About Anna Maria Island
Looking to visit AMI for your next vacation getaway? There is so much to see and do, including learning more about the compelling history of Anna Maria Island. Here we will present a brief history of Anna Maria Island, which is composed of three towns, the City of Anna Maria to the North, Holmes Beach occupying the middle of the island, and Bradenton Beach on the southern portion of the island.
Anna Maria Island is connected to Bradenton / mainland Florida by two bridges, Manatee bridge and Cortez bridge. At the southern end of the island, a bridge connects AMI to Longboat key via Gulf Drive, continuing south to Sarasota. The Cortez Bridge, the first bridge connecting Anna Maria Island to the Florida mainland was constructed in 1921, followed Manatee Avenue Bridge in the 1950s. A century later, Anna Maria Island is fast becoming one of the most popular vacation destinations in Florida, and is still considered a charming example of “Old Florida”
If you are staying in one of our Anna Maria Island vacation rentals be sure to take advantage of the Free island trolley to explore all three areas.
North Anna Maria Island - Anna Maria
Anna Maria Island is a 7 mile barrier island located northwest of Bradenton in Manatee County, Florida. The island was called Ana-Maria-Cay by the Spanish in honor to the Virgin Mary and her mother Anne. First settled in the late 1800’s, AMI straddles the Gulf of Mexico to the west and Tampa Bay to the east.
Anna Maria Island was first explored by Spanish sailors in the early 1500s. The first documented inhabitants of the Bradenton Area were Timucan and Caloosan Indians, fishermen and fierce warrior / hunters who settled the area as early as 1000 A.D. It was these native Indian tribes who first encountered the Spaniards, perhaps including Ponce de Leon who is said to have landed on Florida's west coast in 1521.
George Emerson Bean, the namesake of popular Bean Point on the northern tip of the island, was the first permanent recorded resident of Anna Maria Island, creating a homestead in 1892 in the area that is now the city of Anna Maria. Bean and the Anna Maria Beach Company continued further development on Anna Maria Island continued during the early 1900's.
Located at the end of Pine Avenue in Anna Maria, the Anna Maria City Pier extends 678 feet out Tampa Bay. A popular fishing destination, the Pier was constructed by the Anna Maria Development Company in 1912 before there were any bridges connecting the Island to the mainland. The Anna Maria City Pier was a crucial docking port for ships from Tampa and St. Petersburg carrying visitors and supplies. The pier has been battered by numerous hurricanes and tropical storms over the years, including major damage from Tropical Storm Keith in 1988. .
Incorporated in 1950, the city of Anna Maria was founded by Charles Roser in the early 1900s. Originally hailing from Ohio, Roser was food maker, real estate developer and philanthropist. Roser is credited with creating the famous Fig Newton cooking, and would go on to make his fortune selling the recipe to Nabisco. Today, the City of Anna Maria boasts roughly 1,800 residents and occupies an area of approximately 600 acres.
Middle Anna Maria Island - Holmes Beach
First settled by homesteaders Sam and Annie Cobb in 1896, the middle portion of Anna Maria Island is occupied by the city of Holmes Beach. The Cobbs established the island's first post office in their home in 1902. Holmes Beach gets its name from property developer Jack Holmes, who endeavored to create a 600 acre community there in the years after World War II.
Development of Holmes Beach continued until around 1950, with nearly 200 new homes built for sale by Jack Holmes. 1950 also marked the construction of the Anna Maria Island Elementary School on Gulf Drive in Holmes Beach. With the construction of the first airstrip on the island, even Hollywood took notice, filming a movie called On An Island With You starring Esther Williams and Peter Lawford
The City of Holmes Beach was officially incorporated in 1960, and a few of the original homes built by developer Jack Holmes still stand today. Today, Holmes Beach remains a popular tourist destination with a wide array of vacation rentals and a dedicated community of permanent and winter residents. With nearly 5,000 residents, both permanent and seasonal, Holmes Beach is the largest community on Anna Maria Island. Conveniently located in the middle of the island, you can explore the three miles of sandy beaches to the North and South and easily get to any attraction you may desire.
South Anna Maria Island - Bradenton Beach
Located near the southern end of Anna Maria Island, and originally called “Brandentown”, the city of Bradenton Beach was established in 1842. The city took is named after Dr. Joseph Braden, whose home was a refuge for early settlers during the Seminole Wars. From the earlier 1900s through its incorporation in 1953, tourism began to take off in the Bradenton Beach area.
The downtown area of Bradenton Beach and historic “bridge street”, has long been a hub of commerce and activity due to its proximity to the Cortez Bridge built in 1921, the first bridge connecting AMI to the mainland. Tourism is still the main economic driver in the Bradenton Beach area with a bigger emphasis on vacation rental homes and other tourism-based industries being the central part of the economy. Bradenton Beach is also the home of a 96-acre public beach and recreational park called Coquina Beach.
Part of the original wooden Cortez Bridge was enclosed and converted into a pier in 1967, now called Historic Bridge Street Pier. On any given day, you’ll find families fishing from this pier and plenty of restaurants, shops and attractions nearby. The wooden structure is a popular site to get pictures taken, view the ocean and experience yet another bit of Anna Maria Island's history.
To learn much more about the interesting history of Anna Maria Island, be sure to visit to the Anna Maria Historical Society, which is also located in the area at 402 Pine Avenue.