Did you really need another reason to spend an afternoon, evening or entire week on Anna Maria Island? Recently named by TripAdvisor.com among the top islands in the U.S. for visitors, the 7-mile key off Manatee County is home to Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach. Each of these three charming cities features picturesque places where powdered-sugar sand meets warm, turquoise waters. But you can only lounge on those beautiful beaches for so long. In addition to dazzling swaths of postcard perfection, here are the top destinations spots, from dive bars to family fun, worth visiting on Anna Maria Island.
Anchor Inn Sometimes all that surf and sunshine is totally overrated and all you really want is a dark room where you can sip a cheap, strong drink poured by a friendly bartender and maybe strike up a conversation with a former square grouper smuggler. 3007 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach; 778-3085
Anna Maria Island Moose Lodge Bradenton Beach’s best bar for that winning combination of sunset viewing, waterfront drinking, downhome eating, legal gambling and live entertainment requires membership but it can be had for a reasonable amount of cash in less time than many other places take to get your order. 110 Gulf Drive S., Bradenton Beach; 778-4110; moose2188.org
Barefoot Tiki Bar and Café A new hangout with an old soul created by and for locals, here’s where the islanders go to watch their favorite bands while sipping cheap, cold beer and noshing on tasty items from the constantly changing tapas menu. 5704 Marian Drive, Holmes Beach; 778-4402
Bortell’s Lounge After sunbathing at a pristine beach like nearby Bean Point, check out the bar where party people have been downing potent beverages and getting wild since back when members of the Allman Brothers Band hung out on the island in the late 1970s. 10002 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria; 778-5487
D Coy Ducks This hole-in-the-wall hotspot is where you will find a roomful of new best friends drinking and dancing on the weekend to the sounds of crowd-pleasing bands. 5410 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach; 778-5888; dcoyducks.net
Drift-In Probably the greatest dive bar within walking distance of any beach in Florida, the Drift In is a smoke-filled, wonderfully disheveled, old-school lounge that power pours cocktails and features a jukebox prone to classic country with a small corner devoted to solo and duo acts. 120 Bridge St., Bradenton Beach; 778-9088
Hurricane Hank’s Nestled in the middle of Holmes Beach’s shopping district, Hank’s is where you grab some grub and libations after finding a nautical treasure across the street at Sand Dollar Gift Shop 5346 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach; 778-5788
Anna Maria Island Beach Café Located where Manatee Avenue meets the beach, this café serving breakfast, lunch and dinner is best known for its all-you-can-eat pancakes and sausage. 4000 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach; 778-0784; amibeachcafe.com.
Banana Cabana Denzel Washington ate at this Caribbean-style seafood place while filming the 2003 feature “Out of Time” and said “great food,” a compliment the restaurant has received from countless others over the years. 103 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach; 779-1930; bananacabanaseafood.com.
Beach Bistro Anna Maria Island’s most celebrated restaurant continues living up to its sterling reputation for clever and classic entrees such as the famous Bistro Bouillabaisse: a succulent broth filled with “Nova Scotia” lobster tails, jumbo shrimp, premium market fish, shellfish and calamari served with herbed garlic toast and aiöli. 6600 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach; 778-6444; beachbistro.com
Beachhouse Restaurant There’s a good reason this place hosts a wedding pretty much every couple hours some days: it’s a gorgeous dining, drinking and relaxation complex set right on the sand, a tiny stroll back from the water. 200 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach; 779-2222; groupersandwich.com
Blue Marlin Grill A cottage from the 1920s transformed into the best place on the island for super fresh, skillfully prepared sea creatures brought over from the docks of nearby Cortez Village by Blue Marlin proprietor Adam Ellis, who also created the adjacent Trap Yard for performances by his favorite local bands. 121 Bridge St., Bradenton; 896-9737; bluemarlinami.com
The Bridge Tender Inn and Dockside Bar The indoor dining area is a cozy room but during daylight hours venture out to the waterfront tiki bar that offers rich views that range from the Bradenton Beach City Pier to the docks of Cortez to the skyline of downtown Sarasota. 135 Bridge St, Bradenton Beach; 778-4849; bridgetenderinn.com
Duffy’s Tavern People have been flocking to this family owned and operated joint for decades to enjoy the kind of burgers that create a most welcome mess and frosty mugs of Budweiser for $1. That’s right, one dollar! 5808 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach; 778-2501; duffystavernami.com
Eat Here Beach Bistro owner Sean Murphy opened the original Eat Here in 2010 in Holmes Beach to offer “a second restaurant concept that was more casual - probably a little less focused on being elegant and a little more focused on being joyful," he recently told the Herald-Tribune. "I wanted to offer something at a more accessible price point." Murphy has since opened equally popular, foodie-adored Eat Here restaurants in downtown Sarasota and Siesta Key. 5315 Gulf Dr, Holmes Beach; 778-041; eathereannamaria.com
Gulf Drive Café & Tiki Breakfast, lunch, dinner or just drinks are always better when enjoyed at this stunning spot right on the water, especially if you’re at a tiki hut table with your toes in the sand. 900 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach; 778-1919; gulfdrivetiki.com
Island Creperie This Francophile-approved eatery features everything from yummy breakfast and desert crepes to escargot and quiche filled with fresh ratatouille and cheese. 127 Bridge St, Bradenton Beach; 778-1011; bistrotfl.com
Island Time Bar & Grill Located by the busy roundabout of Bridge Street and Gulf Drive on the ground floor beneath the more upscale Bridge Street Bistro, this is a fun spot to munch quality bar food, imbibe well-made boat drinks, enjoy live music and people watch: post-divorce singles really like to shake, shake, shake their collective booties here after dark. 111 Gulf Drive, Bradenton Beach; 782-1122; islandtimebarandgrill.com
Joe’s Eats and Sweets There’s a slew of homemade ice cream and fudge flavors that should satisfy even the most discerning sweet tooth, but you really have to try the key lime cheesecake ice cream. 219 Gulf Drive S., Bradenton Beach; 778-0007; joeseatsandsweets.com
Lobstah’s A great spot for tourists and transplants yearning for northern cuisine, the restaurant flies in its lobsters from New England and does a nice job with usual suspects like steak, chicken and pasta selections. 5337 Gulf Drive, Suite 500, Holmes Beach; 779-1000; lobstahs.com
Mr. Bones BBQ You gotta love a place, and we do, that greets patrons with an icy beer bottle-filled coffin and a sign that reads: “No salt, pepper, ketchup, etc. in dining room. Don’t even ask. Our food is expertly made by New Orleans trained chefs. No improvement is needed.” 3007 Gulf Dr, Holmes Beach; 778-6614; mrbonesbbq.com.
Old Hamburg Schnitzelhaus This family restaurant tucked away in a Holmes Beach strip mall has been lauded for its wiener schnitzel, beef goulash and other traditional German dishes. 3246 E. Bay Drive, Holmes Beach; 778-1320
Paradise Bagels Fresh bagels baked in-house are the foundation of a bevy of highly recommended breakfast dishes and more. 3210 E Bay Dr, Holmes Beach, 779-1212
Rod and Reel Pier Restaurant The views are spectacular – especially when a dolphin, sea turtle, manatee or shark (!) stops by – and the seafood is Cortez dock-fresh at this must-visit Southwest Florida dining destination that also doubles as a first-rate fishing spot. 875 N Shore Dr, Anna Maria; 778-1885
Skinny’s Place Certain islanders eat their burgers only at Duffy’s, or only at Skinny’s, and never both because of an old feud but we enjoy each place for pretty much the same reason: they both serve juicy burgers and ice cold beer on the cheap in a fantastic flip-flop setting near the beach! 3901 Gulf Dr, Holmes Beach; 778-7769
Sandbar Restaurant This hugely popular dining destination puts patrons right on the beach for some of the island’s best sunset experiences. 100 Spring Ave. Anna Maria; 778-0444; sandbar.groupersandwich.com
Sign of the Mermaid Fine dining billed as “Florida continental” – think Sunshine State standards with a Euro twist – in a relaxed cottage setting has made this place rightfully popular with locals and tourists for nearly two decades. 9707 Gulf Dr, Anna Maria; 778-9399; signofthemermaidonline.com
The Waterfront Located along the, yep, water, across from the Anna Maria City Pier, this restaurant successfully works an extensive menu while maintaining one of the best beer and wine lists on the island. 111 S. Bay Blvd., Anna Maria; 778-1515; thewaterfrontrestaurant.net
The Anna Maria Island Historical Society Museum The museum complex is home to many interesting features but none are as famous as the tiny Anna Maria City Jail built in 1927 to contain those who had probably drank too much at the tavern that stood where the Sandbar restaurant now operates. 402 Pine Ave, Anna Maria; 778-0492; amihs.net/museum.html
Anna Maria City Pier Built in 1910, this tough old wooden structure has been a favorite fishing spot for generations and is also home to the highly scenic City Pier Restaurant. 100 S Bay Blvd, Anna Maria; 779-1667
Bradenton Beach City Pier Expanding over the north end of the always attractive Sarasota Bay (well, except for when the storms rage), the historic pier features Rotten Ralph’s restaurant, a bathhouse and restrooms, bait and tackle shop, a 300-foot day dock and some seriously good fishing. 200 Bridge St., Bradenton Beach; 778-1604
The Fish Hole Miniature Golf Cool off with a round of putt-putt under the misters on this terrifically tropical course and then stop by the family’s other business, the Bridge Street Bazaar, for all your beach necessities including fashionable sun dresses, comfy flip-flops and fun novelty items. 115 Bridge St, Bradenton; 778-3388; thefishhole.com
Island Players Finish a day in the sun with an evening of exciting live theater produced in an intimate setting when Michael McKeever’s heartwarming comedy “37 Postcards” runs May 9-19, marking the end of the Anna Maria Island community theater troupe’s 64th season. 10009 Gulf Dr, Anna Maria; 778-6878; theislandplayers.org
Key Royale Club Anna Maria Island’s only golf facility is a private club but it’s offering a special worth checking out if you plan on spending some quality time on the island throughout the summer: $195 for a 30-day membership between May 1 and Oct 31. 700 Key Royale Drive, Holmes Beach; 778-3055; keyroyaleclub.com
The Anna Maria Privateers’ Fourth of July parade and the fireworks display put on by the Beachhouse and The Sandbar restaurants make Anna Maria Island the place to be for Independence Day.