If you’re enjoying a vacation on Anna Maria Island in Florida, you already have everything you need for a fantastic trip. You’ve got gorgeous beaches, some of the best restaurants around, and plenty to do.
But if you want to make the most of your time in Southwest Florida, there is a ton more to do in the area. If you’re looking for some day trips from Anna Maria Island, you’re in luck. It’s close to so many incredible places.
Here are some of the best day trips from Anna Maria Island.
Sail to Egmont Key
Egmont Key is a small island just north of Anna Maria Island. You can see it from Bean Point. It’s a National Wildlife Refuge and a Florida State Park, and it has a few historic buildings, but it’s uninhabited and quite wild.
It’s a fantastic spot to lounge around on your own private beach. And the snorkeling there is really good too. Lots of visitors love just walking the beach searching for shells since there are very few people here on a daily basis.
There’s a lighthouse you can hike to. Otherwise, just enjoy the wildlife. The bird action here is wild.
You can take a private charter boat here from Anna Maria Island. Or you can drive to Fort de Soto (in St Pete) and take a public ferry to the island for a few hours. This is a great half-day trip from AMI.
Explore the Beauty of Lido Key
At the south end of Anna Maria Island is a short bridge to Longboat Key. There’s not a ton to do in Longboat Key because it’s all private. And at the south end of Longboat is a bridge to Lido Key.
This tiny island has a lot to offer. The main beach in Lido Key is incredible. It’s quite large and spacious compared to the beaches of AMI.
But if you’re driving down to spend time on Lido Key, you should visit South Lido Key Beach. The southern park also boasts a gorgeous beach on the Gulf. But it also has small, private beaches tucked in the trees facing the bay. Plus, it has some hiking trails through a coastal forest. They are easy and beautiful.
Lastly, there is a one-of-a-kind paddling trail here, as you can paddle through magical mangrove tunnels in calm water. There’s also a chance you could see manatees here.
After your time outdoors, Lido Key is home to St Armands, a small but famous restaurant and a shopping center with some of the best food and shops in the entire county. It’s definitely worth walking around in the evening before you head home to AMI. You could also spend a few hours at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium.
Sarasota is the ‘big city.’ And it’s only about 30-40 minutes from Anna Maria Island. It has all of the stuff that Anna Maria Island and Bradenton don’t have when it comes to entertainment, shopping, and attractions.
You can visit beautiful museums, like the John and Mable Ringling Museum, which sits right on the bay (free on Mondays). You can visit gardens like Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, which is absolutely gorgeous.
Sarasota Jungle Gardens is the ideal garden if you have young kids. Bayfront Park is also a great spot for kids. This well-known park is a central hub of activity, right on the bay, and near the famous Unconditional Surrender statute.
If you like to bike, you can head to the Legacy Bike Path for 10 miles of uninterrupted cycling.
In the evenings, you can head to places like the Sarasota Opera House and the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. And if you want some amazing seafood on the water, head to Phillipi Creek Oyster Bar.
Siesta Key - Best Beach in the Country
Siesta Key is the main barrier island alongside Sarasota. So it’s just a quick bridge away from downtown Sarasota. But if you’re planning a visit to Siesta Key, it’s best to take a whole day here.
After all, it’s rated as one of the best beaches in the country (and the world). Of course, it’s very similar to the beaches of AMI, as they’re so close to each other. Still, it’s worth a visit so that you can see what the fuss is all about here.
Fort De Soto (St Pete)
Fort De Soto is a large park in St Pete. While Anna Maria Island sits on the southern part of the mouth of Tampa Bay, Fort De Soto sits on the northern part (and Egmont Key is right in the middle).
To get here, you’ll need to drive up the highway and across the famous Skyway Bridge (that you can see from AMI). But this large park is a Florida outdoor paradise. There are plenty of beaches you can lounge around and swim on. There are also walking and biking trails across the island.
Lots of people love coming here to fish, either from the shore or from a kayak. And even if you don’t fish, kayaking and paddleboarding around the islands here are very popular and scenic. It’s also a great place to snorkel and search for fish and sand dollars.
This is an important historic landmark, and you can also visit the historical fort and museum at the tip of the main island.
St Petersburg is about 45 minutes from Anna Maria Island. It’s a big city that is slightly smaller than Tampa, but cooler in a lot of ways. It’s a very hip city, and the demographic here is getting younger every year.
The downtown area faces Tampa Bay. They have a famous farmers' market on Saturday mornings (just follow the crowds). There’s also the Dali Museum right around the corner which is definitely worth stopping at while you’re in town.
St Pete is also home to Tropicana Stadium, which is the home of the Tampa Bay Rays. And right by the stadium is a big rock climbing gym.
If you like craft breweries, hip coffee shops, and delicious food, you can head to either Central Ave (visit Bandit Coffee or 3 Daughters Brewing). Or you can head to the Grand Central District, which is just west of the main downtown area.
The restaurants and breweries along Central Ave are incredible. It’s a fun area to walk around and window shop, get coffee, ice cream, cocktails, and so forth.
Myakka River State Park
Looking for some outdoor adventure? Myakka River State Park is one of the biggest state parks in Florida. It sits just east of Sarasota, so it’ll take about an hour or so from Anna Maria Island. But there’s a lot to do here, making this an easy day trip from Anna Maria Island.
There are miles and miles of hiking and biking trails. The main road is beautiful to bike on, but if you have a mountain bike, you can also venture off on dirt roads and trails as well.
There’s a tall observation tower that gets you above the treeline allowing you to see for miles. And there’s the famous Canopy Walk, which is a scenic suspension bridge in the middle of the forest.
The river here is wild and scenic. Paddling in the park puts you in old Florida, and it’s beautiful. There’s also a ton of wildlife, including gators, which you can often see from the bridges on the main road.
If you need a little big city life during your stay on Anna Maria Island, you can make the ~hour drive up to Tampa. It’s got everything.
If you’ve got kids in tow, the Children's Museum downtown is a great place to spend a few hours. There’s also a free, outdoor park right next to the Children’s Museum, along the Tampa Riverwalk (which is a great place to walk or bike).
You can head to the ZooTampa at Lowry Park. Or head to Busch Gardens, the major theme park of the area, if you want to go on rides without having to go to Orlando (much more affordable than Orlando theme parks as well).
The Florida Aquarium is right in downtown Tampa on the bay.
Want to grab some great food and drinks in an awesome atmosphere? Visit Armature Works. It’s a big market-style eatery, with a handful of different vendors, inside a massive historic building right on the river. There’s a huge outdoor seating area and it’s tons of fun. It’s also right on the riverwalk, so you can explore from there.
There’s so much to do in Downtown Tampa that it’s hard to just spend 1 day here. There’s the
- Straz Center for the Performing Arts
- Tampa Theatre
- Amalie Arena (Tampa Bay Lighting hockey team, and events like concerts and comedy shows)
- Julian B Lane Riverfront Park (kids could easily play here for hours. Splash pad included)
- Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park (downtown on the bay)
Raymond James Stadium is closer to the airport than Downtown, but this is where the Buccaneers play.
If you want to walk around and enjoy a trendy neighborhood, head to Ybor City. This historic neighborhood has all the good restaurants, bars, and coffee shops (like Foundation Coffee). It’s also where hordes of chickens roam free.
Johns Pass is a classic tourist destination in Madeira Beach. If you want to put on your Hawaiian shirt, and sun hat, and embrace your inner tourist, this is honestly a fun place to go.
It’ll take about an hour to drive there from AMI. But there’s a public beach here that you can sunbathe on or swim at. But most of the fun is along the Johns Pass boardwalk. Lots of shops, lots of restaurants on the water, and plenty of fun for kids.
This is also a popular place to charter a boat and explore the area from the water.
Swim With Manatees at Crystal River
Looking for something a little different? How about swimming with manatees? Honestly, a lot of people in the US don’t even know manatees exist. But these big, beautiful creatures are gentle giants. And they like warm water, so they move around and migrate throughout the year, making them hard to see if you don’t time your trip right.
If you want to ensure you see them, head north to Crystal River, about 2 hours from AMI. Not only will you see them in this beautiful blue river, but there are tons of spots where you can hop in the water and snorkel with them.
This is a kid-friendly activity too, so long as everyone is comfortable swimming. Anyone who doesn’t want to swim with them can kayak or stay in a boat to enjoy the view.
Make These Memories Last
Want to make the memories of your Anna Maria Island vacation last forever? Along with having tons and tons of fun and planning awesome day trips from Anna Maria Island, you should definitely plan a quick family photo shoot while you’re on the island.
I love photographing families while they are on vacation here since I live a couple of minutes from AMI. The candid, family portraits we’re able to take during the sunset are absolutely stunning.
Send me a message today so we can book the perfect photo shoot and give you the images you’ll cherish forever, as they allow you to relive this trip over and over again in the future.