Take a Trip to the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

Anna Maria Island is full of fun activities for the entire family to enjoy. Even though the island just has seven miles to explore, there’s a lot packed in! You’ll find everything from amazing white sand beaches to delicious local seafood to museums, shops, and everything in between! There’s truly a little bit of everything on the shores of AMI, and every attraction is sure to help you and your loved ones create unforgettable memories.

If you somehow run out of things to do on Anna Maria Island, you can take a fun day trip to Sarasota and experience one of the city’s best attractions: the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens! This attraction is perfect for nature lovers, but even those who consider themselves “indoor people” will have a blast spending the day here. Best of all, it’s just minutes away from any of our Anna Maria Island rentals.

butterfly on a leaf
Photo from Pexels


The history of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens dates back to 1973. Marie Selby was a passionate gardener who lived in Sarasota with her husband William. She was born in 1885 and married William in 1908. Though Marie was born in West Virginia, William had been to Sarasota many times before and enjoyed the area largely because of its fishing opportunities and stunning wildlife. He hoped that Marie would fall in love with the city once he brought her, and sure enough, Marie was smitten with Sarasota at once.

The couple moved to Sarasota in the early 1920s and built a 2-story Spanish-style house on their seven-acre property. Laurel and banyan trees surrounded their property, and they were treated to a stunning location on the Hudson Bayou and Sarasota Bay. This property is where Marie’s passion for gardening truly flourished, as she took it upon herself to landscape their entire property. Marie was even a member of the city’s first garden club called the Founder’s Circle.

The William and Marie Selby Foundation was established in 1955. This program has had a huge impact on the community for over 50 years now, with efforts benefiting local libraries, schools, programs for the aged, health services, the arts, children, and more. Sadly, William didn’t get to see the full impact of his foundation, as he passed away on December 4, 1956. Marie continued to work with the Foundation and maintain her home until her death on June 9, 1971.

When Marie’s will was revealed, it was learned that she wanted her property to be given to the community and designated as a botanical garden “for the enjoyment of the general public.” This wish came true when Marie Selby Botanical Gardens officially opened on July 7, 1975. The couple was reinterred on the grounds of the Gardens in 2001.

Today, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens has expanded to almost 15 acres, almost double its original size of seven acres. The latest update to the property is the exciting adoption of Historic Spanish Point in 2020, which is now open in Osprey as a second campus.


butterfly on a plant

There are several different areas available for you to explore at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. First, stop by the Payne Mansion, an incredible building that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Inside, you’ll find the Butterfly Garden, a favorite spot of kids and adults alike. This beautiful environment has helped to reestablish the local native butterfly population and allows you to see the beauty of the flowers along with the playful butterflies!

Kids also love visiting the Ann Goldstein Children’s Rainforest Garden, which is a recent addition to Marie Selby. This elevated garden gives kids the chance to imagine what it would be like to live in a rainforest, all while witnessing some incredible rainforest plants! Within the garden, kids can explore the waterfall, field research station, swinging bridges, caves, adventure trail, Amazon village and amphitheater, epiphyte canyon, and more!

The Bromeliad Garden is home to incredible colors, textures, and shapes all throughout, giving you something new to see with every turn. The Mulford B. Foster Bromeliad Identification Center has used this space to study the bromeliad family, proving that this exhibit is as interesting as it is beautiful!

For a trip through nature, stroll along the Steinwachs Family Foundation Mangrove Walkway. The mangroves found here are native to South Florida and allow guests to witness the beautiful red, white, and black colors of the species. You’re also rewarded with breathtaking views of downtown Sarasota, Bird Key, and Sarasota Bay.

In addition to their regular exhibits, the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is constantly hosting new and exciting exhibitions, so there will be something new to discover every time you visit! Exhibitions typically involve local nature photography and lectures from authorities in the field, who are always happy to educate guests on fascinating plant life and teach them about unique species native to the area.

Plan Your Next Visit

We are proud to offer AMI vacation rentals to groups of all sizes, whether you need one bedroom or 4+! If you don’t want to leave your furry friend at home during your getaway, we even offer Anna Maria Island pet-friendly rentals! You’re able to completely personalize your vacation experience when you visit us on AMI. There’s never been a better time to plan your getaway to the beautiful shores of Anna Maria Island. Contact us today to learn more about all of our accommodations!

Hours & Pricing

The Downtown Sarasota Campus of the Gardens is open daily from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. If you plan to visit the Museum of Botany & the Arts, note that this facility closes at 4:30 p.m. The Gardens operate every day of the year other than Christmas Day. It’s recommended that guests allow at least two hours to tour the Gardens, though you’re welcome to stay all day if you wish!

Admission to the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is incredibly affordable, so any group should be able to fit a trip into their budget. Adult admission costs $20 per person. If you have children ages 5-17, they can visit the Gardens for just $10, and children aged 4 and under can enter for free. For large groups of 10+ people, individuals can receive a discounted admission of just $18 each.

If you’re in the area often or are planning a longer stay, consider becoming a member! Members enter the Gardens for no extra fee on top of their membership price, and member guests can enter for just $10. This is an excellent option for those who would like to visit the Gardens multiple times and want to support this incredible establishment. Membership costs begin at $75.

Where to Stay

After a fun-filled day exploring Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, you’ll want a place to return to relax with your family or freshen up for the evening. Our Anna Maria Island vacation rentals are the perfect solution! You’ll be only an hour away from Sarasota but will be in a less crowded and more relaxing location, allowing you to truly unwind and enjoy your getaway. You get the best of both worlds!