use the menu below to see the streets I've documented so far:
While the Siesta Key Beaches serve the large city of Sarasota, Anna Maria's beaches serve Bradenton, which is a much smaller town. Anna Maria has always been less developed and less "busy" than Siesta Key, though it's roads can certainly become congested on a nice beach day. Still, it has retained its friendly family-oriented flavor and has shunned the building of high-rise hotels and condominiums. The island cities are doing a pretty good job of balancing growth with historic preservation and maintenance of residential communities that attract families and good neighbors (even if many are seasonal).
Why Come to Anna Maria Island?
- Excellent water quality and white sand.
- Family friendly.
- Lots of greenery and quiet residential neighborhoods.
- Lack of high-rise buildings.
- Good selection of restaurants (no chain restaurants).
- Boutique accommodations, yes! Chain hotels, no.
- Plenty of piers for fishing as well as fishing charters.
- Good selection of shells on the beach.
- Active arts and conservation groups on the island, including a vibrant and effective sea turtle nesting monitor program and shorebird stewards.
- Lifeguards at the public beach accesses.
- Great kayaking and beach equipment rental opportunities. Great surf shop.
What Anna Maria Doesn't Offer
- No chain hotels or high-rise condos. No chain restaurants.
- Dogs are not allowed on the beach.
- No nightlife unless you want to drive to Sarasota.
- Traffic can be pretty bad on the main roads from January through April. Restaurants wait times can be long during those months as well.
- No large nature preserves.
- Limited shopping.
Personal Stories of Anna Maria Island
The Hime family chronicles their summer beach vacation on Anna Maria Island, writing about what they did, where they stayed, where they ate, and how they felt during their week on the island.
A beautiful story (with photos) of one family's discovery of Anna Maria Island, Florida. "I associated the east coast Florida beaches of my youth with the inchoate melancholy of that period--trips to the shore that were never as fun as I pretended with people that often weren't such great friends as I wished."
A collection of blog posts and photos about beach life on Anna Maria Island.
They stop at all the popular spots and have a great time.
Great personal story about lifelong visits to Anna Maria, with very nice photos.
Anna Maria Beach Info
Rules and regulations for the beaches of Anna Maria Island are governed by Florida State Law, the code of ordinances of Manatee County plus the additions and modifications within the 3 cities of Anna Maria, Holmes Beach, and Bradenton Beach, that comprise the municipalities of the island.
Anna Maria Island Restaurants
Jason, of Island Real Estate, lists and accurately describes his favorite 10 restaurants on the island. This list is definitely a winner. And one of my favorite's, Mr. Bones BBQ, is #5 on the list.
Finding a place that serves breakfast at the beach can be a challenge in many places. But here's a great list of restaurants that will serve you breakfast on Anna Maria Island.
Things To Do on Anna Maria Island
Where's the best place to ride a bike? Buy fresh fish? Check your email? Have breakfast with a view? Larry has a great list.
Find out what's biting and where and when to catch the fish in the Islander's weekly fishing report.