Fun Anchored at Longboat Key, Florida

Anchoring in Longboat Key, on Florida’s West Coast can be a bit challenging in a small anchorage with current ripping in and out adjacent Longboat Pass bridge.  But it’s also great fun, a beautiful barrier island and somewhere we’ve always wanted to anchor, just a bit too far north for our usual cruising routine.

From our boat looking toward the sandbar where 400 boats converge for the weekend party. All is peaceful, at least for now.

From our boat looking toward the sandbar where 400 boats converge for the weekend party. All is peaceful, at least for now.

This year was our chance.  And we loved it, stayed 4 nights, did the daily anchoring dance in the current, almost got hit my numerous boats – and enjoyed what the barrier islands have to offer.

6+ Fun Things To Do Anchored at Longboat Key

Beaches.
Oh, yes, beaches everywhere.  Not as prolific with sharks teeth or shells to our disappointment, but maybe that’s because there are too many people waiting to snatch them up?  We enjoyed three beaches during our stay …

Walking across Longboat Key to the public beach on the gulf side opposite the anchorage…

Public beach in walking distance on the Gulf side of Longboat Key.

Public beach in walking distance on the Gulf side of Longboat Key.

The easy beach by the Longboat Pass Bridge on the north end of the island – an easy dinghy ride – but often crowded with daytripper boats competing for beach space to pull up the boat!

Longboat Pass Bridge between the north end of Longboat Key and the south end of Anna Maria Island.

Longboat Pass Bridge between the north end of Longboat Key and the south end of Anna Maria Island.

Dinghy beach at the north end of Longboat Key - by the bridge.

Dinghy beach at the north end of Longboat Key – by the bridge.

Happy Hour Restaurants.

In the anchorage there used to be two restaurants – a long time institution, Miller’s Seafood appears to be permanently closed, but Mar Vista Dockside is very popular with daytrippers who create havoc in the anchorage zipping in and out, despite the presence of Sheriff and Conservation boats who regularly stop them and give them tickets for their wayward boating habits.

The view from Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant & Pub

The view from Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant & Pub

Be SURE to ask about the Happy Hour Special at Mar Vista – when we were there, it was in the Pub only, although you could bring your food and drinks out and sit in the empty chairs you see on the beach in the distance in this photo.  During regular hours, the food and drinks were good, although not inexpensive.

The usually full boat dock at Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant & Pub taking from the anchorage.

The usually full boat dock at Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant & Pub taken from the anchorage.

Yummy Fish Tacos at Mar Vista restaurant

Yummy Fish Tacos at Mar Vista restaurant

Miller's Seafood Restaurant - for years THE restaurant in Longboat Key appears abandoned. Boats used the dock from time to time, but signs warn No Trespassing.

Miller’s Seafood Restaurant – for years THE restaurant in Longboat Key appears abandoned. Boats used the dock from time to time, but signs warn No Trespassing.

Weekend Craziness

Watch out for the weekends!  We had NO idea that literally 400 daytripper boats of varying sizes would appear on the sandbar just down the inlet from the bridge.  They pull up, drop an anchor in a foot or less of water and party from mid-morning to dark. The blaring music would be OK if there weren’t multiple different genres of music competing within a few boatlengths of each other.  But kids, dogs and adults seemed to be loving it.  And David loved it because the “view” wasn’t bad either.  🙂

A small portion of weekend CRAZINESS

A small portion of weekend CRAZINESS

Dinghy to Anna Maria Island, ride the free shuttle (and stop at Publix on the way “down island” for a few reprovisions)

What a delight!  Bradenton Beach on Anna Maria Island offers a free dinghy dock within a dinghy ride from the anchorage at Longboat.   And a free trolley bus to explore the island!  We were told to be SURE to eat lunch at the Anna Maria Oyster Bar.  We looked all over the island but couldn’t find it.

Bradenton Beach Free Dinghy Dock

Bradenton Beach Free Dinghy Dock

The FREE Anna Maria Trolley Bus

The FREE Anna Maria Trolley Bus

Anna Maria Pier

Anna Maria Pier

Only when we were leaving, did we realize that AMOB … the name of the restaurant beside the dinghy dock was actually the Anna Maria Oyster Bar!  Dang!  Good thing we ate lunch there, not knowing!

The Infamous AMOB ... we looked everywhere and it was right by the dinghy dock!

The Infamous AMOB … we looked everywhere and it was right by the dinghy dock!

Dinghy to Anna Maria Island, enjoy Coquina Beach Park

The famous Coquina Beach Park on the south end of Anna Maria Island – reachable by dinghy across the pass.  There’s a boat launch ramp with a dock where no one seemed to mind if we left our dinghy while enjoying the park – just make sure you’re out of the way of launching boats.

Coquina Beach Park at south end of Anna Maria Island - easy to dinghy over and there's a dock at the boat ramp in the park.

Coquina Beach Park at south end of Anna Maria Island – easy to dinghy over and there’s a dock at the boat ramp in the park.

Longboat Pass Bridge from the Coquina Beach Park….

Longboat Pass Bridge from Coquina Beach Park, Anna Maria Island looking toward Longboat Key.

Longboat Pass Bridge from Coquina Beach Park, Anna Maria Island looking toward Longboat Key.

Peacocks???

Strolling through Longboat Key on our way to find a gulf side public beach, we kept hearing strange sounds.  Then out of nowhere appeared a peacock sitting on a front porch railing.  OK, strange.  Down the block a bit was another peacock enjoying his time in the shade.  After asking, we found out that the south end residential area of Longboat Key has multiple peacocks – roaming free – and no one could tell us why or anything about where they came from …

Doesn't every island have peacocks roaming freely?

Doesn’t every island have peacocks roaming freely?

Why did the peacock cross the road?

Why did the peacock cross the road?

The Anchorage(s)

And now for the mundane stuff…

The anchorage shown on the charts is deceptive.  It appears large enough, but when we were there, there were several “live-aboards” as well as derelict boats anchored in all the prime spots.  Transients had to either go way up front (and dodge a very shallow shoal) or anchor way back, in the current, closer to the old Miller Seafood Restaurant.  After driving around the anchorage, we opted for the latter but it made for some tense moments.

Longboat Key Anchorage

Longboat Key Anchorage

The current is often stronger than the wind, meaning either your boat lies sideways and rocks with the wind or has the wind blowing up the stern aft cockpit, which is always a bit disconcerting.  Especially as we watch other boats dance around their anchors and hope we all have out the same amount of anchor chain.  It’s not a bad idea to dinghy over, introduce yourselves and find out how much anchor chain neighboring boats have out.  You may want to be sure to be onboard at least the first time the current switches, so you can see how the boats are lying, and take up anchor chain if necessary.  It’s not a huge problem, but it is worth taking note.  Make sure your anchor is well set.

So after the usual disclaimers, ENJOY Longboat Key.   We did and we know you will!  Did we miss your favorite spot?  Please leave a comment and share!  Cheers!  Jan & David

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Comments

  1. Funny about AMOB – we’ve been there by land when we visited Nicki’s folks last winter. I expect we’ll try again when we take the boat down this winter. Lots of good info here for our upcoming cruise!

  2. I wish I had known you were here. We would have loved to get together with you. We’re docked at Snead Island Boat Works while my husband is working till Nov to replenish the cruising kitty.

    Deb
    S/V Kintala
    http://www.theretirementproject.blogspot.com

  3. We cruised Longboat Key years ago (11 years to be exact) and was slapped with a $80 ticket for not having enough life jackets on our dinghy. And it wasn’t during the weekend. We also saw the peacocks and ate at Mar Vista. Glad to know it’s still around.

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