7 Best Beaches on Anna Maria Island
The delightful barrier island resort area of Anna Maria Island is a bit like stepping back into what some people call Old Florida. Beaches as far as the eye can see, backed by small homes and low-key resorts, are the norm here, all while a relaxed vibe permeates the place.
Fronting the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Anna Maria Island's beaches offer soft white sand perfect for wiggling your toes as you lay out on a beach towel. These Gulf Coast beaches run for approximately seven miles, from Bean Point in the north down to the end of the island at Coquina Beach in the south.
Anna Maria Island beaches are perfect for walking. The sand at the water's edge is generally hard and flat, and intrepid walkers with lots of stamina can walk from one end of the island to the other completely along the beach.
The beaches of Anna Maria Island are ideal for a day trip from Sarasota, Tampa, and other nearby areas. With the exception of Bean Point, parking is plentiful in large lots that rarely fill up, except on the busiest of days. Most of the beaches have lifeguards, washrooms, showers, and changerooms.
It can get busy here during peak times, and parking, especially around the Historic Bridge Street area, can occasionally become a challenge. To avoid this, park at one of the large beach lots, such as Coquina or Cortez, and take the free trolley around the island. Or, if you are staying at a resort or a rental property off the beach, just leave the car parked and walk out to Gulf Drive and head to your destination. The trolley runs every 20 minutes and stops at 35 places along the main route.
Plan your perfect getaway with our list of the best beaches on Anna Maria Island.
1. Coquina Beach
Coquina Beach is also one of the most beautiful beaches on the island not just for what's at the ocean side, but for what's back from the beach. In behind the beach is a stand of majestic Australian pine trees. Underneath these trees is a walkway that is a cool escape from the blazing Florida sun.
The beach here is long and slender, making your trip from the towel to the ocean a short one. The water is clear and warm and shallow for a fair ways out. Numerous lifeguard towers are strategically located along the beach ensuring that all who visit are well watched over and rescued if necessary.
For families, this is an ideal destination, with grills, picnic shelters, and lots of room to spread out and enjoy some time with the kids, grandma and grandpa, or other relatives. Nearby playgrounds are perfect for the kids if they feel that they've had enough beach time.
Every Sunday and Wednesday throughout the winter months (during November, Sundays only) and Wednesday and Friday for the balance of the year, a market springs to life under the shade of the trees. Vendors sell everything from caramel corn right through to artwork, even fashionable clothing, just perfect for your current or next beach vacation. A visit to the market is one of the top things to do on Anna Maria Island for visitors.
The center area of the beach, where you'll find the most "action," has a full-service restaurant called the Coquina Beach Café with one of the best beachfront patios on the island. If you are looking for a pickup game of beach volleyball, this is also the place to come; the courts are just to the north of the restaurant. Beach lounge and umbrella rentals are available; just pick an empty set, settle in, and an attendant will come by in a while and collect the rental fee.
During your visit, take some time to walk southwards down the beach to Longboat Pass for incredible views. Longboat Pass is one of the major access points from Sarasota Bay to the Gulf of Mexico and as a result, a constant parade of boats and other watercraft zip by on a regular basis making for a non-stop source of entertainment.
Coquina Beach is the best beach to visit on Anna Maria Island if you are day-tripping. The beach has massive parking lots divided into north and south areas. Another parking lot is also located at the very southern end right by the bridge to Longboat Key. Parking, as with all the other public beaches on the island, is free.
2. Cortez Beach
Cortez Beach is a pleasant beach just south of the Bridge Street Historical Area. The parking is directly off Gulf Drive South. If you see a spot, turn in and grab it. The beach here is not as wide as other areas and is less busy than its sister beach to the north, Bradenton Beach, and Coquina Beach to the south.
Cortez Beach has three concrete pier-like structures that extend into the ocean. Some people might find the piers off-putting, as they do impact your view into the Gulf of Mexico. However, when the wind and waves are up, the piers act as a breakwater, providing calm waters ideal for swimming.
If you've packed your surfboard or your rental house comes with one, head to Cortez Beach. The unique structure of the beach and the impact of the piers provides some of the best waves on Anna Maria Island.
If surfing isn't your thing, the piers are ideal fishing locations. Catches here include snapper, trout, grouper, and snook, among others. Peel yourself off your towel and take a stroll out to the end of one of the piers for nice views up and down the island.
3. Manatee Public Beach
Easily accessed by driving to the end of Highway 64 and driving directly into the parking lot is Manatee Public Beach. Here, you'll find a wide beach, ideal for a pleasant family afternoon at the beach. The sand is mere steps away from the parking lot, making it easy to haul all your beach gear to the water's edge. If you forget anything, a handy beach shop has all kinds of sun and sand paraphernalia available for purchase.
You can be as active (or not) as you like at Manatee Beach. For those looking for a bit of exercise in the sun, join in one of the friendly volleyball games that take place on the five sand courts. Another option for those who can't sit still is a walk to Bean Point at the end of the island. Count on just under seven miles return.
Prefer a bit less activity? Lay out in the sun or go for a swim in the shallow, warm waters under the watchful eye of the lifeguards perched in their very impressive towers. Should you work up an appetite from your activity, stroll a few steps back to the Anna Maria Island Café and dine under an umbrella with the sand in your toes. Alternatively, walk a short distance back from the beach and over to Gulf Drive where you'll find Skinny's, a truly authentic hamburger stand.
If you prefer to do your own cooking, grills are available as are picnic tables. The parking lot at Manatee Beach is large, with enough spots for over 100 cars.
4. Bean Point
Located at the far northern end of Anna Maria Island is Bean Point. This is the beach for you if you like a wide-open beach with few people around. Bean Point offers exceptional views out towards St. Petersburg and is the only place where you can see the Gulf and Bay waters meet. Bean Point is one of the very best spots on the entire island to catch the sunset.
The beach is named after the island's first resident, George Emerson Bean, who purchased a large acreage and settled here in 1892. The beach takes a bit of effort to get to, and parking is relatively limited, so go early if you can. You'll find two access points: both off North Shore Drive where it meets Fern Street and where it meets Gladiolus Street.
Many people choose to walk along the beach from the Manatee Public Beach or cycle to the access points where bike racks are conveniently located. Bring all your gear with you; no beach vendors are located out here. Also, no lifeguards, washrooms, or change facilities are available. Swimming here, especially on the north side of the beach where the current is strong, is not generally recommended. The southwestern side is safer, but caution is advised nevertheless owing to the lack of lifeguards.
If the wind is up, you may be treated to a colorful display of kites, as kiteboarders race across the water in this adrenaline-filled sport.
5. Bradenton Beach
Easily located across from the Historic Bridge Street area, Bradenton Beach has the best of both worlds: a fantastic beach and a fun area of shops and restaurants all within walking distance. The beach is wide and long. A short stroll north will take you to Holmes Beach, and south will take you to Cortez Beach.
The beach can be busy at times, but if you are looking for that kind of vibe, this is the place to find it. Occupying some prime real estate on Bradenton Beach is the Beach House Restaurant, one of the best spots for waterfront dining on Anna Maria Island.
6. Holmes Beach
Although many maps don't show it, Holmes Beach is roughly the beach area south of Manatee Beach through to Bradenton Beach. This is one of the quietest stretches of beaches on Anna Maria Island owing to the fact that it is primarily fronted by condo complexes and private homes.
Beach access points off side roads will get you easy access, although parking can be limited. Fortunately, many people don't think about coming to Holmes Beach, so there's a decent chance you can snag one of the parking spots. If you are a beach walker, just head south from Manatee Beach or north from Bradenton Beach.
You will find a few beachfront restaurants along this section of sand that you can access directly from the beach if you are out for a walk.
7. Bayfront Park Public Beach
For a slightly different beach experience, consider a trip to Bayfront Park Public Beach. Located near the Anna Maria Island Public Pier, this beautifully manicured city park has everything you need, especially if you have children. Play structures, swings, and lots of room to run will provide hours of entertainment.
Bayfront Park has a decent beach, but it can't hold a candle to the ones on the Gulf side of the island. This is a place to come if you are staying in the area and want some green space under the trees near the water.
Unlike the beaches on the Gulf of Mexico side of the island, the beach at Bayfront Park faces northeast. This affords you incredible views out across Tampa Bay towards the Bob Graham Sunshine Skyway Bridge off in the distance and the Anna Maria Island Pier in the foreground.
The beach here is very narrow, and it's more likely that you'll set up your beach gear back on the lawns under the towering trees. Picnic tables and grills make this an ideal place to pack a cooler full of cold drinks and snacks and set up for the day.
A short stroll away is the wonderful Anna Maria Island Pier and a small area of shops and services. If you visit on a Tuesday, a farmers market takes place from 8:30am to 2:30pm.
Parking is easy and plentiful.