Old Florida Get-Away Anna Maria Island
“Laid-back and natural” are the attributes of Anna Maria Island, a seven- mile strip of white-sand beaches. The cities of Bradenton Beach, Anna Maria and Holmes Beach are located on this extraordinary barrier island. The population of the island is about 8,500, however, nobody really knows how many sun seekers are on the island during season.
But "Laid- back" does not mean that everybody who lives there can do whatever he wants. That wouldn't work. Strict regulations govern the type of buildings and businesses allowed on the island now. Unfortunately, that was not always the case. Garages were converted into apartments, attics into bedrooms, sheds into living quarters.
That was not a good idea and did not benefit the island community at all. The islanders found out the hard way that when you do not set up specific rules, or when you do not enforce those rules, you have something that looks like the "Old Wild West." So, that problem has been resolved and everybody (almost) does it by the book now.
Booming tourism is good for the economy on the island, however, there are always two sides of a coin. Unfortunately, the boom has spoiled the character of the island in some spots. Quite a few of the original 1950's and 1960's era houses have been converted into large multi-family rental units or big single family Mc Mansions.
Anna Maria is a lovely tropical Island
Fortunately, some people saw the writing on the wall early enough. Thanks to stricter rules, the "Old Florida Style" could be preserved. Many other barrier islands have done a less good job in conserving their sub-tropical character. It is at least a small comfort for the Islanders who would love to turn back time.
During peak season the traffic on this little island can be overwhelming, and on public holidays the beaches are usually crowded.
The climax of the peak season is, of course, spring break. But once the crazy time comes to an end, all activities on the island "go back to normal."
The off-season is the time everybody likes most- unless you make a living with tourism. Those people don't mind the crowded beaches.
We talked about "relaxing" before. Yes, no shoes and shirts are required on the island, and the speed limit never exceeds 35 mph - with no fast lane available.
There are no high rise buildings or bulky hotel buildings on Anna Maria Island. By the way, no fast food restaurant got permission to operate on the island as well. That, at least, tells you something about the Islanders' mentality, right?