Anna Maria Island, Florida
Anna Maria Island is situated west of Bradenton and south of the Tampa Bay. Even when it is an island living on tourism, it kept its very natural and residential character over many years – last but not least because hotels are strictly limited in height.
Being far away from having crowed beaches is Anna Maria Island the perfect spot to relax.
People living here have a relaxed life-style, Anna Maria Island calls it “an unhurried tropical living.”
Three tiny little cities make-up the island plus their magnificent white, and partly secluded, sand beaches. Anna Maria, Holmes Beach, and Bradenton Beach.
Small restaurants and cafes and rustic, sturdy piers offer the unparalleled opportunity to live life at a slow pace in a tropical setting. Even if the restaurants and cafes, some of them directly at the sand beach, have all what one needs, don’t come to Anna Maria Island, if you are seeking great nightlife and a beach resort party zone. Come here when you’d like to listen to Caribbean live music with a cold beer and lobster in front of you while watching a sunset… you know what I mean?
Temperatures in Anna Maria Island
in Celsius (Fahrenheit)
From June, 1st to November, 30th is Hurricane season in Florida.
It’s important to remain updated by radio and TV about upcoming storm systems. Voluntary / mandatory evacuations of regions at risk are possible.
Best time to travel / Season
Most pleasant time to visit is probably fall, winter & spring. The humidity is far less than during summer and it’s a pleasure to enjoy evenings on a porch or at the beach.
Summer time brings a lot of thunderstorms and a high humidity.
Spring and early summer is ideal to watch turtle nests and the hatchlings on their way to the ocean.
Climate and Temperatures
The Island has four distinctive seasons. In mid-October, the summer Caribbean trade winds are blocked by the first northern cold front. Temperatures drop to the 70’s overnight, as does the humidity. Not far from the Dec. 22 winter solstice, strong cold fronts reach Southwest Florida. The days are mostly warm and sunny; nights call for sweaters and light jackets.
By spring, the dry, cloudless days reach temperatures in the 70’s and 80’s with cool, crisp evenings. Afternoons are punctuated by “sea breezes” from the Gulf which dwindle at sunset. The trade winds typically influence the climate by mid-May, daytime temperatures up around the 90 degree mark. Steady breezes and gentle rainstorms lend to comfortable and refreshing evenings. The annual average temperature is 74.8 degrees Fahrenheit. The annual average rainfall is 55.67 inches.
Dining, fishing and relaxing are the best activities to perform here.
The two other piers are situated at the north tip of the island and belong to the city of Anna Maria. One is the privately owned Rod & Reel Pier (North Shore Dr), which is always a good place to dine and for fishing.
Only about one or two hundred meters (300-600 ft) away east (N Bay Blvd), you find the famous public Anna Maria pier, which is owned by the city.
It’s the place to hang out and relax. Some evenings with live music, of course Caribbean style steel bands or Florida type performers. The restaurant is simple or let’s say simply perfect. Don’t expect fancy table decorations – it’s casual and has a very friendly staff.
Try any seafood you want – from lobster to snapper. Outside and inside seating available. On the deck you can also have some snacks and you sit along with people fishing here.
When you watch a sunset later, you think Anna Maria is the place to stay forever.
The entire beach is open to the public. If you come to the island over the ‘Manatee bridge’ you directly approach the stretch of the beach which is a designated public beach with life guards on duty. Also a restaurant and restrooms are available. This is a great place if you have children and want a safe area. This stretch belongs to the city of Holmes Beach.
The Gulf Drive is the street (as the name already suggests), which runs parallel to the beach: nearly the entire way from south to north! And it’s an official Florida scenic byway – at least from the south tip of the island up to 2.8 mi north of Bradenton Beach.
Back to our position at the public beach stretch. If you turn south on Gulf Drive you get into Bradenton Beach. Focusing on the beach we’re interested in the area to the west. Beach bars, shops and beach volley are waiting to get explored by the traveler. Here’s the right place for all who are seeking a little activity combined with people watching.
Further south on the right (west) side of Gulf Drive we reach Coquina Beach, which is the largest beach here on Anna Maria. Picnic tables, restrooms and life guards make it to a fantastic spot of Anna Maria.
Now let’s go from our initial position (the public beach area) to the north on Gulf Drive. First we drive through ‘downtown’ Holmes Beach, city number two on Anna Maria Island (please notice that this city has hardly 5.000 residents, so you know what downtown means…). Holmes Beach is a little more residential than Bradenton Beach and has beautiful motels and smaller hotels, but most accommodations are vacation rentals. When you follow now Gulf Drive in northern direction you have got the Gulf of Mexico and the beach, beach and more beach to your left side. Beach access is possible every few hundred meters.
But the perfect beach is yet to come. Following Gulf Drive further north leads you to the City of Anna Maria, which is mostly residential, just a handful motels, bars, and shops. And it has these dream beaches: white sand and nearly nobody here.
Best secluded white sand beach of the island
Best secluded beach of the island can be found at the north-western tip of the island. You have to find the small public paths through the residences. No public parking available. Use the streets, but be very careful to comply with all parking rules. A couple of centimeters/ inches too far on the street with your tires and you pay your first ticket of the day. But having this in mind you will find a lot of space to park one or two blocks away from the beach.
Alternative: you park somewhere in Holmes Beach, go to the beach and follow it in northern direction. It gives the best impression of all. You’ll pass private residences, the Sand Bar (for refreshing purposes) and you continue north to the tip of the island where the gulf meets the bay. Walk further around the tip and you’ll find that you cannot proceed on the beach and have to exit. Just walk on the street the same direction and you make it to the Rod & Reel Pier for another snack or drink. Or… just a few hundred yards further you’ll reach the Anna Maria Pier for great fish dishes and cold beers. And live music.
If you drive to far you reach already the northern area of the island, which is fantastic in another way. Shortly before you reach the Rod & Reel Pier you get to another public beach area with picnic tables and so on. A great place for a BBQ and watching a sunset. From here it’s also not far (only a two or three minutes beach walk to the above mentioned north-west tip of Anna Maria with its beautiful beach).
Drinking and Dining
Whatever you prefer – either white table clothes or casual atmosphere in an open-air restaurant – there are many of choices when it comes to dining.
To watch the sunset you should visit the Sandbar or the Beachhouse, both located directly on the beach.
Here some addresses:
200 Gulf Drive, Bradenton Beach
100 Spring Avenue (geht vom Gulf Drive weg)
City of Anna Maria
5360 Gulf Dr. (Downtown)
D Coy Ducks Bar & Grille
5410 Marina Dr.
“White Table Clothes” Dining
Sign of the Mermaid
9707 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria City
5808 Marina Dr.
Holmes Beach, FL 34217
5346 Gulf Dr., Holmes Beach (Downtown)
Old Hamburg Schnitzelhaus
3246 E Bay Dr, Holmes Beach
(Editorial note: when we visited it definitely was super authentic German Food which is rare to find in the United States)
Anna Maria Pier
at the northern tip of the island
Rod & Reel Pier
at the northern tip of the island
Star Fish Company Dockside Restaurant
12306 46th Ave W, W Cortez, FL
(Editorial note: Coming from Anna Maria Island, using the southern draw bridge to Cortez Rd, the location is on the south side of Cortez right after you come to the mainland)
Shopping on the island and nearby
Anna Maria Island offers some nice places to shop, but don’t expect huge malls with all major department stores – but this type of mall wouldn’t even fit here. Every of the three cities has a unique and different small shopping area.
Bradenton Beach, the most southern of the three cities, has on the one hand many small shops, most of them beach and tourism oriented, along Gulf Drive. On the other hand there is the hstoric Bridge Street area, where many art and craft shops are located.
Holmes Beach has a small mall at Marina Drive / Gulf Drive in midst of their tiny city center. The spectrum reaches from an ice parlor over boutiques and a flower shop to a hardware store as well as a small grocery shop.
Anna Maria has its relatively new Bayview Plaza located at the northern tip of the island with shops and offices and as well a small shopping area east off Gulf Drive (shortly after you enter city limits). This little mall in particular has an ice parlor you shouldn’t miss at all.
If you have have need for a bigger grocery shopping then the first choice is the PUBLIX market at the crossing Manatee Ave and East Bay Drive. You can’t miss it: when coming from Bradenton over the Manatee Bridge it’s at the first big crossing on the island.
Shopping near Anna Maria Island
Should you have need for a more intense shopping with supermarkets, department stores and fashion boutiques, you just have to leave the island and you got it all in Bradenton.
Another hot spot is St. Armand’s Circle located just south of Longboat Key, which is the next island south of Anna Maria Island. You have to cross entire Longboat and after about 15 minutes you reach St. Armand’s Circle with elegant boutiques and nice restaurants. Don’t miss Tommy Bahama’s restaurant there!