We’ve been enjoying our summer of Florida staycations, and wanted to squeeze in one last trip before school began. When it comes to Florida vacations, we are looking for outdoor fun, relaxation, and something the entire family can enjoy. Anna Maria Island ticked each of our boxes.
South of Fort De Soto Park, Anna Maria Island, is a long 7-mile coastal island, perfectly situated for beachy Florida vacations. The fine quartz crystals sand is a soft white powder—some of the best beaches in the country.
Located on the Gulf of Mexico, Anna Maria Island has warm water most of the year.
It’s a recipe for paradise.
Our family had an amazing time, and we wanted to share some of our favorite things to do in Anna Maria Island with you. Keep reading for tips on where to stay, what to do, and where to eat.
Best Place to Stay in Anna Maria Island
When it comes to traveling with a family of 8, finding a place to stay becomes a bit challenging. And everything a bit more expensive.
So, we wanted to share with you our best tip for accommodating a large family and saving money—getting a house or condo-style rental.
We rented a 2-bedroom Island Villa-Condo at Waterline resort. There was plenty of room for us since the twins are still babies. The best feature, in addition to the separate living space and dining area, is the fully equipped kitchen.
You can save tons on using the in-room kitchen vs. going out to eat. And most moms know having snacks on hand is always a plus. With a little forward-thinking, we were ready to feed our troop on a budget-conscious menu.
The money we saved allowed us to enjoy other great activities and conveniences.
“Beach Rules: Soak up the sun. Ride the waves. Breathe the salty air. Feel the breeze. Build sandcastles. Rest, relax, reflect. Collect seashells. Bare-feet required.”Unknown
Things to Do in Anna Maria Island
Anna Maria Island Golf Cart Rental
First, let me recommend renting a golf cart while you are on Anna Maria Island. If you are familiar with Florida vacations, then you may know about our love of golf cart communities. There is just something special about the convenience of hopping in a golf cart to make your way around.
At Fun and More Rentals, they offer golf carts up to 8 passengers, which is perfect for us. We strapped the twins’ car seats right in and off we went. The kids are still talking about it.
This may be a bit of a splurge, but it’s truly worth it.
Go to the Beach
The 663 miles of beautiful beaches are what bring thousands of tourists seeking Florida vacations each year. Anna Maria Island has oodles of opportunities for beach-going.
We recommend using another rental service, Just 4 Fun Rentals, to get all of your beach gear needs. It’s not as much of a staycation if you have to work for it. Relax, avoid filling your car, and let a rental service do it for you.
Our family borrowed beach chairs, boogie boards, sand pails, and a metal detector for our big beach day. It was awesome to not worry about anything. And if you are looking for the ultimate in convenience, they will deliver it to you.
There are so many rental options it’s amazing. You can borrow bicycles, sporting goods, other water sports gear, and even board games if you get rained out. This is a great service for Florida vacations or staycations.
I mean, who enjoys packing anyway?
“I believe in the ocean curing all bad moods. I believe in the waves wiping away worries. I believe in seashells bringing good luck. I believe in toes in the sand grounding my soul.”Unknown
Walk the beaches. Depending on the time of year you can see all kinds of amazing animal life.
- Turtle Nests (May through October)
- Nesting Birds
- Bald Eagles, Osprey, Pelicans, and Seagulls.
- Sand Dollars (they are living creatures so be sure to leave them where you find them)
Florida vacations are a peek at paradise, so try to enjoy the moment. If you have never been on a dolphin watching tour you may want to visit the Bridge Street Pier. We enjoyed watching some fishermen there too.
There are SO many amazing boat tours that leave right from the island. And if you’re staying at the Waterline, many leave steps from your door!
From sunset cruises to fishing expeditions to dolphin sighting tours, there is a lot of guided tours to choose from, and as a large family, you can even book your own boat to stay away from crowds.
In fact, you can even rent a boat to create your very own expedition and family memories.
“Dance with the waves, move with the sea. Let the rhythm of the water set your soul free.”Christy Ann Martine
The Best Places to Eat in Anna Maria Island
I don’t know if you can call us foodies, but we do love to eat. I enjoy making new recipes and sharing them with you. So, when we go on vacation, I am always looking for places we can share with you.
Yes, we did use our kitchen at the rental, but it was a vacation after all. We had a couple of splurge meals and mainly went out for dessert.
Here are our list of recommended places to eat in Anna Maria Island:
Stop at Poppo’s if you enjoy Mexican food. They offer customizable tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and rice bowls. It was so good.
Vinnie’s Italian Kitchen
Chef Vincenzo, a native from Italy, prepares all of the genuine Italian dishes in his kitchen by hand, just like his mother and grandmother before him. This is a takeout restaurant, so order ahead for a picnic lunch or a special dinner back at your hotel. We recommend the Stromboli and pizza.
Dips Ice Cream Shop
No Blue family staycation is complete without touring the local dessert spots. Dips is an old-fashioned candy store style ice cream shop. It was our favorite frozen sweet spot in town.
Two Scoops Ice Cream Parlor and Coffee Cafe
The Two Scoops menu is a little more comprehensive. They offer breakfast, lunch, and a wide variety of cold treats. But most important if you need a pick-me-up they have coffee.
The Donut Experiment
We saved the best for last. This is an absolute must-try!
I’ve said it before and I know I’ll say it again—we love donuts. The Donut Experiment was so much fun.
Create your own donuts by choosing the cake flavor, the icing, the topping, and the drizzle. The entire family had a blast, and it was so good.
“At the beach, life is different. Time doesn’t move hour to hour but mood to moment. We live by the currents, plan by the tides and follow the sun.”Sandy Gingras
A Few Essentials We Packed for Anna Maria Island
While we rented the beach essentials, and there are a few places to rent baby equipment on Anna Maria Island as well (plus, our hotel provided cribs in our room for the twins), we had a few essentials I make sure I don’t leave home without!
First off, we’ve been rolling with the amazing Geo stroller from Joolz for about a month now and I take it EVERYWHERE we go! I seriously wish we had it 10 months earlier when the twins could have fit in the bassinet. This stroller moves like buttah and the babies are so happy cruising double-decker style with the expandable set that makes it perfect for twins (or just growing families!).
I love that this stroller fits wherever we go, easily through doors and because the seats are slightly stacked, it just feel bulky (which I’ve found is the case with many twin strollers).
I also always pack up my backpack style diaper bag from Lily Jade, and we’ve also been using BadaBum! lately on the babes’ booties. It essentially replaces wet wipes, lotion, and diaper rash cream for good and cleanses, moisturizes, and protects their delicate bottoms at each diaper change!
Tiny Teethers clips have been a pacifier saver too! My boys were starting to drop their paci’s all over the place, and these clips keep them in place. Of course, we don’t leave without our essential oil rollers, like Sleepy Head and Tummy Buddy (and definitely Boo Boo Blend when on vacay too!). Our Hope and Plum ring sling is a favorite in the carrier department for sure and I always keep it in the diaper bag!
The Dearest Grey also has some of the BEST suction bowls, catch bibs and pacifiers that we’ve used… so I like to keep them close-by as well!
Why Florida Vacations Are Worth It
With the way things are I highly recommend locals enjoy some Florida staycation ideas. But I really hope that everyone else considers Florida vacations this year, too.
While there are definitely busy tourist areas, there are also so many ways to avoid large crowds and travel in a more conscious, family-friendly way. Everywhere we went, the businesses were being very health-conscious, and we felt safe in our rental as well.
The safest activities to do in today’s climate are outdoors. A beach staycation allowed us to get in that special family time we so needed, in the best/safest way possible.
Many Floridians rely on the tourism industry for their livelihood. By continuing to do Florida vacations in a safe way we help these everyday people feed their families.