Even though Anna Maria Island sits less than an hour south of Tampa Bay, this accessible, family-friendly sand patch feels completely removed from the urban bustle. There’s no McDonald’s on the seven-mile-long island due to strict zoning laws, local ordinances limit buiilding heights to no more than three stories, and free trolleys run up and down its length on Gulf Drive so you can hop a ride instead of driving your car. The result is a pretension-free hideout that’s surprisingly young and vibrant for a Florida coastal island.
MUST: Take the three-hour Dolphin and Manatee Tour led by Adventure Kayak Tours through mangrove tunnels and protected waterways around the island ($55 per person).
STAY: At the laid back and friendly Cedar Cove Resort and Cottages. Starting at $179 per night.