For years I have heard that Anna Maria Island, FL is a magical place to visit.
I’ve been told it is filled with incredible beachy views, white sand, seashells, delicious grouper, unbelievable sunsets filled with ribbons of orange, purple, pink, and red, and vacation homes that come in all different shapes, sizes, and hues.
I’m here to report that AMI is, indeed, a little slice of heaven.
There is something very magical about this beautiful spot located just east of Sarasota situated on the Gulf of Mexico.
Anna Maria is relaxing yet vibrant. Filled with pure white beaches but have some of the most colorful sunsets I’ve ever seen.
The island is packed with mom-and-pop businesses ranging from little gift shops to fish shops and everything in between.
The journey there was an easy one (more on that below), making this trip super easy and relaxing from the get-go.
I echo the many friends who have expressed so much adoration for this tiny island…I’m in love with AMI. There I said it.
I think the true beauty of Anna Maria Island is that you make of it whatever magic that you want.
I suppose that’s my favorite thing about traveling…experiencing it in my very own way. I am so excited to share with you my time spent on AMI and very much look forward to hearing about your island adventures.
Go see the world.
Scroll down for all of my tips, favorite spots for food and drinks, and photos of Anna Maria Island.
Be sure to tune into Episode 72 of Cozy Conversations for an inside scoop on my time spent on Anna Maria Island:
From Chicago, we flew into Sarasota and took a 30 minute Uber to the island. Easy peasy. You can also fly into Tampa.
Grab a beach blanket, light sweater, chairs, bottle of wine, and go see the sunset at Bean Point. It’s the northernmost tip of AMI – you’ll have front-row seats.
AMI is the perfect spot for: a family vacation, girls’ trip, couple’s getaway, solo adventure, you name it. That’s what I love about this island.
Explore the island on your bike. AMI is super bike-friendly. It’s the best way to zip around, experience the island, see all of the vacation homes, as well as get some exercise.
If you don’t feel like renting a car (which we didn’t), rent a golf cart instead. It makes for excellent transportation to and from the beach. There are spots to rent from all over the island.
If all else fails, hitch a ride on the Monkey Bus. Plug this number, 941-565-6542, into your phone. Remember to have cash on you, the drivers work on tips only.
Make sure you have a sand anchor for your beach umbrella. We learned this the hard way. If the house you rent doesn’t come with one, any of the beach stores on the island will have one for sale.
Go take a photo at the Anna Maria Island jail. It’s such a great photo op!
Always have a reusable glass bottle of water with you. I know this is a lame tip, but it was hot down there and riding bikes makes you extra parched. Plus, less consumption of plastic bottles.
Enjoy being on island time. The more you give into the slow-paced life on Anna Maria Island the more you’ll enjoy your stay.
Bring a Turkish towel. You’ll use it as a wrap when the temperature drops, to sit on during sunset, as neck support on the plane, a bathing wrap, to dry off after an impromptu dip in the ocean…the list can go on and on.
Wear sunscreen and lots of it! I love this SPF 40 for the face by m-61.
When it comes to beaches, some are more crowded than others. The beaches at Holmes Beach, which is just south of Anna Maria Beach, tended to have fewer people. However, Manatee Beach appeared to be the most crowded one on the whole dang island. For something less crowded, find an entryway to the beach off the beaten path for a little more sand and space to yourself.
Places To Eat & Drink
North Shore Cafe: Their mimosa du jour and the Yo Bowl will know your socks off. Even their everything bagels toasted with some cream cheese is extremely satisfying. Know that you are getting super fresh and high-quality products especially when it comes to their homemade granola. Omg – it’s insanely tasty.
Star Fish Company: The hush puppies, blackened grouper, and a Landshark beer make the perfect trifecta. Do not pass on the buttered clams, I dream of them. This was one of my favorite spots on AMI.
TIP: Keep an eye out for dolphins!
Waterfront: We loved the creamy, garlic clams and the ahi tuna. As for drinks, definitely go for the Spicy Marg.
TIP: If the hostess at the front of the house tells you they can’t take any more patrons, head to the bar and put your name in there. You’ll have to wait, but it’s worth it. You’ll also end up chatting with fellow diners in the bar area, so be prepared to socialize to a degree. It’s actually a blast.
Vinny’s Italian Kitchen: This is the spot to stop for your good old-fashioned Italian cured meats, cheeses, pastries & cookies, sparkling San Pellegrino, and artisan Italian bread.
Captain Anthony’s Fish Market: Listen to me. The fish dip is worth every penny. One of the best bites on the entire island.
Tip: If you plan to cook fresh fish while on the island, this is where you want to purchase it from.
Sandbar: Go here to grab a drink, bite to eat, people watch, and sunset watch. It’s the more social spot on the island to catch the colors of the sun setting.
Ginny’s and Jane E’s: We weren’t able to have a proper breakfast here however, I have been told by many individuals that this spot is absolutely delicious, especially for those with a bit of a sweet tooth. We did, however, swing by for a coffee and the barista made one hell of an iced, oat milk latte for us. Also, their Morning Glory muffin is to die for.
TIP: Go to eat but stick around to peruse their cute boutique.
The Ugly Grouper: Go here for happy hour to catch a band, some grouper, and a nice, cold beer. The tacos are tasty but also huge. You can definitely share a plate. I saw a group of ladies eating a Caprese salad with grouper that looked delicious and on the healthier side…I wanted to go back for that but never made it. Next time.
The Doctor’s Office: Oh boy. Every night I’d fake sick just to go back for one of their beautifully crafted and artisanal cocktails. It is such a vibe in there. Definitely try to make a reservation, but if all else fails you see if they’re taking any walk-ins either earlier or a bit later in the evening. The Pineapple Martini was hands down, one of the best drinks I’ve ever had.
TIP: Get the cheddar and prosciutto charcuterie board – it’s phenomenal. You should know that they make one hell of a dirty martini as well.
Small Town Creamery: If you love ice cream, you’re in luck. The island is home to several ice cream shops one of which we found extra delicious. Located in Holmes Beach, check out Small Town Creamery for old-school candy and delicious scoops. My favorite flavor was Road Trip, chocolate ice cream with chunks of peanut butter and brownie. SO damn good.
Places To Stay
Air BnB: When it comes to finding a vacation home on AMI you can go big or you can go chill. There are some huge, beautiful homes right on the beach and then there are more quaint, smaller homes sprinkled all over the place. We stayed in the latter and loved every second of it.
TIPS: Read the reviews, try to get one that has a pool, laundry services, and a golf cart.
Bali Hai Resorts: We drove by this hotel several times and every time I admired the off-white pool umbrellas that brought me back to Ubud, Bali. I have not stayed here, but I love the look of this location. It’s right on the beach. Next time, I’d love to stay a night or two before heading to a vacation home.
Anna Maria Beach Resort: I love the look of this resort. Clean, up to date, and right on the beach. Their rooms look beautiful and clean as well. If you’re looking for something without the responsibility of maintaining a house for a few days, I’d start here.
This is Anna Maria Island….
Beautiful hibiscus everywhere!
The Ugly Grouper’s giant grouper. Great photo op.
Random beach ball rolling past during sunset.
Love this wall art at North Shore Cafe. Those colors.
The mimosas of the day at North Shore Cafe are divine.
The Pineapple Martini at The Doctor’s Office is a show stopper.
The beaches are filled with beautiful white sand and seashells.
Bravo to Anthony for this shot. For more of his photography, follow him on Instagram at @anthciancio.
Can we just travel the world forever?
Don’t drink and drive, call the Monkey Bus.
Star Fish Seafood Company was one of my favorite meals of the trip. Those buttered clams and blackened grouper!
Sunsets galore on AMI and every evening brings new magic.
Get an Airbnb with a pool, but more importantly, embrace and love the skin you’re in.
There she is! There is so much magic on that little strip of land. SO much.
Head to North Shore Cafe for coffee, acai bowls, and everything bagels.
The fish dip is a must at Captain Anthony’s Fish Market, but be sure to grab some fresh fish and ceviche.
Back in the day, if you were a little too tipsy, this is where you’d spend the night.
Our ride, Spicoli.
AMI wall art.
I think this is my favorite mailbox I’ve ever seen.
Front row seats for sunset at Bean Point.
Nature’s colors are endless.
Like I said…endless.
This fella was so friendly. In fact, I think he loved the attention.
Ok you guys, that’s a travel wrap. As you can clearly see from the photos above, AMI is breathtaking, colorful, quaint, fun, and relaxing.
Go explore this magical island and experience it for yourself.
Enjoy and safe travels!