As the historic heart of Anna Maria Island, Bradenton Beach has been a much-loved destination for decades. Located within Manatee County, the town offers a range of romantic and family-friendly experiences. Life in Bradenton Beach is laid back and your time here will revolve around the beach, ocean, great food, and wonderful vibes.
The town features a series of beautiful beaches that look out to the Gulf of Mexico. Swim, sunbathe, zoom around on jet skis or kick back at the tiki bar overlooking the turquoise water. Its historic downtown is packed with delectable restaurants, a vibrant arts scene, and is a fun place to explore on foot.
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Things to do in Bradenton Beach, FL
There’s no shortage of golden sand around Bradenton Beach, but Coquina Beach just might take the cake. Located on the south end of Anna Maria Island, the beach and its powdery white sand come with a welcoming sense of tranquility while remaining just minutes away from the downtown action.
The beach comes with two sets of public parking, with several walking paths guiding you over the beautiful dunes towards the Gulf Coast. The soft white sand runs to the left and right for miles, with the baby blue sea flowing back and forth against it.
Coquina Beach is manned by lifeguard towers, providing a sense of ease among beachgoers. The calm water has little swell. It’s an ideal spot for a leisurely swim or splashing about with young kids. Within Coquina Bayside Park, you’ll also have access to picnic areas and cabanas.
Further north is the Coquina Beach Cafe, serving delicious food on its waterfront patio. Alongside the cafe is Beach Market at Coquina Beach, where you’ll find arts and crafts to go along with your lunch and drinks.
Historic Bridge Street
As the main thoroughfare in Bradenton Beach, Historic Bridge Street is lined with eclectic boutiques, several art galleries, and some of the best restaurants in town. The street has long been the heartbeat of Bradenton Beach and was originally the only vehicle access point on Anna Maria Island.
Now forming the center of downtown, the oldest part of town is flush with modern amenities, lively culture, and some of the best things to do in Bradenton Beach.
Before your beach day, you can hunt for gear and inflatable watercraft. Afterward, you can escape the sun at one of the many chic cafes and happening bars.
For those who can’t go long without a shopping adventure, peruse the offerings on the street. Here, you’ll discover a variety of inviting local shops selling anything from the perfect souvenir to island fashion.
As the sun falls, toast to another great day within the great local bars and restaurants, including the Bridge Street Bistro.
Holmes Beach is north of downtown Bradenton Beach and in the center of Anna Maria Island. In the latter years of the 19th century, Holmes Beach was a simple homestead. Post World War II, a bulk of that land was swept up and turned into what we see today.
Today, Holmes Beach is a popular spot not just for a day at the beach but also for accommodation from hotels to vacation rentals. But it’s Manatee Public Beach that brings in and keeps travelers happy.
Just off of the Spanish Rocks Reef, Manatee Public Beach has something for all ages. One of the best Anna Maria Island beaches, the white sand beach has plenty of space to veg out and watch the sun rise and fall.
As you trade your time with the turquoise water and the soft sand, the kids can run amok on the beach’s playgrounds. At lunch, the crew can gather back together in the picnic area with burgers being cooked on the BBQs.
Bradenton Beach City Pier
When the historic Bridge Street was first developed, it connected Cortez Village (and Bradenton) across Sarasota Bay to Anna Maria Island. Today, the modern Cortez Bridge does the heavy lifting. The original wooden bridge was cut in half and now forms the Bradenton Historic Street Pier.
As you wander through the downtown district, you’ll spot people coming and going from the popular fishing pier. At the beginning of the pier, there’s a bait and tackle shop that will get you kitted out for a day of leisurely fishing. The spot is also a common launch point for some adventurous deep-sea fishing adventures.
The Bridge Street Pier also has the beloved Anna Maria Oyster Bar on the Pier. This family-friendly restaurant is the place to go to enjoy the sunset on the bayside of the island.
Leffis Key Preserve
Protecting and restoring the natural wetland habitat, the Leffis Key Preserve is both a sightly and important part of Anna Maria Island. You can access the preserve by heading south of Bradenton Beach on the other side of Coquina Beach.
Leffis Key Preserve features walking trails that take you through the beautiful lands, including to the park’s renowned hill. Although only 26 feet tall, the hill offers a spectacular overlook across the island, Sarasota Bay, and towards the blue horizon.
The hill is also the centerpiece of the preserve’s restoration. It’s planted with dune and marshland vegetation. These include sunflowers, sea oats, beach elders, buttonwood, and red cedars. Throughout the park, over 20,000 grass plants help to conserve the delicate coastline. You can discover them as you walk along the boardwalks.
Sea-renity Beach Spa & Bou-tiki
Bradenton Beach is, by its nature, relaxing. But vacations aren’t always restful and stress-free. If you need R&R on your Anna Maria Island trip, treat yourself to a pampering at Sea-renity Beach Spa and Bou-tiki. The soothing ambiance will have you wishing you booked a session sooner.
The Sea-renity Beach Spa & Bou-tiki is the only spa on Anna Maria Island. In typical Bradenton Beach fashion, one of the massage treatment options takes place in a tiki hut on the soft white sand.
Whether you’re within the main complex or on the beach, indulge in a Swedish-inspired treatment that’ll cure your aches and wash the stress away.
As the temperatures soar in the summer, consider an early morning or evening spa treatment.
Longboat Pass and Fishing Beach
Beyond Coquina Beach, at the southern tip of Anna Maria Island, you’ll find Longboat Pass. This is a body of water that splits the island with Longboat Key. Without having to cross the bridge, you can drop your gear and kick back on Longboat Pass and Fishing Beach.
The beach is close to public parking. Anglers can enjoy a brief walk with their equipment before casting a line into the Gulf of Mexico. The narrow pass is popular for its diversity of fish, from snooks and tarpons to redfish and flounder.
Travelers who aren’t interested in fishing will still enjoy this part of Bradenton Beach. As no swimming is allowed, you can enjoy the beautiful views with few crowds.
Bradenton Beach Marina
Opposite the Cortez Bridge, Bradenton Beach Marina is where to go to explore Bradenton Beach on the water. The full-service marine opened in 1982 and offers boat and watercraft rentals along with a variety of island tours.
If your beach days are starting to blend into one, liven things up a bit by hiring a boat or a jet ski. The marine offers full and half-day boat rentals allowing you to take your time exploring beautiful Sarasota Bay. Or, you can do it at speed on your own jet-skiing adventure.
Bradenton Beach Marina is also the base of several dolphin tours and romantic sunset cruises. The marine has a 49-passenger boat called the Anna Maria Explorer and the paddlewheel Anna Maria Princess. These popular cruises can take you around the bay to spot the beloved creatures.
Where to eat & drink
Whether you’re facing the Gulf of Mexico or Sarasota Bay, you’ll have no shortage of delicious food and plenty of dining options in Bradenton Beach. Many of the town’s best restaurants hang out along the happening Bridge Street.
In the historic heart of town, the Bridge Street Bistro serves upscale seafood with an upper deck that offers views of the Gulf Coast. Come by at sunset for a romantic evening with your partner.
At the beginning of the Bridge Street Pier lies Anna Maria Oyster Bar, a great option for families. Come for the fresh oysters and stay for the waterside seating.
Further along the main street, you’ll stumble upon the Bridge Tender Inn & Dockside Bar. Stop in for some classic American pub food and the odd night of live music.
After dinner, wander along Bridge Street to Daiquirí Deck Anna Maria Island. The bar serves the best daiquiris and frozen cocktails on the island, supported by a vibrant atmosphere with regular live music and events.
At the beach end of Bridge Street, on Gulf Drive, is Island Time Bar and Grill. The open-air restaurant lets you feel the breeze as you enjoy their upscale pub cuisine and tiki bar.
For a true beachfront experience, make a reservation at the beloved Beach House Waterfront Restaurant. Have a front-row seat for a Gulf Coast sunset as you indulge in fresh seafood, including their popular grouper sandwich.
For Mexican food and ice-cold beer, you can’t go wrong with Wicked Cantina Bradenton Beach. The Austin-inspired Tex-Mex restaurant & bar serves up mouthwatering tacos, enchiladas, and quesadillas, alongside refreshing craft cocktails.
Where to stay
Silver Surf Gulf Beach Resort
Featuring private beach access, this resort is the perfect spot for soaking up Anna Maria Island’s seaside pleasures. The spacious accommodations include extra amenities like a small refrigerator, microwave, and a seating area. Take a dip in the outdoor pool to cool down from the hot Florida sun.
Bridgewalk, a Landmark Resort
If you’re traveling to AMI as a couple or family, you can’t go wrong with this lovely resort. Rooms are spacious and comfortable, with some offering kitchenettes and private balconies. Other amenities include an outdoor pool, business center, and bar.