If you're looking for a quaint, relaxing and slow paced beach vibe with just the right mix of "things to do" and "nothing to do", then let me tell you...Anna Maria Island is a must. With only a 2.5 hour ride from Orlando, Anna Maria Island has to be on your list of places to visit. We once again headed out on a family vacation along with my Mom, Dad, Sister, Nephew and my normal family of 5. Come to think of it, I'm not sure relaxing was ever in the plan. Despite the fact that yes...we planned this vacation in the normal rainy season here in FL, I was not going to let that ruin my 41st Birthday week. The minute you're on Anna Maria Island you can see you have entered a small beach town, with a focus on a slow paced life. Golf carts, bikes and trollies share the road with you as well as several pedestrians just walking around toting their beach gear. I was super excited to park the car and not move it for an entire week. After all...most days I'm not only an avid Photographer but I'm also a disgruntled Uber driver for my 3 teenage daughters.
Once we parked the car and unloaded all of our gear, it was time to hit the beach. I was excited to sit on a natural Florida beach free from the crowds, and high rise condos that I am so used to seeing on the East Coast of FL. Now, don't get me wrong, I love a good busy board walk with flashing lights and music too, but that was not what I was looking for on this vacation. Once I was on the beach, I dug my toes into the power white sand, and watched the beautiful turquoise waters crash along the beach. It was nice and quiet, as the rain clouds scared away the out of state travelers which was great for us native Floridians who don't let a few rain clouds keep us away from the Florida beaches. The beach grass looked beautiful blowing in the wind and the sound of the ocean was enough to put me right to sleep, until my 12 year old came running over yelling "are you going in the water". The view of the beach from the water was wonderful too, all you could see was the sand dunes, beach grass and palm trees. AHHHH!
No trip to Anna Maria Island is complete without a stop at Bean Point park, it's located on the very northern tip of the island and it's where the Gulf opens up to the Bay. I took my family of 4 teenagers, 2 retirees, my little Sis who is always up for an adventure and my hubby to Bean Point, they had no idea what it was or what we were doing. It was the one place I had to go. Keep in mind that the entrances to Bean Point are very small and can easily be missed. They are sandwiched in between homes through the dense mangroves. My Mother kept insisting that we were trespassing even though I assured her that we weren't. My husband kept asking me if "I knew where we were going?", and the kids kept complaining that they were being bitten by mosquitos, hello...it's Florida in the summer, of course you're getting bitten by mosquitos. The mangroves finally opened up and we could see a massive wide, untouched, deserted beach covered in sea shells. It was this point that the family finally quitted down and just began to enjoy the moment. We chased seagulls, laughed, posed for pictures, made drawings in the sand, collected seashells and waited for the sky to transform into something more magnificent than words can describe.
What To Do While on the Beach
#1 - Be sure to check out Bean Point for a spectacular sunset.
#2 - While on Bean Point, definitely pick up a few seashells to take home.
What NOT to do While on The Beach
#1 - Do not offer your french fry to the Seagulls. They will win.
#2 - Do not leave your little sister alone to deal with the hungry Seagulls.
Ok...so here is your fair warning! The Seagulls on this beach are crazy. While sitting on the beach, I saw them dig through bags, they took a cracker right from my daughters hand while she was in the process of putting it in her mouth, and I saw them chase a 2 year old around because he had a bag full of goodies. So be on the look out for these adorable flying bandits who have no issue helping themselves to your lunch.
After your done at the beach, be sure to take a walk back in time when steamboats brought visitors to Anna Maria Island by way of the Historic City Pier. This beautifully resorted and treasured pier was built in 1911 and remains as Anna Maria's pride and joy and number #1 main attraction. The pier is over 776 feet long and offers visitors a chance to step back in time to a much simpler life. This was one of my families favorite spots, we could walk from our rental home down the street first thing in the morning to watch the sunrise over the bay, then toss a line or two in in hopes of snatching up dinner. In the evening we could sit right on the edge of the pier and watch the sunset over Bean Point, or grab a drink, or two, or three at the bar at City Pier Restaurant. We saw tons of wildlife while on City Pier, everything from egrets, herons, seagulls, pelicans, manatee, dolphins, jellyfish and crabs. It was like a week in the Florida wild.
- Favorite Place for Dessert
Two Scoops Ice cream, great place for 32 flavors of ice cream.
- Favorite Places for Shopping
Sun and Surf Lifestyle Apparel, great prices & great place to meet exotic birds.
The Sand Dollar Gift Shop, beautiful home décor, apparel, jewelry, shells & more.
Anna Maria General Store, great deli, desserts, grocery items, small town feel.
- Favorite Place for Beach-side Dining
The Sandbar Waterfront Restaurant, gorgeous beach-side dining with great food.