Anna Maria Island is a 7 mile long barrier island south of Tampa and north of Sarasota off of Bradenton in Florida, so it may surprise you that there are 3 small cities contained on the island – Anna Maria City, Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach. Each city has a distinct feel about it, and many people have a strong preference for one over the others.
You’re likely to be happy in any one of these tropical oasis’, but what makes each one special?
Found on the north end of the island, Anna Maria is usually thought of as the quietest of the 3 cities. It has meandering streets lined with both older beach cottages and newer, larger beach homes, and they are quite lovely for bike riding. It boasts one of the most popular attractions on the island – Pine Avenue, which is known as the “greenest little main street in America” (as in the environment). Pine Avenue is charming, lined with boutique shops and wooden boardwalks – one could spend many an afternoon meandering up and down its length. You’ll find everything from fashion, beach souvenirs, coffee shops, restaurants, ice cream…..the list goes on.
The cherry on top of Pine Ave is that it ends on the Gulf of Mexico with its white sand beaches to the west, and the Anna Maria City Pier to the east. The pier itself is a big draw – stretching out 100’s of feet in to Tampa bay. On a gorgeous Florida day (that’s pretty much everyday) you’ll see people strolling, fishing or grabbing a bite to eat and a cold beer at the restaurant perched high above the water. More often than not you’ll see rays or dolphins and always lots of birds keeping a sharp eye out for what the fishers are willing to share with them.
Anna Maria is also home to the Sandbar Restaurant best known for its beach front patio where the sunset puts on an incredible show every night. Many a couple have been married here – a spectacular spot for a beach wedding.
In the center of it all, Holmes Beach is the largest of the 3 island cities. It’s the commercial hub of the island with the banks, Publix, CVS and Walgreens and more. Though it may house the more commercial businesses, it doesn’t lack in quaint shopping either, with beach stores, shell shops, restaurants and boutiques dotting the city. It also offers boat ramps and fishing opportunities along the entrance to the island. Palma Sola Causeway, one of the 2 causeways on the island that take you to the mainland, lands you right in the middle of Holmes Beach.
Manatee Public Beach with its facilities, restaurant, playground, beach shop, volleyball nets and lifeguard tower make this a popular spot with day trippers and tourists. The Public Beach is also home to the popular sand sculpting competition “SandBlast!” every Fall. Last year Sandblast was expanded to include the very popular Symphony on the Sand.
There are plenty of old-time brightly colored Florida cottages lining the residential streets, as well as some newer beach homes. Most of the east-west streets dead-end on to the breath-taking sugar white beaches making a stay here a great choice for beach lovers.
Located on the south end of the, Bradenton Beach is the liveliest of the 3 island cities. The main drag is Bridge St, which was once considered a blighted area full of seediness and drunkards, but has been transformed in to a quaint boutique lined street. Shops and mini golf, restaurants, spas and more invite you to spend the day here.
At the east end of the street is the Bradenton Beach Pier where you’ll find a boutique jewellery shop, Anna Maria Oyster Bar, a bait shop that also has fishing poles (for rent) and helpful advice (free), and a long stroll to the end where you can sit in swinging benches, watch the fishers, and gaze out at the mooring field dotted with an assortment of boats. Interesting fact: most of the boats don’t move, they are residences.
In Bradenton Beach there is a large mix of residences and places to stay – from mobile homes to condos, cottages and mansions to boutique hotels. Whether you’re looking to stay for a week or a lifetime there’s something for everyone.
And beaches? Bradenton Beach continues the beautiful beach trend on the island with stunning Coquina Beach. Like Manatee Public Beach it offers facilities, a lifeguard tower and food. Unlike Manatee Public Beach it also offers tons of parking as well as pavilions, charcoal grills and picnic areas.
No matter what town becomes your favorite to spend time in, you don’t have confine yourself to just one! The free trolley runs from one tip of the island to the other – go discover and enjoy all 3! So which town wins the shakedown? All of them for different reasons 🙂 They’re all so unique you’d be losing out if you didn’t go experience them all.
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If you would like to visit Anna Maria Island we can help. Visit annamariaislandhouserental.com and make your reservation at Blue Turtle Cottage – a renovated 3 bedroom home with a private pool just steps from the beach. Experience the difference when you stay at an owner managed vacation rental.