Snorkeling Anna Maria Island, Florida is an absolute must if you’re planning a vacation to the Gulf of Mexico. This hidden gem is a low-key vacation hot spot and a perfect destination for families, couples, or even a solo weekend trip.
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There is so much to see on Anna Maria Island including wildlife in their natural habitat like gopher tortoises – an Anna Maria Island native! They can often be seen roaming around in the morning and late afternoon but please do respect their space and let them be. Admire them from a distance.
Gopher Tortoises are considered endangered in South Carolina and Mississippi and are protected in the state of Georgia.
Anna Maria Island is located on the western side of Florida alongside the Gulf of Mexico, Tampa Bay, and the Intracoastal Waterway. It’s a great place to get away and enjoy the many treasures Florida has to offer.
With beautiful beaches, crystal blue waters, an abundance of wildlife, and plenty of things to do, you can expect an unforgettable experience!
Whether you’re an experienced snorkeler or this is your first time, there is quite a bit of marine life to explore – from big tropical fish to small fish to sea turtles, sand dollars, and conch shells, Anna Maria Island has it all.
So if you’re ready to plan your next vacation and head to the sunshine state for an unforgettable Anna Maria Island snorkeling experience, I’ve got the best spots for you!
Anna Maria Island is home to some of the best beaches and snorkeling in Florida.
The clear blue and calm waters along the shore on most of the island beaches make conditions ideal for snorkeling.
While the summer months can get a bit busy with families on vacation during their summer break, there are still some spots on the island you can enjoy without the hustle and bustle.
Bean Point Beach
Bean Point Beach is a beautiful, white sandy beach in Anna Maria located on the north end of the Island where the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay meet. The crystal clear waters and views are amazing!
It’s a perfect spot if you’re looking for an area that’s more secluded and less crowded. However, it’s not recommended for snorkeling due to rough water conditions.
Since Bean Point is where the Gulf meets the bay, the rip currents are very strong and can pull you out to sea.
There are also no lifeguards on this beach so swimming isn’t recommended either. You would have to swim at your own risk, preferably really close to shore.
This is also a hot spot for Sharks that often cruise around the area looking for food.
However, you can more than likely spot a manatee close to the beach in the wintertime, since this is a more quiet and less populated area.
Holmes Beach is located in the middle of Anna Maria Island. A perfect spot if you want to be in the center of it all. It’s also where you will find Manatee Beach Park, also known as a family hot spot.
Holmes Beach is a great spot for snorkeling right from the beach. The waters are clear and calm, making it perfect for catching schools of tropical fish, crabs, and beautiful starfish.
Visit during the winter months and keep your eyes peeled for manatee sightings!
These gentle giants can be found all throughout Anna Maria Island. Typically from November through April with their heaviest sightings between December and February.
And if you’ve never visited the Gulf coast of Florida, get ready to experience some of the most beautiful sunsets you’ve ever seen with dolphins putting on a show right in front of you!
Manatee Public Beach
Manatee Public Beach is Anna Maria Island’s most popular beach for families making it a great option for snorkelers of all ages and skill levels.
With the water being shallow, it makes it easy to explore the abundant marine life from the beach. Expect to see schools of tropical fish, manatees, and sea turtles!
But be sure to have your GoPro ready so you don’t miss out on the opportunity to capture the beautiful sea life underwater!
Bradenton Beach is located at the southern end of the island. Here you will find the Regina sugar barge, which sunk back in 1940 after a Florida storm.
It can be found across from the Sea Kat Dive Shop in about 20 feet of water approximately 150 feet from the shoreline. It’s also marked with a buoy to make it easy to locate.
With a wide variety of sea life and artificial reefs to explore, this is a great spot for snorkeling and dive tours.
Coquina Beach is a long stretch of white sandy beach with sand dunes, tall beach grasses, and sea oats located at the southern end of Anna Maria Island in Bradenton. It’s the beach closest to the mainland making it easily accessible.
Here you will find lifeguards on duty which makes it safe to swim and snorkel directly from the beach.
Don’t be surprised if you spot manatees, dolphins, or stingrays amidst your snorkeling adventures!
Surrounded by shallow waters, sandbars, and beautiful marine life, this is a perfect place to explore the world down under. All you need is your snorkeling gear and you are good to go!
Other Islands to Explore
While there are not on Anna Maria Island, they are neighboring islands worth the mention.
Jewfish Key is an island paradise located between Longboat Key and Anna Maria Island across from the Longboat Pass Bridge.
The Jewfish Key sandbar has the best visibility and is a great place for snorkeling, swimming, and relaxing under the sun. With the tranquil, clear blue waters, you are sure to have a great time and enjoy a wonderful day!
This island is a true snorkeling gem. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled because you just might spot some dolphins nearby!
Egmont Key Island
Egmont Key Island is located in the mouth of Tampa Bay outside of Anna Maria Island. While snorkeling is not the best here, you can spend the day exploring Egmont Key National Wildlife Refuge, Egmont Key State Park, and explore the ruins at Fort Dade.
This island is only accessible by boat and there are no facilities on the island.
Best time to Snorkel on Anna Maria Island
The best time of day to snorkel and get good sightings of aquatic life around the island is first thing in the morning and in the evening when the waters are calm, everything is peaceful, and the crowds are scarce.
There are significant differences between snorkeling from the beach at dawn and at dusk.
These are the times of the day where you are more than likely to see the animals. Both marine life and wildlife.
Don’t forget to have your camera ready!
Where to Scuba Dive on Anna Maria Island
If you want to take your snorkeling adventure to the next level, there are also amazing scuba diving opportunities for the more adventurous.
Scuba divers can enjoy deep sea explorations by taking a scuba diving trip with an experienced and trained guide. These guides know the island best as well as the best places to explore the underwater world.
If you feel inclined to get certified, visit Sea Kat Divers. It’s a locally owned licensed dive shop that is run and operated by Padi Dive Instructor Jim Harwood.
Jim has years of experience and a wealth of knowledge working in the industry for over a decade.
And not to worry, experience is not required.
Anna Maria Island Tours
A snorkeling excursion is a perfect way to enjoy the aquatic life of Anna Maria Island without the hassle. Between daily snorkel trips and island boat tours, there are plenty of options to enjoy.
Book a half-day private trip on a luxury yacht charter with a 6-person minimum to celebrate a birthday with friends, a milestone anniversary, or just an all-around girls-only trip. This is a great way to experience dolphin watching along the Gulf.
It’s an experience of a lifetime!
If you prefer a longer tour, just let the captain know and arrangements can be made.
Passage Key Dolphin Tours
Passage Key Dolphin Tours is a tour that provides 2 to 8-hour excursions with breathtaking views along the Gulf coast and waterways.
Excursions include snorkeling, shelling, sandbars, and islands where you will have the opportunity to explore wildlife, spot manatees, sea turtles, stingrays, coastline dolphin, bottlenose dolphins among many other land and sea creatures in their natural habitat.
Where to Stay – Anna Maria Island Rentals
Whether you’re looking for a relaxing getaway on the north end of Anna Maria Island or a highly active vacation adventure in the Bradenton Beach area, there are plenty of vacation rentals to choose from throughout the island.
Tips for Beginners
If this is your first time snorkeling, Anna Maria Island is a great place to start. Surrounded by crystal clear waters, abundant sea life, and reefs, you can expect to have an amazing time!
Easy-to-follow snorkeling tips:
Choose a beach with calm water – Not all of the beaches on Anna Maria Island have flat, calm water. The closer you are to the north end of the island where the Gulf meets the bay, the choppier and more dangerous the water will be because of the rip currents. Stay clear of this area.
Respect marine life – Snorkeling provides the opportunity to explore life underwater and observe nature from a distance. You might be tempted to touch some of the sea animals but it’s best to just respect their space and take it all in without touching. The last thing you want to do is disrupt their environment or hurt them in any way.
Most fish have a protective mucus layer (much like our skin) that keeps them protected in their environment. Touching them can cause this protective layer to come off and make them susceptible to infection. So enjoy your snorkeling adventure without touching.
Be on alert of your surroundings – If you’re snorkeling on your own without a tour guide, be alert of your surroundings. Keep an eye out for boaters and swimmers when you’re snorkeling. Just like cars, boaters aren’t always paying attention and can sometimes get too close. You also want to pay attention to warning signs. They are there to keep you safe!
Don’t lose sight of your beach spot – Remember where you started. It’s easy to get caught up and lose sight of you’re starting point while you’re snorkeling. The water has a tendency of drifting you away so pay attention.
Follow these tips on your next Anna Maria Island snorkeling adventure and you are sure to have an amazing time!