Having spent many different vacation weeks in Florida, this one was different for us, as we changed things up and visited Anna Maria Island.
As always I sought out a fun adventure, and what in my opinion is an underrated Anna Maria Island Boat Tour.
Underrated Anna Maria Island Boat Tour To TAKE
To be able to spend time on the barrier island, as a family, is something I was looking quite forward to and we also were discovering the island via pedaling, and walking as well!
But the thing I was most looking forward to on the trip, was spending 2 hours on an AMI boat tour (Anna Maria Island), discovering Sarasota Bay.
My ATypical Florida Weather Experiences
Each time we visit Florida in January, I vow to not return, in the winter, but for some reason we do!
Honestly, I often feel like a bad weather magnet there and we are looking to retreat to a ‘slightly’ warmer climate than Pittsburgh.
Generally, we roll into our vacation rental home in Florida, and the first day is peaches and cream, sun-filled and warm.
Then, overnight, it is like a switch was turned off and it feels like Jack Frost follows us and does a remix of Frozen, dipping the temperatures into the 40s with blustery, frigid conditions and then rain!
It’s happened in Orlando each time, and even in Clearwater when we visited my parents, it was so windy we couldn’t even walk on the beach because the wind whipped the sand and tugged on the roots of my hair.
Of course, there was also the Miami nightmare where we arrived 2 days before our cruise left and it rained so hard that the luggage wet the clothing and we couldn’t leave the room.
Undeniably Different Weather On Anna Maria Island
I watched the weather for weeks before we left and true to tale it was sunny every single day and warm in January!
Anna Maria Island is everything I thought it would be and more but I’ll share that in a few other articles to break it down for you!
Our choice to get on the water was simple: we wanted to see Sarasota Bay and some of the dolphins that everyone talks about in the area, and maybe a manatee?
Which Anna Maria Island Boat Tour Did I Choose?
First, I am all about supporting women in business, so choosing Captain Katie Scarlett Boat Tours was my winning choice!
Second, I wanted someone who was native to the area, knows Sarasota Bay like the back of their hand and the wildlife living in it.
Third and last, I definitely wanted an outfitter who respects the wildlife and can provide us with a better understanding of the living bay without being too ‘science-y’ in the discussion.
Plus, I didn’t want to overpay for an attraction.
We chose Captain Katie Scarlett!
The fact of the matter is, while known more by word of mouth than a website, Captain Katie Scarlett is in my opinion an underrated Anna Maria Island Boat Tour that many people talk about more than post about, and I want YOU all to know about it!
You might find other tour operators but they won’t deliver half of what you’ll find on this tour and the price won’t be the same either!
Undeniably the best value tour, with a great Captain and her first mate will have you gushing!
Our 2 Hour AMI Boat Tour on Sarasota Bay
We followed our text from Captain Katie to head to the South Coquina Boat Ramp on Gulf Drive South but, our navigation system in our rental took us to the NORTH ramp, SMH!
I texted Captain Katie to let her know we were coming and apologized, and thankfully we were just about 3 minutes from the right Ramp!
Once there, we easily found the boat and the totally charismatic and friendly Captain Katie and Sailor the dog!
We were dressed like Captain Katie, swim clothing and tees, with a bag of towels and ready for adventure.
But there was another group of people on the tour in jeans, hoodies, and jackets and they were not going in the water.
Albeit less sunny and a tad cooler than we expected, my family was there and ‘All In’ for the sandbar experience and clearly they were not!
The point is you don’t have to do what you do want to and yet you will get to do as much as you like!
Sailor the Dog: First Mate to the Captain
The dog, named Sailor will sit with you and among you and definitely is affectionate.
My son was super happy to have a traveling companion.
When Sailor senses a dolphin, he ran from the front of the boat to the back, barking, and yelping, not jumping out.
It was funny and entertaining at the same time.
Cpt Katie asked Sailor several times to ‘find the dolphins’ but in 99% of the instances, there were no dolphins.
Our Route: Kinda
We initially took a short ride towards the Tides Table Restaurant Marina.
Rounded it out with a quick journey through Palma Sola Bay, a bay in West Bradenton that opens to the Anna Maria Sound, and for more perspective, it is Southwest of Cortez which is where we headed next.
Coordinates of the Palma Sola Bay area > 27.4771917,-82.6698306.
To The Cortez Bridge + The Eco Tour
From this area, we headed towards the Cortez draw Bridge, via Bradenton beach we go to observe Brown Pelicans and White Pelicans (with one black line under their wing).
Captain Katie gave us a pretty in-depth explanation of the difference between the brown pelicans who are very social, unlike the white pelicans who are very antisocial and kind of mean!
We passed under the Cortez bridge and headed towards the Historic Fishing Village of Cortez.
Historic Fishing Village Of Cortez
Here are a few things we learned during our tour.
- first this is not a thriving fishing village, it’s kind of disappeared
- there is a great cash only restaurant you’ll want to try it gets great word of mouth reviews
- apparently the key lime pie served there is made by Captain Katies Mom, Captain Kathe (so the passenger on our tour spilled the beans on that which was neither confirmed nor denied!)
You will see 1 boat that is a bit colorful in the same area, and 1 person lives on it and has for a long time.
He’s a musician, who plays locally but keeps just to himself!
We then passed the Guthrie Net Camp and wound up right at the heart of the historic fishing village of Cortez.
The Drawbridge: Cortez Bridge
On the way to the Sandbar, we would experience the drawbridge opening which was exciting to watch.
We would also pass Beer Can Island, which I have, to be honest, it might be beautiful by sunset, but it was NOT at all what I thought it would be.
The Sandbar Experience
By far, this was the best part of the tour, because walking on the Longboat Key sandbar and scooping up some fantastic finds was exciting.
The nets were supplied by our tour operator at no additional charge and Cpt Katie set up an aerator for the sealife we caught as it would be caught, enjoy, photo, and released (eco tour)
But we did get to keep the incredible sand dollars we found and they were huge, bigger than any I’ve ever had in my hands to date!
There are seahorses, dead and alive sand dollars, sea urchins (huge), lightning whelks, fish, crab, starfish, you just don’t know what you might catch on the sandbar.
This part of the experience is where I would have preferred to be for longer, as I felt like I experienced more of the area right in one little spot than on any other part of the trip.
We spent 32 minutes here and I could have spent 2 hours!
Excitment before Docking at Coquina Beach
During our trip, Sailor had barked a few times, and supposedly when he barks there are dolphins in the surrounding water.
But we really didn’t have dolphin sightings until we took off from Longboat Key and began our short journey to the boat ramp at Coquina Beach.
Sailor began barking and low and behold, another boat opposite us stopped too!
Dolphins, not more than a quick glance that I hardly captured, but 3 at one time!
We docked, grabbed our stuff, and vacated the boat as another group was waiting on our heels to tour!
Our trip was complete with a dolphin sighting, fun at the sandbar, sand dollars to keep, and a quick overview of the area.
Things You Want To Know About The AMI Boat Tour
I will call it an eco boat tour in Anna Maria Island because of the following:
- there are no guaranteed offers for dolphin sightings (the operator is NOT hunting them and if they do appear, she stops the boat, and watches from afar.
- There is no food thrown to the animals and our Captain gave us a lot of info about their lifestyle and how they seem to be changing, etc.
- our tour shared the fact that by the Tides Table Restaurant and Marina, there is often wildlife that they assist, heal and reutrn to the wild, so again helping the sanctuary, not taking from the sanctuary
- descriptons of wildlife, how the paticular species effects the ecosystem, and the cycle of life, etc. all were part of our trip but never to the point of in our face too scientifc, just a nice dusting of: here is what you are seeing and here is why you are seeing it.
- at no point in time were we speeding through the waters or casting lines to fish.
- the live sealife that we captured was maintained in an aerator then she shared with us what we captured.
- before we set back into motion it was delicately (not dumped) returned to the sea.
- What we kept was not alive or it woud not come with us, and the area then was no wrose for the wear.
- We experienced living things in their own enironment, and observed from the boat
- Our full takeawy was a better understanding of the living from mangroves to dolphin nurseries
Book The Eco Boat Tour In Anna Maria Island With Captain Katie
I can’t wait to go back to Anna Maria Island and I will be going back with Captain Katie you definitely want to take your family on this experience too!
The price is currently $30 a person for a 2-hour tour and that is just too little for what you take away.
Katie is a local and knows her stuff inside and out, and at all times you will experience this.
The tour is a 2nd generation run business, as her mother also works Captain Kathe, so support women in business.
Ladies, you make the reservations for your family vacation, follow it up with a reservation here!
If the guys are going golfing in Bradenton, schedule this for you and the kids! It is family-oriented and as informative as you want it to be.
See you on the sandbar! ~ Dana XO
Dana Vento is an award-winning travel and food writer who loves uncomplicated adventures.