Road Trip: Anna Maria Island

It’s no secret that most people dream of calling the beach home—or, even more, a seven-mile slice of tropical paradise surrounded by white sands and ocean on all sides. Anna Maria Island is one of the few Florida destinations that can boast of that. And while it may not be a permanent home to most people, it’s one of the only beach towns in the Southeast that manages to feel like home time and time again, thanks to its uncrowded nature and the locals’ slow pace of life.

The island is the perfect destination for a family-friendly tropical summer getaway that won’t break the bank. It eliminates the crowds, tourist traps and chaos common to most Florida destinations. Because of their relatively undisturbed natural habitats, wildlife sightings in and out of the water are abundant around the island. The beaches are peaceful, with colorful pastels of vacation homes lining their shores. At the same time, sidewalks and city streets stay busy with bicycles, one of the island’s most common means of transportation.

However, there are other ways to navigate this quaint island. The most unique is the AMI trolley, which travels up and down the island all day, dropping riders at the most popular beaches, bars and restaurants for completely free all day.

In place of tourist attractions and department store beach shops, the island is mostly home to local spots, such as ice cream shops, ocean-view restaurants and artisan-run gift shops. For a buzzing nightlife spot, you won’t want to miss Bridge Street. The eclectic shops along Pine Avenue will do the trick for souvenirs and a classic coastal vibe.

As for the island’s most popular to-dos, Anna Maria is known for the vast ocean views that jut off each of its scenic piers, including the Bradenton Beach Pier and the Anna Maria City Pier. While every beach promises thrilling waves and stunning views, Bean Point is along the island’s most northern tip and is known for some of the widest ocean views. For a personalized experience unlike any other, charter a fishing or sailing boat for a full day of sightseeing, fishing and swimming adventures, no planning required!

Finally, don’t cross the bridge back to the mainland without indulging in some of the island’s best seafood at The Ugly Grouper, Ginny and Jane E’s Cafe or Mar Vista. After playing, eating and living on island time, it’s time to head back home to Gwinnett with a week’s worth of incredible family memories in tow. But don’t be sad, there’s always next year!