ANNA MARIA ISLAND -- It's no surprise to anyone who has been out to the island this week: Anna Maria Island is not a "best kept secret."
It has been named one of the top five island destinations in the country -- including Hawaii. And travelers are the ones who awarded Anna Maria the designation in Trip Advisor's Travelers' Choice Award program. Think of it as the People's Choice Awards of movies and television. Millions of travelers review destinations on the Trip Advisor website.
Anna Maria Island was named the No. 4 Island destination, after these three: San Juan Island in Washington state, Kauai, Hawaii, and San Marco in Naples.
"Our hard work has paid off," said Carol Whitmore, chair of the Tourism Development Commission.
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For Whitmore, the win is great news -- but as an island resident, she is a victim of her own success.
"I live on the island and it's been rough," she said. The restaurants are full, so are the grocery stores. The population has probably gone from 10,000 full-time residents to 100,000 snowbirds, tourists and residents.
Still, she said, "our island's been able to handle it."
Tourists are using the trolley so traffic hasn't been unbearable and she's happy to see the restaurants and other retailers getting so much business.
Trip Advisor lists 26 things not to miss on Anna Maria Island, including Bean Point, the Anna Maria Island Theater, Island Gallery West and Sailing and Segway tours.
"The barrier island of Anna Maria is an absolute slice of laid-back paradise," according to the Trip Advisor website. "Golfing and fishing are two of the most popular tourist activities, though an afternoon lounging at Bean Point beach is a must-do, too. The Anna Maria Island Historical Museum is a fun way to soak up some local history when you're taking a break from soaking up the sun."
Toni Whitt, Bradenton Herald business editor, can be reached at 941-745-7087.