The Ultimate Anna Maria Bucket List for Your Vacation

Anna Maria Island is a small, 7-mile stretch of sand right off the coast of Florida. If you’re looking for a getaway to the Sunshine State where you can truly relax instead of fighting huge crowds and navigating between high rises, this is the place for you!

There’s plenty to see and do here, with stunning beaches, fresh seafood around every corner, unique historical sites, charming local shops, and so much more. But how can you make sure you fit everything in on your getaway? A bucket list! Here are a few things we think you just can’t miss when you’re staying in one of our Anna Maria Island accommodations.

riding horse in the ocean

Surf with a Horse

Did you even know “horse surfing” was a thing? It’s actually one of the most popular Anna Maria Island activities! There are a couple of locations on AMI offering incredible horseback rides in the sand, allowing you to get a unique look at the shore while getting to know the stunning horses of the island.

Great World Adventures’ The Real BeachHorses in Bradenton offers incredible horseback excursions, including “The Thrill Ride” and “The Chill Ride.” The Thrill Ride lets you surf on a horse in the waters of Palma Sola Bay, while The Chill Ride is a more relaxing trip that’s perfect for the whole family.

Eat at the Star Fish Company

If you’re looking for an authentic seafood meal made with only the freshest catches, head to nearby Cortez to the Star Fish Company. This is your destination for simple, delicious food. You’ll find fresh fish either fried, grilled, blackened, or sautéed, as well as classic sides like cole slaw, French fries, and hush puppies. Don’t leave without grabbing a slice of homemade key lime pie!

The Star Fish Company has been an area staple as a wholesale company since the 1920s, but the restaurant itself wasn’t established until 1996. It’s still some of the best food you can find in the area! Keep in mind they only accept cash, so be prepared. 

Try Alternative Transportation

Anna Maria Island is only seven miles long, so you really don’t need to drive a car to get from place to place. Instead, why not rent a golf cart or a scooter? A golf cart is a perfect vehicle for getting around here because it gives you room for all your things and all your people! Feel the wind in your hair as you zip around the island with everything you need for a day at the beach.

golf cart at sunset
Photo by Shutterstock

You can also rent a scooter for an authentic AMI experience. Riders of all ages will love getting to see the island on a scooter, and it’s an affordable and eco-friendly way to get around. It’s a unique mode of transportation that you’re sure to enjoy! Of course, you’re also welcome to walk around the island, rent a bicycle, or hop on the free island trolley!

Kayak the Mangroves

Sure, fishing and swimming are two great ways to enjoy the waters of AMI, but you should also take some time to go kayaking! Even if you’ve never been kayaking before, there’s never been a better time to try something new. There are plenty of kayak rental companies in the area if you’re already experienced, but if you’re new to kayaking, consider taking a kayaking tour, where a knowledgeable guide can help show you the ropes.

Once you do go kayaking, head into the mangroves. The mangroves give you a unique look into the nature of the area and the stunning creatures that call AMI home. If you take a tour, you’ll also learn plenty about the history of the area as well as its native flora and fauna. It’s the perfect way to get the whole family out and about enjoying everything Anna Maria Island has to offer.

Visit All 3 Historic Piers

pier across the water

Anna Maria Island has three piers, and they’re all worthy of a visit. Your first option is Rod and Reel Pier, located in the City of Anna Maria. This pier is about 350 miles long and is located on the northeast side of AMI. Not only will you find a rustic-looking pier with great views of Tampa Bay, but you’ll also be right near the namesake restaurant! Stop in for a mouthwatering meal, then head onto the pier to watch the sunset or cast your line for a fish.

The Anna Maria City Pier is another wonderful option located at the island’s north end near Pine Avenue. Pine Avenue is perfect for getting your shopping done, then you can visit the pier to learn more about the island’s history. The pier has gone through renovations after sustaining damage from Hurricane Irma, but now, it’s back to being an AMI staple. It’s more than 100 years old, so it’s seen its fair share of people! Stop by the sign at the bridge’s base to learn more about the history.

Finally, you’ll want to visit Bridge Street Pier, also known as Bradenton Beach Pier. This pier is located at the southern end of the island and was originally built in the 1920s. It’s your ultimate stop for the quintessential “Old Florida” experience, where you can escape the hustle and bustle and reminisce on simpler times. You’ll find a ton of history along with some modern restaurants and shops in the area, giving you the best of both worlds. 

Grab a Donut

Sometimes you just want a sweet treat as an after-dinner celebration or a mid-day pick-me-up. But you don’t always want ice cream. No one can argue with donuts, though! For a special dessert that the family can customize, visit The Donut Experiment. There is truly no limit to the incredible creations you can come up with! 


Every order starts with a classic cake donut that you can doctor up however you please. Pick from six icing flavors, then go for toppings like graham crackers, rainbow sprinkles, peanut butter, sea salt, Fruity Pebbles, and more!

Visit The Doctor’s Office

For an evening libation that’s a bit more upscale than your average tiki bar, visit The Doctor’s Office. This bar was actually a doctor’s office at one time, hence the name, but today, you can’t get a checkup here. You can instead come in for fresh, innovative cocktails using the finest local ingredients, as well as wine, beer, and small plate selections.

There are plenty of great bars on the island, but The Doctor’s Office provides something special. It’s an intimate setting that’s perfect for a relaxing yet elegant gathering with your friends or a unique place to take your sweetheart after a romantic dinner. 

Sit Back and Relax on the Beach

Of course, when you’re on AMI, you have to take advantage of the seven miles of shoreline. There are tons of Anna Maria Island hotels on the beach that put you just steps away from the water, so you can quickly spread out a blanket and start relaxing with the sound of the waves at your feet. 

Plan Your Next Vacation

Luckily, Anna Maria Beach Resort has oceanside rooms that are ideal for any group on any budget! We’re proud to be one of the best motels on Anna Maria Island with loyal guests coming back year after year. We hope to see you soon! Contact us today to start booking your getaway to Anna Maria Island.