Relaxed Vibes on Anna Maria Island, FL
Old Florida Feel
Our family usually likes a mix of activities and relaxation while on vacation, so at first I was a bit hesitant to vacation on AMI, but I was in for a lovely surprise. This seven mile long island is described as quiet with no high-rises and very few chain restaurants. There are only three communities on the island: the village of Anna Maria Island at the tip, Holmes Beach in the middle and Bradenton Beach to the south that connects via bridge to the mainland village of Cortez.
We stayed in Holmes Beach and were a short walk to the many public access points to the powdery white beach. Each day we enjoyed some time on the beach, either walking in the mornings and finding shells, soaking up the sun in the afternoons and spotting dolphins right offshore in the aqua water, or watching the sunset and stargazing later at night.
Because we were in the middle of the island, we opted to rent bikes (all the rental places deliver and pick up to your location for free) and were so glad we mostly parked our car for the week! It was a good 15 minute ride to the tip of the island and the village of Anna Maria Island and it was so nice to have the bike lanes with all of the car and golf cart traffic. Another option would be to take the free trolley or ride the Monkey Bus (they work for tips only) but the more active members of our family appreciated the exercise.
If you need more activity than playing at the beach or bike riding, then Anna Maria Island is a good base for exploring. We headed south one day along Longboat Key to Lido Key and St. Armand's Circle. We shopping and dined our way around the circle, but appreciated the quieter feel of AMI. Another day we headed north through Bradenton and across the Sunshine Skyway Bridge that spans the mouth of Tampa Bay. The views on our way to Fort DeSoto Park were pretty fantastic. You can easily spend an afternoon exploring the park and enjoying the trails, but we chose to take a ferry to Shell Key for the day.
This 200 acre barrier island is a preserve for migrating birds and only accessible by boat. The beaches of AMI didn't feel crowded at all (even during Spring Break) but the beach along Shell Key was even less inhabited and was a wonderful place to walk and find sand dollars, numerous types of large shells, and enjoy the antics of the dolphins, pelicans and ibises. It would be easy (and beautiful) to kayak to Shell Key but the coves and shores along Sarasota Bay along AMI are also great places to paddle as well.
So Much Good Food
One of our favorite times of day was to head out for happy hour and finding a great seafood dinner. We had plenty of places to choose from within walking distance, like Hurricane Hanks and the Doctor's Office and even places that had live music too like Ugly Grouper and Freckled Fin. We also enjoyed the Sandbar at the north end of the island and the Beach House in Bradenton Beach which are a few places with seating on the beach and were great places to watch the sunset during dinner.
We also loved how easy Scott’s Deli made it to order delicious sandwiches and pick them up while we headed out on adventures or had them delivered for free while we sat at the beach - can't get any better than that!
Our vacation on AMI was a lovely, relaxed week with just enough activities to keep everyone happy. With beautiful views, wildlife, and great food, our week together was filled with good memories and would be great for couples or families with kids of any age.