Anna Maria Island, Florida: Trip Review (with Video!)
Those dreary winter months tend to get depressing. The cold, rainy, snowy, and windy weather (depending on your location) could always use a little sunshine and a warm beach! This year, we were talked into visiting some of our 'snow-birding' grandparents who were staying on Anna Maria Island from February to April. (They really had to twist our arms...)
Excited by the opportunity to sneak away for a long getaway weekend, we made some arrangements for the kids and ventured down to the Gulf Coast of Florida, ready for some rest and relaxation.
When We Visited
We visited Anna Maria Island (AMI) in late February 2020. This time of year AMI weather is usually pleasant with highs in the 70s. But it can dip down into the 40-50's, which of course happened while we were there. Luckily, we brought layers and some light weight winter coats. We should have brought our winter hats for those brisk, windy beach walks. But that didn't stop us from our coffee walks on the beach!
Where We Stayed
We stayed in a cozy three bedroom beachfront rental, on the north side of the Island near Bean Point. Rooming with our grandparents called for daily runs to fetch donuts and newspapers from the general store (always first in line when they opened their doors), beach walks, card playing, and watching the sunset every night.
Where We Ate/Drank
Rod and Reel Pier - We kicked off our weekend with a nice beach walk (where we saw dolphins just offshore) that led us to this gem. It's an ultra-casual little bar/restaurant that is out on a pier and allows people to fish from the outside deck (but beware of Pelicans that camp out waiting for your fish on the end of the line! See the clip in our video.)
The Waterfront Restaurant - This restaurant had rave reviews from our grandparents and was where we made reservations our first night (well in advance because snow bird dining during the winter is popular!). It lived up to the hype!
The Donut Experiment - Daily donut runs from grandpa to this create-your-own-donut place were special. Even as adults, we love a sweet treat in the morning almost as much as our kids do. This is would be an awesome spot to take the kids for a fun breakfast in town.
North Shore Cafe - A brand new coffee shop that also serves breakfast and lunch. They literally opened the week before we got there and we're so glad we found this place! They have barista-style coffees and a wonderful outdoor seating area on a little waterway with Adirondack chairs and palm trees - yes please!
Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe - During some daytime exploring, we took the AMI trolley to Holmes Beach and found this cute little concession stand with a tropical beach bar. Fish and chips with some tropical drinks (and our feet in the sand) was just what we needed to take away our winter blues.
Blue Marlin - Located a bit south in Bradenton Beach, this place was just incredible. Great service, great food, great fish town-y atmosphere. They even had an outdoor tiki bar area with live music that opened onto the sidewalk.
The Sandbar - One of our favorite restaurants on this trip - and maybe of all time! We stopped in for an early lunch and enjoyed a beautiful view of the beach, with piña coladas and Bloody Marys. We could have stayed there for hours... but this place gets crowded so we exited onto the beach and took our food euphoria for a walk!
Waffle Press - We stopped here the morning we were leaving because we didn't want to miss this fun place. It's a gourmet waffle pick up window with a cute outdoor seating area for a quick breakfast before you hit the beach!
Bridge Tender Inn - This was another "favorite" on this trip. Our last stop before heading home...we were exploring on foot around the Bradenton Historic Street Pier, and found this waterfront dining area serving brunch! There is also an inside restaurant and bar. Mimosas and Bloody Marys with bacon, eggs, and pancakes was a nice way to say goodbye to AMI.
Other Activities & Highlights
Body & Sol Spa and Wellness - To complete our R&R getaway weekend, we decided to get a couples massage. We loved this adorable little spa. The staff was super friendly and made us feel like locals. They also offer other spa services, hair styling and coloring, manicures/pedicures, etc.
Dips Ice Cream / Anna Maria General Store - This was our daily newspaper pick up spot! They also have general grocery items like sunscreen, bug spray, non-perishables, etc. but they're expensive. Island pricing is marked up big time! Dips is at the front of the store (a combined store experience) which wasn't open when we were there at 8am. The kids would have loved this vacation sweet treat at the end of a long day on the beach.
Beach Bums Recreational Rentals and Gift Shop - We stopped in here on our first day and set up plans to rent some kayaks for later. Unfortunately, the weather didn't cooperate and was too windy for us to go out, but we highly recommend this place for friendly and accommodating staff and a beachy gift shop.
More Photos from the Trip
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