Laid Back Island Paradise in Anna Maria Island

Disclosure Anna Maria IslandAnna Maria Island, located on Florida’s Gulf coast, boasts 7 miles of soft white sand beaches.  A true island paradise Anna Maria is home to 3 beach towns: , all of them filled with old Florida beach town charm.  Florida’s Gulf coast has some of the best beaches in the USA and we love to explore the seashore in search for great beaches and fun new experiences and adventures.  We loved the laid back vibe at Anna Maria Island, a world away from places like Miami Beach. Because it’s only 20 minutes away from Bradenton and really close to Sarasota there is a lot to do in the area if you decide you don’t want to spend all your time relaxing on the beach, although if you do I’m not judging: this is the place to do it!

Ann Maria Island sea kayaking Enjoying Nature: For me going to the beach is all about enjoying the outdoors, getting energized by the powerful and beautiful ocean and enjoying nature.  Taking a walk along the beach we encountered so many birds and even found a large area where large billed terns where nesting. My kids where so excited as we watched from a distance fun interactions between fuzzy baby terns and their parents. If you are lucky you might even get to spot a dolphin playing near the shoreline.

Sea Kayaking: If you want to get a new perspective and some exercise sea kayaking is a great option.  Paddling along the shoreline enjoying the beautiful beach and the azure waters is so much fun and my kids really enjoyed their first sea kayak ride with Dad.  You can rent kayaks from AMI Beach Fun rentals, located in Holmes Beach; their service is awesome and they will drop off your kayaks or bikes right at your hotel.

large billed terns nesting in Anna Maria Island
Large billed terns nesting on the beach in Anna Maria Island

Checking out Bradenton Beach Pier: on the southern part of the island Bradenton Beach City the Historic Bradenton Beach City Pier reaches into the Sarasota bay and it’s a favorite of residents and tourists alike. When the original wooden bridge to Anna Maria Island was replaced with a draw bridge, the island side of the bridge was retained to create a fishing pier.

Bradenton Beach Pier
Bradenton Beach Pier

Visiting the South Florida Museum Bishop Planetarium & Parker Manatee Aquarium turned out to be a real treat.  This museum houses exhibits highlighting Florida history from the prehistoric to the present. The Museum also features regularly changing exhibits in the East Gallery. Right now the East Gallery is featuring an children geared, highly interactive exhibit called the Mystery of the Mayan Medallion . My kids had an incredible time pretending to be archeologists and exploring the ancient world of our Guatemalan ancestors, the Mayan people.  They learned about the Mayan language, history and the biodiversity of the Mayan jungles in Central America on the different field stations filled with hands on activities. This temporary exhibit is will be open until September 13th 2015.

South Florida Museum Mystery of the Mayan Medallion temporary exhibit
South Florida Museum Mystery of the Mayan Medallion temporary exhibit

Meeting Snooty, the resident manatee at the Parker Aquarium is a must do if you are in the area. Snooty is a local celebrity and at the ripe age of 65 is also the oldest know manatee.  You can watch as Snooty comes out of the water to get his food from his trainers, this old guy is quite spoiled and will only eat if he is hand fed. We enjoyed learning about his interesting history and about manatees in general.

Snooty at the Parker Manatee Aquarium

Where To Eat

There are lot’s of fun and laid back eateries in the island.  While walking along Bradenton Beach’s main street, Bridge Street, you come upon the Island Creperie:  favorite spot for both locals and tourist alike. This small and charming restaurant offers a wide variety of crepes and other french inspired menu items like .  Their buckwheat crepes are amazing and the extensive menu includes everything from quiches to sandwiches but  as well as a good selection of sweet crepes including flambéed Crepe Suzette and the more tropical Jamaican Crepe: a combination of banana, cinnamon and rum.

Island Creperie in Bradenton Beach

If you have a sweet tooth make sure to visit The Donut Experiment. This small donut shop located at the north end of the island in the town of Anna Maria offers freshly made cake donuts with a wide variety of icings and toppings. You get to pick our icing and topping. There are crazy toppings like bacon and Sriracha and more mainstream sweet combinations like chocolate with Reese’s, which is what my little guy had. They also have some specialty flavors like key lime and every day there is a special donut of the day.  I went with a maple and bacon donut, my first one and even though I am not a huge bacon fan I loved it.

The Donut Experiment Anna Maria Island

Where To Stay

There are plenty of options when it comes to accommodations in Anna Maria Island. We chose to stay at Bungalow Beach Resort. A small compound with 15 charming cedar bungalows filled with old Florida charm give you the sense of spending your vacation on your own private beach house.  Only steps from the beach the bungalows have private patios, full kitchens and there is also an area with grills so you can cook outdoors under the shade of the trees and palm trees.  Our stay was truly magical and relaxing and Bungalow Beach Resort turned out the be the perfect family accommodations for our beach getaway.

Bungalow Beach Resort in Anna Maria Island Florida
Bungalow Beach Resort in Anna Maria Island Florida


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