A flock of visitors at Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach Feb. 17 is typical of the popularity of Anna Maria Island in season. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin
A sky-high view of Anna Maria Island in December shows a sparse number of people at the Manatee Public Beach in Holmes Beach. Islander Photo: Jack Elka
“We certainly are getting popular,” said Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce vice president Deb Wing.
She was responding to the announcement that TripAdvisor named Anna Maria Island as the third favorite island in the United States in its traveler’s choice awards. The rankings are based on travel-user reviews.
“We’ve always known that we have this 7 miles of paradise and it’s nice to be recognized,” Wing said.
This is the website’s second year of voting for a favorite U.S. island destination. Last year, Anna Maria Island ranked No. 4.
Marco Island near Naples was voted No. 1 in the 2014 awards, and Key West placed 10th on the list, a TripAdvisor press release stated.
The press release also said 72 percent of respondents plan to visit an island destination in the next year.
The news that Anna Maria Island was moving up the chart was spreading among island elected officials, although some sounded a note of caution.
Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn said she was “pleased with the ranking,” while noting that as more people find out about the island, more traffic develops, particularly during the winter months.
“We are almost saturated with traffic,” she said.
“But I’m glad that people enjoy the island when they get here and voted us so high,” SueLynn said. “We just want to make every visitor’s stay a pleasant experience and have them enjoy what we have.”
Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon said he was pleased to learn of the TripAdvisor rank for the island. Although, he too has concerns about increasing attention for the island.
“We only have so much space on our roads for all the vehicles coming every day during the season,” he said.
Shearon said he appreciates the advertising and popularity of Anna Maria Island, and the tourism that keeps the island economy robust.
“Sometimes, you just have to bite the bullet and enjoy what Anna Maria Island is all about,” he said. “It’s nice to be recognized.”