This little town at the northern tip of Anna Maria Island—full-time population 1,800—is beloved for its beachy ambiance, but it isn’t stuck in time. Bicycle to scenic Pine Avenue to shop, dine and amble to the city pier. All this charm comes at a cost: In 2018, the city made Zillow’s list of 24 U.S. cities whose median price is $1 million.
What to Love
Seven-mile stretch of beautiful white-sand beaches, lively seafood restaurants and tiki bars (some of them literally perched on the sand), fishing piers, souvenir shops and mom-and-pop boutiques, is as Old Florida as you’re going to get in this region.
Dining, Shopping & Entertainment
- Tide Tables 12507 Cortez Rd W Bradenton (941) 567-6206 tidetablescortez.com
Welcome to Tide Tables Restaurant and Marina. Owners Bobby & Gwen Woodson and Karen Bell invite you to sit back, relax, and enjoy our delicious local seafood and other fare served by our courteous and efficient staff. All the while, please take in our breathtaking views of the Intracoastal Waterway, abundant sea and bird life, big Florida sky, and the authentic working waterfront of historic Cortez Village.
- Blue Marlin 121 Historic Bridge Street, Bradenton Beach (941) 896-9737 bluemarlinami.com
Our cozy cottage sets the tone for an intimate dining experience, like you’re visiting the beach house of an old friend – who happens to source seafood fresh off the boat from their neighbors in Cortez, the nation’s oldest commercial fishing community. Live music on the weekends, inspired cocktails, and an expertly-curated wine list complement our dinner menu, which features local favorites like Grouper & Clams, Cortez Chowder, a hand-carved Filet for you carnivores… and don’t sleep on the best-kept secret on AMI, the Lobster Grilled Cheese. Or is it The Burger? No matter which dish or drink you select, we hope you’ll enjoy the Blue Marlin experience… and come back for more.
- The Waterfront Restaurant 111 South Bay Blvd. Anna Maria 941-778-1515 thewaterfrontrestaurant.net
Welcome to The Waterfront Restaurant on Anna Maria Island. We would like to share with you more than an outstanding dining experience; we invite you to escape to a simpler time – tropical, laid-back Florida the way it used to be. Using fresh, natural flavors and favorites many will recognize – picatta, au Poivre, pesto, mojo and others, we also devote one page of our daily menu to rare seasonal items provided by local watermen and special presentations we prepare with cutting edge techniques. Our carefully crafted menu will provide delights for every taste, from the conservative to the more adventurous.
Things to Do:
- Pine Avenue On Anna Maria Island’s Pine Avenue, you’ll get an Old Florida feel. You can shop, eat, discover a little local history, take a snooze in colorful Adirondack chairs set up outside local businesses, and even fish and catch some waves—all within less than a mile. Pine Avenue begins on a tranquil Gulf beach and continues to the Anna Maria City Pier, where fishing is available 24/7 within view of the Skyway Bridge spanning Tampa Bay. At The Donut Expirement , sidle up to the hot donut bar and select your icing and then your toppings. Rainbow and chocolate sprinkles? Check. Bacon? Check. Crushed oreo cookies? Check on that one, too. Take a walk on the pier to spot herons, pelicans, fish, dolphins, tourists from around the world and lots of people fishing.
- Beach Market at Coquina Beach 941-518-4431
Come and stroll the Beach Market at Coquina Beach from 10-4 every Sunday through July (excluding Easter, Mother’s Day, Memorial Weekend, and the 4th of July Weekend) and every Wednesday, (excluding Christmas). You will find local artists, arts and crafts, jewelry, fresh produce, baked goods, gourmet foods, herbs and teas, local honey, plants, apparel, pottery, purses, collectibles, photography, woodworking, health and beauty items, unique gifts and more! Come and watch local artisans creating and find that perfect souvenir of your trip to Florida. You will find many unique items at the Beach Market.
Presented by Sarasota Magazine
City of Anna Maria
This little town at the northern tip of Anna Maria Island—full-time population 1,800—is beloved for its beachy ambiance, but it isn’t stuck in time. In the last decade, investors have snapped up many humble 1960s-era concrete-block residences and built multi-story mega vacation rental homes in their place. Now, nearly 70 percent of homeowners are rental owners. That means a constant turnover of weeklong visitors, who bicycle or ride their golf carts to scenic Pine Avenue to shop, dine and stroll to the Anna Maria City Pier and the Rod ’N Reel Pier, with their knockout views of the Sunshine Skyway bridge. Venerable institutions like the Island Players community theater, a weekly farmers market, and the Studio at Gulf and Pine art gallery, which its variety of hands-on art classes, help create a sense of community.
Just to the south, Holmes Beach, a town of just under two square miles with a year-round population of 3,913, has a distinctly more residential, laid-back vibe. Vacation rentals abound, mostly unpretentious older concrete-block homes of 1,400 square feet or so, and newer, larger pastel-colored Key West-style homes. Here you’ll also find Key Royale, a canal-front community of executive homes with its own nine-hole golf course, where a lot of updating is going on. Boaters especially appreciate Key Royale’s easy access to Tampa Bay and the Gulf. Manatee Public Beach is the major draw. There’s also a new municipal skate park and a public library, and you can charter a fishing trip at Keyes Marina.
Bradenton Beach, on Anna Maria Island’s south end, is the area’s funkiest beach community. Separated from Longboat Key by beautiful Longboat Pass, the town is unabashedly tourist oriented, with old wooden cottages and low-rise vacation condos for rent right across the street from the beach. Bustling Bridge Street has shell shops, a mini-golf course, restaurants and—take your pick—both a big new Daiquiri Deck bar and restaurant and the atmospheric old Drift In cocktail lounge. It terminates at the Bridge Street Pier, where you can catch a boat tour of Sarasota Bay. Coquina Beach is popular, and across the road is Leffis Key Preserve, where trails lead to a whopping 26-foot hill at its center, offering awesome 360-degree views of Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
And while you’re in the neighborhood, just off the island via the Cortez Bridge, be sure to stroll through the historic fishing village of Cortez, where you’ll see the picturesque old wood cottages and fish houses of the village’s pioneering families, 97 of which are on the National Register of Historic Places. This is where you’ll find popular seafood restaurants, too. The annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival, held the third weekend in February, draws more than 20,000 visitors to hear live music, admire nautical arts and crafts and enjoy fresh-off-the-boat seafood. (The 2021 event is canceled due to Covid-19 but is planned to return in 2022.)
Star Fish Co.
12306 46th Ave. W., Cortez, (941) 794-1243, starfishcompany.com
An Old Florida legend, Star Fish is a laid-back, cash-only dockside joint where the freshest of catches are served in plain boxes. During busy season, the line can stretch back a ways, so don’t be in a rush. As one hand-painted sign will remind you, “You’re on Cortez time.”