Things to Do with Kids on Anna Maria Island - Summer Edition
My kids absolutely love summer on Anna Maria Island, Florida. There are tons of things to do and really cool activities that are perfect to keep kids from boredom and parents happy. Our little island is great for unplugging and getting outside just like we used to when we were kids back in the day!
I've put together an epic list of exceptionally fun and unique things to do on Anna Maria Island in the summer so that your vacation will reap tons of exciting memories for years to come.
1. Surf camp - There are a few options for surf camp on the island or you can book a coach for a one-on-one session. Endless summer surf camp is held each Sunday with a quick little prayer to start and is a great free way to get your kids introduced to this addictive sport. West Coast Surf Shop, Florida's oldest surf shop runs their Surf Camp Monday to Friday half days for a reasonable fee. Contact them for dates as they usually run this camp on the front end of the summer. If you'd like to hire your own surf coach, West Coast Surf Shop has some great contacts for you. For more experienced surfers head to White Avenue in Holmes Beach on a sunny day to catch some choice waves.
2. Snorkelling - You can buy your kids a cute snorkelling set or get fancy with some newer full face options and pop them in the water at the shoreline to discover the marine life that lives close to our beaches. Discovering live sand dollars, minnows and small fish with the occasional sting ray meandering by is a great option for land lubbers. For something a little more adventurous we like to head out to Egmont Key on the north-west of Anna Maria Island, near the ruins and explore the natural habitat of even more marine life. Egmont Key, a national wildlife refuge, is only accessible by boat or ferry. You can book a tour or rent a boat directly from our website here. You can explore the rest of the island which has the remains of Fort Dade, a Spanish - American era fort along with the lighthouse that has been serving the Tampa Bay port for over 70 years.
3. Mini Golf - What kid doesn't love mini putting? You can head to The Fish Hole in Bradenton Beach on historic Bridge Street for a fun game of golf anytime, day or night. This little spot lives large inside the golf course. With cool misting sprays and a 3,000 pound koi pond full of fish the atmosphere is tropical and lush. You can even feed the fish after your game. Look at The Fish Hole website for coupons before you go.
4. Fishing on the Piers - Kids love to learn about fishing and all of the interesting types of fish that live in our local Anna Maria waters. My kids were especially smitten with the Toad Fish they caught off our backyard dock. Reminiscent of Jabba the Hut, we were simultaneously grossed out and weirdly entranced by this fish. Needless to say we let it go to live another day. Don't be surprised if our Great Blue Herons fly up and perch themselves close by while you are catching your fish, eagerly waiting for a hand out. Be careful to cut the fish into small pieces if you do decide to leave something behind for the birds, they can get caught in their throats if pieces are too large. Florida does require a fishing license for anyone over 16 years of age so be sure to buy a license at one of the piers. Rod n Reel pier, Anna Maria City Pier and Bridge Street Piers are all great choices. Learn more about fishing license requirements here.
5. Segway Tours - This is a really fun way to toot around the island and learn about the local flora and fauna. Head out on one of our tour operator's tours from Coquina Trail to Longboat Key and even Cortez Fishing Village, this is a fun and inexpensive tour. Tours start at $49 for one hour. You can book a Segway tour directly on our website here.
6. Horseback Riding in the Water - This is a really special vacation activity for kids. It's a little pricey but absolutely perfect for the child that loves, loves, loves horses! No experience is required but there is an age requirement of 8 years and older. We highly recommend our preferred tour operator who has bomb-proof ponies with fat tummies so kids will stay put while riding. They have very experienced professionals who will lead you on your tour and you pretty much have no fear of falling off because you are in the water. You'll be amazed when your pony starts swimming while you are riding! Prices start at $150 for 60 minute rides. You can read more about this experience here as well as book directly on our website here.
7. Ride in a Donut Boat - This is a new and totally fun looking boating adventure. We haven't tried it yet, but the idea of boating around the Inter-coastal waterway in a large inflated donut is enticing! Head down to Jewfish Key and anchor with the kids while they explore the sandbar and swim in the shallow waters. Just keep an eye on the tide that runs out to the Gulf of Mexico at this area. It's a great idea to get as shallow as possible to enjoy the area. Rentals start at $250 for 2 hours of fun. Donut Boat Rentals are located at the Cortez Seafood Shack docks.
8. Toot around the island in a Golf Cart - My kids constantly beg me to rent a golf cart... we really need to buy one ourselves. There is absolutely no better way to enjoy an Anna Maria Island vacation! Riding around with the coastal breezes blowing in your hair, the salty ocean air and not a care in the world. We love it and highly recommend renting one during your visit.
Please keep in mind that all laws apply to driving a golf cart on Anna Maria Island as if you were driving a car. That means kids NEED to be in car seats and booster seats. I can't tell you how many times I've seen moms driving with babies in their arms at 30 mph. It's shocking and against the law! All drivers must hold a valid drivers license and be insured to rent a golf cart. You can traverse the entire island with the exception of Interstate 64 - Manatee Avenue which is a tiny stretch of road next to Publix in Holmes Beach. You can rent a Golf Cart here and they will drop it off at your vacation rental door and pick it up when you are done.
9. Paint a Sand Dollar - This is a great kids activity to do with it's raining on Anna Maria Island or if you've simply had too much sun. Head over to The Shiny Fish Emporium and sit down at their craft table and create your own masterpiece. A great keepsake of your vacation on the island or for a Christmas ornament gift idea.
10. Taste a Hawaiian Bubble - While you are at The Shiny Fish Emporium be sure to try out a tasty cool ice cream treat called a Hawaiian Bubble. It's little pockets of ice cream wrapped in mochi that tastes like fondant to us. A little piece of heaven that doesn't melt in your hands. My kids buy these by the dozen with favorite flavors like Cherry Blossom, Tiramisu, Strawberry Dark Chocolate. Yummm.... A truly unique sweet island treat!
11. Try Freakishly Fresh Donuts - This really isn't so much of an activity as it is a tasting experience No visit to Anna Maria Island is complete without a stop at The Donut Experiment. Head there early! This is a ritual in the village of Anna Maria on the north end of the island, on a weekend the line up can be out the door! Head inside and grab an order sheet, fill out the type of icing that you want (think chocolate, vanilla, maple, caramel, etc..) then check off the toppings that you want like rainbow sprinkles, fruity pebbles and so many more options... even bacon!. My hubby's fave is the key lime pie flavor and the kids love dark chocolate with raspberry drizzle!
12. Building Sandcastles in the Sand - This is a fun free activity that every kid loves old and young. We've even had guests that have built an amazing Game of Thrones style sandcastle kingdom. If you visit during the fall be sure to check out the Sandblast usually held each November. It's a sand sculpting event. You can enter your own team to participate or just visit and marvel at the incredible creations that both professionals and amateurs build on our gorgeous beaches. Be sure to smash down your sandcastles after you make them between the months of May through to October because it's turtle nesting season. We don't want a mama turtles getting caught in a hole or obstructed on her way to quickly nest on our shores.
13. Turtle Talks - Which brings me to turtle talks sponsored by the Anna Maria island Shorebird and Turtle Monitoring Group. Both interesting and educational, Turtle Talks are free and held during the months of June - July and August. Tuesday mornings at the Crosspointe Fellowship Church which has plenty of parking. These talks are fun and filled with photos, videos and free activity books and temporary tattoos. It's the perfect length of time with 30 minutes for both smaller and older children. Donations are welcome to help keep this organization doing great things. The turtle nesting population continues to rise each year for generations to come because of the efforts of this non-profit group. You can get more information from the great volunteers here.
14. Swimming in the Backyard Pools at your Vacation Rental - We've been told by a few of our guests that their families head to the beach for one day but that they preferred to enjoy the backyard beaches, swimming pools, docks and hot tubs right in our own vacation rental backyards. A fantastic, relaxed way for kids to get tons of exercise and parents can chill out poolside with a cocktail. (Alcohol is not permitted on our public beaches.) A great way to have fun
15. Busch Gardens - I know, I know, I know, Busch Gardens is not exactly nearby and should be an entire day trip to really enjoy the theme park and amazing zoo but it really is great for teens and kids that are into a thrill. My teens beg me to go there for a day of fun in the sun. Every aspect of Busch Gardens is thrilling even the tram ride.... my husband fell of of this last time they went! True Story... LOLZ.
16. Bike Riding - The village of Anna Maria just finished construction on the bike path that runs from the bottom end of the city on Gulf Drive to the top end on Jacaranda Road. Here's a handy map to help you navigate a great tour on quiet streets for kids. There are handy bike paths to keep kids away from traffic while safely biking. There are several areas of interest to stop at along the way such as Rod n Reel Pier, Bayfront Park to stretch out and play on the playground, Two Scoops Ice Cream to cool off and The Historic Anna Maria Museum on Pine Avenue.
Download this handy Anna Maria Island Bike Map specifically for the village of Anna Maria where our vacation rentals are located. Click the photo to download the map.
17. Anna Maria Historic Museum - This leads us to the museum and the cool 'outdoor jail found on Pine Avenue in the village of Anna Maria. Find your social media moment at the Jail where you can post an awesome vacation photo of your kids in jail on Instagram. The museum is open year-round during mid-day usually between 10 am - 1 or 4 pm depending on the time of year. The location was founded in the 1900's and was used for picnics for day trippers arriving by the hundreds on the ferry as it was the only location for fresh water on the island at the time. There are lots of historical items to view inside the museum and the restored Belle Haven cottage which used to sit on the end of Anna Maria City Pier. From December through March join the Anna Maria Historical Society every Wednesday for food and fun!
18. Parasailing - For the adventurer this is a fabulous activity. Frankly soaring up high in the sky scares the begeezus out of me but is the perfect activity for a dare devil and thrill seeker. There is a minimum weight restriction so some children under the age of six need to be measured. You can fly high in the sky tandem or up to 4 people at a time.
19. Sea Doos - Older kids and parents with smaller children will enjoy riding around on Sea Doos. The best spot to rent sea doos is at Bradenton Beach Marina, Cortez and a few other local tour providers. If the waters are rough, stick to the Intercoastal waterway where you can see an abundance of marine life like dolphins, manatees and shore birds. Definitely educate yourself on the channels and stick to them because it gets extremely shallow in a lot of areas and you don't want to damage the local underwater wildlife habitat.
20. Local Parks - Visit one of the local parks that are open from sunrise to 10:00 pm. There are a few to choose from on the island. Check out our Insider Guide to the Beaches for a full list of amenities and information. The Free Island Trolley stops at each location with the exception of Bayfront Park where you would disembark at the Anna Maria City Pier stop and walk westward over the humpback bridge and into the Park itself..
Manatee Park - 4000 State Road 64 and Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, FL 34217
Manatee Public Park located directly on the beach boasts volleyball nets, picnic tables, beach wheelchairs, a restaurant and so much more. It's a great place for teens to hang out because there are so many sports activities.
Coquina Park - 2650 Gulf Drive South, Bradenton Beach, FL 34217
Coquina Park is the longest stretch of park on the island and a great place if you would like a long bike ride. The Coquina trail is a path that stretches for about 3 miles. Stop off at the Gulf Drive Cafe for a cool drink or quick bite.
Bayfront Park - 316 North Bay Blvd, Anna Maria, FL 34216
Bayfront Park is also located on the Tampa Bay side on a narrower stretch of beach. It offers some protection from wind and a bit more shade with it's playground and picnic facilities. It's the closest park to our vacation rentals and we love that it's smack dab in the middle of Rod n Reel Pier and Anna Maria Island City Pier. It's also a great place to wade in the water and explore marine life that need a bit more protection like crabs, starfish, etc... Oh and it's close to Two Scoops our fave ice cream shop. Ride your bikes here it's a great way to spend the day.
21. Preserves - What's the difference between a Park and a Preserve you ask? A park is a designated area by local governments for the public to enjoy, preserves are important areas set aside for their eco-systems and natural settings. And luckily we have a few of them in the Anna Maria Island area. Due to the fragile nature of the preserves bikes and dogs are not permitted but in many cases you can park your bikes at the entrance to the preserves. Most preserves are open from sunrise to 8:00 pm.
Coquina Baywalk at Leffis Key - 2651 Gulf Drive, South Bradenton Beach, FL 34217
Located directly on the island and a hidden secret. Not many people venture on the east side of Coquina Beach and take the trail up to a small 26-foot high hill for a great view of Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Rich with local floral and fauna and over 30 acres of land, it's a treat to meander through the cool mangrove forest checking out the local wildlife and shore birds. This restoration project was a huge effort of both private and public funding to restore the habitats of the coastline allowing birds to forage in the tidal pools and native plants to thrive. Bring your camera!
Neal Preserve - 12301 Manatee Ave W, Bradenton, FL 34209
Located just off the island across the Manatee Avenue Bridge on the south side, this 120-acre coastal habitat also boasts mangrove forests. Climb the 20-foot observation tower after winding through trails and boardwalks. Here you will find reconstructed Native American burial grounds that were excavated in the 1930's by the Smithsonian Museum. The area is known to have been inhabited from 3,000 BC to 1400 AD. This location is great for bird watching too.
Perico Preserve - 11700 Manatee Ave W, Bradenton, FL 34209
Just a little further on from Neil Preserve is Perico Preserve, originally a farm this habitat was transformed back to it's original coastal wetlands, and scrub hills designed to support the fragile eco-system. This is a good spot for bird watching and education.
Robinson Preserve - 1704 99th St NW, Bradenton, FL 34209
The most well known preserve in the area offering the most amenities, Robinson preserve has beaches, canoe and kayak launches, fishing, picnic grill pavilions, playgrounds and trails to enjoy. Located on the northwest side of Bradenton it's a short ride from Anna Maria Island and worth the day trip. There are over 682-acres to explore by land or water. There is an educational building called the NEST which is a fantastic opportunity to teach the kids about Florida's wildlife, coastal region and plants. Kids will love scaling the 40-foot tall observation tower with a bird's eye view of five different bodies of water. Here you can bike and walk your dogs in designated areas. Kayakers will love to tour through 2.5 miles of mangrove tunnels and channels. Download the Robinson Preserve Trail Map here.