Finally, the time has come where I write about this magical gem called Anna Maria Island. We’ve been coming here for the past eight years and what originally started as a mere accident has become our family tradition.
We technically found this little island on a whim. Eight years ago all our friends were headed out to Sarasota for Spring Break. We, the procrastinators, looked last minute and by that time either everything decent was booked or completely insane in the price department. So… hubby, the boater and fisherman that he is, researched and found Anna Maria Island. I protested at first, I’ve never heard of this place before and none of our family or friends had ever come here. However, upon arrival I was in LOVE! The most beautiful light, water as clear as Turks and Caicos and the whitest powdered sand in all America!
So many of you have messaged me and asked about where to stay, what to do, where to eat. For a while I honestly tried to keep Anna Maria Island as my little secret. When we first started coming here, I’m not exaggerating where I tell you… we had the beaches to ourselves. There were barely any people here and it was kind our little secret escape! However, eight years later and I’m ready to share everything.
I figured I can’t go back all eight years and bombard you with these family pix… but how could I not share the gorgeous photos I take on the island with the most beautiful light. Click through these galleries to get a better glimpse of this magical island!
Ok so let’s begin with where to stay. We always stay at the BridgeWalk – A Landmark Resort. Typically we love to stay somewhere with a kitchen, especially with this many kids, sometimes getting out to breakfast, lunch, dinner is a whole fiasco. It’s so easy just to make a quick breakfast, even a bowl of cereal and be on our way! Also as you know, if you follow me I love to cook. So does my mama who always comes with. So it’s no hassle for us to whip up a breakfast, chill on the balconies, have a healthy home cooked lunch or if the boys catch fish… we literally have a fresh catch of the day right at home. Finally, I’m one of those people that simply can’t eat out every day. My stomach and neither does my kids can handle it. However if you love to eat out and don’t want to cook, no worries. There is a restaurant with live music almost on every corner and the food is fantastic at most! You are on an island so fresh seafood is wonderful here, but I’ll get to that later.
Flashing back to the first time we came here, we booked BridgeWalk – A Landmark Resort completely last minute as we really didn’t know where to stay or what to do. We saw it, liked that it was a hotel, but had a two story room for us…basically like a little townhome. We loved the amenities of a hotel and having our room cleaned daily. With sand and all the kids I for sure knew I wanted a cleaning service daily and so renting a house wasn’t something for us. We also needed a place big enough to fit our entire family. At that point we didn’t have Thalia yet but traveled with our nanny. We loved the owners and all the managers. No bells and whistles at this place, it’s no Ritz but everyone here is like family and we are a few feet away from the beach. For years we’ve thought about staying somewhere else but we always end up here. It’s like home to us at this point! We also love the location because you have the beach and the pier all on one street. Almost every evening the boys go fishing and it’s literally just a few short steps away.
If you’re looking for something lux, there are a ton of incredible rental homes. We have looked and we loved! They are totally insta worthy and have all sort of price ranges. Best home rentals are through Anna Maria Vacation. You can also take a look at AirBnb.
As far as what to do?! The BEACH LIFE is the BEST LIFE! We literally live on the beach so we typically wake up and walk right over. It’s so gorgeous. The water is usually pretty calm and so stunning. It’s very shallow all around so extremely safe for toddlers or not the best swimmers. The sand is the softest, whitest sand around. We grab our chairs, snacks and just sit around, drink, eat, make sand castles and chillax!
There are plenty of water sports, think parasailing, jet skis, you can certainly rent boats. You name it they have it. We also call this little island “Little Mermaids Island” because of all the beautiful sea creatures. Every day if the water is calm you can see up to twenty dolphins, manatees, star fish, sting rays and so much more.
If you’d like to venture out and explore outside of Anna Maria I would highly recommend a few spots. Every year we always drive up to St. Petersburg to the Dali Museum. Besides Spain, that’s the only other one in the world, and we’re lucky to have it in the US. They always have different exhibits and we just love it there. They have a wonderful play/art room for kiddos, who can create their own masterpieces inspired by Dali.
Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, is incredible for kids and adults. The experience is very interactive and not only is all the marine life gorgeous, it’s also very hands on. You can pet sting rays, check out the sharks (insert baby shark song here), and become a Marine Biologist by digging through fossils.
The Ringling, is The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, the Circus Museum and the incredible Ca’D’Zan estate. This is a must visit. The Circus Meseum is so fun and finding out the history was so inspiring. Definitely watch the movie, it’s 30 minutes and worth the watch. The gardens are so manicured and magnificent, plus they have an incredible playground among the Banyan Trees. It’s like out of a picture book!
Now check out how gorgeous Ca’D’Zan is! I know insane right? I’ve never heard of this place before and am so glad we found it! The art museum is equally as impressive and it’s one of the best collections in North America!
Sunsets!!! Ahhh, the sunsets, the golden light is like no other on Anna Maria Island. Hence I get all my best shots on this little island! Check out some beautiful sunset shots below!
In general as I’ve stated before the island has some incredible food. It’s an island so seafood is your best friend for sure. Most restaurants are on piers, docks or straight on the beach. Depending on where you stay on the island TripAdvisor is your best friend and honestly has never steered us wrong. Because we’ve been here so many times we always eat at the following!
The Beach House – One of our favorite restaurants on the island for sure. Definitely arrive early to get a table outside and watch the incredible sunset. It is picture perfect and picture worthy! The food is so good, they always have the freshest oysters, the bartenders make the best skinny margaritas and the scallops are to die for. Our kids also love the burgers and fish here as well!
Blue Marlin – Love this place! They always have live music and the decor inside is so cute. It’s like a little chic boat house. Reminds me of the Hamptons. Food is incredible and their rosé is the best and chillest on the island. It’s not super kids friendly and their menu for kids is tiny, so keep that in mind.
Island Time – Best mojitos on the island! Super casual and easy bar and grill with a yummy menu of burgers, fish, oysters and awesome tacos. I highly recommend their Ahi Tuna appetizer. One of my favorites! This place is super kid friendly and has live music every single night! Get ready to dance! This restaurant is also downstairs of our hotel, so we are literally there pretty much at least once a day.
Bridge Street Bistro – Upstairs of Island Time, and is a bit more upscale. Still kid friendly and you can see the sunset so sit outside. Also super cute for date night! They have similar menu to downstairs but less fried food and the steak is pretty good!
Joe’s Eats and Sweets – Hands down the best home made ice cream on the island. The ice cream shop itself is so adorable it’s filled with rainbow colors, sprinkle and ice cream cone carpeting and a menu filled with amazing treats! Evenings can be insane there and lines can be up to 45 minutes so I suggest you run over during the day or early eve! They have a lunch menu as well and a selection of non dairy, yogurt based and gelato cones!
So there you have it! My full Anna Maria Island recap! We can’t wait to be back to our favorite Little Mermaid Island next April!