Anna Maria Island might only be seven miles long, but it is packed with shops, eateries, and amenities that are sure to make anyone feel at home. Better yet, the businesses that you will find on AMI are not the typical national chains found in other tourist-heavy beach towns; most of the businesses here are locally owned, small establishments that cater to tourists and locals alike. Here’s a quick look at some of the things that the island has to offer, both to the nearly 10,000 people that call it home and to the thousands that call it home for just a few days in one of its many vacation rentals.
It’s been said that the way to one’s heart is through one’s stomach. If that’s true, the restaurants on AMI should have no trouble capturing yours. Unsurprisingly, fresh seafood can be found at restaurants ranging from fine dining to tiki shacks throughout the island. But seafood isn’t the only thing on offer—the island also features great burger joints, barbecue stands, bistros, and old-fashioned delis. Here are a few island favorites.
- Beach Bistro (Holmes Beach). The finest of fine dining on the island, headed by a James Beard Award nominee and featured in Zagat’s “Top Restaurants in America.” It’s not cheap, but it promises one of the best meals you have ever had—French bistro-style seafood and meat with a Gulf Coast twist.
- Skinny’s Place (Holmes Beach). A laid-back hamburger joint with lots of outdoor seating and some of the best burgers on the island. Features a chalkboard telling you how long the wait for your burger will be in the number of beers you will drink in the meantime.
- Smoqehouse (Bradenton Beach). Just a few years old but already with a loyal following, Smoqehouse offers barbeque sandwiches featuring pulled pork, brisket, and chicken.
- The Sandbar (Anna Maria City). An AMI institution, The Sandbar offers the opportunity to eat some of the freshest seafood around with your toes in the sand on their beachfront patio, watching the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico. Some of the best restaurant real estate in the city.
- The Waterfront (Anna Maria City). On the side of the island opposite the Sandbar, get a great view of the bay with equally great seafood at The Waterfront.
While this is just a shortlist of restaurants available, there are many other fantastic spots all throughout the island as well as in Cortez Village and Bradenton.
Bars and Live Music Venues
AMI isn’t just about eating dinner and going home; it also offers plenty of nightlife to keep fun-seekers of all ages happy. Here are a few notable spots.
- Harry’s Grill (Anna Maria City). A place for one of the best burgers in town and some of the best live music. Harry’s features a rotating cast of diverse musicians nearly every night of the week.
- Hurricane Hanks (Holmes Beach). Inviting pub offering good pub food and cold drinks until 2 a.m. every night.
- The Bridge Tender (Bradenton Beach). Off the beaten path on the bayside of Bradenton Beach, the Bridge Tender offers both an indoor and an outdoor, bayside bar with occasional live music.
- Island Time Bar & Grill (Bradenton Beach). Located under the equally noteworthy Bridge Street Bistro, Island Time offers pub food and live music in a breezy, outdoor-feeling space.
- The Doctor’s Office– While (Holmes Beach)- A local favorite serving the best craft cocktails, charcuterie & other light bites in a former doctors’ office. Tip: Get there early
AMI has tons of things to do year-round; any list would merely scratch the surface. But here are a few of the many activities from around the island.
- The Beaches. Every discussion of things to do on the island has to start with the beaches. Public beaches run up and down the island, from Bean Point at the tip of Anna Maria City, to Manatee Public Beach further south. Cortez Beach and Coquina Beach offer miles of uninterrupted white-sand beach for you to roam. All of the beaches have some of the finest sand in all of Florida, and all offer a day of fun capped with a stunning sunset over the Gulf. The main attraction for both owners of AMI real estate and those in vacation rentals alike.
- Boat Rentals. AMI has plenty of places to rent a boat for an hour or for the day and explore the Gulf of Mexico, Tampa Bay, or Sarasota Bay. Anna Maria Island Dolphin Tours offers a captain with local knowledge on where to find wildlife like dolphins and manatees. Or, be your own captain with a rental from Bradenton Beach Marina.
- Fishing Charters. AMI also has plenty of experienced captains with quality boats, ready to find you the catch of the day. Fish on the Gulf or in the bay. Try AMI Charters in Anna Maria City, or JM Snooky Charters in Holmes Beach.
- Putt Putt Golf. Fun for kids and grownups alike, The Fish Hole in Bradenton Beach offers adventure golf with an old Florida atmosphere.
- Land-based Rentals. The island offers a full complement of rentals for vacationers to explore the island and its beaches, like bikes, golf carts, kayaks, and paddleboards. Golf carts are street legal on the island and provide a convenient way to get around to the island’s many attractions. Bikes also are a good way to get around, especially on days that traffic to the island’s beaches clogs the streets. Fun and More Rentals and Beach Bums both in Anna Maria City, offer all of these items to rent and more.
- Spas. AMI has a litany of places to relax and be pampered (once you are done relaxing on the beach, that is). Acqua Aveda Salon & Spa in Holmes Beach is perhaps the most popular, but Salon Salon down the street and Body & Sol Spa in Anna Maria City offer excellent service as well. For an unforgettable massage on the beach, don’t miss Sea-renity Beach Spa in Bradenton Beach.
- Ice Cream Shops. For a cool dessert after a meal at one of AMI’s many restaurants, get some ice cream! Try Two Scoops and Dips Ice Cream located in the Anna Maria General Store located in Anna Maria City; Small Town Creamery and Holy Cow Ice Cream in Holmes Beach; or Island Scoops and Joe’s Eats & Sweets in Bradenton Beach—you can’t go wrong picking one of the island’s many local ice cream shops.
For those that want to celebrate their special day in paradise, AMI has them covered. AMI allows weddings on the beach (just remember to get a permit), and also has plenty of resorts and restaurants that will happily host your wedding. The Waterline Marina Resort and the Tortuga Beach Resort both in Holmes Beach, are just a few of the wedding venues on the island. Some of the island’s best restaurants, like Beach Bistro, The Sandbar, and The Beach House, also offer wedding packages.
The island supports two local newspapers, The Sun and The Islander. Both offer a good look at what’s going on around the island with plenty of local flair.
Fall on AMI brings with it the beginning of the festival season. The longest-running and best-known music, craft, and food festival on the island is Bayfest, taking place in late October. Bayfest turns Pine Avenue in downtown Anna Maria City into a parade of local arts and crafts vendors. Just a few weeks later, in early November, the AMI Concert Chorus and Orchestra presents their “Symphony on the Sand” at Coquina Beach. November also has Arts Hop, a three-day showcase of local art, theater, music and food. In the spring, Blues, Brews & BBQ takes over Bridge Street with live music, drinks, and delicious food. And, if you’re still hungry, April also offers the Beach’n Food Truck & Music Festival on Coquina Beach.
As you can see, AMI offers tons to eat, drink, see, and do—twelve months a year. This is why it is so popular with residents and vacationers alike. If you want to experience all that AMI has to offer, buy your piece of the island with Chelsea Oelker, Realtor with Michael Saunders & Company, Anna Maria Island. Chelsea can find you the perfect piece of real estate for your permanent home or investment vacation rental. Call her today, and see everything that island life has to offer.