Posted on 1/8/2024

Anna Maria Island Ferry: All You Need to Know

Picture yourself strolling down the historic Anna Maria City Pier, savoring fresh seafood at a beachside cafe, or browsing through unique boutique shops. Whether you're into water sports, sunbathing, or just enjoying a leisurely day, our beloved island offers a perfect mix of relaxation and fun.

Now, getting to and exploring this coastal gem is easier and more exciting than ever, thanks to the new Gulf Islands Ferry service and water taxis. Connecting downtown Bradenton with Anna Maria Island, the water taxi and ferry service is not just about travel; it's part of your island adventure. The ferry and water taxis offer scenic views and a relaxing ride, which add a special touch to your island experience.

In this guide, we'll take you through everything you need to know – from schedules and prices to the unique experiences it offers.

About the AMI Gulf Islands Ferry

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  • Website:
  • Hours: Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Tickets: One-way trips are $8, and an all-day hopper pass is available for $10.

The Gulf Islands Ferry, eagerly awaited by both locals and tourists, has finally announced its launch date. This service is a pivotal development in connecting downtown Bradenton to Anna Maria Island, enhancing the travel experience significantly.

Service for the Gulf Islands Ferry, which will shuttle passengers between Anna Maria Island and downtown Bradenton, will launch Jan. 12, according to a Manatee County news release.

Visitors and residents can catch a ride on the water Friday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Ride times between stops will range from 25 to 40 minutes.

Service will run between Anna Maria City Pier, the Bridge Street Pier on AMI, and Downtown Bradenton on the mainland (not to be confused with Bradenton Beach, which is on the island!). Check their website for the current run schedule!

Purchase Tickets Here > Tickets

The Vessels: Miss Anna Maria and Downtown Duchess

The service boasts two state-of-the-art open-air catamarans, named Miss Anna Maria and Downtown Duchess, each with a capacity of 49 passengers. These catamarans are designed for a comfortable, scenic ride across the Gulf waters, offering passengers breathtaking views and a unique travel experience​​​​.

Expanded Service Schedule and Pricing

Initially, the ferry will run from Friday to Sunday, between 10:30 am and 9:30 pm. There's an exciting plan to extend this service to seven days a week, making it even more convenient for travelers.

Ticket pricing is quite affordable, with one-way trips costing $8 and an all-day hopper pass available for $10. This pricing strategy makes the ferry service accessible to a wide range of travelers, including senior citizens and children, who can enjoy discounted rates​​​​.

Eco-Friendly Travel

As an added bonus, by reducing car usage, the Gulf Islands Ferry service contributes to sustainable tourism. This aligns with the broader environmental values of Anna Maria Island, where respect for nature and conservation is a top priority.

The Ferry Route: Connecting Key Locations

The Gulf Islands Ferry service not only offers a convenient mode of transport but also serves as a gateway to a number of exciting destinations, each with its unique charm and attractions.

Downtown Bradenton

  • Day Dock: Your journey begins at the day dock in Downtown Bradenton, a vibrant area adjacent to AMI that's bustling with activities.
  • Bradenton Riverwalk: Explore this beautiful waterfront park featuring outdoor artworks, a skate park, and an amphitheater.
  • Village of the Arts: A short distance away, this unique neighborhood is home to an eclectic mix of art galleries, studios, and eateries.
  • Local Dining: Enjoy a variety of dining options, from casual cafes to upscale restaurants offering fresh local seafood and international cuisines.

Anna Maria City Pier

  • Scenic Views: The pier offers breathtaking views of Tampa Bay and is a perfect spot for sunset watching.
  • Fishing and Boating: It's a popular spot for fishing enthusiasts and those who enjoy boating activities.
  • Local Cuisine: Nearby, indulge in the island's famous seafood at one of the many delicious restaurants on Anna Maria Island.

Bridge Street Pier in Bradenton Beach

  • Beach Fun: This area is known for its beautiful beaches, perfect for a day of sunbathing, swimming, or shelling.
  • Dining and Nightlife: The Bridge Street area boasts a lively atmosphere with numerous Bradenton Beach restaurants, bars, and live music venues. There's even the Bridge Street Market, which you can enjoy from November to April on Sundays.
  • Recreational Activities: Rent a bike, a scooter, or even a kayak to explore the area in a fun and active way.

Future Stops

  • Coquina Beach: Known for its soft sand and clear waters, Coquina Beach is ideal for a relaxing day at the beach.
  • Holmes Beach: This stop will offer access to a quieter part of the island, with gorgeous beaches and a laid-back vibe.
  • Palmetto: A stop here would provide easy access to a historic area with lush parks, museums, and charming old-town streets.

Why Opt for the Ferry or a Water Taxi?

Choosing the Gulf Islands Ferry service and Gulf Coast Water Taxi over driving offers a number of benefits. It's not just a mode of transportation; it's part of the island experience. The ferry saves travelers the hassle of navigating traffic on unfamiliar streets, finding parking and allows more time to relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. Plus, the ride is an experience in itself!

Ferry-goers can pack their beach equipment and even bring Fido along (as long as your fur friend is on a leash).

Frequently Asked Questions
According to the Gulf Coast Water Taxi's FAQs,
  • What days and times do you operate? Initially, the Gulf Islands Ferry will operate every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.,year round.
  • How much does it cost to ride the ferry? For just $8 one way, passengers will receive passage on the coolest, most scenic trip around. With special pricing for children 4-12 ($5 one way) and seniors 55+ ($6 one way), a trip on the Gulf Islands Ferry can be a budget-friendly way to create memorable family outings.
  • How do I purchase tickets? To hop aboard, simply visit our website or download our app which is launching soon. From there, select a date and time that works best for your trip. Reserve those seats with a credit card, Google Pay, Apple Pay or other cashless options. Once your payment is securely completed, reservation passes will be delivered to your smartphone. You'll need to input payment details for each ride reservation in the future. We never store credit card information. Riders are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance, however tickets can be paid when boarding the water craft.
  • Where do the ferries go? How long is the trip? For our initial launch in the summer of 2023, we'll have two ports: one at the Downtown Bradenton Riverwalk near the Green Bridge, the other at Anna Maria Island, with future stops planned at Coquina Beach and Bridge Street. The trip is initially anticipated to take 35 minutes. Final run times will be posted on once sea trials are finalized. We recommend arriving 15 minutes before your scheduled departure, just to have plenty of time to board and get a good seat before departure.
  • Where do I park? In Bradenton, passengers catching the ferry in downtown Bradenton can park for free at the City Centre Parking Facility at 3rd Avenue West between 10th and 12th Streets. From there, it's an easy five minute walk along the Riverwalk to the Bradenton Waterfront where ferries are currently scheduled to depart hourly. In Anna Maria Island, there is limited parking on Anna Maria Island, but early birds will find spots along S. Bay Boulevard and at nearby Bayfront Park. We encourage passengers who want to take the ferry from the Island to Bradenton to hop aboard the free Anna Maria Trolley, which will deliver passengers to and from the island throughout the day. Once you're on the mainland, just about all of our favorite downtown spots are within a few minutes' walk of the pier. If you're venturing out further than downtown, nearby public transportation is a low-cost option to take you throughout the destination.
  • Are the ferries ADA accesible? Absolutely! The ferries were designed to ensure equal access and convenience for individuals with disabilities. The ferry has spacious, wheelchair accessible ramps, and designated seating areas that adhere to ADA standards. Additionally, the crew members are trained to provide assistance and support to passengers with disabilities, ensuring a safe and enjoyable trip for all.
  • Are pets allowed on the ferry? Leashed, well-behaved pets are allowed on board as long as they do not bother other guests. All service pets are welcome.
  • Are these restrooms on the ferries? Yes, there is one restroom aboard each vessel.
  • Can I bring my beach gear or bicycle on board? Towels, picnic baskets, beach chairs and coolers are all allowed so you can get from the mainland to the Island with no fuss! U.S. Coast Guard regulations prevent bikes from being brought onboard our ferries.
  • Do you accommodate groups or private charters? We can accommodate groups most of the time, if arrangements are made at least two weeks prior to the travel date. For more information, please reach out directly. The Gulf Islands Ferry system is a public transportation option for area riders as an easy way to get to the islands and back.
  • Is there wifi on board? Yes, the Gulf Islands Ferry offers complimentary Wi-Fi access on our vessels. Bandwidth is limited and there can be network dead spots along the ride. Remember to save work offline during your ferry ride.

All Aboard the Anna Maria Island Ferry

The Gulf Islands Ferry and new water taxi service are more than just transportation options; they are a new chapter in the story of Anna Maria Island and Bradenton. It combines convenience, affordability, and a unique travel experience, making it an essential part of visiting this beautiful region of Florida.

As the service expands and evolves, it will continue to enhance the accessibility and enjoyment of the area for all who book an Anna Maria Island Beach Rental!

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