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Anna Maria Island Information
Anna Maria Island is located on Florida’s glorious west coast 40 miles south of Tampa. The northernmost of a string of barrier islands that extend in a southerly direction in the Gulf of Mexico, Anna Maria Island stretches seven and one-half miles from the waters of Tampa Bay down southwards to Longboat Key Pass. It is surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico on the west, Tampa Bay and Anna Maria Sound on the east and Sarasota Bay to the south.
This narrow barrier island is divided into three areas. Anna Maria lies at the northern end, Holmes Beach is in the center and Bradenton Beach is at the southern tip. Easily accessed by three draw bridges which allow the sailboats to travel through the bay; the first crosses south to the next island and two further bridges extend from the mainland which lies off the island's eastern shore across the Intercostals Waterway and Sarasota Bay. State Road 64 passes through the mainland city of Bradenton and then crosses the northernmost bridge onto the island.
With its temperate subtropical weather, Anna Maria Island has become a favorite destination for visitors and many have returned later to become year-round residents. They are enticed back by the long lazy days, the warm waters of the Gulf, the friendly local population and the incomparable sunsets.
Anna Maria Island's laid back charm lies in its congenial air of leisurely, unhurried tropical living. Each of the three tiny cities on the Island has its own individual village character and all are populated with friendly, easy-going inhabitants. The City of Anna Maria is on the north end of the island, the City of Holmes Beach in the center and the City of Bradenton Beach graces the southern tip. Lush tropical growth line small streets, many of which have a speed limit of just 25 mph. Anglers of all age's fish from sturdy rustic piers and sun worshippers laze or stroll on the magnificent white-sugar sand beaches which fringe the sparkling Gulf of Mexico. Family’s picnic on the beaches or in waterfront parks while on the look out for dolphins swimming by. If you are lucky you will have a glimpse of the elusive manatee, an exciting sight much prized by locals. Boats and jet skis skim over the waves way out in the Gulf while sailboats drift along the coast. Bicyclists pedal around the Island, pausing to take in the eclectic mixture of historic and contemporary buildings or to enjoy a delectable cooler from one of the ice cream parlors.
Anna Maria Island’s weather has distinct seasons. The annual average temperature is 74.8 degrees Fahrenheit. In mid-October, the summer Caribbean trade winds that bring the sun and warm breezes to our island are blocked by cooler weather from the North and the temperatures drop to the 70's overnight, but the days are mostly warm and sunny.
By spring, the cloudless, dry days generally reach temperatures in the 70's and 80's with cooler evenings. Afternoons are punctuated by "sea breezes" from the Gulf that dwindle at sunset. The trade winds typically influence the climate by mid-May with daytime temperatures up to around the 90 degree mark. At this time of year a favorite occupation is strolling down to the beach in the evenings to watch the spectacular sunsets lighting up the whole sky with a myriad of brilliant colors as the sun slowly sinks over the horizon. Steady breezes and the occasional gentle rain lead to comfortable and refreshing evenings.
Our local Publix grocery store is one of the “flagship” stores for that company. They have a superb array of seafood including lobsters, small and large shrimp just ready for anointing with drawn or garlic butter, locally caught juicy, flaky grouper or mahi-mahi to be marinated in teriyaki and perfectly aged steaks to be char-grilled by the pool; plus an endless choice of crisp salads and vegetables. Their bakery continually produces freshly baked breads including their superb White Mountain bread, crispy rye and flavorsome pumpernickel so beloved by the locals. Complement these by some of our superb Florida orange juice produced just over on the mainland in Bradenton at Tropicana or a flavorsome Californian chardonnay or merlot and you have one of the ultimate dining experiences simply prepared right there in your own vacation home.
If you like to dine out then Anna Maria Island features many excellent dining experiences, each with its own unique flavor. Our diverse island cuisine ranges from fine dining in one of America’s best restaurants The Beach Bistro which is listed in the Zagat guide, to breakfast in a Café on the Beach featuring all you can eat pancakes while you sit with your feet in the sand. Also include restaurants French, German, Italian, British, Oriental and Spanish to Southern Florida seafood, spicy Caribbean and even an occasional Hawaiian Luau and you will see that you are spoiled for choice. Oh, yes, you can also get a really good American hamburger washed down by a really cold beer or a jug of ice water to cool you down after a hard day at the beach.
Whether you choose Gulf or Bayside dining in an air-conditioned picture-window setting or eating al fresco at outdoor table, our local restaurants offer an ambiance that encompasses the nature of this island paradise. Anna Maria Island is now home to many chefs who have achieved local recognition for their tasty presentations and imaginative recipes. The warm waters of the gulf and bay surrounding the island yield harvest of culinary delights such as red snapper, grouper, mullet and blue crab; if you arrive while the luscious stone crab is in season then you are in for a real delight.
In the evenings you can also find food and drink mixed with music and dancing. Dixieland jazz mingles with popular songs, reggae, Caribbean blues and rock and roll music. There is a variety of entertainment for everyone to enjoy. The two local newspapers compete to provide you with a comprehensive list of all the venues, events and restaurant specials for the week ahead.
As an aside, if the kids are desperate for a McDonalds, then head over to the mainland for ten-pin bowling followed by a burger on the way home.
Things to Do
Whether you seek warmth and sunshine, natural beauty, cultural outlets or a sportsmen’s challenge, Anna Maria Island supplies the setting and inspiration and you’ll find it easy to fit in. If you just want to relax and laze on the beach, topping up your suntan, reading a good book and occasionally cooling off in the Gulf waters then make for the beach. Anna Maria Island’s public beaches accesses at Bay front Park, Manatee, Cortez and Coquina are located along the length of the Island. You can walk the whole length of the island’s westerly shore at the waterline on the soft white sand beach which curves gently all the way from the north end over looking Tampa bay to the southern tip at Coquina.
If you do not have a car or do not want to drive, the island has several efficient taxi services and a free trolley service that runs up and down the island passing by every 20 minutes. Alternatively rent a bicycle from the island rental store
For those of you that like to fish, the choice of fishing styles is as varied as the game fish in the area. The island offers three fishing piers: The Rod & Reel Bradenton Beach or Anna Maria. Charter a professional local captain and his craft for sport fishing or pack yourself a picnic and join the jaunty Miss Cortez for half a day or a full day out on the Gulf at some of the best fishing spots which lie out in the warm waters. The local fishing shops sell bait and tackle and can issue a temporary fishing license so you can fish off the beach.
Boating & Water Sports
If you bring your own boat to the island, launch your craft at Kingfish Ramp, Bayside or Holmes Beach City. Or you can rent a craft to fit your needs — power or a leisurely sailboat. Cruise the inland waters of the bay following the markers and stopping off at one of the waterside restaurants for lunch. Make deep-sea offshore runs or angle in the flats and shallow waters that surround the Island. See dolphins leaping in and out of the wake of motorboats and out in the Gulf experience the exhilaration of watching the tarpon running.
Powerboat, jet ski and sailboat rentals which meet the specific nautical needs of boating families are all available and for the really adventurous, get a birds eye view of Maria Island from the air by hooking onto one of the professional Para sail boats for the experience of a life time along the shores of the Gulf.
Snorkeling and Diving? No problem, just get in touch with one of the local dive centers for advice, group dives and equipment rental.
Put on your tennis shoes; grab your racquet and then head out to the superb public courts in Anna Maria or Holmes Beach. If you would like to sharpen up your tennis skills then contact the internationally famous Bollettieri Tennis and Sports Academy in nearby Bradenton where daily and weekly lessons are available. The academy is where many of the tennis superstars of today train and hone their competitive skills.
Tee off at nearby superb Florida golf courses. The Manatee/Sarasota bi-county area provides you with a choice of more than 45 courses ranging from tight executive par threes to challenging championship 18s that will test any golfer’s ability from tee to green. To improve your game, the internationally famous David Leadbetter Golf Academy is also located in Bradenton.
On the mainland visit Myakka State Park to see alligators, birds, wild boar and experience airboat rides. See a colorful array parrots and other Florida wildlife at Parrot Jungle in Sarasota. Try your hand at ten-pin bowling, take in a game or take in a movie. If you really want a whole day of lively entertainment then gather up the family and head on up over the spectacular Sunshine Skyway Bridge to visit the world famous Busch Gardens theme park for a day out to remember. Their Adventure Island water park is also terrific fun with plenty of thrills for all ages. Alternatively the spectacular six million-dollar Aquariums are teeming with undersea life.
In two hours you can be in Orlando, home to Disneyworld, Seaworld and the Epcot Center. Drive up early in the morning and if you stay to take in one of the amazing evening firework displays, then just sleep overnight in one of the many hundreds of hotels, motels or bed & breakfast accommodations in Orlando.
Shopping on Anna Maria Island is as diverse as the personalities of its three cities. To the north, the City of Anna Maria offers a full service marina as well as souvenirs, jewelry, clothing and antique shops along Pine Avenue and Gulf Drive.
Holmes Beach has a great shopping center in a seven-block section of town near the intersection of Gulf Drive, which includes several restaurants and cafes alongside art, gifts, superb beach and casual wear. Further south, near Manatee Avenue and East Bay Boulevard you can find the grocery store, casual clothes, beachwear, gifts, well as restaurants, ice cream parlor, a rental store, bars. Pharmacies, dental clinic & doctors office,
To the south, newly restored historic Bridge Street on Bradenton Beach. Is home to many eclectic small shops offering an interesting blend of arts, crafts and fashion. Stop in for lunch at the local Inn, plus you can write your postcards and mail them home from the friendly local post office. Gulf Drive is the backbone of Bradenton Beach; here you will fish & bait shops, restaurants, small shops and roadside stores offering a chance to buy a memory of the Island. If you like to shop then shopping on Anna Maria Island is an experience to be savored as much as Island’s white sandy beaches.
Further south, St. Armand’s Circle offers designer clothes, art galleries and internationally renowned boutiques complemented by exotic restaurants, coffee shops, hand made chocolates and ices to restore the energy of the shopper.
For those that believe no vacation is complete without “shop-till-you-drop”, the nearby mainland cities of Bradenton and Sarasota have four huge shopping malls containing nationally recognized department retailers as well as hundreds of specialty shops. There are also two Factory Direct malls out on the I-75 Interstate featuring nationally and internationally recognized brands at cheapest prices reflecting the “factory - direct to you” pricing.
If you are looking for casual island vacation wear or the latest in haute-couture fashion, you will find the bi-county area including Anna Maria Island offers a complete range of children and adult fashion choices
Planning to stay on the island for a long visit?
Pay a visit to the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce for comprehensive information on all events, services and businesses on the island. They will update you on the cultural/social side of Anna Maria Island which boasts Island Players, Island Branch of the Manatee County Library, Tingley Library, Garden Club (two), Kiwanis Club, Rotary Club, Art League, Artists Guild, Historical Society, Privateers, Power Squadron, Turtle Watch, Shrine Club, Loyal Order of Moose, Audubon Society, Women’s Clubs, Community Center, as well as seven churches and other social organizations which are active on the island.
The nearby mainland cities of Bradenton and Sarasota host many attractions, including Bishop Planetarium, DeSoto National Park & Memorial Mansion, Manatee Players, The Art League of Manatee County, The Asolo Center for the Performing Arts, Ringling Museum of Art, Manatee Community College, University of South Florida, Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, the Sarasota West Coast Symphony, the Sarasota Ballet of Florida and the Jazz Club and the main Tourist Bureau & Information Center.