How to Actually Spot Wildlife at the Beach

Anna Maria Island has a supportive culture around wildlife, and it’s one of the best places in Florida to see a great variety of flora and fauna in the Gulf and on the coasts.

The variety of habitats, its major point as a migratory island, and its impressive coastal forests bring vitality to the local plant and animal life.

Anna Maria Island city officials recognize the island’s ecological importance. The government website has a mission statement with a clear declaration. “Please protect our precious sand dunes, sea oats, sea grapes, live shells, marine life, and seashore.”

City officials and residents understand the value of the local ecology, and it is celebrated through some informative wildlife tours and introductions to some of the most highly-populated habitats in Florida.

Types of Wildlife on the Island

Birds are one type of wildlife that you will primarily see on the beaches of Anna Maria Island. Pelicans are the flying kings of the island, but you can also see roseate spoonbills, wood storks, and snowy egrets making a temporary home for the winter season.

Another major friend of Anna Maria Island is the sea turtle. Sea turtles will come to shore throughout the summer and early fall to lay eggs. It’s a major attraction, but one that comes with many restrictions. Extensive fines are applied to anyone trying to touch the nests, and many of them are monitored by camera.

Animals on land love to explore the island as well when visiting some of the Anna Maria Island restaurants. On any given day at the beach, you may find ducks, raccoons, and rabbits. Of course, many come to Anna Maria Island for the chance to see dolphins and manatees.

Finding Manatees and Dolphins

Manatees are fascinating to see and can be found in the canals and smaller waterways of the island; however, they can be challenging to try to spot and are rarer than dolphins in the area. They are less likely to be found in the deeper waters of the Gulf itself due to the colder temperatures.

Manatees can be found in staggering numbers at Apollo Beach in the winter due to the presence of the nearby power station heating the water. It is a brisk drive about 50 minutes north of AMI.

The manatees can also be found closer to the island in captivity at the South Florida Museum at 201 10th Street West in Bradenton, about 20 minutes away.

Dolphins area ubiquitous presence in the waters around the island. Unlike their manatee friends, dolphins will be found most often in the early mornings and just before sunset in the Gulf waters.

Specialty dolphin tours are built primarily around finding and following dolphin packs in their popular hangout locations. These include the Salty Dolphin Tours on Anna Maria Island and the YOLO Adventures in Bradenton.

Plan Your Trip

Anna Maria Island is a diverse and beautiful section of Florida with so much to offer any visitor! Check out our available Lizzie Lu rentals for your next visit to AMI.

Wildlife Viewing Tours

Local wildlife tours help support a cultural infrastructure around animal protection with a variety of different land and sea tour options. Most of these tours are paid, but you can also create tours of your own simply by adventuring out on the island.

For a free option, head a bit off the main radar to get the most out of your Anna Maria Island wildlife experience at Bean Point. This is the island’s scenic northernmost tip, where you can find starfish, sand dollars and many types of local wildlife. You may even get lucky and spot some dolphins and stingrays.

The Coquina Baywalk on the southern end of the island can be found at 2651 Gulf Drive South Bradenton Beach, FL and is a 100% free attraction where you can explore the mangrove tunnels of Leffis Key and likely see small mammals such as squirrels and rabbits, raccoons, and a variety of bird species.

For a formal boat tour which is well worth the cost, get connected with Spice Sailing Charters (840 S. Bay Blvd, Anna Maria Island). The captain allows you to help with the sails and steer as he guides you to popular dolphin destinations primarily on the northern side of the island.

Around 95 percent of the tours at Paradise Boat Tours (200 Bridge Street, Bradenton Beach, FL) will spot dolphins and are perfect for all ages.

If you want something calmer and away from any potential crowds, perhaps the combination of Bean Point and a wildlife tour adventure will fuel your soul while staying at one of our Anna Maria vacation rentals.

The above wildlife tours take you to some of the finest and most beautiful habitats in all of Florida. The beaches and salt marshes line the coast, while the maritime forests are a protective home to animals of all sizes. For an authentic and thrilling wildlife viewing experience, there are few better places than Anna Maria Island.