Family Friendly Destination: Anna Maria Island

A couple of weeks ago you followed along as I took over the gulf coast for a few days of sun, sea and sand- I've never gone home feeling so refreshed. It was exactly what I needed and could not have asked for a better experience on Anna Maria Island.

I'll start by saying that after making the decision to travel more this year I was starting to feel a little run down from being on a plane every 4 weeks, especially after making a last-minute trip to Florida the week before, for a funeral. This time I decided to bring a couple of the boys along to see how well The Bradenton Gulf Islands stood up to being a family-friendly destination. I'm always looking for places to take the family and this did it for them. Indiana had his very first beach vacation and Aiden was able to have a little independence playing on the beach. I personally got to semi-relax with my toes in the sand and just take in the sights as the boys enjoyed themselves.

Anna Maria Island is a very laid back, inviting destination that caters to adults and kids alike, with plenty to do for everyone. I'll admit we spent a huge chunk of time on the beach or at the pool, but we did venture out from our resort when it came to meals. Since we opted to skip a car rental we were thrilled to find that there was a free (!) Trolley to take us around. It ran from one end of the Island to the next about every 15 minutes. The boys loved riding it to the downtown area in the morning for donuts and to check out one of the many fishing piers.
Ride The Trolley Around The Island. It's FREE!

After crossing the bridge, you're greeted by a colorful fleet of beach and waterfront bars, restaurants and shops. Which naturally, was right up my alley. If I had a week to spare I would have spent my time taking outfit pictures in front of the vast array of colorful backgrounds. Instead I hit the beach and enjoyed the attractions and culinary options.

Where To Stay: 
Anna Maria has dozens of accommodations running along the water and beach, both big and small. We made ourselves at home at the beautifully manicured Bungalow Beach Resort. I cannot say enough good things about this cozy little resort tucked away on Bradenton Beach and surrounded by lush tropical plants and trees. It's a family owned property with 16 units ranging from studio to three bedroom bungalows, each with a private entrance. Choose from courtyard, poolside or gulf front. I stayed in the Coquina bungalow which opened directly to the beach and was equipped with a large full kitchen, bed with a skylight above and sleeper sofa bed. The room also had a jacuzzi tub so you better believe I took full advantage as soon as the boys went to bed. Calgon take me away! We had three separate porches, but frequented the beachside one the most. I can't tell you how relaxing it was to sit on the porch with a cup of coffee while the kids played in the sand three feet away. No toting bagfuls of stuff down the beach only to realize you forgot something. This way, we only had to go a few feet for sand and a very short walk for the water on the private beach. The resort also had lounge chairs & umbrellas on the beach and at poolside to make your experience as relaxing as possible. One could spend the day on the sugar-white sand under the swaying coconut palms listening to the surrounding sounds of gulls, waves and laughter. If you want to unplug and recharge, this is the way to do it.

While I personally was a gal about the beach, our 9-year old traveller was enamored by the pool. A quick dip in the heated 4 ft. deep pool was a refreshing addition to our day; and come sunset, the waterfall and cabana area for private entertaining make it a magical space

It was hard checking out after just three days. Next time, I need a least a week on the sandy shores of the Bungalow Beach resort.

What To Do & See:
As for surrounding attractions and activities, Anna Maria Island offers everything from paddle boarding, kayaking, parasailing, boat tours to miniature golf and Mote Marine Aquarium. All just minutes away. Not staying directly on the beach? You have over 9 beaches to choose from throughout the island.

Feeling adventurous and wanting to jump off the island for the day? Bradenton and it's sister-town, Sarasota have many cultural attractions including the world famous Ringling Museum & Selby Botanical Gardens, as well as alligator and wildlife spotting at Myakka State Park. You can find a full list of area attractions and activities, here.

The night-life includes numerous restaurants & bars with live music of every genre all around the island. I highly recommend you check out the Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe for a sunset serenade...
Where To Eat: 
 For meals, we tried a variety of culinary destinations during our stay including: the Bridge Street Bistro, Joe's Eats and Sweets, Gulf Drive Cafe (on the beach!), The Donut Experiment and Poppo's Taqueria. But that was just the tip of the iceberg. You can find dozens of delicious options ranging from casual and kid-friendly to more upscale: here.
How To Get There: 
 As you set your sights on traveling to the Bradenton Gulf Islands, I'm going to share how EASY it was to get there. Anna Maria Island and the surrounding beaches are about a short 30 minute trip from the Sarasota-Bradenton International airport. After a nearly 3-hour flight with a 1 and 9 year old I was grateful that I wasn't in the car for an additional 2 hours.

Thinking Anna Maria Island might be there spot for you? Head over to the Visit Bradenton Gulf Islands page to start planning your trip!

A huge thank you to Bungalow Beach Resort and Visit Bradenton for hosting my trip!