Posted on 6/28/2024

13 Best Things to Do in Bradenton Beach

Are you planning a getaway to the beautiful beaches of Anna Maria Island? Bradenton Beach, just 45 minutes south of St. Petersburg and one hour south of Tampa, should be at the top of your itinerary. Contrary to its name, Bradenton Beach isn't just a Gulf Coast beach--this Old Florida-feeling town has so much more to offer!

You’re on island time now. From a more leisurely vacation to adrenaline-packed activities, here are 13 fun things to consider for your Bradenton Beach vacation.

1. Soak Up the Sun with a Beach Day

Photo Credit: Linda White Wolf

One of the most popular reasons to visit Anna Maria Island is to enjoy the beautiful white sand beaches, and Bradenton Beach is no exception.

Nearby, you can access Cortez Beach or the popular Coquina Beach, which is a favorite for families thanks to the playground and picnic areas. If you'd really like to explore, travel all the way to the northern tip of Anna Maria Island to Bean Point Beach. Bring your favorite book, or rent a kayak or paddleboard and revel in the sun!

2. Explore Historic Bridge Street

Take a leisurely stroll down Historic Bridge Street, the heart of Bradenton Beach. The bridge was once a lifeline to the town. The non-profit Bridge Street Merchants Association is responsible for a rejuvenation project that helped the street be the charming stretch it is today.

Browse quaint shops like Back Alley Treasures for some souvenir shopping or pop into historic bars like the Drift In AMI for a refreshing drink. If you time your Bradenton vacation right, you'll even be in town for the Sunday Market!

3. Visit the Bradenton Beach City Pier

Photo Credit: SR Productions

The Bradenton Beach City Pier is a great place to take in breezy views of the Gulf of Mexico while stretching your legs. A popular fishing pier, it’s a great place for people watching. Schedule the pier into that post-beach, pre-dinner timeslot so that you can catch unobstructed views of a gorgeous coastal sunset.

4. Appreciate Nature at Leffis Key Preserve

Photo Credit: Billy McDonald

If you have any nature enthusiasts in your party, a day trip to Leffis Key is a must-do. You can use over 1500 feet of numerous winding footpaths and boardwalks to meander through the mangrove forest--keep your eyes peeled for native wildlife such as herons, ospreys, and others.

Once you reach the top of the 26-foot hill in the middle of the area, you'll be treated to unobstructed, 360-degree views of Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

Curious when you can fit a visit to Leffis Key into your day? The reserve is open from 8 a.m. to sunset. If you just can’t get enough nature, hop in the car and make the 20-minute drive to the Robinson Preserve as well.

5. Hop Onto the Free Island Trolley

Photo Credit: Chris Ferrara

The free island trolley is your perfect resource for making your way around Anna Maria Island to all the must see spots. Since the trolley runs frequently all day (coming every 20 minutes from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.), you'll never need to rush.

You can take a spontaneous ride and hop on and off wherever you please, whether you're exploring other beaches, hitting the shops, or just taking in the sights. If you want even a bit more agency, renting a golf cart to explore the scenic seven-mile stretch of Anna Maria Island is always an option.

6. Pamper Yourself at a Spa Day

Photo Credit: Prostock-studio

The ocean sounds are already so relaxing – why not completely pamper yourself on your Bradenton Beach vacation with a spa day? On Anna Maria Island, you actually have multiple spa options to choose from.

Sea-renity Beach Spa and Bou-Tiki

Featured in Condé Nast Traveler, Sea-renity is the only place on the island where you can enjoy an on-the-beach massage in a tiki hut. Book your individual massage for some you-time or a couples' massage for some beachside bonding.

Aluna Wellness Center & Spa

Thanks to its holistic and whole-body approach, Aluna offers plenty of options, including massages, organic facials, acupuncture, yoga, and meditation. Polish off your relaxation with some deep breathing in their Himalayan salt wall studio or meditation in their zen garden.

7. Discover New Things at the Bishop Museum

Photo Credit: Feng Cheng

The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature is packed with opportunities to explore our world, from outer space to the deep sea. The Planetarium's 50-foot dome (one of the largest on Florida's west coast) is perfect for exploring the intricacies of space. But perhaps one of the biggest draws is the museum's manatee habitat!

With constantly changing installations and interactive exhibits, the Bishop Museum is a family-friendly activity to add to your Bradenton itinerary.

8. Enjoy Delicious Seafood

Photo Credit: sutulastock

If you have a Bradenton Beach vacation rental, you're in the perfect spot to try mouthwatering seafood. From classic fish tacos to more upscale eateries, there's bound to be something that fits your tastes!

Blue Marlin Grill

  • Address: 121 Bridge St, Bradenton Beach, FL
  • Price: $$$

If you want a hearty meal after a casual beach day, the Blue Marlin Grill is the place to try coastal cuisine in the heart of Historic Bridge Street. The bright blue restored cottage is easy to spot, and they pride themselves on serving the freshest of seafood, from boat to table (try the Stone Crab Mac and Cheese!).

If there are any picky eaters in your party, know that they have a kids' menu as well. Time your visit for Thursday-Saturday to enjoy live music during your dinner.

Anna Maria Oyster Bar

  • Address: 6906 14th St W, Bradenton, FL
  • Price: $$

Voted 2022 People's Choice by TripAdvisor, the Anna Maria Oyster Bar is all about providing a family friendly experience. Of course, we have to recommend the oysters, but if you come by on Tuesday, you can enjoy Lobster Tuesdays for the best market prices.

9. Get Out on the Water

Photo Credit: EvaL Miko

We love a good beach day, but there are several other ways to enjoy a day on the water on auto pilot, including these tours.

  •  One of the more popular activities is a daytime or sunset dolphin tour--if you're lucky, you'll be able to get up close and personal with these playful citizens of the sea.
  • Parasailing: If you'd like to pair your sightseeing with an adrenaline rush and water sports, soar over the Gulf waters on a parasailing tour.
  • Paddle wheel boat tour: For a bit of history and fun mixed together, you have the option of hopping onto a paddle wheel boat tour. Not only do you get to take in the sunset from the water, but you can also book a special comedy cruise or live music cruise. S
  • Sunset cruises: These sunset tours range from full service to basic and are worth a spin for the whole family. They offer another picture perfect vantage point of Bradenton Beach.

10. Catch a Game at LECOM Park

Photo Credit: Bryan Green via Flickr CC2.0

If you have any sports fans in your group, then this is a can't-miss activity for your itinerary! LECOM Park (formerly McKechnie Field) is the Spring Training park of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Originally built in 1923 (although it's undergone dramatic renovations since then), LECOM Park is a longtime entertainment staple and traditional venue of Bradenton.

11. Check Out the Manatee Performing Arts Center

Photo Credit: Michael White via Flickr CC2.0

A visit to the Manatee Performing Arts Center is a way to enjoy the arts--but also to enjoy a piece of living history. The Center has come a long way from its beginnings as a traveling band of artists and volunteers in the 1940s.

After rounds of renovations throughout the decades, the Manatee Performing Arts Center is now the proudly beating heart of Bradenton's art scene, with a calendar of performances, workshops, and continuing education in the arts. Check their calendar to see what musical or play is happening during your visit!

12. Go Fishing

Photo Credit: Don Baize via Flickr CC2.0

Outdoor activities are abundant in AMI, but maybe none is more ‘fulfilling’ than reeling in dinner. The waters surrounding Bradenton Beach are well known to be chock-full of a diverse range of fish. If you'd like to cast a line, you can book one of the many available fishing charters or try your luck fishing off the Historic Bridge Street Pier.

13. Play Mini Golf

Photo Credit: Andrew Angelov

Let loose and have a little fun on an adventure mini golf course! You can spend an afternoon practicing your aim and making your way through colorfully decorated holes. You can choose between the pirate-themed Smugglers Cove or the Fish Hole (where kids under 3 play for free). This is a great date night or family-friendly activity in Bradenton Beach.

Stay in Bradenton Beach

With long stretches of beach, restaurants serving the freshest seafood, and recreational activities ranging from museums to minigolf, your Bradenton Beach getaway is yours by design.

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