Siesta Beach, named the Best Beach in America by Dr. Beach with the softest, whitest in the USA off the coast of Sarasota Florida in Southwest Florida on the Gulf of Mexico.
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  Exploring...
ANNA MARIA ISLAND
off the coast of Bradenton in SW Florida

A vacation Travel Guide to Anna Maria Island, Bradenton Beach, & Holmes Beach in Manatee county Florida

  Visit Old Florida .....The way things used to be
on Florida's Sun Coast on the Gulf of Mexico with its Beautiful White Sandy Beaches,
Challenging Golf Courses, Warm Breezes and Magnificent Sunsets!

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Looking for several beaches on one beautiful island? Anna Maria Island has six... Coquina Beach, Manatee Beach, Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach, Cortez Beach and Anna Maria Beach.

South of Tampa Bay on the west coast of Florida lies the isle of Anna Maria, located off shore from the City of Bradenton. Old Florida charm is the essence of Anna Maria’s seven mile stretch of pristine living... where a sandy beach is literally... a stroll away.

Surrounded by the warm emerald waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Tampa and Sarasota Bay, this is where dolphins and manatees raise their young and where loggerhead turtles nest on its sugar-white shores. Sans the High-rises, theme parks and water slides, this little island is a fishing birding, kayaking paradise.

There are three cities on the island, each with its own special flare.

Located at the northern tip, the City of Anna Maria is a quiet residential community with an abundance of rental homes and cottages. Most residents prefer to ride their bikes, as the “City” is really not a City but, a quaint little village.

Pine Street serves as the main thoroughfare from bay to beach where charming family owned stores and cafes are housed in quaint Florida cottages. There’s only... "one"... small shopping center with novelty shops, island clothing and ice cream parlor. Many artists reside in the area where nearby galleries sell their wares.

The city’s Anna Maria Beach is accessible by parking along the side streets of Gulf Drive. This spectacular beach has expansive views of the Gulf of Mexico, St. Petersburg and the Skyway Bridge.
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At the widest point and the center of the island is the City of Holmes Beach featuring restaurants, shops and the "only" grocery store on the island. You’ll find plenty of beach access along side streets dotted with condos, houses and mom and pop motels. If you’re looking for a more conventional beach with a concession stand, volley ball courts, water sport rentals and a play yard, Manatee Beach is the spot for you.

Heading south, the City of Bradenton Beach features historic Bridge Street for interesting shopping and a great seafood restaurant on the pier overlooking Sarasota Bay. Events such as “Movie Night”, “Mardi Gras”, Art and Car Shows are regularly featured. Fortunately, Eateries and nightly entertainment are all within walking distance.

Across from Bridge Street and heading south is Cortez Beach followed by Coquina Beach, a 96- acre Australian pine shaded oasis. On the bay side are sandy paths lined with lush foliage leading to Sarasota Bay. This is a haven for shore birds like osprey, least terns, oyster catchers, herons and where fishermen enjoy a tug on the line.


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Shelling:For the serious beachcomber, the most important thing about shelling is to know the tides. Charts are featured in most local newspapers, as the best shell are found just before low tide. Another opportune time is after a storm – advancing cold fronts tend to push water away from the beach and tropical storms can churn up the tides bringing shells ashore.

Below are three excellent locations for shelling:
  1. Park at the pier near Alamand and North Shore and walk counter clockwise around the tip of the island. It is a very short walk and although shelling is sporadic there are lots of starfish.
  2. Park near the gulf front park at Gulf Blvd and Palm Ave. This is the best area for shelling, especially at low tide when the sandbar extends out into the gulf a few hundred yards ...on a good day.
  3. Take the ferry to Egmont Key and pick shells until you can't carry anymore.

Identifying your Shells:The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum has a great online shell guide that will help you recognize the various pieces in your collection. To browse shells commonly found in South West Florida by photo go to their Website
.


Snorkeling: Manatee County has created eight near-shore and five off-shore artificial reefs in the Gulf of Mexico, Tampa Bay and Sarasota Bay. The Three Mile North Reef being the largest. For coordinates, Click HERE.

Divers may find lobster, stone crab, and all kinds of colorful tropical reef fish such as trigger fish, damsel fish (including beau gregories), angel fish, and tangs. Close inspection might reveal larger sport fish, including grouper and snapper, hiding out in various crevices. An assortment of invertebrates, ranging from barnacles to sea urchins, can be found clinging to the reef structure. currents, poor visibility, and entanglements.

Please remember to exercise caution due to strong tidal Seven mile reefs typically have better visibility.

Fishing: With seven miles of beach, fishing piers and bridges anglers are bound to catch Redfish, Snapper, Mackerel, Black Drum, Snook, Trout and Amberjack.

Cast a line from one of three piers where the bait shops are always stocked with tackle and supplies. Historic Bridge Street Pier in the City of Bradenton Beach features Rotten Ralph’s with old-fashioned comfort food, friendly people and great water views. There’s also a bathhouse and restrooms, bait and tackle shop, a Harbormaster’s Office and a 300 foot lighted floating dock.

The City of Anna Maria offers two great Piers, one on the northeast side of Anna Maria Island called the Rod and Reel that stretches 350 feet in length and extends into the waters of Tampa Bay (a nominal $2 fee for dropping a line). There’s also a 2 story landmark restaurant called The Rod and Reel.

A short drive south of the Rod and Reel is the City Pier on South Bay Boulevard. It too, is located on the northeast side of Anna Maria and extends some 700 feet into southern Tampa Bay.

Other hot locations can be found at:
 Longboat Pass Bridge - at southern end of Anna Maria connecting Bradenton Beach to the north end of Longboat Key.
 Longboat Pass - at southern end of Coquina Beach.
 Coquina Beach - on the bay side of Coquina Beach.

Looking for better action? Charter a professional captain and his craft or join the Miss Cortez for a half or full day out on the Gulf. Even local bait shops will issue a temporary license... for fishing on the beach!

Depending on the season there’s always something biting.

Bringing a boat? Launch areas can be found at:
 Bayside Park - Gulf Dr.
 Bradenton Beach Coquina Beach - Gulf Dr.
 Bradenton Beach Kingfish - Manatee Ave.,
 Holmes Beach Memorial Park - 63rd St., Holmes Beach

Kayaking: Those with Kayaks and canoes will enjoy slipping into Palma Sola Bay along Cortez Road and head to the watery mangrove tunnels of Robinson Preserve. A boardwalk crosses a section of the western shore where bikes and rollerblades can travel paved trails while shelled paths snake along Tampa Bay and the mouth of the Manatee River. Oh, and ...your four legged friend can join you...as long as... their behaved and on a leash.

Don’t have a kayak?

Kayak rentals on Anna Maria Island can get you to such areas as Bimini Bay. Located off the Gulf of Mexico this is an amazing area to explore. Paddle through the mangroves and search for birds of all types and keep an eye out for manatees and dolphins enjoying the sea grass and calm waters.

Inside Bimini Bay, the conditions are particularly peaceful. Beginners or those who don’t know how to swim will feel very safe. Surrounded by land, except for the channel out to Tampa Bay, the water is usually flat and shallow. Birdlife is also plentiful with osprey, pelicans and terns. Towering Australian Pines grace the shore where Great blue herons raise their young.

Named after George Emerson Bean, (the first person to reside on Anna Maria) is Bean Point, located at the northern end. The crystal blue water attracts dolphins, manatees and where shells, starfish and sand dollars are plentiful. There is a very strong current through these waters so swimming is not recommended. This location is for more experienced kayakers.

There’s a kayak trail among mangroves south of Manatee Avenue and there are plenty of launching locations at the south end of Coquina Beach and across the street on the bay side.

Robinson Preserve is great fun for individuals, families and four legged friends. There are plenty of hiking/biking trails and kayak adventures to enjoy. You might want to bring a picnic, bathing suit, binoculars and shoes for hiking the big tower to the observation deck. From the deck you’ll have panoramic views of the Skyway Bridge, St. Petersburg and Bradenton... And, you might spot our resident eagles as well. So be ready for a full day of adventure.

Guided tours and kayak rentals are available. Click HERE.
For a great full body workout or afloat with the current, you’ll certainly enjoy kayaking on Anna Maria Island.

Horseback Surfing
You’ve never heard of this? Believe it or not, “ Horse Surfing ” was invented right here in Bradenton, Florida! The smooth sandy shore and calm waters of Palma Sola Bay are perfect for a guide-led refreshing dip while you... swim...ski...and surf, all on the back of a well trained animal! Recommended for all ages, swim suits, shorts and tees are advised as there are no saddles and you will get wet and you’re bound to have a great time!


Need a place to stay?
From luxurious, grand and sophisticated to economical, charming and quaint, search our Rental Listings to find your perfect piece of paradise.

Beyond the beaches there’s plenty to do

For starters, why not get a lay of the land by leaving your car behind and riding the "FREE trolleys". They travel from Manatee Beach, Coquina Beach, Anna Maria Pier, Longboat, St. Armand’s Circle, and Sarasota with service from 6:00a.m. till 10:30p.m. and arrive every 20-30 minutes.

Over 60 Golf Courses and numerous tennis courts, including Leddbetter/ Bollitierri’s IMG Sports Facility await your arrival. Meanwhile, the island’s public tennis courts can be found in the city of Anna Maria or Holmes Beach. Baseball enjoys a rich tradition at Bradenton’s McKechnie Field where the Pittsburgh Pirates conduct their spring training and the Bradenton Marauders fill the summer with minor league play. Just minutes north is the Skyway Bridge to St. Pete for more baseball with the Tampa Bay Ray’s.
  

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If coming in July, the Gulf of Mexico explodes with rooster tail plumes featuring the Sun Coast Off shore Grand Prix Races. This nationally sanctioned American Power Boat Race is the highlight of a 10 day festival.

Families will surely enjoy Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, located at the south end of Longboat Key featuring sharks, dolphins, manatees and sea turtles and 100 other species of marine life. Across from Mote Marine is " Save Our Birds ", where recovering shorebirds are housed on two waterfront acres.

And, don’t forget to plan for a trip on the Sarasota Bay Explorers, Sarasota Jungle Gardens, G. Wiz Hands on Museum, Ringling Circus Museum and Big Cat Habitat are just to name a few. Then with Tampa and St. Pete only minutes away there’s the Glazer Children’s Museum, Busch Gardens and much, much, more. Our Vacation Planner can assist you with age appropriate activities.

Checking the schedules of Sarasota’s Van Wezel and St. Petersburg Times Forum are great choices for top rated concerts and international acts. Theatre groups can be found at Anna Maria’s Island Players, Bradenton’s Manatee Players, Sarasota, Tampa / St. Pete’s Mahaffey Theatre.

If art is your passion, the Anna Maria Arts Center sponsors two major annual festivals known as the Winter & Spring Fests while Bradenton is home to a large artist community called the Village of the Arts. Sarasota’s Ringling Museum houses fine baroque period paintings including the oversized works of Rubens and many sculptures from John and Mable Ringling’s collection. For unusual and surreal, there’s always the Dali Museum with a building to match the artist’s quirky ways and the Morean Arts Center has a fine collection of Dale Chihuly with a working hot shop for glass blowing demonstrations.

Dining and Nightlife:

After a day at the beach, shopping, or seeing the sights... it's time to do the town. On or off island, there are plenty of dining choices and evenings come to life with an assortment of establishments featuring Jimmy Buffett, Jazz, Blues, Reggae, Salsa and more.

YES, Anna Maria Island is a Paradise that’s worth visiting............... For a Lifetime!

Check what the major publications have to say...

 USA Today... "In the age of $400-a-night beachfront resorts and mondo-condo high rises, it's hard to find an unassuming, wallet-friendly "Old Florida" vacation spot. Anna Maria, an easy drive from Tampa and Sarasota and just north of more developed Longboat Key, is one of few remaining." read more

 New York Times..."FLORIDA is a clever little peninsula. Just when you think you’ve seen everything under its proverbial sun, you stumble across a place like Anna Maria Island — a seven-mile slip of cushy white sand tucked in the Gulf of Mexico where you can dump the car, rent a bike, swim in smooth, teal waters and eat remarkably well." read more

We thank you for visiting our site and we look forward to assisting you with your stay.

For More Anna Maria Island Information, click HERE


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