On Anna Maria Island, many of our visitors come back time after time. Some even have multi-generational family histories on the island, returning year after year with kids and grandkids and great-grandkids that will start the tradition all over again.
But even the most frequent AMI visitors miss the hidden secrets and pockets of AMI. And not everyone has been here before!
That’s why we put together this blog post, featuring 10 Travel Secrets for Anna Maria (and its surrounding areas). We talked to permanent residents and checked out local blogs, then compiled all the answers to this important question:
“What is one aspect of Anna Maria Island and its surrounding area that not everyone knows, but should?”
Whether you’re a first-time visitor or an AMI regular, this list of 10 must-do activities and tips will have you seeing Anna Maria Island with new eyes and feeling like a local in no time.
1. Make friends on Beer Can Island.
Our local real estate agent, Nicole Skaggs of Big Fish Real Estate, recommends taking a trip to Greer Island aka “Beer Can Island.”
This sandy stretch is a nature haven that provides 2,000 feet of shelling beach, dense clusters of Australian pines, and plenty of open water for kayaking and exploring. Normally it’s a secluded place with visitors few and far between, perfect for finding a special piece of wood or shell for your collection.
But as the name suggests, this windswept bank off the coast of Long Boat Key doubles as a place for those who like to meet new people and have a little fun (and a few drinks) in a secluded spot.
Boaters love Beer Can Island, and many people arrive here by watercraft. You can also walk out to the sand bank from Whitney Beach at low tide. Of course, you’ll want to be aware of the tides in this case—you don’t want to be stranded when the tide comes in!
Also note: for safety we don’t recommend swimming on the northern shore of Beer Can Island. The current rushing between the island and the sand bank can be—and unfortunately has been—deadly to swimmers.
2. Rent a boat.
If you don’t want to chance the tides at Beer Can Island, or just like the idea of boating around AMI, many rentals are available in the area.
AMI blogger Kevin Duffey offers this tip for boat rentals:
“If you don’t have your own boat, renting a boat is easy. There are a number of places that rent boats (here is a list). One of our favorite activities is to rent a boat and head down the intercoastal towards Sarasota. There are great places to pull up on the boat on Longboat Key and have lunch. Talk about a wonderful day!
Boating does require some skill and knowledge, but if you’re careful and learn the basics, you’ll have no problem.”
3. But don’t rent a car.
Okay, that’s maybe a bit extreme. But if you’d rather not worry about a car, you don’t have to! Says Roque Pastorius of Island Beach Monkeys, a transportation service on the island,
“Transportation here is pretty easy. We have free trolleys (on AMI), and a lot of people combine that with our door-to-door service at Island Beach Monkeys. We run long after the trolley stops, way into the early morning hours, until everyone gets home safe. We have golf carts (with a driver). We have an open-air surf bus with karaoke [The Monkey Bus], which is a lot of fun. Transportation should be the last of your worries.”
Island Beach Monkeys even do trips to and from the airport.
4. Have a night out.
A secondary tip from Roque is to check out the collection of bar/restaurants on Bridge Street in Bradenton for a fun night on the town. This is one of the most “bustling” spots on sleepy Anna Maria Island; some bars stay open as late as 3:30 in the morning. But parking is limited, so call Island Beach Monkeys ahead of time to arrange for stress-free transportation (a safe choice, too, if you’ve been drinking!). Just be sure to compensate your drivers; they work solely for tips.
5. Discover west Florida’s history.
History buffs: Bradenton has an interesting story to tell—that of Conquistador Hernando de Soto and his 1539 expedition to west Florida. Learn all about it with a visit to the De Soto National Memorial, which offers history tours and lessons about both de Soto and the Native Americans who fought him and his 620-man army for claim to their indigenous land.
The deSoto tip comes to us from Gina, a hostess at the area’s newest spot for Tex Mex: Wicked Taco Cantina in Bradenton Beach.
Try their outdoor deck for great sunset views with a free side of homemade chips and salsa! For you with a sweet tooth – their flourless chocolate torte, must be the richest, most wicked chocolate dessert I’ve eaten in 20 years!
Stay tuned as this blog is to be continued with part 2!