Travel • October 7, 2019

Things to do in Anna Maria Island with Kids (Florida Road Trip Part 4)

Please note that we were working with Visit Florida on parts of this trip. Full disclosure at the bottom of the post.

To give a quick overview of our trip, we flew into Miami and spent 16 nights travelling around the state of Florida, visiting Miami, the Florida Keys, Fort Lauderdale, Anna Maria Island, Crystal River, Panama City Beach and Pensacola Beach, before travelling to Louisiana and spending a couple of days in New Orleans. We covered 1825 miles in total. I will be doing blog posts on each destination we stayed in, as well as some practical trips for planning and going on a road trip with young children (mine are 8,6 and 3).

 

ROUTE FORT LAUDERDALE TO ANNA MARIA ISLAND- 235 MILES… 3 HOURS 30 MINUTES


 

I should start this post off by saying that Anna Maria Island is one of the most beautiful places we have ever visited. It’s one of those gems that feels almost like a secret known to just a small few, but if by chance you discover someone who has also been, they will tell you it is one of their favourite places they have ever been. We had no idea just how much we were going to love it. 
 
Anna Maria Island is a barrier island on Florida’s Gulf Coast, known for its for its sugar-white coastline, emerald Gulf waters. Indeed both my husband and I commented that it almost felt a bit Caribbean esq, with it’s quaint Pine Avenue shops and beachfront seafood restaurants. Anna Maria Island is made up of the cities of Bradenton Beach, Anna Maria and Holmes Beach.
 
We spent two nights on the island during our road trip, staying in the Bradenton Beach area, although it was definitely somewhere we wish we had planned an extra night or two. It was one of our favourite destinations during our time in Florida.
 

THINGS TO DO IN ANNA MARIA ISLAND WITH KIDS

SPEND TIME ON THE BEACH

Obviously pretty much the main reason you go to Anna Maria Island is for the beaches. There are miles and miles of the softest white sand beaches and emerald green waters, truly they are some of the most stunning beaches we have ever seen. On our two and a half days in Anna Maria island we spent nearly our entire time at the beach. After all there is nothing better for kids than taking time out and playing on the beach, especially as we had been quite busy in cities prior to arriving in Anna Maria. 

There are a few beautiful beaches in Anna Maria. The ones we visited were Holmes Beach, Bradenton Beach and Cortez Beach.

 


 
 


We found the Anna Maria Island beaches to be very clean and well maintained, with great facilities. One of the beaches we visited, Cortez Beach also had a fantastic playground as well just before you went on the beach. We pretty much spent our entire time on the beach as it was so beautiful. 

 

 

WATCH AN ANNA MARIA ISLAND SUNSET

You can’t go to Anna Maria Island and not watch one of their famous sunsets. In fact they were some of the most beautiful we have ever seen. Head down to the beach, grab your phone or your camera, and settle down. Make sure you wait at least half an hour until the sun has actually disappeared as that’s when we found the sky to be the most crazy and beautiful in colour.

 

 

 

We headed to a bar/restaurant called Sand Bar one evening which has tables right on the beach and is the perfect spot for watching the sunset. It gets really busy as it’s one of the most popular places on the island, so get there early if you fancy it. It’s a great atmosphere and there was a man playing drums on the beach. We had dinner while the sun was setting overlooking the ocean, and then we went and took some photos afterwards which are some of my favourites we took while we were on our road trip.

 

 


 

BROWSE THE SHOPS ON PINE AVENUE

Pine Avenue is the cutest little tree lined street, where you can shop, eat and soak up the atmosphere- plus it’s just minutes from the beach. One thing you will notice is that all the shops are quirky and independent, in fact the Anna Maria island authorities don’t allow chain restaurant, shops or hotels, bar the odd exception. Walking down Pine Avenue does really feel like you are walking down the street of an old Floridian quaint town. 

 
No trip to Pine Avenue is complete without a trip to the Donut Experiment. Our kids absolutely loved this but you start with a delicious plain donut and then you can add a variety of different toppings, plus you can watch your creation being made. Make sure you try and grab a seat outside so you can watch the world go by while enjoying your donut masterpiece.
Next door is Poppo’s Taqueria, a family owned Mexican inspired restaurant. We had the burritos which were huge and delicious. Perfect for a quick snack after a morning at the beach.

 

 

PAINT A SAND DOLLAR AT THE SHINY FISH EMPORIUM

Still on Pine Avenue but worthy of a section all on it’s own, is the Shiny Fish Emporium. Owned by a very friendly couple Rebecca and Dan who moved to Anna Maria Island a fair few years ago, this little shop is a treasure trove full of gifts. It’s a beautiful place to wander around and perhaps buy a gift for someone back home or as a memory of your trip, but the highlight here is painting your own Sand Dollar. In fact our children said it was one of their favourite things they did the whole trip. 

 
 

 

 
Such a beautiful keepsake to take back home with you.  

TAKE A DOLPHIN BOAT TRIP

 

Our children love a boat trip, so we booked a trip with Paradise Boat Tours in the hope we could spot a dolphin or two. This was a fantastic trip, with our captain being incredibly knowledge about Anna Maria island and the surrounding area, as well as teaching the children about respecting the ocean and the marine life. We all really enjoyed it and loved being out on the crystal blue waters (the water truly feels like you should be in the Caribbean). 

 
 

 

TAKE THE FREE TROLLEY AROUND THE ISLAND AND TAKE IT ALL IN

 

Anna Maria offers a free trolley bus that goes around the island. It runs from 6 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. and visits each stop approximately every 20 minutes. My best advice is to just hop on and off and see where it takes you. Anna Maria has some beautiful colourful beach houses to look at, there is the pier of course, and using the trolley is a great way of taking it all in. 

 


 

 

WHERE WE STAYED

As I mentioned above Anna Maria Island is quite unique in the fact that they limit the amount of chain restaurants, hotels and shops, plus there are no high rise buildings. This therefore gives it a quaint, old Floridan charm and means that there are a plethora of beautiful little boutique hotels to stay in. We stayed at the Tropic Isle Beach Resort, a small but charming property seconds from the white sand beach. Most of the rooms are focused around the hotel’s small but stylish swimming pool area. 

 
The entrance to our suite- it felt so secluded and was such a pretty spot to wake up to in the morning.
 

 

The hotel was a little tired in places, although our room had recently been renovated. However in a weird sort of way this just added to the charm. It’s a beautiful, quiet property, in a lovely setting, surrounded by flowers and trees. The rooms are styled in a beach house, quaint, almost retro style, and again we found these thoroughly charming. We would definitely stay there again.

CAR HIRE

We hired a car for the duration of our trip from Hertz. We were actually working with Hertz on this trip, and were loaned the car in exchange for some content but we have used them on a few different trips now and we always find them to have fantastic service and are reliable. (Find out more info on Hertz here.

Check out the video I made of our time at Anna Maria island (and Fort Lauderdale before that)…

 

PREVIOUS FLORIDA ROAD TRIP POSTS-

THINGS TO DO IN MIAMI WITH KIDS

THINGS TO DO IN THE FLORIDA KEYS WITH KIDS

THINGS TO DO IN FORT LAUDERDALE WITH KIDS

 

PART FIVE OF OUR ROAD TRIP COMING SOON… CRYSTAL RIVER


NB We were working in partnership with 
Visit Florida on parts of this trip and some of our accommodation and activities were given to us in exchange for content. Check out their website for lots more advice and inspiration for planning your road trip.

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