Insider’s Island – The insider’s guide to outdoors AMI

There’s more to outdoors life on Anna Maria Island than you think.

From kayaking mangrove tunnels to diving a historic wreck to finding your perfect beach, here is a guide that will turn you into an AMI outdoors insider. Grab or click your map and get started!

Bradenton Beach

Longboat Pass Jetty – Cindy Lane | Sun

The Longboat Pass jetty is at the southernmost tip of AMI, marking the start of Coquina BeachNamed for the delicate, pastel creatures that dig into its shoreline, Coquina Beach covers 96 acres trimmed with Australian pine trees that shade a recreational path, picnic tables, pavilions and barbecue grills. The beach has a snack bar, lifeguards, restrooms and showers, and plenty of room for a long walk.

Coquina BayWalk at Leffis Key
Coquina BayWalk at Leffis Key – Cindy Lane | Sun

Across Gulf Drive, Coquina BayWalk at Leffis Key is a 30-acre park on the Intracoastal Waterway featuring mangrove-shaded trails and the tallest hill anywhere around. Climb to the top and you can see Bradenton, Sarasota and St. Petersburg.

Cortez Beach
Cortez Beach – Cindy Lane | Sun

Back on the Gulf side, Cortez Beach offers plenty of parking for a beach day. Or take a walk or a run on the multi-use path, which offers more secure footing without sacrificing a beach view. A disabled ramp leads from the path to the beach, where wheelchairs can park on the sand.

Bradenton Beach Pier
Bradenton Beach Pier – Cindy Lane | Sun

The Bradenton Beach Pier is the place to go fish in the Intracoastal Waterway. If you’re keeping track of time, the clock tower at the pier tolls the daylight hours, but you’re on your own after dark, when the clock is silenced. Fish cleaning stations with fresh water are spaced all along the pier and restrooms are at the end.

Regina commemorative plaque
Regina commemorative plaque – Ed Ice | Submitted

The wreck of the 300-foot barge Regina, a state underwater archaeological preserve, is marked by buoys in the Gulf of Mexico off the 800 block of Bradenton Beach. It sank in a storm on March 8, 1940 while being towed from Havana to New Orleans, making molasses from Cuban sugar cane. One crewman drowned with his dog; seven were saved by local residents.

Holmes Beach

Grassy Point
Grassy Point – Cindy Lane | Sun

Grassy Point Preserve’s mangrove tunnels on the Intracoastal Waterway are perfect for kayak exploration. You may see roseate spoonbills (often mistaken for flamingos), roosting pelicans and white ibis, or even one of Florida’s threatened manatees. You can also walk the hiking trail and enjoy Florida’s native foliage from land.

Manatee Beach
Manatee Beach – Cindy Lane | Sun

Manatee Beach at the western end of Manatee Avenue features a playground, picnic tables, lifeguards, restrooms, showers, a gift shop, a fishing pier and an indoor/outdoor snack bar with live music on weekends. Head north to the Skate Park, where watching the stunts is almost as much fun as doing them, and Scentral Park, for off-leash dog fun.

Anna Maria

The northernmost city on the Island, Anna Maria is home to the Anna Maria Island Historical Society Museum at 402 Pine Ave. Housed in a 1920-era ice house, you’ll learn fun facts like the Island’s original pronunciation, “Anna Mar-eye-ah,” how a diving platform was built in the Gulf of Mexico for an Esther Williams movie, and how

Belle Haven Cottage
Belle Haven Cottage – Cindy Lane | Sun

the inventor of the Fig Newton helped build the Roser Community Church just up the street. Next to the museum you can tour the Belle Haven Cottage and the Old City Jail. The story goes that prisoners at the jail, which had no window glass, were punished more by the mosquitoes and the heat than by the law.

Rod & Reel Pier
Rod & Reel Pier – Cindy Lane | Sun

Bayfront Park in Anna Maria overlooks the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, the historic Egmont Key lighthouse and the Rod and Reel Pier at 875 North Shore Drive, a popular fishing spot and restaurant.

To wrap up your AMI tour, walk the beach at sunset at the northernmost end of the Island. Bean Point offers panoramic views.

– Cindy Lane | Sun