Quiet Anna Maria Island, FL Is A Secret Gem

Quiet Anna Maria Island, FL Is A Secret Gem

Florida is notorious for raucous spring breaks and retirement communities. Anna Maria Island, or AMI as the locals call it, is a far cry from both of these realities. Instead, one can find the “Old Florida” charm of white sand beaches, fresh seafood, friendly locals, and an overall relaxing vibe. In a nutshell, being on Anna Maria Island equals chilling out. Whether you are a couple looking for a romantic getaway, a family in need of enough space to play, or friends booking a reunion, there is something for everyone on this key.

Beaches, beaches, beaches

White Sand Beaches Welcome Visitors to AMI

Let’s get to the point; the one reason why we all gravitate to Florida in the winter is for the beaches. AMI’s beaches are exceptional with clean, sugary sands that are not heavily populated. Three towns inhabit the island: Holmes Beach to the north, Anna Maria in the middle, and to the south, Bradenton Beach. The island is approximately seven miles (11.26 km) long and has a trolley system that runs for free! Each beach has a slightly different personality from Manatee Beach where volleyball courts and concession stands are abound, to Coquina Beach, which is famous for beachcombing.

Unique wildlife

Sea Turtles Nest on AMI!
Source: Pixabay

Anna Maria Island is unique in many ways, but especially when it comes to wildlife. From May to October, sea turtles call AMI home. In fact, five species of sea turtles swim and feed around AMI, with the Loggerhead being the most common to nest. AMI is also an excellent place for birders. Shorebirds such as Black Skimmers, American Oystercatchers, and Snowy Plovers all nest on AMI, and many others feed and visit the island. Both sea turtles and shorebirds are protected by the local watch, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch & Shorebird Monitoring.

Fresh food—by the water!

Fresh Seafood is a Must

In my mind, travel always goes hand in hand with eating. Luckily, AMI is a stand out when it comes to fresh, local food. Visit the Cortez Historic Fishing Village on the southern end of the island to see traditional fishing practices of the area. If you time it right, each February the village holds its own Fishing Festival, to celebrate and of course, eat the fish of the area. Even if you can’t make it there during the festival, The Starfish Company, a wholesale fish market that also has a dockside restaurant, is the place to go. Because everything is fresh, fresh, fresh, go with the catch of the day. Grouper is a local specialty and can be ordered fried, sauteed, or blackened for 13 USD for the light option or 16 USD for the heavier fare.

Slow down

Hiking and Biking Are Great Ways to See AMI

Ever heard of island time? Well, that’s the magic of AMI. Everything seems to move at a slower speed (especially if you are a Northerner like me!). Not only are the locals friendly as can be, but it seems the rhythm of life is all about taking it easy. If you feel up to it, biking is a great way to get around the island, and there are plenty of bike rental options available. Beach Bums AMI is a great resource for not only bike rentals but also kayaks, golf carts, and stand up paddle boards. A rental for 14 USD a day for bikes cannot be beat.

Vacation rental options

A Multitude of Great Vacation Rentals Await

When we traveled to AMI, we booked through Airbnb for about 100 USD a night. This was a one-bedroom apartment that had a kitchenette and swimming pool on premise. And we were literally steps from the beach! Because AMI is a tourist based economy, their aim is to please. Whether through Airbnb, VRBO, or by using a local source such as Anna Maria Island Beachfront Vacation Rentals, almost any spot on the island is a good spot to be.

Easy to reach

Beaches Await and Are Easy to Reach

Just an hour plus south of Tampa, FL, it is easy to fly into Tampa International Airport, rent a car, and drive south. The route is short and scenic passing over one of Florida’s classic bridges that stretches into the Gulf of Mexico, The Skyway Bridge. Orlando is a just about two hours away, so if someone really wants to go to Disney World, the option is there. Additionally, it is easy to travel the southwest of Florida visiting Sarasota (40 minutes) or even down to Fort Myers (just under 2 hours away).

A vacation well spent

Even if you do literally nothing more than head to the beach while on Anna Maria Island, it is time well spent. Just a week at AMI feels like much needed tender loving care. Unwind, relax, and enjoy what only the lull of the ocean can do. Anna Maria Island is a secret gem worth venturing to.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Raised in the woods of Northern Wisconsin, adventure pulses through Samantha's veins. Her most notable trips have been a tandem bicycle ride 1,000 miles to New Orleans, surviving malaria in Kenya,...Read more

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