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Published on January 18, 2016 by Terry Whyte

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The #1 Beach Vacation Destination


In Florida, there are two major attractions. And we know you’re not here for the Magic Kingdom.

If we had to pick just one way to describe Anna Maria Island, we’d say “spectacular beaches.” We’re talking soft white sands that you can’t wait to sink your toes into. Picture-perfect golden beaches that ring our island, promising fantastic shelling, glorious sunbathing, and take-your-breath-away views. Promising day after day of leisure, fun and relaxation.

Promising paradise.

Because with 1,200 miles of coastline and nearly perfect weather, Florida beaches are forever receiving awards. And yet, even amidst such excellent (and competitive) company, Anna Maria Island is superlative. In fact, Anna Maria Island beaches are so impressive, TripAdvisor named the island America's #1 Beach Vacation Destination.

Think about that for a moment: the best beach vacation destination in the United States. The same United States that is also home to Hawaii and Puerto Rico, SoCal and even our neighbors, the Florida Keys. And Anna Maria Island is the best. One island to rule them all.

And to think, from our Anna Maria Island condo rental, you’d be just steps away from some of America’s best beaches. You’d be gazing out over the aquamarine Gulf of Mexico. You’d be sniffing the salty deliciousness of the sea breeze, and hearing the methodical lapping of gentle waves on the seashore.

You’d already be in paradise.


"Anna Maria Island is not a place where you go to the beach, when you are on Anna Maria Island you are at the beach"

So impressive are Anna Maria Island beaches that "TripAdvisor" named Anna Maria Island "America's #1 Beach Vacation Destination.

Affectionately known as "The Island In The Sun" Anna Maria Island comprises over 150 miles of waterfront, more than 7 ½ miles of powder white sand beaches, Gulf temperatures averaging 84 degrees and more than 361 days of sunshine per year. The surrounding waters of Anna Maria Island are known as the nursery because of the large number of dolphins that raise their young here. Anna Maria Island boasts more sunshine per year than Honolulu and some of the finest beaches in the world.

No need to worry about exclusive resorts staking claim on precious spans of beach. Discover Anna Maria Island and you’ll find that the entire stretch of beach all the way around the island is free to access. You can walk miles from the top of the island to the bottom with your toes in the sand and gentle Gulf surf. This hidden beach destination that people from all over the world escape to, Anna Maria Island has somehow managed to keep condo towers, all-fast-food chains, amusement parks, and glitzy mega-resorts off its shores. In fact, no construction on the this seven-mile long barrier island on Florida's Gulf Coast is more than three stories tall and 60 percent of its land is open beach.

"My trip to Anna Maria made me feel in a nostalgic sense what beach vacations must have been like 20 or 30 years ago," says Tim Leffel, author of "Make Your Travel Dollars Worth A Fortune" who visited the Anna Maria Island with his family. "It has something other destinations have lost. It's an old-fashioned place where you can just relax and hang out on the beach with your kids, without arcades and other distractions."

Quaint, according to Webster, means marked by beauty or elegance, unusual or different in character or appearance, pleasingly or strikingly old fashioned. That’s Anna Maria Island, according to the November issue of Islands magazine, which names Anna Maria Island the Best Quaint Island in the world for family vacations. The Island is ranked alongside 13 others exotic locations including Tahiti’s Bora Bora and Hawaii’s Kauai.

While selecting family-friendly island vacation destinations, the magazine considered factors such as opportunities for discovery and family bonding, easy accessibility, fun amenities and roomy accommodations. At the top of its checklist for quaintness is the absence of large resorts and chain restaurants. "Anna Maria Island" Big resorts? No. Chain restaurants? No. Miles-long beaches? Oh yes," says the Islands magazine article. "All that makes for beautifully charming days on Anna Maria Island, just a drawbridge removed from the Florida mainland."

Anna Maria Island beaches

As its island classification suggests, Anna Maria is completely surrounded by four bodies of water: the Gulf of Mexico to the west, Tampa Bay to the north, Florida’s Intra-Coastal Waterway to the east, and Sarasota Bay to the south. These turquoise waters and year-round sun have earned our slice of paradise the affectionate (and accurate) nickname, “the Island in the Sun.”

Anna Maria Island comprises over 150 miles of waterfront and 7.5 miles of powdery, white-sand beaches. And that means, the beaches of Anna Maria Island are never more than a few steps away.

A typical day on Anna Maria Island starts first with the beach, of course. In the mornings the most common sight in town is a family in flip-flops, heading for the water. Everybody carries something: a beach chair, the cooler, towels, inflatable toys. In the afternoon, after a day of playing in the turquoise water and building castles in the sand, they head back the other way, exhausted, sunburned, but very, very happy. Bring paperbacks, sandals, shorts, swim wear and plenty of sunscreen but leave most of your clothes at home. The most challenging part of your stay might be deciding whether to go anywhere else.

While doing nothing is Anna Maria Island’s prime pastime, there are plenty of options when you want something to do. Interested in water sports? You can rent rent a wave runner, kayak, sailboat, bicycle, beach wagon, book a fishing charter, para-sail or simply indulge your self with a beach massage right on the beach just a few minutes walk from our Anna Maria Island beach condo.

Most people visit Anna Maria Island for the exquisite beaches. You can relax in the serenity and capture the feel of old Florida on the remote stretch of Anna Maria Island or simply enjoy the warm seas of the Gulf and the amenities – playgrounds, picnic tables and showers – that the more popular beaches (Manatee, Holmes Beach, Coquina) or the more secluded and private beaches have to offer. Wherever you decide to laze, the beaches are true paradise and deliver the most magnificent sunsets to rival anywhere in the world. The two most distinctive and popular pubic beaches on Anna Maria Island are Manatee Public Beach and Coquina Beach offering something for everyone.

Bradenton Beach

South of Coquina beach you will find nothing but beautiful white sand beaches meeting the Gulf of Mexico and not one condominium or restaurant. You will marvel at the lush vegetation and Australian pine trees some over 100 feet tall. Continue walking south until you reach the southern tip of Anna Maria Island at Longboat Pass where the boats enter the Gulf of Mexico from Florida’s Intra-Coastal Waterway.

Between Manatee beach and Coquina beach you will find four miles of quieter and secluded private beaches where you will find tourists enjoying the beach directly in-front of their accommodations. Relaxing in a beach chair or walking this vast expanse of white sand beaches, you are likely to see dolphins playing, para-sailors passing by, kids building sand castles, sailboats, jet-skis, people fishing, scuba divers coming out of the Gulf or even a beach wedding.

You can also enjoy food and drinks along this stretch of magnificent beach at the "Tiki Hut" and Beach House. Characteristic of  this stretch of beach is that the waters are generally warm and calm compared to the east coast beaches and these beaches are family friendly. The visionary statement of these beach communities perfectly describe these beaches. "Friendly island community that values the civic pride of both permanent and seasonal residents, maintains its Old Florida charm, and respects its bountiful natural resources. History, hospitality and spirit are the hallmarks of our thriving waterfront, offering ease of mobility by land and sea. "Our private beach access" to "Absolute Anna Maria"

Manatee Public Beach

Manatee Beach is a fascinating 900 foot wide expanse of powdery beach located on Holmes Beach directly in the middle of Anna Maria Island. Manatee Beach has picnic tables, grills, public restrooms, a playground on the beach for children, life guard shacks and a newly renovated Café directly on the beach.

Enjoy food and cold drinks right on the beach where there's a lifeguard on duty. Manatee Public Beach is a great place to spend the day playing volleyball, fishing, swimming, or just relaxing in the Florida sun. When you get hungry or feel like a cold drink you don’t even need to leave the beach, take a stroll to the café at Manatee Public Beach, they offer both inside and outside dining areas. You are sure to find a sandwich or a tasty snack to cure your appetite. Next to the café is a gift shop with souvenirs and blow up rafts. Manatee Public Beach also has a small beach bar where you can grab a cold beer and watch the sun slowly slip away into the Gulf of Mexico.

Right across from Manatee Beach is Skinny’s Restaurant where you will find the best burgers on Anna Maria Island. Read what Dr. Beach had to say about Manatee Beach. "Truthfully, there are many great family beaches on the Florida Gulf Coast. I choose Manatee County Public Beach as the best because it is on the most family friendly island AND is a great family beach. I should know, I grew up on this beach."

This beach and the island it's on are still family oriented. The beach is located west of the City of Bradenton, at the western end of Manatee Avenue (Highway 64). The sand is beautiful and white, the water is calm, clean, and shallow enough to be kid-friendly. The beach is protected by lifeguards and there are restroom facilities, outdoor showers, a gift shop, a pier to walk on or to fish from, a picnic area, and of course there is the Cafe' on the beach for when you get hungry.

Anna Maria is a residential community that caters to a wide range of visitors from all over the world. It is a quiet island without high-rises, big hotels, or nightlife. The focus is on relaxing and enjoying the beach and the community. There are plenty of restaurants, from seafood to Italian and Indian cuisine and everything in between.

From Manatee Public Beach you can walk all the way to the north tip of the island if you care to (and many do) it takes about 2 hours. If you need some adventure, go parasailing, take a charter fishing trip or a tour boat to Egmont Key. People who vacation on Anna Maria Island keep coming back year after year. Another great thing about Anna Maria is the beautiful water. Anna Maria has some of the clearest water on the west coast of Florida.

Coquina Beach

Coquina Beach is a 96-acre pine shaded oasis located on the south end of Anna Maria Island and is the longest stretch of beach on Anna Maria  with plenty of free parking, lifeguards, concessions, picnic tables, a playground, restrooms and showers. Remnants of old piers jutting out into the water make Coquina Beach a choice spot for surfers.

A common scene on Coquina Beach is families building sand castles, throwing a Frisbee snorkeling, soaking up the sun, grilling lunch and enjoying a picnic under the magnificent Australian pine trees. This is a great place to bring kids.

Coquina Beach is named for the tiny, colorful clam-like creatures that dig into the sand at the shoreline . Coquina Beach has an extended walking path shaded by hundreds of Australian Pines some over 100 feet tall. The most appealing aspect of Coquina Beach is the expanse of pine trees that surround the park entrance. They seem surreal so close to the water’s edge and this makes for an even more exciting beach experience.

This is also a great place to get a break from the sun’s heat if you aren’t up for taking a dip in the water. Swimming is prohibited at the southern tip of the beach at Longboat Pass due to strong currents but you can view the unbelievably crystal clear blue waters! Compared to the rest of Bradenton, Coquina beach has undergone relatively few changes in the last 35 years most of the changes have happened in the last two years, but haven’t really changed the look of the beach.

The 10 Best Beaches for Families: 2011

Find out which waterside escapes are real gems for families.
By Karen Cicero

Ranking the Beaches

Simplicity is the beauty of a beach vacation -- the shore is essentially a giant sandbox with free rocks and shells, and the waves are more fun than any pool. But there can be rough spots if you go to the wrong place. That's why Parents combed through water quality reports, closings, and advisories for more than 1,000 U.S. beaches. Naturally, we nixed shores with persistent problems and ones where the water isn't tested. From there, we looked at three other deal breakers: restrooms, calm surf, and lifeguards. Nature trails and other extras helped determine which places made the final cut. Dive into the most kid-friendly beach under the sun.

Coquina Beach Park, Bradenton, Florida:

This beach, on the southern tip of Anna Marie Island, near Sarasota, is famous for "coquinas," colorful mini seashells. "Every morning, there's a row of shells on the shoreline for kids to scoop up," says Debbie Meihls, executive manager of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Another activity:
kayaking. You can rent one on the beach or sign up for a guided eco-tour; either way, you're likely to see dolphins, manatees, and stingrays. Shady Australian pines, warm water (it averages 82°F year-round), and a 11/2-mile paved nature trail also make Coquina fun.

Spend your vacations at: "Anna Maria Island Condo Rentals" Just a short walk from Coquina Beach. This extraordinary condo has private beach access, heated pool, 2 balconies, a view of the Gulf, pool or bay from every room, 50" television, 40" television, HD television with over 200 channels, remote keyless locks, free long distance calling, ultra-fast-internet, king size bed and much more. A great money saver: Beautiful 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom condo. Summer rates start at $1200.00 per week.

Leffis Key

Anna Maria Island has its own island preserve. "Leffis Key" Leffis Key Boardwalk across the street from Coquina Beach has it’s own boat launch where footpaths and boardwalks lead visitors around tidal lagoons and mangrove shoreline. Dolphins are often sighted not far from fishermen doing some fishing of their own. There is plenty of Parking, Shade Trees, Sunshine and breathtaking Sunsets!

There are several boardwalks with strategically placed viewing platforms opening on to the waters of Sarasota Bay. There are breathtaking 360 degree views of Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. What a great idea to bring a picnic lunch someday and enjoy the views! Watch for the interpretive signs describing the various habitats and the plant and animal life located along the paths.Leffis Key is a designated site on the Great Florida Birding Trail. People come from all over the world to see the birds that live at Leffis Key and use it as a stopover on migratory routes.

One of the unique features of the design is a 26-foot high hill in the center of the restored area. This upland feature offers a breathtaking 360 degree view of Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. The hill was planted with native dune and coastal ridge plants such as sea oats, beach elder, dune sunflower, southern red cedar, green buttonwood, sea grape, gumbo-limbo, hercules club, jamaica dogwood and strangler fig. In addition, over 20,000 marsh grass plants, such as smooth cordgrass, saltwater cordgrass and salt jointgrass, were installed along the banks of the tidal ponds. The plant installation was accomplished with volunteer labor that included hundreds of school children, local environmental clubs and citizens.

Site amenities include footpaths that circle and scale the hill, benches, and 1,500 lineal feet of boardwalks that meander through the mangrove forest, with strategically placed viewing platforms penetrating the open water. Interpretive signs describing the various habitats and the respective plant and animal life are located along the paths. Additionally you will be treated to are hawks, blue heron, rabbits, crabs, and lots of small fish swimming in the lagoons. There are a lot of different species of young fish that take refuge in the lagoons here to avoid larger fish and predators in the bay. You may see young mullet, red drum, snook, and sheepshead in these shallow lagoons. Once a spoil island overgrown with non-native plants that greatly reduced its habitat value, Leffis Key is now a shining example of how government and private interests can collaborate to restore and enhance vital saltwater wetlands, essential to the health of a nationally significant estuary.

Bean Point, Anna Maria

At the very northern tip of Anna Maria Island you will find one of the best kept secrets about Anna Maria Island known as Bean Point. Read what a past visitor had to say about Bean Point "The beach at Bean Point is spectacular! White sands and crystal blue water, need I say more? We had a dolphin swim right by us, and found many shells and sand dollars. My son even spotted a live starfish on the sandbar. The most beautiful natural beach in Florida. Most beaches in other parts of the world have to truck in sand this beautiful. Don't forget, there is no lifeguard or shower/bathroom facilities.

Bay Front Park, Anna Maria (Tampa Bay side)

Family Fun with a View-Bay Front Park Anna Maria Island Park is a charming waterfront park on the northern side of Anna Maria Island, with outstanding views of Egmont Key, and the world famous towering Sunshine Skyway Bridge over Tampa Bay. The park is situated between two of the oldest and most active fishing piers in Florida, "The City Pier" and the "Rod and Reel Pier". These visual elements, combined with the tall shade trees, and the waterfront picnicking, are what give Anna Maria Island Bayfront Park its special feel. This is a delightful family spot, peaceful and unique with scenic qualities. Amenities include covered tables, grills, public restrooms, and a playground on the beach for children everyone is happy. The Sunshine Skyway to the north is an impressive four mile, cross-bay bridge that soars 250 feet above the bay at its highest point and provides a link to St. Petersburg and Clearwater. Remnants of the old Skyway bridge have been converted into a first rate fishing pier extending into Tampa Bay from both sides of the bay.

Anna Maria Beach (Gulf of Mexico side)

What distinguishes Anna Maria Island from other tropical beaches locations is the affordable accommodations and restaurants. You can rent our luxurious vacation rental condo for $1500.00 per week and enjoy seafood entrees for under $15.00 at the most beautiful waterfront restaurants on Anna Maria Island. There is nothing like walking the beach from our condo to your favorite restaurant for dinner and parking your car for your entire vacation.

The one topic everyone agrees on: The joy of visiting Anna Maria Island is that a milestone is celebrated every day: the sunsets that are gorgeous enough to inspire spontaneous applause. Watching the sunset is a cherished ritual on this sleepy barrier island. Anna Maria has the best sunsets in the world. Every evening just as twilight starts to dim the bright sun, it seems the whole town heads over to the beach. Visitors and locals alike gather on the beaches to savor the dimming of the day, sipping a glass of wine as the sky turns dusky shades of pink and orange. It only takes about three minutes for the sun to disappear after it touches the horizon, finally fading to a deep and glowing purple. Children run on the sand, honeymooners stroll hand in hand, and local residents take a deep breath and relax. Perhaps nowhere on the planet is that time celebrated with more passion than Anna Maria Island. The sunsets so beautiful this ordinary event becomes extraordinary enough that locals and visitors alike realize how special Anna Maria Island really is.

"Contact us now to book your vacation on beautiful Anna Maria Island"


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Meet The Author
Hi, I am Terry, my wife Sandy (who writes our blogs) are the caring, hands on owners and managers of Anna Maria Condo Rentals. We’ve been here for years, so we know Anna Maria Island, the island’s condos, and our island’s guests. We understand you – what you need, what you want, and what you’d really like to have. With us, every stay balances the rigorous requirements of professional managers with the enthusiasm, pride and personal touches of an owner-managed rental. That means that with us, you enjoy the dual benefits of an in-the-know local combined with the professionalism and expertise of a serious company. Come on down and experience the difference for yourself. Our family fell in love with Anna Maria Island the first time we visited in 1989. Every summer since, we’ve spent our vacations on this island, and in 1995, we bought our first condo here. Having a young family at the time meant we had to rent our condo to offset ownership costs. Thankfully, by offering luxurious accommodations at an affordable price, we were able to keep the condo booked for an average of 50 weeks a year. These steady bookings allowed us to purchase our second condo in 2013, and a third in 2014. While opening up these homes has allowed us to keep returning to the island—and even better, to a house that feels like home—we also truly enjoy offering a place to guests to discover Anna Maria Island and feel at home here, too.
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