Here’s one of the best beaches in Florida
It’s not hard for you to find the best beaches in Florida when you are visiting the Gulf Coast. One of my favorites happens to be where I live, in Manatee County, Florida. Plan a visit to Anna Maria Island and you’ll find a string of beautiful beaches, most of them offering some shade.
Anna Maria is a small, 7 mile long barrier island along Florida’s Gulf Coast, located just offshore to Bradenton, Florida. If you’re looking for the old Florida feel, Anna Maria is the place for you. Buildings are no taller than three stories anywhere on the island, and you’ll find 7 miles of white powdery sand along the Gulf side of the island. Over on the bay side, which faces into Tampa Bay and the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). You’ll get quieter waters on the bay side, and more sightings of dolphins and manatees, too. You’ll also get a great view of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge which crosses over the lower part of Tampa Bay.
The beaches of Anna Maria Island
The long 7 miles of beaches on the Gulf side of Anna Maria are divided in name, but in reality you can walk from one end of the island to the other with very little trouble. Here’s a list of the beaches on the island.
- Coquina Beach is the longest stretch of sand on the island, and is on the southern, narrow end. The beach ends at Longboat Pass, and there’s a drawbridge that connects the southern end of Anna Maria Island to Longboat Key. Coquina is one of my favorites because of the tall Australian pines that offer shade just behind the beach. There are also picnic tables, picnic shelters, a walking path, and a small beach cafe. On the weekends you can find an open air market with fresh vegetables, art, and jewelry.
- Bean Point Beach is on the opposite end of the island, on the north. It’s usually not crowded, mainly because there’s very little public parking available on the quieter north end of the beach. If you’re looking for tranquil and peaceful, Bean Point is for you. The best way to access it besides hoping for one of the few public parking places is to rent a home along Bean Point for the week, which gives you easy access. Swimming is not allowed along Bean Point beach due to the strong currents and riptides. From this beach you’ll see where Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico meet, and you’ll see cruise ships leaving Tampa and heading into the Gulf or returning back to the Port of Tampa.
- Anna Maria Beach is another quieter beach on the north end of the island, wrapping around toward the bay side of the beach.
- Manatee Beach, located at the end of Manatee Avenue as you come from the mainland, is the beach area with the most access to beach rentals. It’s a large beach area with a parking lot, cafe (renowned for its all-you-can-eat pancake breakfasts), bathrooms, paddle board rentals, and beach umbrella and chair rentals. The oldest surf shop in the state of Florida, the West Coast Surf Shop, is located just off the beach, and has anything you need for beach gear. If you want an alternative to the beach side cafe on Manatee Beach, walk across the street to Skinny’s, which has been serving up hamburgers and bottled Cokes since 1952.
- Bradenton Beach is located in the center of the island, easily reached from any of the condos or beach houses as the island is only about 2 blocks wide here. You’ll find the Bridge Street Pier and many little boutiques and restaurants along Bridge Street, just across from the beach itself. Bradenton Beach is a good beach for swimming, paddle boarding, and playing along the sand.Bradenton Beach is located in the center of the island, easily reached from any of the condos or beach houses as the island is only about 2 blocks wide here. You’ll find the Bridge Street Pier and many little boutiques and restaurants along Bridge Street, just across from the beach itself. Bradenton Beach is a good beach for swimming, paddle boarding, and playing along the sand.
Seeing the beaches from the water
Part of the fun along the best beaches of Florida is getting out on the Gulf. I highly recommend Anna Maria Island Dolphin Tours for group or private tours around the island or over to nearby Egmont Key for shelling. The business is owned and operated by 3 generations of islanders. They know the waters and are expert at finding dolphin, manatee and other sea creatures for you. You can also try parasailing over the turquoise waters and seeing the beaches from the air. I recommend YOLO parasailing as the best on the island.
When you are looking for a great beach vacation pick out one of these beaches. Anna Maria offers some of the best beaches in Florida, so you won’t be disappointed.