Anna Maria is a small residential town on the north end of the island bearing the same name. The seven-mile long island is reached by a causeway from nearby Bradenton.
The island of Anna Maria is a barrier island along the west coast of Florida. It is bounded on the north by Tampa Bay, on the east by Anna Maria Sound, on the south by Longboat Pass, which separates it from Longboat Key, and to the west by the Gulf of Mexico.
The City of Anna Maria shares the island with two other small towns: Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach. All three are within Manatee County.
The City of Bradenton Beach is in the southern part of the island, Holmes in the center and Anna Maria on the northern tip of the island.
The population of Anna Maria in 2020 is about 1800 permanent residents.
The permanent population of all three towns has been declining in the last decade or so, as permanent residents sell their homes to investors who turn them into vacation rentals.
The entire island, especially the town of Anna Maria, were - until recently - classic examples of "Old Florida", with Old Florida charm and sense of community.
Some of that ambiance has been lost because of the replacement of the old Florida houses with modern new vacation rental homes.
But it still has a laid back feeling compared to many other Florida beach towns and you won't find many high rise condos.
Anna Maria was known by the early Timucuan and Calusa Indians; Hernando de Soto also noted it when he was entering Tampa Bay north of the island in 1539.
One of the earliest settlers on the island was Madison Post (1815-1867), the former mayor of Tampa. He reportedly named the island for his sister-in-law, Anna, and his wife, Maria.
The first "modern" settler was George Emerson Bean who homesteaded the north end of Anna Maria Island in 1892.
His descendants partnered with Charles Roser, a wealthy businessman from St. Petersburg, in the late 1800s and early 1900s to create the Anna Maria Beach Company.
The company laid out streets, sidewalks, platted lots and built houses and a municipal water system.
One of the prominent historic structures still standing in town is the City Pier.
The 700 foot long pier was originally built in 1911 to receive wealthy tourists arriving from Tampa and St. Pete on steamers.
Today the pier is still a great spot for fishing. After significant hurricane damage in 2017 the City Pier restaurant has reopened as the City Pier Grill and Bait.
This quaint restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, often using local ingredients and serving tempting seafood offerings along with beer and wine, as well as an outside ice cream window, and a full bait shop.
Seating is all outdoors, there is often live music, weather permitting, and it's a great way to spend an afternoon or evening.
A great photo opportunity in this small town is the Anna Maria City Jail. It still stands and looks pretty much the same as it does in the vintage postcard.
Roser Memorial Community Church was built in 1913 with funds provided by Charles Roser.
Mr. Roser was a winter resident who made his fortune in the confectionery business.
He is credited by most people as having been the creator of the famous Fig Newton.
The church is still in use today, and is a non-denominational church. It is near the Anna Maria City Pier at 512 Pine Street.
The public beaches on Anna Maria Island are some of the best beaches in the State of Florida. They are fantastic - clean, with soft white sand, surrounded by palm trees and have incredible sunsets.
Beaches on this small island each have a unique atmosphere and include quiet Anna Maria Beach, family-friendly Manatee Public Beach, and Coquina Beach which has a quieter area along with a busier area that's a popular spot with families.
Bean Point is also popular, but swimming is not recommended here due to riptides and strong currents. It is still an ideal place to relax and enjoy the view.
The entire town is a bird sanctuary populated with many varieties of water and shore birds.
Bottlenose dolphins and manatees are abundant in the Intracoastal Waterway and other waters surrounding the island, and fishing is great.
The beaches are also important nesting grounds for loggerhead turtles; the town takes protection of these turtles very seriously.
To protect wildlife in the area, no pets are allowed on any of the beaches.
While driving is easy on the island, parking is sometimes limited. The good news is you don't need a car to get around the city, or the island itself.
Walking or even bike and golf cart rentals are popular ways to get around. The island has bike paths and lanes throughout, and golf carts are allowed on any street on the island, as the speed limit everywhere is under 35 miles per hour.
Models vary and some can seat 8. There is also a free trolley that runs throughout the island.
Getting there is easy too, with three bridges connecting the mainland. There are no airports on the island so if flying you'll need to fly in to a nearby airport.
The closest of the major airports is the Sarasota airport - Sarasota Bradenton International Airport (SRQ), which is only a 45 to 60 minute drive to the island.
Tampa International Airport (TPA) is a 60 to 90 minute drive to the island, and Orlando International Airport (MCO) is a 2.5 hour drive, mostly interstate.
For longer trips many people make it part of the excursion and visit sites along the way.
The Waterfront Restaurant, 111 Bay Blvd S, Anna Maria Florida, Anna Maria Island, FL 34216. 941-778-1515. This is the most popular dining spot in Anna Maria. Reservations recommended during season.
Sunrise Garden Resort, 512 Spring Ave, Anna Maria, FL 34216. 941-778-2000. This is a nice clean older motel that enjoys a good TripAdvisor rating. Although not directly on the beach, it is close to restaurants and other Anna Maria attractions.
If you are looking for a quiet family vacation or a romantic getaway, Anna Maria may be the perfect spot.
I would not necessarily recommend it for college students on spring break who may be looking for more crowds and nightlife, but for those wanting a more mellow time will enjoy it.
For a small island there are a wide variety of lodging options, restaurants and shops, and you won't have any trouble finding a beach or fishing pier.