Explore the Gulf Island Ferry Stops
Upgrade your beach day! Park in downtown Bradenton, hop on one of the new Gulf Island Ferries, and enjoy a 30-minute scenic ride to and from Anna Maria Island. These Coast Guard-certified catamarans, at nearly 60 feet long and remarkably stable, offer unmatched convenience for reaching the island or downtown Bradenton. With stops at the Riverwalk and the Bradenton Beach Pier, the Downtown Duchess and Miss Anna Maria make exploring more convenient and traffic-free.
The Riverwalk Day Dock is perfectly situated in the heart of Bradenton Riverwalk, an outstanding public park stretching over 1.5 miles along the Manatee River. With ample parking and easy access to downtown Bradenton, it’s your gateway to the Gulf Island Ferries.
A five-minute stroll west of the Day Dock takes you to downtown Bradenton, where you’ll discover an array of treasures rarely found in cities of similar size. Explore chef-owned restaurants, charming boutiques, a weekly farmers market, a cultural history museum and planetarium, and a vibrant arts district, all of which offer something for everyone.
Old Main Street, shaded by towering oak trees, is bordered with century-old buildings that host a variety of dining options. For handmade pizza, head to Fav’s Italian Cucina, where fresh pies are made to order. Next door, Jenning’s Provisions serves gastropub-style fare with imaginative (and delicious!) food and drink offerings. O’bricks Irish Pub offers spectacular cuisine and top-shelf martinis with ample outdoor dining space. Follow Old Main Street to the peaceful waterfront, where you’ll find sailboats and yachts at the Twin Dolphin Marina. Amongst the marina is Pier 22, a fine-dining restaurant that features fresh seafood and spectacular sunset views.
Downtown Bradenton is perfect to a leisurely shopping trip, with many locally-owned boutiques, shops, and art galleries. On Old Main Street, you’ll discover clothing, apparel, and accessories for both men and women at Unique Boutique, The Stoked Flamingo, and Pink & Navy. On Saturdays from October through May, the Bradenton Market brings over 100 unique vendors, artisans, and craftspeople to the oak-lined boulevard. If you prefer hidden gems and antiques, head over to Old Manatee and visit Vintage Vines, a second-hand store filled with unique treasures.
While on the Riverwalk, you’ll spot The Backyard Universe, which is part of The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature. This special place is home to the largest natural and cultural history museum on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Here, you can come face-to-face with a towering mastodon skeleton and fossils of Florida’s earliest animal inhabitants. Explore archaeological artifacts and other objects highlighting the area’s history. Don’t forget to visit the friendly manatees being rehabilitated for release in the Parker Manatee Aquarium, or experience an out-of-this-world star show in the Bishop Planetarium.
The Village of the Arts is an eclectic blend of early 20th-century bungalows, Florida cracker homes, and modern houses where artists live and create in their gallery spaces. Explore a vast assortment of art, including sculpture, painting, culinary arts, healing arts, and other specialty shops. Mark your calendars for ArtWalk on the first weekend of each month when The Village bursts with creativity. Many galleries open their doors during the week for the public to explore and enjoy, so be sure to check their websites for hours of operation.
Bradenton Beach Pier
The Bradenton Beach Pier is located near the southern end of Anna Maria Island, offering easy access to all the amenities of the barrier island. Upon disembarking the ferry, you’ll find yourself within walking distance of a variety of island-themed shops and boutiques, delightful pubs, unique restaurants, and the beach. But don’t limit yourself to Bridge Street—you can explore the entire island by boarding the free Island Trolley, which stops at all popular locations along the island.
Bridge Street boasts a variety of specialty boutiques and shops, offering everything you may need for a day on the beach. For local art and hidden gems, visit Back Alley Treasures, where you can enhance your shopping experience at their coffee and wine bar. For endless beach-themed home décor, check out Bridge Street Interiors.
Next door, Sea-Renity Beach Spa & Bou-Tiki offers some personal pampering and special keepsakes. For the ultimate beach day, explore Bridge Street Bazaar, where you’ll find everything needed for a day in the sun and sand.
With names like The Bridge Tender, Drift-In, and Daiquiri Deck, you sure to have plenty of options for enjoying a refreshing drink or island cocktail. For a drink with a view of the intercoastal waterway (and the Cortez drawbridge), visit The Bridge Tender Inn & Dockside Bar, where you can watch boats come and go from the fishing village of Cortez. Established in 1925 and rumored to be once owned by “Babe” Ruth, Drift-In AMI offers a quaint place to enjoy a drink, live music, and other bar-friendly games. The Daiquiri Deck offers a true second-story “deck” where you can sip delightful daiquiris while taking in the spectacular views of the Gulf of Mexico and Bridge Street below.
Dining options are plentiful on Bridge Street, with most restaurants just a few minutes away. You don’t have to go far to step foot into Anna Maria Oyster Bar, located on the Bridge Street Pier. This family-friendly restaurant offers fresh seafood, raw oysters, and from Sunday to Thursday, kids eat for one-cent per inch of height (so your 56-inch-tall kiddo can eat for just 56 cents!) The Blue Marlin, near the center of Bridge Street, evokes the feel of a seafood restaurant in coastal Maine. With the freshest seafood brought in daily from the Cortez fishing fleet, you’re sure to enjoy Gulf flavors. Closer to the beach is the Bridge Street Bistro, offering spectacular sunset views and chef-prepared cuisine.
If you’re just coming for the beaches, you won’t be disappointed, especially since Cortez Beach is within walking distance of Bridge Street. With tranquil, emerald-colored water and miles of powder-soft sand in either direction, families can enjoy the surf and sun under the watchful eye of lifeguards. To explore other beaches, board the Island Trolley for a free ride to Coquina Beach, Manatee Beach, Holmes Beach, Anna Maria Beach, and even the Anna Maria City Pier.