two umbrellas on beach at Anna Maria Island with kids

Looking for the best things to do on Anna Maria Island, Florida? With such a beautiful setting with so many activities for kids, this beautiful spot is an epic beach vacation for families.

Just an hour south of Tampa, Anna Maria Island is a picturesque, seven-mile island idyllic beach location perfect for families on a road trip or who are looking for an extended Florida vacation.

Its Coast water mirrors the Caribbean for its teal color and clarity, clear turquoise water, and its soft beige sand beaches are second to none in Florida. Most days, the water is calm, like swimming-pool calm. And you might even see a manatee or sea turtles swim by.

It is reminiscent of many of the dreamy beach quotes and beach captions that remind you of why you need to take a beach vacation! If you are looking for a low-key family vacation or a sneak peek of Island life, this is one you would love.

Our family has rented a VRBO here for several years. And when someone asks for a family-friendly quieter beach vacation perfect for toddlers to teens, Anna Maria Island, Florida, can’t be beaten.

But just because it’s quiet doesn’t mean there aren’t awesome things to do on Anna Maria Island. There are so many activities, and it’s one of the best places to visit on Florida’s Gulf Coast. So, pack your flip-flops, bathing suits, and all your beach gear and get ready to chill out at the beautiful beaches Anna Maria Island has that will keep you coming back year after year.

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Things To Do On Anna Maria Island At A Glance
Short on time? Here are 25+ Best Things To Do On Anna Maria Island at a glance. Read below for more details about each of these! Want to know where to stay on Anna Maria Island? Read on!
1. Visit Anna Maria Island’s Best Beaches
2. Anna Maria City Pier
3. Day At The Pool
4. Rent Bicycles
5. Shop On Pine Avenue
6. Make a Unique, Custom Donut
7. Visit Old Anna Maria Jail
8. Wildlife Spotting
9. Tour The Island In A Golf Cart Or Trolley
10. Visit Historic Bridge Street
11. Mini Golf
12. The Real Beach Horses
13. Shop The Coquina Beach Market
14. Take A Dolphin Or Manatee Watching Tour
15. Go Snorkeling
16. Fishing On Anna Maria Island Piers
17. Surf Camp
18. Visit Ginny and Jane E’s At The IGA for Shopping/Breakfast
20. Catch a Glorious Sunset
21. Seashell Hunting
22. Dine At The Rod And Reel Pier
23. Enjoy Sand In Your Toes Dining At The Sandbar Restaurant
24. Eat A Giant Cinammon Roll from Ginny and Jane E’s At The IGA
25. Get Pizza From Pizza Social
26. Try Oysters On Historic Bridge Street At Anna Maria Oyster Bar
27. Dine Beachside At Gulf Drive Cafe
28. Enjoy dinner and Games at the Ugly Grouper
29. Try new restaurnt gRub Barbecue
30. Ice Cream At One Of The Famed Creameries On The Island
31. More ideas including kayaking, paddle boarding, Edmond Key State Park, Longboat Key, art galleries and more.

Where is Anna Maria Island?

Anna Maria Island Post Card On Wall

Many people have never heard of Anna Maria Island, and boy are they missing out on one of Florida’s best-hidden treasures.  This gorgeous spot is a barrier island on the Gulf of Mexico.

Located on the coast of Manatee County, Florida, Anna Maria Island is only seven miles long, just southwest of Tampa and directly south of St. Petersburg.

About 55 miles off the coast of Tampa (around an hour and 15 minutes drive), Anna Maria is a hidden gem on the west coast of the state on the Gulf of Mexico. Other close vacation areas or popular spots include Siesta Key, Manasota Key, Venice, Longboat Key, and Lido Key located on the very south end of Anna Maria Island. 

And being in Florida, you can go there in the winter! In fact, it is one of the best warm places to visit in December in the USA. It’s the best option for those escaping cold winters in other places. Whether you’re visiting for the first time or not, you’re sure to fall in love with this paradise.

About Anna Maria Island, Florida

Anna Maria Island beach

There are three cities on Anna Maria Island – Holmes Beach, Bradenton Beach, and Anna Maria. It’s a small beautiful beach town perfect for families with plenty of kid-friendly activities, restaurants, beautiful beaches, and family things to do.

There are a few hotels and inns, but vacation rentals make up the majority of places to stay on this beautiful island. Many of them have pools which are perfect for a lazy day around the house or relaxing after a busy day.

You won’t find any high-rises and very few popular chain restaurants on this small island, just an abundance of fun things to do.. 

This quiet, uncommercialized atmosphere comes from the fact that there are strict regulations governing the types of businesses and buildings allowed on Anna Maria Island.

The beaches are pristine with powder-soft white sand, and the teal-emerald green water is beautiful.  Its beauty inspires many artists and you can find great art and unique finds for purchase at the island’s several art galleries.

Why Vacation on Anna Maria Island With Kids

colorful chairs at Anna Maria Island

On top of the many outdoor activities it provides, there are so many reasons to vacation on this beautiful island. Here are my top reasons:

  • The pristine beaches are far removed from more commercialized beach locations, which makes it feel like an “old-style Florida” beach vacation. 
  • You won’t find many chain restaurants and hotels here.
  • There are various sunset cruises suitable for the entire family. There are several companies that offer tours like this.
  • It is not a “party atmosphere.” but you’ll be able to enjoy some live music here and there.
  • There are so many great things to do on Anna Maria Island, but everything is at a slower pace, so you return from your vacation rested instead of frazzled.
  • Have I mentioned the teal crystal clear water and soft white sand?
  • It’s one of the hidden gems families love — you’ll find fewer crowds compared to places like Key West. It’s a good place to unwind without the crowds.

You’ll love how you can step back in time to enjoy a family beach vacation like those years ago while still enjoying today’s amenities. It’s almost like a secret that you likely won’t see on a list of popular Florida beaches, and we prefer it that way.

Best Things To Do on Anna Maria Island With Kids

There are so many awesome things to do on Anna Maria Island with kids. Here are our favorite family activities!

1. Visit Anna Maria Island’s Best Beaches

couple looking at the beach on anna maria island

Since this is a fun, relaxing vacation, going to the beach is clearly one of the best things to do in Anna Maria Island for families. Set on the Gulf of Mexico, these teal-colored crystal clear waters and soft beige sand beaches are highlights of the trip!

The light waves make it perfect for floating with a noodle, enjoy swimming, and surfing waves on a boogie board! My kids love doing this so we always bring or buy one of the best boogie boards for kids to ensure they last the duration of the trip. Besides participating in water sports, kids will love building sand castles on these great beaches.

One thing you should know, however, is that if you’re traveling with your furry friends, there are no pets allowed on the beaches of Ana Maria.

There are several main beaches to visit based on where you’re staying.

The best beaches on Anna Maria Island are:

Bean Point Beach

  • This is the best beach on Anna Maria, in our opinion, and it’s located at the northern tip of the island (and our favorite beach.)
  • Its location on the northern tip makes it a little challenging to get there, but this secluded and quiet beach is well worth it.
  • There are no restrooms.
  • Has epic sunsets.
  • Great for families.
  • No public parking (limited street parking), but there is beach access from the side streets.
  • No lifeguards.
  • Close to Pine Avenue (some areas are within walking distance.)
  • Note that the northern tip of Anna Maria Island is more secluded with upscale rentals, while the southern tip has a certain charm, and the middle is more crowded and commercial.
Bean Point Anna Maria Island
Famous sea shell tree at Bean Point on Anna Maria Island.

Anna Maria Bayfront Park

  • Located on the North East shore of the island, just south of the Rod & Reel Pier.
  • Bayfront Park is closer to the Northern tip of the island.
  • Great for day visitors with a playground, picnic pavilion, grills, and limited parking.
  • Near many restaurants and has views of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
  • Very close to Pine Avenue, where there is shopping and dining.
  • A great spot for families and faces Tampa Bay.
  • Has outdoor showers, restrooms, and water fountains.
  • Bayfront Park Beach has no lifeguards, but it is a public beach.
  • Bayfront Park is also a good place to park and walk around Bean Point.

Coquina Beach

  • This beautiful place is located on the southern end of the island in Bradenton Beach at Gulf Dr S, Bradenton Beach, FL 34217.
  • This is one of the popular beaches great for a family beach day.
  • Coquina Beach has changing cabanas, concessions, pavilions, walking paths, grills, picnic tables, restrooms, water fountains, a gift shop, free parking spot, and other amenities.
  • Lifeguards on duty and it is a public beach. So you can feel safe about kids going in the water.
  • Coquina Beach is the best shelling beach to find unique seashells.
  • Has a cafe that serves delicious Belgian waffles
  • Coquina Beach offers a bit more things than other beaches.
  • No pets allowed on the Coquina Baywalk.
  • Coquina Beach has well maintained facilities.
Coquina Beach
Coquina Beach on Anna Maria Island is one of the best beaches for families. Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

Manatee Beach

  • Located in Holmes Beach (and many families’ favorite beach).
  • Manatee Public Beach is great for a family beach day. Every member of the family will have a great time.
  • Has changing cabanas, concessions, pavilions, grills, picnic tables, restrooms, water fountains, a play area, volleyball nets, and a playground at Manatee Public Beach.
  • Manatee Public Beach also has lifeguards on duty.
  • Manatee Public Beach is a public beach with limited parking and easy beach access.
manatee beach sign
Manatee Beach is one of the best beaches with kids on Anna Maria Island. Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

Cortez Beach

  • Located on the Southwest side of the island in Bradenton Beach
  • Considered an “old Florida” beach.
  • Great for nature lovers and bird watching.
  • There are no public amenities, but it is a quiet beach.
  • There is a parking lot.
  • Lifeguards recently added.
  • You can catch a boat cruise where you learn about the history of the island and see the Cortez fishing village. This area is a small entertainment district where you can even catch views of the fishing village from the pier too.
things to do on anna maria island beach

Bradenton Beach

  • Southern part of the island 200 Gulf Dr. S, Bradenton Beach, FL 34217.
  • Great snorkeling between Bradenton Beach and Coquina Beach near the piers.
  • Can find great surfing at this beach.
  • No lifeguards.
  • Mostly used by those staying there.
beautiful view of anna maria island beach
Beautiful calm waters are perfect for floating in Holmes Beach on Anna Maria Island. Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

Holmes Beach

  • In the middle of Anna Maria Island.
  • Known for its “old Florida” feel and great beaches.
  • Can find great surfing (the beach at White Street is popular for surfing.)
  • Limited street parking (unless you go to one of the main beaches like Manatee Beach.)
  • More condos and small resorts than in the city of Anna Maria (Northern part of the island.)
Bon Voyage With Kids Tip

Parking enforcement is strict at Anna Maria Island beaches, so if it says no parking, don’t do it. If you park on the side of the road, make sure all your tires are off the road.

2. Visit Anna Maria City Pier

Anna Maria City Pier
Anna Maria City Pier is a great thing to do on Anna Maria Island with kids. Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

Located on the bay side of the island, the originally constructed 100-year-old Anna Maria City Pier was closed for a while due to damage from Hurricane Irma but it has been rebuilt in recent years!

Located on the North end of the island (on N Bay Blvd), it is a good spot to try fishing in Tampa Bay or just have a lookout on the ocean and see the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. 

You can also look for manatees, dolphins, and other marine life while enjoying the views from the Anna Maria City Beach Pier. Another great option is to grab a snack at the nearby cafe since it stays open daily. The Anna Maria City Pier is a fun area that both kids and adults alike will enjoy.

This location is close to Pine Avenue.

3. Enjoy a Day at the Pool

rental house pool anna Maria Island

Many of the Anna Maria rentals have a private pool. We have often used our home rental’s pool for a break from the beach. It is one of our favorite Anna Maria Island things to do with our kids.

4. Rent Bicycles

biking riding things to do on anna maria island

A fun thing to do when visiting Anna Maria Island is to tour the island with a bike! There are several spots to rent bikes for the day or duration of your trip and various bike racks such as AMI Beach Fun Rentals, Fun and More Rentals, or Beach Bums.

One of our favorite things to do with kids on Anna Maria Island there are bike lanes and sidewalks where you can ride your bike. But do take caution when on Gulf Drive, as it is a busy road.

kids playing soccer at sunset on Anna Maria Island
Watching the sunset is one of the best things to do on Anna Maria Island with kids. Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

5. Shop on Pine Avenue

You’ll find tons of fun things to do on Pine Ave Anna Maria. There is fantastic shopping and dining, several gift shops as well as historical activities any history buff will appreciate. Even just taking a stroll down Pine Ave is a great thing to do in Anna Maria.

It’s an overall fun experience for kids and adults alike. Pine Avenue ends and Anna Maria City pier.

6. Make A Donut At the Donut Experiment

the donut experiment Anna Maria Island Pine Street

One of the fun Anna Maria Island activities is to create your own donut. Stop at the Donut Experiment on Pine Ave to custom-make a crazy, deliciously flavored donut.

Create any donuts you want from the huge selection of toppings and frosting at The Donut Experiment on the island. Or choose their specialty donut creations, Sriracha and Key Lime. Kids will enjoy the amazing experience of choosing their own toppings.

This shop sometimes has a long wait, so go early if you can! Afterward, head down Pine Avenue to the Anna Maria City Pier to enjoy your Donut Experiment donuts and overlook the water!

donut experiment Anna Maria Island with kids
The Donut Experiment is a fun thing to do on Anna Maria Island with kids. Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

7. Get Your Picture Taken At The Old City Jail

Old Anna Maria City Jail
Kids will love visiting the Anna Maria City Jail at Anna Maria Historical Park when looking for things to do on Anna Maria Island. Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

Or get your picture taken at the old Anna Maria Jail.

Built in 1927, this open-air jail housed people arrested for minor crimes where they were swarmed by the mosquitos on the island. The punishment worked because no one wanted to spend the night there again!

If you want to learn more about early island life and its first settlers, stop by Anna Maria Island Historical Museum (or Historical Society Museum as known by some) and Park next door. 

Anna Maria Island Historical Museum
The Anna Maria Island Historical Museum is one of the best things to do on Anna Maria Island with kids. Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

8. Wildlife Spotting

bird on Anna Maria Island

There is so much wildlife on Anna Maria Island. In fact, from May to October, Loggerhead turtles nest on the beach.

At night, residents and vacationers must turn off their lights so turtles don’t become confused and can safely make their way back to the ocean. In addition to nature preserves in the area, you can also watch turtle nesting spots or reach out to Turtle Talk to learn more about them, get more info, and book a tour.

All of the beaches from Holmes Beach to Manatee City Beach to Bean Point have fantastic wildlife for observing. You can also find some great wildlife on the Tampa Bay side at one of the piers, like the Bridge Street Pier.

9. Tour Anna Maria Island in a Golf Cart or Trolley

free trolly on things to do on Anna Maria island

The island is small enough that you can rent a golf cart to travel around on. One of the best places to rent a gold cart is AMI Adventure Rentals or Beach Bums.

There is also a free trolley that goes all over the island. It’s one of the best things to do to get an overview of the island or just get around.

10. Visit Historic Bridge Street

souvenir shop on Bridge Street Homes Beach Anna Maria Island

One of the famous Anna Maria Island attractions not to miss is Bridge Street. We love to make a quick stop at Bridge Street on Bradenton Beach for shopping and dining at stores like Olive Oil Outpost to Pink & Navy Boutique. There is a great souvenir store, as well as some specialty shops and the Beach House Restaurant, which is also a great place to catch a sunset.

And there is excellent waterfront dining here as well! You can also enjoy the views from the pier at 1-15 Laverne Dr, Bradenton Beach, FL 34217.

historic bridge street pier sign

11. The Fish Hole Mini-Golf

fishing hole mini golf course historic bridge street

Located in Bradenton Beach on Bridge Street, this unique mini-golf course looks like a beautiful botanical garden and is reminiscent of the “old Florida” style. There are plenty of misting stations and fans if you get hot.

Afterward, grab a meal or a coffee and do some souvenir shopping at one of the shops in this fun district. It is one of the best things to do with kids on Anna Maria Island. This mini-golf is just a short walk away from the popular Anna Maria Oyster Bar, which is a great place for dinner after a long day playing and exploring.

12. The Real Beach Horses

Take a scenic trail ride on horses through the gorgeous Deer Prairie Creek Preserve. It is a unique way to see a variety of animals and nature on this fun thing to do with kids in Anna Maria ages 8 and up. But they offer much more than this. You can take air or water tours too at the Real Beach Horses.

horseback riding in Anna Maria Island
Photo credit: © Smitty411 |

13. Shop at the Coquina Beach Market

people at Coquina Market at Coquina Beach
Coquina Beach Market is one of the best things to do on Anna Maria Island. Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

If you’re looking for unique gifts and souvenirs, then you want to visit the Coquina Beach Market. Here you’ll find local arts, crafts, jewelry, baked goods, fresh produce, photography, local produce, and many other unique items. It’s one of the best spots to pick up a souvenir or have a picnic lunch at the picnic tables in the area.

The market runs twice a week in the summer but the schedule changes in the winter. Be sure to check the timing before you head to the Coquina Beach Market.

Also, get there early, as the parking lot fills up fast.

sand caslte on white sand on anna maria island

14. Take a Dolphin or Manatee Watching Tour

Dolphins and manatees are local residents of Anna Maria’s waters. In fact, it is not uncommon to see one or the other swim by while you are in the ocean or dining at one of the beachfront restaurants or any other restaurants.

Sometimes you see them right in Tampa Bay!

But, to guarantee you see some dolphins or manatees on your trip, a dolphin tour with Paradise Boat Tours and The Real Beach Horses is a great thing to do in Anna Maria Island with kids!

15. Go Snorkeling

things to do on anna maria island snorkeling

Anna Maria’s waters are crystal clear, making it perfect for observing the underwater world /sea life by snorkel. You can just go in the calm waters off the beach or book a tour.

There are several tour companies on Anna Maria Island that will take you out snorkeling in the pristine Florida waters. Nature Coast Excursions, AMI Escapes Boat Tours, Passage Key Dolphin Tours, and Egmont Key Adventures, are a few of the places that have snorkeling tours.

16. Fishing on the Anna Maria Island Piers

fishing on Anna Maria Island pier
Fishing on one of the piers is a great thing to do on Anna Maria Island with kids. Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

There may be many places to fish, but the piers are the perfect places to fish on the island all year round (or even to just watch people fish). Whether you visit the Anna Maria City Pier, the Bradenton Beach City Pier, the Rod and Reel Pier, or the Bridge Street Pier, there are several locations to fish on Anna Maria Island. While normal fishing is fun, fishing from a fishing pier will be more memorable for the entire family.

Our favorite is the Anna Maria City Pier for fishing in Tampa Bay. For one thing, it is quiet over there in the morning. You can also enjoy breakfast at the cafe on the Anna Maria City Pier. And it is a great spot for fishing and watching boats go by.

Bradenton Beach Pier is a great place to sign up for a boat tour of the area or eat at the amazing Anna Maria Oyster Bar. The Rod and Reel Pier is one of the best for fishing and eating a delicious meal with friends and family.

rod and reel pier

The Rod and Reel Pier is on the Tampa Bay side.

You can also fish at the quiet Bean Point on the Northern tip or from some of the other beach locations. Get fishing supplies on Cortez Beach at Annie’s Bait and Tackle or Boca Bait, located in Bradenton. If your kids love fishing, this is one of the fun Anna Maria Island things to do.

Note that you may need a fishing license before fishing, so be sure to check the fishing license requirements.

17. Surf Camp for Kids

teen surfing on Anna Maria Island
Photo credit: © Eyemark |

Every year the West Coast Surf Shop hosts a week-long youth surf camp in July. Veteran instructors teach the kids to surf. So any kid interested in learning to surf would have an amazing time at this camp!

Eternal Summer Surf Camp also has surf camp sessions throughout July and early August. These lessons take place in Holmes Beach on the beach at White Avenue – known for being one of the greatest beaches for surfing on Anna Maria Island.

18. Have Breakfast and Shop at Ginny & Jane E’s Cafe and Store

ginny and Jane Es at the IGA on Anna Maria Island

One of our absolute favorite spots and Anna Maria Island things to do with our kids every trip is to visit and have breakfast at this whimsical local favorite. Not only do they have delicious breakfasts. But it has a wonderful shop perfect for souvenirs kids will love.

It is decorated with fun, whimsy colors, and retro decor, making it a special place to visit for the whole family! We go back several times each vacation.

19. Catch A Glorious Anna Maria Sunset

sunset on Anna Maria Island
Watching Anna Maria Island’s sunsets is one of our top things to do.

One of our favorite Anna Maria Island things to do with our kids is to watch the sunset. While you can catch the sun setting from several of the beautiful beaches, the ones nearest to Bean Point have the best views of the sun going down over the horizon. Don’t worry if you can’t get to Bean Point; there are many more places that bring out the island charm at sunset.

20. Seashell Hunting

This lovely seashell tree can be found on Bean Point.

Anna Maria Island has fantastic seashells for those who like to collect. My kids love to go seashell hunting during the day and they always end up having so much fun. You might even be one of the lucky ones to find a sand dollar!

There are many gorgeous seashells to find on Anna Maria Island and they make great keepsakes of your family vacation.

How To Use This Anna Maria Island Things To Do Map
I have added the locations of the best beaches on Anna Maria, the best things to do, and the best restaurants. You can use your mouse or finger on your mobile to move the map. It is organized to highlight the activities on this list, so click on a marker to see more information. You can click on the box in the top left corner to see the legend. Want to save it to your google maps? Click on the star next to the title to add this to your Google Maps account and have it on the go!

Where to Eat on Anna Maria Island with Kids

21. Visit and Dine At The Rod and Reel

The Rod and Reel is one of the best places to eat on the island that is loved by both tourists and locals alike. Enjoy some amazing food, local favorites, traditional meals, and famous seafood specials while overlooking the ocean.

If you dine outside, you might even spot a dolphin swim by (we did!) The Rod and Reel Pier is also a great place to go fishing.

22. Get An Epic Meal At Poppo’s Taqueria

While this restaurant is a quick service taqueria (think Chipotle), it offers one of the best meals on Anna Maria Island. When you get your taco fix at Poppo’s Taqueria, located on Pine Avenue, you will discover some of the freshest, most delicious tacos you have ever had.

Make your own tacos, burritos, and quesadilla with fillings and toppings made from local ingredients. It’s one spot we go back to each year.

23. Enjoy The Views And Seafood At The Sandbar Restaurant

Tha Sandbar Restaurant at Anna Maria Island

One of the best things to do in Anna Maria is to dine beachfront at this restaurant. Not only will you dine on delicious food made from local and sustainable ingredients with your toes in the white sand. But you can do so while watching one of Anna Maria’s gorgeous sunsets.

One note is that this restaurant does not take reservations, so do get there early to get your name on the list. And be sure to try their incredible key lime pie!

24. Grab A Giant Cinnamon Roll At Ginny & Jane E’s at the IGA

Outside of Ginny and Jane E's

As I mentioned above, one of my favorite thing to do on Anna Maria is to get breakfast – at least once, if not twice – at Ginny & Jane E’s. But not just any breakfast. One that includes a homemade giant cinnamon roll!

It goes great with their fresh smoothies, delicious coffee, and it’s fun to enjoy while taking in the whimsical decor.

giant cinnamon rolls at ginny and jane E's at the IPA

25. Order In From Pizza Social

Order in pizza from Pizza Social and enjoy a game night or head to the beach afterward. This is our favorite local family pizzeria and the perfect place to get a slice of pie on vacation.

You can either pick it up from their Pine Avenue shore or have it delivered to your vacation rental! Or, grab a pizza and enjoy it on the nearby Anna Maria City Pier!

26. Dine At Anna Maria Oyster Bar

Anna Maria Oyster Bar and Historic Bridge Street Pier Anna Maria Island

You guessed it; this family-friendly restaurant specializes in oysters and other local seafood fares. Though they have several locations, Anna Maria Oyster Bar on the Pier is in Bradenton Beach and is an idyllic waterfront restaurant. It is a great beachfront dining experience with wonderful seafood. It is our favorite place for seafood options.

27. Enjoy A Meal Overlooking The Beach At Gulf Drive Cafe

Gulf Drive Cafe on Anna Maria Island
The Gulf Drive Cafe is one of the best Anna Maria Island things to do with kids for an ocean-side family dinner. Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

Another one of our favorite spots on Anna Maria Island is grabbing a meal at the Gulf Drive Cafe in Bradenton Beach, a waterfront restaurant. It is right near old Bridge Street, where you can also enjoy mini golf and do some shopping.

Their large, delicious menu has a variety of traditional and seafood favorites, delicious desserts, and an onsite gelato bar! This is definitely one of our favorite places (and most highly recommend) to eat with kids in Anna Maria Island. Because of its location in Bradenton Beach, right near Bridge Street, it is an ideal location to enjoy mini golf or some Bridge Street shopping at the Bridge Street Bazaar!

tables at Gulf Drive Cafe
Beachside dining is great fun on Anna Maria Island. Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

28. Dinner and Games at the Ugly Grouper

tables at Ugly Grouper restaurant Anna Maria Island Florida
The Ugly Grouper Restaurant is one of the fun things to do in Anna Maria Island with kids! Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

For a fun family restaurant, the Ugly Grouper is one of our favorites. Outdoor dining, games while kids wait (including wiki sticks you can use to decorate the wooden poles at your table), live music, and signature dishes make this a great place to eat with kids on Anna Maria Island.

metal fish at the Ugly Grouper Restaurant in Anna Maria Island with kids
The Ugly Grouper Restaurant is very family friendly! Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

It is so popular, you can even shop at the souvenir shop! Get here early as it is very popular and fills up quickly. A visit to the Ugly Grouper in Holmes Beach is definitely a great thing to do in Anna Maria Island.

29. gRub Tropical Barbecue

Grub Tropical Barbecue on Anna Maria Island
Grub Tropical Barbecue is another great restaurant on Anna Maria Island with kids. Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

A new addition to where to eat on Anna Maria Island, this unique twist on barbecue is a great place to eat on Anna Maria Island with kids. Located on Pine Street, this fast-casual restaurant offers a great menu and drinks for family dining.

It was started by Anna Maria Island native and celebrated chef Ben Sato, who has worked at Ritz Carlton among others as an experienced chef. His unique twist on barbecue and tropical flavors brings a delicious pairing in a fun, family-friendly environment.

30. Grab A Cone From Dips Ice Cream

Noted as the best ice cream on Anna Maria Island, this is a must-stop on your trip to Anna Maria to get one of their delicious ice creams with a large variety of flavors. A stop for ice cream is a must-do on your visit to Anna Maria Island if you have a sweet tooth.

A few other ice cream shops to try:

  • Joe’s Eats and Sweets in Bradenton Beach (Unfortunately, it’s now permanently closed)
  • Holy Cow Ice Cream in Holmes Beach — be sure to try their absolutely delicious Banana Splits.
  • Two Scoops Ice Cream in Anna Maria
  • Anna Maria Island Creamery and Bakery in Anna Maria — they’ll also have other sweet treats with fun names that your kids will love to try.

Other Things to do in On Anna Maria Island For Families

  • Explore Bradenton Beach City Pier on the Northern end of Sarasota Bay. Part of the old wooden bridge in Sarasota Bay was converted into a fishing pier (which is now Bradenton Beach City Pier), so you can even fish from there.
  • Beyond the beaches Anna maria island has, you can learn about the island’s history at Anna Maria Historic Green Village
  • Go kayaking. You can either take your own kayak or sign up for one of the available Kayak tours. Some even offer kayak fishing charters. For a more fun experience, go kayaking in the Robinson preserve to have the experience of going through Mangrove tunnels.
  • Indulge in fresh seafood at Star Fish Co.
  • Go on a sunset cruise. There are a few companies that offer sunset cruises on the island.
  • Enjoy Live Music at Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe. It serves things like all-you-can-eat pancakes, and there’s even a tiki bar you can get drinks while listening to the live music.
  • One of the top things to do on a trip to Anna Maria is to go on a paddling adventure. The Sarasota Bay area is a great place for this. You can hire equipment from the well-known several companies available.
  • Take a day trip to Egmont Key State Park — a nature preserve and wildlife refuge haven near Anna Maria Island.
  • One of the fun Anna Maria Island activities is to visit an art gallery. There are various well-known great options to choose from.
  • Have a meal (or cocktails for adults) at Daiquiri Deck.
  • Explore the Leffis Key Preserve. You can easily spend a few hours here of the entire day as it offers a lot of outdoor activities. It’s a nice place to get some fresh air, for sure.
  • Indulge in fresh seafood at Blue Marlin restaurant, but if you prefer burgers or quick bites, then head to Hurricane Hanks.
  • Sign up for the “Sunset to Full Moon Flow” class. However, this is only possible when there is a full moon.
  • Relax at Longboat Key Beach. It’s a bit unknown to many, but you can find it at 2825 Gulf of Mexico Dr, Longboat Key, FL 34228.
  • If your kids are old enough, you can go on jet skis for a fun afternoon.
BVWK Tip: Beach Bistro For A Special Occasion
If you are looking for a luxury dining experience to celebrate a special occasion, the Beach Bistro is where to go. This award winning restaurant offers beach front exquisite dining with an outstanding menu. The Beach Bistro is a wonderful place to watch the sunset while you celebrate a special occasion or a date night.

Where to Stay on Anna Maria Island

My family and I have a couple of favorite places to stay when we go on an Anna Maria Island vacation. Our preference is in the city of Anna Maria as it is quieter than Holmes Beach or Bradenton Beach on the southern end.

It is also more family vacation rentals than hotels or resorts, making it less crowded. It’s the perfect place to get away from the crowds. We have rented a home for two weeks, two summers in a row, and it was a wonderful way to vacation. Often the homes are big enough for a multigenerational family vacation.

We did recently stay at Waterline Villas and Marina in Holmes Beach for two nights. The rooms had kitchens, and there is a restaurant and pool on the property as well. The only downside is you have to cross two roads to get to Holmes Beach.

But here are some options for where to stay:

Beach house on Anna Maria Island

Airbnb or VRBO Home Rentals

If you can, rent a home on the island through VRBO or Airbnb. It’s so nice to have a house and pool (if you can find a house with one). Also, vacation rentals are becoming more popular because of COVID-19 and social distancing.

We also love that they have kitchens, so we can save money by making our own meals and bringing some of our own food. And, there is a Publix nearby where you can either shop or get Instacart delivery right to our vacation rental.

At the end of a long day, you can come back and jump in the pool after supper or just spend a day relaxing and reading by it. Or the kids can hang it playing with one of the road trip activities they brought along. It feels just like spending a relaxing Saturday at home, just in a much better location. 

So, check out the Anna Maria Island rentals to find the perfect house for you and your family.

home rantal on anna maria island

Hotels, Bed and Breakfasts, and Inns

There are a few hotels, resorts, bed and breakfasts, and inns on the island. As you get closer to Bradenton Beach, there are more hotels in this area. Here you are closer to Bridge Street, and some are even within walking distance. The Bridge Street area has a bit more of a traditional beach vacation feel. Check out what might be available on

Getting to Anna Maria Island

Anna Maria Island is approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes south of Tampa via I-75 or I-275 S if you’re traveling by car on a family road trip. Just beware there might be a toll road depending on the route you take. If you are in the USA, flying into Tampa is the easiest airport and you can rent a car from there. You do drive over the large bridge over Tampa Bay to get onto the island.

If you’re coming from out of the country, the most convenient place to fly into is the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, so visit that website for more information on international travel.

Getting Around The Island


You don’t need a car to get around the island but getting a car rental is easy. There are several places you can rent one, so it’s easy to get a beach rental. If you’re flying to Anna Maria Island, then you can rent a car at the Tampa or Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport.


There is also a FREE Trolly that goes around the island with several bus stops. It makes it easy to get around, and it’s also a great way to check out the island for activities kids would love.

Golf Cart

Golf Carts are also very popular! Many people rent one from AMI Golf Cart Rentals, Gulf Coast Carts, Beach Bums Recreational Rentals & Gift Shop, and several other places.

Beach Bum Rentals on Anna Maria Island


Renting bikes and biking around the island is another mode of transportation. It is easy to rent bikes on the island, so no need to worry about that.


Much of it is walkable to nearby shops and restaurants, as well. But it is hot in Florida, so this may not work in every situation.

ann amaria island beach near rod and reel pier
Bon Voyage With Kids Best Pro Tips For Anna Maria Island

To thoroughly enjoy your vacation on the island and to make things easier, I have a few helpful pro tips: 

  • For a quieter family vacation, stay closer to Bean Point. Truth be told, Bean Point Beach is kind of a secret spot for locals.
  • There’s a Publix in Holmes Beach where you can get your groceries delivered using Instacart, so you never even have to set foot in the store!
  • Be sure to look for the manatees and even rays you can see swimming in the water.
  • If your home rental doesn’t have beach supplies, you can rent things like noodles, sand toys, tents, chairs, wagons, and more from one of the beach rental companies. While there are a few places throughout the island, the Bridge Street Bazaar is one of our favorite spots for this!
  • If you need beach towels, souvenirs, noodles, or boogie boards, Holmes Beach has a shopping area with several beach stores to get these items.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Anna Maria Island known for?

Anna Maria Island is known for gorgeous beaches, wonderful restaurants, and excellent shopping. Its calm (usually) clear teal blue waters and soft beige sand is some of the best outside of tropical islands.

It also has a wonderful family-oriented feel, with so many beach houses available for rent. You do not find a party feel that you might see more in Siesta Key or popular Spring Break destinations like Miami or Daytona Beach. The food and beachside restaurants are outstanding, and there is a lot of great shopping on Anna Maria Island.

Where do locals go on Anna Maria Island?

They say the best place to visit in any destination is to go where the locals go. So where do the locals go on Anna Maria Island? Many of them frequent the very restaurants recommended in this post!

Locals like the hidden gem of Rod and Reel Pier restaurant, the Sand Bar, the Ugly Grouper, and the Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe to enjoy delicious food right on the beach.

Is Siesta Key better than Anna Maria Island? What beach is better, Anna Maria Island or Siesta Key?

In my opinion, no, not for families. While many people hear about Siesta Key and Sarasota, and Siesta Key Beach is rated the best beach in the United States, Anna Maria is (in my humble opinion) even better! And it is also located on the Gulf Coast with the same crystal clear teal water.

Siesta Key has a lot to offer families, with a bit more of an active and vibrant vibe. It might be good if you have teenagers that need to keep busy.

Anna Maria Island on the other hand – while it can get busy – is generally less crowded. It shares the same gorgeous teal water as Siesta Key but without all of the heavy hotel and resort traffic. It is ideal for a wonderful family vacation or a multigenerational family vacation.

house rental on anna maria island
There are many vacation rentals fit for large families!

Which is better Anna Maria Island or Longboat Key?

While they share the same coastline being about 15 minutes apart, Anna Maria Island is better for families with more to do than Longboat Key. Longboat Key is a bit quieter, so it may be better for couples and anyone wanting a quieter vacation.

Is Anna Maria Good For Families?

As you can tell from the post, I think it is great for families. And in fact, families are the majority of the visitors in the summer.

With great places to stay, plenty of things to do on and near Anna Maria Island with kids, gorgeous Gulf Coast beaches, and great restaurants, Anna Maria is good for families of all ages and sizes and a fantastic island vacation.

Our favorite beaches for families on Anna Maria Island are Homes Beach, Manatee Beach, Coquina Beach, Cortez Beach, and Bean Point Beach.

kids looking at the ocean at anna maria island

How far is Disney from Anna Maria Island?

If you are visiting Orlando or Walt Disney World and wondering how close Anna Maria Island is to Disney, it is about 100 miles. Depending on traffic, this can take you around two and a half hours.

If you are visiting Universal Studios and want to know how far Orlando is from Anna Maria Island, it is a bit further, around 118 miles. Depending on the route, it could take you two and a half to three hours.

So, they aren’t near Anna Maria Island to visit it on a day trip, but you could extend your vacation to include this wonderful beach location.

When is the best time to visit Anna Maria Island? What is the best month to visit Anna Maria Island?

Visiting Anna Maria Island is possible during all four seasons, as it has lovely weather all year.

It is Florida, so it is going to be hot in the summer months (but you can jump in the ocean!) From January through March and October, it is a bit cooler and quieter.

But we have gone in late June and July the last two years, and though it was hot, it was perfect beach weather.

quiet beach near Rod and Reel Pier

Is Bradenton Beach Family Friendly?

Yes, it is. Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach is listed as one of the best beaches for families. It has changing cabanas, concessions, pavilions, grills, restrooms, a walking trail, a beach cafe, water fountains, a gift shop, parking, and lifeguards on duty.

What are the best beaches on Anna Maria Island?

Some of the most popular beaches on Florida’s Anna Maria Island are Coquina, Holmes, Bradenton, Bean Point, and Manatee Public Beach. Bean Point Beach is a local secret spot on the northern tip of the island, and Bean Point is the place to stay if you’re looking for a quieter beach location.

Does Anna Maria Island have clear water?

Yes, Anna Maria Island has gorgeous beaches with clear water that has emerald green hues.  It is so clear; it is like a swimming pool usually (unless the surf is churned up from a storm.) But you can literally see your toes.

The amazing beaches are one of the reasons we love Anna Maria Island.

Are there alligators on Anna Maria Island?

Yes, the amazing ecosystem here has crocodiles and alligators along with manatees, black bears, and other local wildlife. You don’t typically see alligators on the beach, but you could see them in lakes or in one of the wildlife preserves, or in a nature park.

Final Thoughts on Your Anna Maria Island Beach Vacation

Anna Maria Island is definitely the perfect place to bring your family for a vacation. We have gone there many years, and it is an idyllic beach experience with so many fun things to do with kids.

There are diverse activities that will appeal to any member of your family, excellent restaurants, and great family memories. It is one of our favorite family vacations to take with our kids.

So whether you’re already there or just planning your future trips, this article has insider tips that will help you enjoy all the main attractions of Anna Maria Island and all the popular sports to eat at. I promise this idyllic beach town will keep you coming back to its sandy shores.

Have you been to this slice of heaven? What was your favorite thing about this place? I love hearing your thoughts, so be sure to leave them in the comments below.

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  1. So great to see this because I was just thinking about the wonderful solo trip I took to Anna Maria Island two years ago! I also highly recommend it as a destination. So relaxed and beautiful and fun!

    1. We have stayed in different ones we have rented through Anna Maria Island locals. One of the ones we stayed in appears to no longer have an active website. But Anna Maria Island locals is where we have found some great options.

  2. Hi we have two weeks booked at the end of August and my only worry is my kids missing hanging out with other kids! They are very social and love spending time with other kids their age. I’m trying to find activities they can do that will include this? Any ideas? Kids are 5 and 8.

    1. Hi Lynsey,
      The surf camp is a great way for your kids to hang out with other kids. They will definitely get to meet kids there. You can also try a boat tour that will likely have other families on it (though not a guarantee) or visit one of the playgrounds. Have a great vacation!

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