After visiting Florida multiple times in the past few years we really wanted to see a new part of the state which is less touristy and off the beaten paths. That’s when we stumbled upon the charming Bradenton Area, nestled on the West Coast of the state, along the serene waters of the Mexican Gulf. The area comprises both islands and mainland with its highlight being Anna Maria Island!
From the moment we set foot on the island, we were immersed in the authentic and laid-back Florida vibes we had dreamed of. Imagine colorful houses, limited to just two stories, pristine white sandy beaches and warm turquoise waters, local shops and the most carefree island vibes. Anna Maria Island truly is a hidden gem in Florida, and in this guide, I’ll share my favorite activities and must-see attractions on the island, along with some restaurant recommendations and the best hotel for your stay. Get ready to experience the magic of Anna Maria Island!

At the end of this post you’ll find a map of Anna Maria Island with all mentioned places in this post!

drone view of the beautiful sandy beaches on Anna Maria Island in Florida

My Anna Maria Island Travel Guide

The best activities and Must Do’s on Anna Maria Island, Florida:

1) Enjoy the fabulous beaches

The West Coast of Anna Maria Island, facing the magnificent Gulf of Mexico, boasts stunning stretches of white sandy beaches. Among them, Manatee Beach, located right in front of the Mello On The Beach hotel, is one of my favorites. Sink your toes into the powdery sand, soak up the sun, and let the soothing sounds of the waves transport you to a state of pure relaxation.

drone view of sandy beach with parasols and blue ocean on Anna Maria Island, Florida

Bonus Tip: Enhance Your Beach Experience – Make your day at the beach even more extraordinary with the help of → Beach Suites. Their team will create the perfect beach setup for you anywhere on the island. Imagine having your own private pavilion complete with sun loungers, refreshing beverages, games, and everything you could possibly need for a delightful beach day, including sunblock, a power bank, a Bluetooth speaker, and more. With Beach Suites, all you have to do is arrive at the beach in your swimsuit, and they will take care of the rest. At the end of your sun-kissed adventure, they’ll even tidy up, leaving you with nothing but wonderful memories of a day well-spent.

sitting at the beach on Anna Maria Island with a pavilion and games
sitting on a sun chair at the beach on Anna Maria Island in Florida

2) Join a Boat Tour around Anna Maria Island to see dolphins and manatees

The waters around Anna Maria Island are home to around 115 huge bottlenose dolphins. You may know them from the famous movie „Flipper“! This is one of the only few places in the world where the animals live permanently and don’t migrate as there is lots of food for them in the nutritious waters. So your chance of witnessing them is almost 100%. The captain will also ride you to a place where it is highly possible to spot a peaceful manatee and show you the sandy beaches of the West Coast, seen from the water. The cruise with Paradise Boat Tours starts from the Fishing Pier on Bridge Street. I’ll leave you a link to their website → here.

wild bottle nose dolphins in blue water in Florida
wild bottle nose dolphin in blue water in Florida

3) Stroll along the historic Bridge Street

As you step onto Bridge Street, you’ll discover one of Anna Maria Island’s most lively place. It once used to be the place where a wooden bridge, built in 1921/22, was the first real connection from the island to the mainland. So it was the iconic place where all travelers, coming to Anna Maria Island, arrived and had their first contact with the Island.
Today it’s a haven for shopping enthusiasts, food lovers, and adventure seekers alike. Starting from the Fishing Pier on the East Coast all the way to the Beach on the Gulf side of the Island. From stylish boutiques to delectable dining spots, this vibrant street has it all. And when it comes to play, I can highly recommend you playing a round of Mini Golf at „Adventurous Mini Golf“. 

The bridge street on Anna Maria Island in Florida with shops and restaurants

4) Watch the Sunset at the Beach

As all of the beaches on Anna Maria Island are located on the West Coast, they are naturally the best spots to watch the amazingly colorful sunsets! No matter if you prefer to sit in one of the Beachfront Restaurants (I have some suggestions below), have a beach walk or picnic on a blanket – it will surely be romantic! 

sunset at the best of Anna Maria Island in Florida

5) Explore the Pine Avenue

Another historic and well known street on Anna Maria Island is the Pine Avenue leading directly to the famous Anna Maria City Pier. Here you’ll experience the authentic Florida vibes with colorful Key West style buildings, local and sustainable shops or gourmet restaurants. Some of the local favorite shops are: Pink & Navy, Shiny Fish Emporium and Island Cabana! You also need to try an ice cream at Two Scoops (located at the very end of Pine Avenue, just around the corner).

The Anna Maria City Pier seen from above

6) Visit the Historic Anna Maria City Pier

End your stroll on the Pine Avenue with a visit of the historic Anna Maria City Pier. This is where visitors used to arrive back in the days by boat before the first bridge has been built in the early 1920’s. Today you can watch fishermen and pelicans catching fish or stroll to the very end of the pier where you’ll find a little restaurant (which we haven’t tried ourselves).

If you’re in for an early wake up, go watch the sunrise at Anna Maria City Pier, as it is located on the East coast of the island. It only opens shortly before 7 am but the sky will still be filled with beautiful colors.

walking with blue dress during sunrise at the Anna Maria City Pier
sunrise at the Anna Maria City Pier on Anna Maria Island in Florida

7) Enjoy a Sunset Cruise

Something we still had planned but had to cancel last minute due to a tropical rain storm is a sunset boat cruise with Anna Maria Island Dolphin Tours. It would not only have included sunset & dolphin watching but also a dinner on board with food from a local restaurant. I bet it would have been a beautiful experience so make sure to check them out → here!

My Restaurant tips for your visit on Anna Maria Island, Florida:

  • Breakfast at La Crêperie – I promise you will love this place! No matter if you prefer sweet or savory crepes.
  • Breakfast at Anna Maria Beach Cafe  enjoy pancakes or savory meals with feet in sand right at the beach
  • Anna Maria Oyster Bar – As the name already implies, this traditional restaurant, located on the pier, is famous for it’s differently prepared oysters, but you can also enjoy any other kind of fresh seafood or meat options and salad. This is where I tried oysters for the first time and I was surprised how much I liked them – especially the ones baked with parmesan and garlic! Highly recommend this place for an authentic lunch or dinner – prices have also been very reasonable!
  • The Waterfront Restaurant at Anna Maria City Pier – Regarding the taste, this was my favorite restaurant on Anna Maria Island. And I’m not the only one thinking that, so better make a reservation or plan some waiting time (you can stroll over the Anna Maria City Pier while waiting, as it’s just across the street). But the waiting is worth it! Amazing MaiTai‘s and delicious fresh food. We absolutely loved their Chicken Parmigiana Pasta and the sides (which have the size of a main course) like risotto or fried Brussel sprouts!
  • Sunset Dinner at The Beach House Restaurant – one of the best dinner locations on Anna Maria Island. I highly recommend booking a table outside to sit with your feet in the sand, watching the gulf and the sunset while enjoying a fresh local dinner with a „farm to fork“ concept

The Beach House Restaurant

  • Elegant Dinner with feet in sand at Beach Bistro – perfect for a special occasion. Imagine French Bistro vibes – but right at the beach. They have a handful of tables straight in the sand and a few more inside. Thanks to the verandah doors which can be fully opened you still feel like sitting on the beach, even inside. The menu has four courses and changes frequently – for each course you can choose from four options.

The Beach Bistro

The best hotel to stay on Anna Maria Island, Florida

The Mello On The Beach

This brand new beach house property boasts a unique retro design, offering guests a one-of-a-kind experience. The rooms are designed in an apartment style, providing all the comforts of home including a fully equipped kitchen, refrigerator, and even a laundromat. What sets Mello On The Beach apart is the perfect blend of hotel convenience and the freedom of staying in a home away from home, cooking your own food.

One of the highlights of Mello On The Beach is their incredible pool, a true oasis of relaxation and fun,  surrounded by lush tropical surroundings. And speaking of the beach, Mello On The Beach is just one step away from the crystal-clear waters and powdery white sand. Embrace the laid-back island lifestyle as you stroll along the shoreline or simply lounge on the beach, basking in the warmth of the Florida sun.

Mello On The Beach is the perfect choice for your stay on Anna Maria Island.

→ Book your stay now here!

drone photo from the Mello hotel on Anna Maria Island in Florida
pool seen from above at the Mello Hotel on Anna Maria Island in Florida
new and modern hotel on Anna Maria Island in Florida with retro design

Anna Maria Island is a beautiful hidden gem at Florida’s West Coast which can not be missed during your next trip to Florida – especially if you’re seeking pure relaxation and a carefree ambience.

I hope my Anna Maria Travel Guide with the best things to do helps you to plan your own trip for an unforgettable time on the island!

I marked all mentioned places in this blog post in the map below – you can open it in Google Maps with just a click!

Map of Anna Maria Island in Florida:

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  • Brenda Kichurchak

    14. November 2023

    Is everything ok there after the last storm, hurricane?


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