Anna Maria Island is a Barrier Island in Florida, situated in the Gulf of Mexico. It sits within clear blue waters and boasts golden sandy beaches and a peaceful way of life. Visitors to this island spend their days enjoying the glorious weather and exploring its quaint towns and interesting activities. Expect to feel full relaxation as you take your pick of the beautiful beaches to bask on, or spend your days exploring the natural beauty of this Florida island.

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01Soak pp the sun on Manatee Beach

One of the main draws of Anna Maria Island is the abundance of beautiful beaches, including Manatee Beach. It covers an area of seven acres and is popular with families. Spend a whole day on the beach, then break for lunch by cooking for yourself using the public grills and picnic tables. If cooking isn't your thing, there are plenty of beach cafes and restaurants nearby.

02Browse Coquina Beach Market

Coquina Beach lies in the south of Anna Maria Island and is well managed and lively. If you are feeling active, there are bicycle pathways and walkways that take you along this beautiful stretch of sand. On Wednesdays and Sundays, Coquina Beach hosts a market where visitors can buy all manner of handmade and local produce such as crafts, jewelry, and specialty foods. There's usually a live musician serenading shoppers as they browse, adding to the atmosphere.

03Explore Robinson Preserve

For visitors wishing to explore the local environment, Robinson Preserve is a coastal area of interest that boasts a range of activities. This government-funded area of natural beauty is focused on the coast and wetlands and works to preserve the local wildlife while allowing safe public access. Some of the water-based activities in the Robinson Preserve include kayaking, paddle boarding, and fishing. On land, visitors can hike or bike along the preserve's trails.

04Shop on Bridge Street

The ocean and beaches at Anna Maria Island Thomas De Wever / Getty Images

Bridge Street is located in Bradenton, the southernmost city of Anna Maria Island. This shopping hotspot is named after the long bridge that was the only way to access the city in years gone by. The bridge has since been replaced with a fishing pier but still lends its name to this eclectic shopping district. Retaining the laid-back charm typical of Anna Maria Island, you'll find small boutique shops with one-off finds for all tastes. It's the perfect place to pick up an unusual swimsuit or a handmade necklace, for example. After shopping, treat yourself to a delicious meal at one of the upmarket restaurants overlooking the bay.

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05Go horseback riding

Riding horseback is a truly special way to enjoy the sights of Anna Maria Island. A range of horseback experiences is available in various locations around the island. The island's horse riding companies cater to all ages and abilities, whatever your skill level. Parents and children can ride bareback as their horses swim in the warm Florida sea, creating an unforgettable family experience. Other horseback rides include beach walks and treks through local nature reserves, where local wildlife such as deer, wading birds and crocodiles reside.

06Ride the Anna Maria Trolley

Anna Maria Island has the perfect mode of transport to help its visitors get around: the Trolley. This free service runs the length of the island, from Anna Maria City Pier in the north, to Coquina Beach in the south, and stops at fourteen covered stops along the way. The Trolley is a series of air-conditioned buses, some with an open-top so you can sit in the Florida sunshine as you travel. The buses are accessible for wheelchair users and are fitted with bike racks. The non-smoking service runs from sunrise to sunset and provides an easy way to explore the delights of Anna Maria Island.

07See wild dolphins

The warm Florida waters of the Gulf of Mexico are home to nine species of dolphin, as well as various other marine life. Several companies run boat trips from Anna Maria Island with the promise of spotting dolphins swimming wild. Wherever you stay on the island, you will be close to a dolphin trip location. Setting sail from various ports around the island, trips are easy to arrange and family-friendly. For an even closer encounter with these majestic sea animals, choose a kayak, canoe or paddle boat to sail in. If you get lucky, you might see manatees and sea turtles too.

08Try sea fishing

Sea fishing boat on the ocean grandriver / Getty Images

There are a number of companies that charter boats for sea fishing trips around Anna Maria Island. The waters of Florida are home to a huge range of fish, including Sea Bass, Mackerel, Snapper, Blackfin Tuna and Tarpon. Boats are captained by experts who have been fishing the waters off Anna Maria Island for years and know where and how to find the fish you want. On some trips, the crew will even clean and bag the days catch for you to take home and cook.

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09Admire the famous Sunshine Skyway Bridge

Sunshine Skyway Bridge Tampa Bay Cheri Alguire / Getty Images

The Sunshine Skyway Bridge is Florida's flagship bridge, standing proudly over Tampa Bay. Anna Maria Island is the perfect viewpoint to admire this magnificent structure. After the original bridge was catastrophically damaged following an accidental strike by a passing ship, a new and improved version was built in 1987. The four-lane cable suspended bridge is adorned with lights that create a spectacular night-time display.

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10Enjoy a romantic meal at the end of a pier

Rod and Reel Pier at Anna Maria Island Peter Unger / Getty Images

The perfect way to round off your trip to Anna Maria Island is with a romantic meal. Rod and Reel Pier offers the perfect place to take advantage of the ambiance, sounds and smells of a balmy Florida evening. This fine-dining restaurant serves traditional Southern fare, including seafood platters and steak dishes. After your meal, you can sit above the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico with a cold beer as you plan your return to beautiful Anna Maria Island.

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11Bike around the island

Two Bicycles with Baskets parked on the Sandy Beach of Anna Maria Island, Florida EyeMark / Getty Images

One of the best ways to get around Anna Maria Island and work off a few calories is by bicycle. There are several bike rental stores on the island and you will soon find the multi-use trails that are ideal for cyclists. One of the best biking trails on Anna Maria Island is the Coquina Bike path which has some beautiful views. The five-mile trail at Bradenton beach is another good ride.

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12Visit the city jail

Yes really. You can visit the old jail that used to house prisoners on the island. It is part of the Anna Maria Island Historical Society Museum and gives an insight into the prison conditions during the early twentieth century. Well almost. You need to use your imagination too and try to think what it would have been like constantly exposed to insects. It's all a part of the history of Anna Maria Island and is an interesting thing to do.

13Hike to Bean Point

Bean Point is a special place and not just because it is a remote part of the island or an exclusive beach area. This beautiful beach overlooking Tampa Bay was once the home of the island's founder, George Emerson Bean. The area is full of history and good for spotting wildlife. It is also famous for its spectacular sunsets. In the evenings you can see the lights of mainland Florida in the distance.

14Enjoy Pine Avenue

Pine Avenue is one of the best places to chill out on Anna Maria Island. You'll find some great places to eat with cafes servicing a range of local foods and some great gift shops. There are some beautiful community gardens full of tropical flowers such as hibiscus where you can relax and the beach is close by so everything is within easy reach. You can also spot wildlife from the pier at one end of Pine Avenue and you can explore the City Jail.

15Go stargazing

Moon Lightning above the ocean at night NGC7000 / Getty Images

There is very little light pollution on Anna Maria Island as the community has taken care to not allow too much urban build-up. That means if you go for a nighttime walk you'll be able to see the stars sparkling in the night sky. You can sit on a beach or enjoy a walk after an evening at one of the bars and simply look up to see the sky as nature intended. It is one of the best reasons for heading to Anna Maria Island and being with nature.