Best island in U.S.? No. 1 Marco above No. 3 AMI? No thanks.

February 22, 2014 

If your idea of Florida paradise looks like Miami Beach, head to Marco Island. There, you’ll discover the wonders of high-rise resorts and condo towers lining the beach.

Along this stretch of monoliths, good luck finding a parking spot and be prepared to pay when you do. And be prepared for a hike to the beach. If you’re staying at one of the many resorts, no problem. The beach is yours.

If your idea of Florida paradise looks like, well, Old Florida, head to Anna Maria Island. There’s not a single high-rise in sight. Updated vintage motels line the beaches. Two century-old fishing and dining piers also set an inviting Old Florida vibe.

You can actually see the Gulf of Mexico from the roadway. The parking’s free and close to the beaches.

In TripAdvisor’s second annual Traveler’s Choice Island Awards, Marco Island topped the U.S. rankings. Anna Maria Island came in third, an improvement from fourth last year.

Hmmm.

We’re obviously biased. And spoiled. Anna Maria Island’s simple charms win hands down against Marco Island’s big-time glitz.

The rankings are based on the travelers who visit TripAdvisor’s website and contribute reviews and opinions.

In the Best Beaches category, Siesta Key placed second, St. Pete Beach’s Pass-a-Grille came in 15th and Clearwater Beach took 18th place. Go visit all three and we think you’ll conclude Anna Maria Island beaches should be high on this list, too.

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