Holidays to Anna Maria Island, Bradenton and the Longboat Key Area transport you to a Florida gone by. Perched right on the Gulf of Mexico, with nothing for miles but sugar-white sands and sunkissed waters, this hidden gem is a chilled-out alternative to some of the state's more well-known locations. Enjoy laid-back days on the beach, kayaking adventures through the mangroves, and those world-famous sunsets.
This paradisiacal stretch of land also serves up a vibrant seafood scene, with quaint fishing spots and family-owned eateries. So make sure to grab yourself a grouper sandwich, or even catch your own supper off the City Pier! And while the island feels secluded, you're only 90 minutes from Orlando, 45 minutes from Tampa and a 3.5 hour drive to Fort Lauderdale.
Things to do
A small and intimate destination in Florida, loved for its slow pace of life, you’ve got an excellent fishing charters, wildlife tours and boutique shopping to explore.
Fishing charters, boating trips and eco-tours
Surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico, Anna Maria Island boasts an extraordinary fishing scene. Venture out to sea on a charter to experience catching your own trout, mackerel and flounder, or spot your first shark on a sight-seeing expedition. And if you’re feeling really fancy, book onto a private cruise for wine, cheese and those famous Florida sunsets.
Anna Maria Island is also lined with a system of waterways teeming with wildlife. Grab a paddle and weave your way through the hidden mangrove tunnels along Lido Keys, to see ospreys, great blue herons, pelicans, wood storks, and bald eagles, to name a few. If you're visiting between March and December you’ll likely encounter manatees. While bottlenose dolphins make an appearance year-round, as they feed and travel through the shallows.
Sun, sea and the beach by horseback
The beaches along Anna Maria Island are pristine, offering miles and miles of soft sand and gentle waves. One of the longest shorelines is Bradenton Beach, a natural setting that sees loggerhead turtles lay their eggs along the dunes from May to October. The waters here are calm and perfect for swimming. At its southern tip, you'll find Coquina, the place to see remarkable shells. From here you can walk along to Leffis Key for the best views of Sarasota Bay. This scenic waterfront is lined with quaint shops, eateries and open-air cafes.
Ever wanted to know what it feels like to ride horseback along the beach? There is nothing quite like the freedom of galloping along the shimmering sands of Palma Sola Bay. Children as young as three can take part too. Trainers will take you for the ride of your life along the shoreline and into the water, even teaching you a few tricks while you're in there!
There are tonnes of watersport adventures to be had too. From jet skiing to surfing along the turquoise waters at Holmes Beach (a must-visit for the all-you-can-eat pancakes).
Bikes, scooters, segways and the famous trolley
Zoom around the island with the wind in your hair and the sun on your face. This beautiful strip of land offers smooth flat planes to ride the coastline by Segway, scooter or bike. You could book a tour to uncover the island's rich history, visiting its famous landmarks, beaches and natural attractions, or simply go your own way. How about renting a tricycle or tandem? You can even add trailers, tag-a-longs and bike seats for your little ones.
Top spots to visit along your trails include the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, Tampa Bay, Anna Maria Sound and Sarasota Bay. You’ll cruise over bridges, see lots of wildlife and cover plenty of ground. Visit the Venetian Intracoastal Waterways to spot eagles, tortoises, manatees and dolphins, or discover art and interactive sculptures along the Bradenton Riverwalk. And if you want to take in the sights from the comfort of an air-conditioned bus, ride the free trolley that runs from City Pier to Coquina Beach, stopping off at fourteen hotspots across the island. With one arriving every 20 minutes, you can just hop on and off at your leisure.
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