If you follow me on Instagram you already know that I recently visited the Bradenton, Florida area for the first time. During my time there, I stayed on Anna Maria Island with three fellow bloggers (yes, just like The Real World) in this beautiful house from Anna Maria Vacations.
Anna Maria Island, Florida is a seven-mile strip of beautiful white-sand beaches that lies between the turquoise Gulf of Mexico and the bay. The island is so quaint and cozy and it truly makes you feel as though you have taken a step back in time because of all of the “old” Florida charm.
On AMI (Anna Maria Island), you won’t find any high rise condos or fast food joints. Instead you’ll find a wonderful selection of local eateries and everything from quaint cottages to deluxe beach houses by the sea. Honestly, you need never leave the island to find fun and relaxation. From watching the sunset while dining at many of the water front restaurants on the island to shopping in some of the wonderful specialty shops to good old fashioned people watching – there is something for everyone on Anna Maria Island.
I spent three glorious days in the area and my schedule was filled with all sorts of fun adventures while I was there. If you are planning on visiting the Bradenton area, here are some things you will want to add to your list of things to do.
1. Stop by Beach Bums on Pine Ave for a rental.
Beach Bums has a full rental fleet of cruiser bikes, kayaks, paddle boards, surrey bikes, beach supplies, and street legal golf carts. Yeah, street legal golf carts!! They rent out all their equipment by the hour, day, week and month to help you make the most of your time on the island.
While I was there, I had the chance to go out and explore the island on a golf cart. They go up to about 25 mph, so golf carts really are a great way to get around and see a lot.
Thinking about renting a golf cart? Know before you go:
- All golf cart drivers need to over the age of 18, have valid insurance and driver’s license. Drivers need to sign the liability waiver as well as provide license information and proof of auto insurance prior to driving the cart.
- Their Golf Carts are Low Speed Vehicles (LSV). This means they can be driven anywhere the speed limit is 35 mph and below. This encompasses the entire island up until Coquina Beach. LSVs must obey all traffic regulations.
I loved spending time checking out AMI. I got to see the City Pier:
The Old Jailhouse:
And this cottage that fell into the bay at one time:
One of the things I love the most about Beach Bums is that they know that your time on Florida’s Gulf Coast is limited, so they offer free delivery and pick up to your Anna Maria vacation rental for any of their recreational equipment small enough to fit in their truck. They will then give you a safety briefing and make sure the equipment fits your needs. They also provide FREE life jackets for kayak renters and FREE cycle helmets for bike renters.
Beach Bums is located at 427 Pine Ave. Anna Maria, FL 34216
2. Hit the Beach!
Anna Maria Island is just that – an island, so it’s surrounded by beaches on all sides. Anna Maria Island has six to chose from: Coquina Beach, Manatee Beach, Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach, Cortez Beach and Anna Maria Beach.
The white sand is just as gorgeous as everyone says it is.
3. Eat a cinnamon bun the size of your head.
For a unique experience, be sure to stop by Ginny’s & Jane E’s. It’s a cafe, bakery and gift shop all in one – it’s definitely more of an experience than just a stop for breakfast or lunch.
In the cafe, they offer a full menu of hot specialties drinks. We make lattes, cappuccinos, Italian style macchiatos, breve’s and Americanos. Plus there is a variety of flavorings to add to their drinks, such as vanilla, caramel, mocha, and many many more! Of course, if you just want a good old cup of coffee, they offer our fresh ground french roast. There is also house decaf, along with a flavor of the day.
Their in house bakery compliments the cafe. If you do not have time for a full breakfast or lunch, try a decadent Cinnamon Bun or a fresh baked muffin or scone. For dessert there is an assortment of pies and cakes to choose from.
The front of the building is a store and it’s unique collection of local art and antiquities. They have things like one of a kind post cards, handmade bracelets and necklaces, custom t shirts, handmade art made from shells and refuse found on the beach. They also sell beach supplies, like suntan lotion, sunglasses, flip flops and other items to help you have fun and stay comfortable while at the beach.
Ginny’s & Jane E’s is located at 9807 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria, FL, 34216 and they are open every day 8am-5pm.
4. Visit the South Florida Museum
South Florida Museum is the largest natural and cultural history museum on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Highlights include fossil evidence of Florida’s earliest mammals and marine species.
Other exhibits include local maritime traditions, early 20th-century medical practices and Spanish exploration in the New World. Spanish Plaza has full-scale replicas of a 16th-century manor house, chapel and conquistador Hernando DeSoto’s birthplace.
The Bishop Planetarium, featuring one of the most advanced all-digital projection systems in the world, presents astronomy programs the whole family will enjoy.
The Parker Manatee Aquarium, part of Florida’s manatee rehabilitation network, is home to the oldest known living manatee. The facility is the permanent home to Manatee County’s most famous resident and the oldest known manatee in the world, Snooty.
The Parker Manatee Aquarium is designed to house three adult manatees. The nearly 60,000 gallon pool offers both deep and shallow water, allowing the manatees to maintain natural feeding behaviors. An exhibit area within the facility helps to educate the public about manatee anatomy and offers above and below water viewing.
The South Florida Museum is located at 201 10th Street West in Bradenton FL 34205.
5. Stop by Mixon Fruit Farm
At Mixon’s you can watch fresh squeezed Orange Juice being made, enjoy one of their famous “Orange Swirl” ice cream cones, browse the 14,000 sq. ft. gift shop, tour the citrus groves and visit their Wildlife Care & Education Center.
Hop on Mixon’s Orange Blossom Express to tour the grove and visit the Wildlife Rescue. Their tours are packed full of educational tidbits and trivia. At the Wildlife Inc. Rescue, we enjoyed an interactive educational show with rescued Florida animals, reptiles and birds. It’s definitely fun for the whole family.
On the tour we found out that they provide much needed land and shelter for orphaned and injured Birds, Animals and Reptiles. Their mission is to rehabilitate Florida wildlife for release back into the wild, and to promote education, appreciation, and respect for wildlife.
At Mixon’s you will also find a Children’s Magical Maze, Wedding Pavilion, Gazebo, and Wetlands Pond.
The gift shop is filled with unique Florida Gifts, Gourmet Specialties, Teas, Honey, Marmalades, Salsas and much more. Store hours are Monday through Saturday, 10:00am to 5:00pm.
Mixon Fruit Farm is located at 2525 27th St E in Bradenton, FL 34208.
6. Eat a donut from The Donut Experiment
At The Donut Experiment they only serve made to order donuts. Enough said, right?
They start with a delicious, fresh-made cake donut and then you pick from their huge selection of icings and toppings. Yours can be as simple as plain or glazed or as crazy as key lime, maple bacon or Sriracha.
The Donut Experiment is located at 210 Pine Avenue in Anna Maria, FL 34216 and they are open Monday – Sunday: 7am – 1pm.
7. Go on a dolphin tour.
Paradise Boat Tours offers 90 minute fully narrated tour that combines the wildlife of the area with the rich history. No two tours are exactly the same but they strive to make all of their tours fun and informative.
According to the boat captain, they see dolphins approximately 95% of the time, but of course it’s not guaranteed. and if you don’t see dolphins on your tour they will do their best to accommodate you on another tour free of charge. Our tour actually got cut short because a storm rolled in, but we were able to see a few dolphins before we made it back to the dock (I wasn’t quick enough to get any pictures, though).
We also got to see this sunken ship while we were out, though, and I have to say that it was a pretty cool thing to see. Maybe not so cool for the owner, but I thought it was neat.
The tour costs $30 for adults and children are $20. Paradise Boat Tours have several tours each day so you can choose a time that’s convenient for your schedule. Reservations are not required, but are suggested. You can book online or give them a call.
The tour leaves from the Bridge Street Pier located at 200 Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach, FL.
If you’re spending time on the island and don’t want to worry about finding parking, there is a Free Trolley. Daily service on the trolley runs from 6 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. every 20 minutes from the Anna Maria City Pier on the north to Coquina Beach (in the city of Bradenton Beach) on the south.
Trolley Stops are two to four blocks apart along the route and there are three main stops: Anna Maria City Pier, Manatee Public Beach, and Coquina Beach where the trolley will wait approximately three minutes before continuing the route.
Anna Maria Island is a perfect vacation spot for families, honeymooners, couples, or even a girls weekend away. I loved my time in the Bradenton area and can’t wait to go back.
Disclosure: I was provided with an all expenses paid trip to Anna Maria Island thanks to the BACVB, but that did not influence my opinions in any way.