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Sun, sand, sustainability: Anna Maria Island excels at ecotourism

By Laura Reiley
Published: December 18, 2017
Idyllic Anna Maria Island recently was selected by Condé Nast Traveler readers as one of the world's top islands, beloved for its white sand and old-time charm. [Tampa Bay Times file photo]

Reach out and grab a leaf. Go on. Now pop it in your mouth. It's the moringa plant, ounce for ounce one of the most nutritious plants on earth, which tastes like a cross between a bean and a pea.

Now look over there. It's a Seminole pumpkin. You can pick that, too, and tuck it into your handbag before you walk into this boutique. Perfectly legal, in fact encouraged.

It's like Willie Wonka, an edible landscape just daring you to munch away (although no snozberries).

The Pine Avenue Restoration Project, 11 modest low-rise cottages, residences over retail, has catapulted Anna Maria Island to the center of the nation's sustainable tourism, eco-travel conversation. Recently, AMI was named one of the world's top islands by Condé Nast Traveler readers (No. 26), and a group from the United Nations and emissaries from the Patel College of Global Sustainability visited Anna Maria's Pine Avenue to use it as a model for successful green tourism.

Green, eco, sustainable: Each of these terms has a subtly different focus, but the overall idea is that an increasing number of travelers want to make only a positive impact on the environment, the host community and the economy, carefully maintaining essential ecological processes and helping to conserve natural heritage and biodiversity.


I just wanted to have a birthday weekend with my mom, drink a little wine with our feet in the sand (a prescription that if administered effectively inoculates against all manner of family discord). I wanted to book a cute little cottage and start my Christmas shopping, rent a sturdy beach cruiser and get in some vitamin D therapy.

Click here to read more of Laura Reiley's story.