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    Monday, 7 July 2014

    Anna Maria Island Beaches

    There are so many reasons to visit Anna Maria Island – the world-class restaurants, the amazing independent local businesses, the hospitality, the retro old-Florida charm and the eco-friendly sensibility. But probably the number one reason to go is the beach.

    Though the Island is only two miles wide and seven miles long, it has plenty of beaches to accommodate your needs. Whatever kind of travel experience you’re after, Anna Maria has got the right beach for you.

    We live less than an hour away, but my husband and daughter and I will often rent a place on the Island for the weekend just so we can really maximize our beach time. Plus, I grew up on the Island, so I have the inside scoop on some of the best beaches.

    Here’s an insider breakdown just for you:

    Manatee Public Beach

    The Manatee Public Beach is one of the most popular destinations, in large because of its convenient location. It’s situated right at the end of State Road 64, so if you’re traveling from Bradenton for the day this is the first one you will see. It provides a pretty classic tourist experience, straight out of the 1950s and 1960s.

    There is ample parking, so the beach is often crowded with families. Children love the playground equipment for when they need a break from the saltwater. Parents love the on-site café which makes feeding the whole family an easier and more spontaneous affair. There’s a great kitschy souvenir shop where you can find the perfect Island-branded tchotchkes to remember your trip. 

    Manatee Beach Anna Maria Island
    Manatee Beach

    It’s a really wholesome, traditional beach experience just like the ones you likely had in your own childhood. 
    Coquina Beach

    If you feel like venturing across the Island, at the south end you’ll discover the gem that is Coquina Beach. 

    On the surface, it shares a lot of the amenities you can find at the Manatee Public Beach, like public parking, a play area for kids, and a small café. Both sites are easily accessible by the Anna Maria Island Trolley

    It’s also a very family-friendly beach: the parking is closely situated to the sand, and large and venerable pine trees provide copious shade. You can even do a little cooking: bring hot dogs and hamburgers and fire up one of the public-use barbecue grills for a fun family feast. 

    But even with all those commonalities, it still has a very different vibe. Perhaps that’s due to the location: it’s very near the sedate community on Longboat Key. But whereas the Public Beach can be noisy and exuberant, Coquina is decidedly more on the chill side. It’s a favorite destination of ours in particular: my fair-skinned red-haired husband definitely appreciates the pavilions that allow him to take a break from the sun before he bursts into flames. 

    Bean Point

    Anna Maria Island is bordered by not one, but two bodies of water: Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. 
    Tampa Bay Anna Maria Island
    Tampa Bay Beach
    Gulf Beach Anna Maria Island
    Gulf Beach

    Bean Point, at the very northern tip of the Island is where these bodies of water meet. It’s also, in my opinion at least, surrounded by the best and most beautiful stretch of beach in the world. The fine white sand is silky between your toes, the sea oats sway gently in the breeze, and the warm coastal waters lap gently at the shore. 

    Bean Point Anna Maria Island
    Bean Point

    It’s a beloved local spot: in fact, it’s incredibly difficult to get to if you aren't from the area. There are very few parking spots, and they’re scattered across a few streets with no central lot. But anything this beautiful is worth working for, so you can always explore alternative ways of getting there. 

    For instance, Beach Bums on Historic Pine Avenue have plenty of bicycles and other fun transportation you can rent during your vacation. Rent a funky beach cruiser for the day and ride it to the official beach entrance at the intersection of North Bay Boulevard and North Shore Drive. Just park your bike by the charmingly rickety wooden footbridge and walk out to one of the most magnificent views you’ll ever see.

    Remember, there’s no café right at Bean Point, so as long as you’re on Pine you might want to swing by the Anna Maria General Store and grab a generously-sized deli sandwiches, chips, and fruit for an impromptu picnic lunch.

    You can also use a meal as the starting point of your Bean Point adventure. Book an early dinner at The Sandbar Restaurant (also a very popular beach wedding destination) and dine outside with your toes in the sand. Then, once you've stuffed yourself full of seafood, walk off some of those calories right on the beach.

    Sandbar Anna Maria Island
    Sandbar Gulf Beach

    If you’re lucky, you may see the dark shadow of a manatee or the ostentatious leaps of dolphins as you stroll along. You’re also very likely to encounter egrets, sandpipers, and herons and other native birds. Try to time it so you arrive at Bean Point near sunset: it truly is one of the most spectacular sights in the world. You’ll still have plenty of ambient light left to make your way back down the beach.

    Whether you’re looking to host a boisterous family gathering or escape on a quiet getaway, Anna Maria’s many beaches will have you covered. Everyone wants a different experience from the beach: in Anna Maria, you can find a beach to suit your mood from day to day. I just got back from my last beach weekend vacation a few weeks ago, and I am already looking forward to my next. 

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