Whether you are traveling as a family with young kids, as a couple, or on your own, the small, laid-back island of Anna Maria has far more to do than most people realize. It’s no wonder that this beautiful beach destination is growing in popularity every year.
With its miles of white sand beaches, crystal clear waters, and easy-going atmosphere, this small barrier island off the Gulf coast of Florida has something for everyone in your family to enjoy.
Here’s a list of the best of the best things to do on Anna Maria Island, any time of the year.
1. Spend Time at the Beach
The main attraction on Anna Maria Island is its seven miles of beautiful beaches stretching from Bean Point Beach in the north to Coquina Beach in the south. Spend an afternoon relaxing by soaking up some sun or go swimming in the warm Gulf waters.
Manatee Public Beach is one of the most popular spots. It’s got a playground, volleyball nets, and grills.
To the south is Coquina Beach. This is a long stretch of beach with various areas of parking. It’s easier to spread out from the crowds and find a quieter spot on the sand over here. Plus, there’s a paved trail running along the beach for walking, running, or biking.
My personal favorite beach is Bean Point, the northern tip of AMI. It doesn’t have a dedicated parking lot, and it doesn’t have facilities like restrooms or chair rentals. So it’s a bit more rustic and wild, making for a quieter, more natural beach setting.
But if it’s really hot, and you need shade, head to Bayfront Park in the afternoon. It’s a narrow beach with trees behind you that give natural shade all afternoon.
2. Explore AMI’s Beautiful Nature
There are plenty of free things to do on anna maria island, most of which revolve around exploring nature. As mentioned above, Bean Point Beach is the wildest and most natural beach area on the island, providing you with a large amount of space between the beach and the nearest homes.
The dunes are fun to explore and the setting is stunning for family or couple photo sessions.
Near Coquina Beach is a small nature preserve called Leffis Key Preserve. There’s a nice little hiking trail with a few docks and viewpoints of the bay.
There’s also a lesser-known spot called Grassy Pointe Preserve in the middle of the island which has a nice, scenic walking trail.
But the most beautiful natural areas are just a short drive away from Anna Maria Island, including hiking trails through Robinson Preserve, Neal Preserve, and Perico Preserve. Here you can spot local wildlife like dolphins and manatees along with migratory birds such as roseate spoonbills and bald eagles!
Robinson Preserve is the largest, with tons of trails for walking and cycling. Plus, there’s a big playground in the trees that kids can spend hours at (search The Nest at Robinson Preserve).
3. Peruse Local Shops
Shopping is another great way to spend time together as a family on Anna Maria Island! Head over to Bridge Street where you’ll find all kinds of unique shops selling everything from souvenirs and clothing items to jewelry and art pieces made by local artists!
This is the hot spot of the southern portion of AMI, where most of the restaurants and bars can be found as well.
Make sure to walk down to the Historic Bridge Street Pier which offers up even more options when it comes to finding something special during your stay here!
On the northern part of AMI, all the shops and restaurants are on Pine Avenue and Gulf Drive. Find a parking spot and spend the afternoon walking through the sops and eventually setting in for a beachside dinner.
4. Anna Maria Island Things to Do; Take a Boat Tour
Enjoying Anna Maria Island is all about enjoying the water. And other than getting IN the water, the next way to do that is getting ON the water.
There are tons of boat tours that you can take from Anna Maria Island. These boat tours will take you around the nearby waters in search of dolphins, or help you catch the sunset up close.
Or, if you’re on a smaller boat, they might take you to some of the best snorkeling spots, or small, nearby islands like Passage Key.
Private family charters can start as low as $300 for a couple of hours, or you can join a party boat and pay much less per person.
5. Plan a Beach Photoshoot
If you’re on vacation in Anna Maria Island, then you’re going to want to capture the incredible memories you’ll be making when you’re here.
The easiest way to do that is by planning a photoshoot right on the beach. I live just a few minutes from AMI and spend A LOT of time here. I love photographing couples, families, and even large groups of extended family members here.
I offer short and easy Mini Sessions that can be done in 30 minutes or longer Story Sessions for larger groups and those wanting a bigger variety of photos. Head here to plan your sunset photoshoot today.
6. Explore Island History
The Anna Maria Island Historical Society sits on Pine Ave in the north. It features one of the most photographed spots on the island; the old jailhouse.
There are a handful of historic buildings that make up this museum, and admission is free, so it’s worth stopping by after getting a donut at the nearby Donut Experiment.
Fishing on AMI
Fishing is one of the most popular things to do on Anna Maria Island FL. And there are tons of different ways to do it.
If you don’t have your own rods, you can head to Rod and Reel Pier. There’s a restaurant and tackle shop on the end of the pier that offers fishing pole rentals. You can fish right off the dock, as it's one of the most productive fishing spots on the island.
After bringing in your catch (and tossing them back), head inside for a seafood lunch overlooking the water.
Fishing from the beaches is also very popular. Surf fishing works best when it’s windy and there are small waves along the shore. The waves bring the fish within a few feet of the shore making it much easier to catch them without getting wet. Sunrise and sunset are the best times for this.
And of course, if you really want to catch fish, you can charter a fishing boat to take you out into deeper waters. Your fishing guides will take you to the most productive fishing spots, and likely help you clean your fish as well so you can take it home and grill it up.
Snorkeling is one of the most fun and easy things to do in Anna Maria Island Florida. The waters are typically very calm and as a result, very clear.
Of course, there isn’t any reef nearby, so to be honest, there isn’t a ton to see. But you will likely see crabs, and fish, and could even find shells and sand dollars.
Looking to get your adrenaline going? How about taking to the skies over the ocean?
Parasailing is very popular, safe, and of course, extremely fun. There are a handful of companies that offer parasailing, such as flyannamaria.com. They run year-round, though summer is the most fun since it will be the warmest.
The cost is usually between $60 and $100 per person, with the entire trip lasting upwards of 90 minutes.
Ever ridden a horse on the beach before? What about riding a horse as it swims in the ocean? If not, now’s your chance.
One of the most unique things to do near anna maria island is to ride horses in the water. Now, this isn’t allowed on the beaches of the main island. But just across the bridge, along Palma Sola Causeway, you can ride horses on the sand and in the water.
There are a couple of horseback guides that offer rides here, like Florida Beach Horses and C Ponies, and there are different rides available, which usually last 60-90 minutes.
Holmes Beach Skatepark
If you’re staying on Anna Maria, and you’ve got kids who like to skate or scooter, make sure to bring their boards on vacation with you.
The Holmes Beach Skatepark is actually really nice, and there’s a playground and dog park next to it. It’s also right by some of the popular shops and restaurants in the center of the island, such as The Ugly Grouper.
Go Kayaking or Paddleboarding
The waters around AMI are perfect for paddling. They are usually very calm and clear, making it easy for almost anyone to go kayaking or paddleboarding.
You can put in right at the beach if you just want to cruise along the shore. Or you can paddle around Leffis Key Preserve for some views of mangroves.
The most popular place to paddle nearby, however, is Robinson Preserve, which is just a few minutes from the island. There are winding saltwater trails through gorgeous mangrove forests, which are largely protected from the wind, making for easy paddling.
You’ll see fish and tons of birds, and maybe even dolphins and manatees in the waters here. And there are kayak rental providers that can make it super easy to park and get in the water here.
Bike Up and Down the Island
It’s no surprise that the main road going up and down the island is VERY busy. There’s traffic nonstop.
But there are a few dedicated bike paths as well as side streets that make cycling a lot less stressful. There are a few spots on the island where you can rent bikes, and getting around on a bike and not having to worry about finding a parking space for your car might be the best thing you do on your vacation.
Family Things to Do in Anna Maria Island
Still looking for things to do with children in tow? How about mini golf?
On Bridge Street, the popular restaurant and shopping area on the south end of the island, you’ll find The Fish Hole Miniature Golf. It’s small but fun, and the prices for gold are much lower than larger mini-golf spots near the island.
Things to Do Near Anna Maria Island
Of course, when staying on AMI, you aren’t limited to only doing things here. There’s plenty to do nearby in Bradenton, Palmetto, and beyond.
Here are some of the top things do to near Anna Maria Island
- De Soto National Memorial
- Bradenton Riverwalk (also a large splash pad, playground, and skatepark here)
- GT Bray Park - Full disc golf course, playgrounds, tennis and pickleball courts, and skatepark
- The Fox Mercantile - This Boutique home goods store, coffee bar, and occasional wine bar is just across the bridge from AMI in Cortez
- The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature
- Emerson Point Preserve
- Altitude Trampoline Park
- Beer Can Island (Gibby Point)
So Much To Do, Not Enough Time
No matter how long your stay is when visiting Anna Maria Island, there’s always something new to do every day. It really is the perfect vacation destination for those looking to relax on the beach any time of the year, yet still have the opportunity for fun and adventure right outside your door.
And if you want to capture and preserve the memories of your AMI vacation, make sure you book a photoshoot so you can hold onto these moments for the rest of your life.