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Question: Is the Gulf Water Temperature Warm Enough to Swim on Anna Maria Island in March?

Question: Hello, My family will be in Anna Maria the first week of March for spring break. Is the water typically warm enough to play in? I’d love to rent stand up paddle boards, boogies boards and possibly a surf board, but don’t know if there are people in the water at that time. What do you typically see? Thanks!

Answer: It’s always tough to answer this type of question because each person has a different threshold for what they consider “warm enough to play in.” For instance, if I tell someone from northern Ontario that the water temperature will be 58 degrees and the air temperature will be 55 degrees, they’ll consider it a warm spring day that’s great for swimming. Personally I would not go into water of that temperature range without drinking a cup of hot chocolate and putting on a thick wetsuit.

Generally speaking, along the west central Florida Gulf coast, in March, you’ll find water temperatures in the 65 to 68 degree range. It could vary plus or minus 3 or 4 degrees depending on whether we’ve been having unusually warm or cold weather patterns. You also will need to take the air temperature and wind into account. For instance, 68 degree water accompanied by a stiff northwest wind and an air temperature below 70 degrees would be quite a chilly day, but not dangerously cold. The same 68 degree water on a sunny, relatively windless day with an 82 degree air temperature would be quite pleasant.

So, during a warm spring break, you’ll find people in the water. But on cooler days, not so much, as they say.

I personally prefer water temperatures above 85 degrees, but when I was of spring break age, my threshold was 70 degrees. For any water below 70 degrees I preferred to use a wetsuit for surfing. But I was always a wimp when it came to cold temps. Lots of guys (not many chicks surfing in the 70’s) surfed without a wetsuit on warm days with 65 degree water temps.

Here are some photos of a fairly cool day on Anna Maria in early March:

Surfers on Anna Maria Island wearing wetsuits for comfort on a breezy day in early March.

Same day, same place as the above photo with surfers, these two teenage girls ventured into the water without a wetsuit. It was chilly, but they seemed to be having fun.

Below is a photo taken on a warmer day near the end of March:

80 degree air temperatures in late March bring the northern visitors to Anna Maria Island beaches. Quite a few ventured into the 68 degree water. The crowd looks worse than it actually is because of the telephoto lens I’m using. I was standing south of the Manatee Public Beach, looking north toward the heaviest part of the crowd.


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