This is a barely-used alternative to the crowded Bradenton Beach anchorage to the north because it is very shallow. I anchored here for about a year and a half and even rode out Tropical Storm Eta on anchor in 2020! NINE boats at the Bradenton Beach location sank in that storm! When anchoring near a boat ramp you must be AT LEAST 100 feet away.
With a swing keel like my boat has you can anchor fairly close to the mangrove-lined shore to the north of the boat ramp in 3-5 feet over good-holding sandy mud. Further away from shore there’s an area resembling a crater where you’ll find water 10 to 15 feet deep. Almost everything south of the ramp is too shallow to anchor in and much of it dries out at low tide.
Wind protection is excellent from SW to NW because of a thick stand of mangroves lining the shore. North to South, however, is open and it can get very choppy in strong winds from those directions. The worst direction for chop comes with strong winds sweeping in from the southeast across lower Sarasota Bay. A fetch of more than 10 miles can cause real discomfort for those anchored up in the larger Bradenton Beach anchorage but Leftis Key, to the south of the Coquina North ramp, lessens the wave height considerably.
For those whose draft allows them to anchor here there is much to recommend it, compared to Bradenton Beach. I anchored up there for two years and always looks longingly south until I finally decided to give the boat ramp area a try.
Right outside the parking area is a trolley/bus stop. The trolley is free and runs the entire length of Anna Maria Island from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. You can shop at Walgreens, CVS, Publix Supermarket, Dollar Tree, Ace and True Value Hardware stores as well as dozens of restaurants along the route. The trolley operates on a 20 minute schedule but is often delayed because of traffic at the height of the tourist season. The Manatee County #6 bus swings by every hour, almost at the top of the hour, and for $1.50 (75 cents for seniors) will take you to the mainland. The route passes by a Walmart Supercenter, Publix Supermarket, Winn-Dixie supermarket, a Lowes and Home Depot, Best Buy, Office Depot, and a West Marine, and enough fast food choices to clog any artery. If you take the trolly up to the Manatee Beach stop you can board buses there that will take you into downtown Bradenton and beyond with connections to Tampa and St. Pete.
Two caveats..Make sure you have a working anchor light. The Manatee Sheriff’s department loves to sneak around in the middle of the night writing tickets for people who don’t display a proper anchor light. It’s a $90 hit!
And DON’T tie your dinghy up to any part of the boat ramp or the railings around the ramp! That’s against a county ordinance and they can not only fine you, but they can, and have, impounded and towed away violator’s dinghies. You must tie off to one of the mangrove’s branches and wade ashore.
The Coquina North Boat Ramp is very popular and though there is a “No Wake” zone, boaters will push this right up to the limit, and sometimes beyond, especially the commercial mullet fishermen who launch their boats here. They will rock you senseless sometimes. You also have the wakes from the GICW to contend with.