Sarasota–Anna Maria Ferry Set for July Opening


SARASOTA, FLORIDA, May 16th, 2017 – Will daily commuters between Sarasota and Anna Maria Island have ferry and water taxis part of their commuting habits? Two entrepreneurs are convinced of this trend picking up and are investing on it, ventures that could help ease road traffic between the two popular places.

One of the investors, Paradise Boat Tours owner Sherman Baldwin, is set to open a ferry this July specifically for local day-trippers from Sarasota to Anna Maria. Baldwin’s plan for his Sarasota Manatee Ferry calls for a 149-passenger, high-speed catamaran operating seven days a week. Roundtrip fare has been set at $12.50, with 10-pass packages as well as monthly and annual passes to be offered.

The ferry, sailing for some 30 minutes, will run from Sarasota’s Centennial Park boat basin on 10th Street to the Bradenton Beach City Pier in Anna Maria. This daily service, which was provisionally approved by the city of Sarasota in February, has immediate benefits to some downtown Sarasota homes for sale near Centennial Park such as those in Homewood, Alinari, Renaissance, and Sarasota Bay Club.

Multi-modal Solution to Traffic

Sarasota–Anna Maria Ferry Set for July Opening

Advocates of the ferry, like the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, see this service as a vital element in the multi-modal approach which is considered as important in solving the region’s traffic as well as parking problems. Ferry passengers disembarking on the Bradenton Beach terminal can use the free public trolley that plies the length of Anna Maria daily. Another alternative are the Uber and Lyft ride-share services in the island.

Baldwin is planning to eventually have five or six water taxis operating on Sarasota Bay. He also hopes that the Sarasota Manatee Ferry will be able expand to Bradenton and Palmetto by January 2018.

Longboat Runs on Weekends

At the Bradenton Beach City Pier, cruise operator Captain Jeff Stephens launched this March a weekend water taxi service to Longboat Key. Called Gulf Islands Water Shuttle, it has stops at Coquina Beach and at Longboat’s Mar Vista and Whitney Beach Plaza.

Its vessel, Island Hopper, is a 20-passenger, 27-foot Carolina skiff which provides four trips on Saturdays and Sundays. Stephens plans to operate the water taxi service daily by the next high season. Currently, he already runs the Island Pearl, a 50-foot former U.S. Navy launch for private parties, sunset cruises and dolphin cruises.

The Longboat ferry service is an offshoot of the Gulf Coast Transit Alliance organized last fall to create strategies to manage the region’s increasing traffic congestion. The alliance is now developing an alternative transportation hub concept wherein Stephens’ water taxi service is one of the elements.

Whitney Beach Terminal

Under the Gulf Islands Water Shuttle, Stephens has made an arrangement for passengers from Longboat Key to park at Whitney Beach Plaza. The seawall and canal behind the plaza’s Longbeach Café serve as the point of arrival and departure for the ferry which comes as an added perk for nearby Longboat Key condos for sale at Beach Walk, Sea Pines and Whitney Beach.

A one-way Bradenton Beach–Longboat pass or vice versa for this water taxi costs $10 and $20 roundtrip. A three-day pass costs $55 and $100 for a seven-day pass, with discounts for children available.