Anna Maria Island

Top choice in Southwest Gulf Coast

The perfect antidote to party-loving Siesta Key, Anna Maria Island appears beached in a 1950s time warp, with sun-faded clapboard houses, teenagers hanging outside ice-cream stores and a clutch of good seafood restaurants. The island is made up of three beach towns: at the southern end is Bradenton Beach, midisland is Holmes Beach, which is considered the hub, and at the northern tip is Anna Maria village.

The best beaches are to the south and north. Southern Coquina Beach has plenty of pavilions, lifeguards and restrooms, and is backed by a stand of Australian pines through which the Coquina Bay Walk meanders. To the north, Anna Maria Bayfront Park sits on Tampa Bay, offering views of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, plus a playground and restrooms. The latter is within walking distance of the City Pier and the center of Anna Maria. The northernmost, lesser-visited and thoroughly gorgeous beach is Bean Point.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Southwest Gulf Coast attractions

1. Pine Avenue

1.46 MILES

Headed up by former Florida governor Lawton Chiles' son Ed, the restoration of Anna Maria's 'historic boutique business district' has the island abuzz…

2. Florida Maritime Museum

3.92 MILES

A tidy museum dedicated to how Florida's coast has defined its past and will shape the future, including a shell collection from the Gulf of Mexico, an…

3. Egmont Key State Park

5.89 MILES

Union troops were stationed on uninhabited Egmont Key during the Civil War, and you can visit Egmont’s ruined Fort Dade by ferry from Fort DeSoto Park…

4. Fort DeSoto Park

7.03 MILES

With 1136 acres of unspoiled wilderness, Fort DeSoto is one of Florida’s premier beach parks. It includes 7 miles of beaches (including a dog beach), two…

5. Longboat Key

8.06 MILES

Once a quiet fishing village, the 12 long miles of Longboat Key are now lined with upscale resorts and condos. A few teeny-tiny public parking lots don't…

6. Pass-a-Grille Beach

12.45 MILES

The epic sliver of sand that is Pass-a-Grille Beach is the most idyllic barrier-island beach, backed only by beach houses and a long stretch of metered…

7. Ringling Museum Complex

13.36 MILES

The 66-acre winter estate of railroad, real-estate and circus baron John Ringling and his wife, Mable, is one of the Gulf Coast’s premier attractions and…

8. St Pete Beach

14.58 MILES

Anchored by the huge, historic Moorish Mediterranean Don CeSar Hotel, St Pete Beach is a long, double-wide strand with parasail booths and chair rentals…