Sometimes at this time of year, the residents of Anna Maria Island begin to feel as if they are operating bed and breakfasts. One set of guests leaves and there is barely time to wash and dry the sheets before the next visitors arrive. It is no wonder friends and family from up North want to visit paradise at this time of year but, while the guests are reveling in paradise, their hosts can start to feel as if it’s “paradise lost.” A constant stream of even the most considerate visitors can hinder residents from focusing on their own favorite island activities. Before they know it, the best season is over and it’s time to turn on the air conditioning and retreat inside.
There are many ways to cope with living in a place everyone else wants to visit. One Islander, formerly of Chicago, sent a card to all his friends when he moved here, announcing that they were welcomed to visit in Anna Maria Island, but only if they had previously visited him in Chicago. This was the acid test to prove that the guests were not just using the friendship as an excuse to have free accommodations in paradise. If they really were visiting for reasons of friendship, they would have visited in Chicago, too.
Another way to cope with having too much company is to not have a guest room. Silly as this may sound, it seems to be a possibility that many islanders have seriously considered. They talk openly about it. In fact, in early years, when researching accommodations for guests at the island information center, I explained to the sweet ladies working there that I had no extra room for guests, but that we were planning to build an addition for this purpose. I was surprised to be sternly advised by one of the ladies not to add a room for guests, or I’d be sorry. Maybe she was just trying to promote more business for the island hotels and motels. But I had the feeling she was giving me a sincere warning.
When is the Anna Maria Island High Season? That depends on who you ask. For the rental industry, most tourists come in winter, between Thanksgiving and Easter. Rates go up towards the end of November and down about the beginning of May.
But times are changing and the “shoulder” seasons are extending into all of November and after April. Summer is also the busiest time for day visitors, who escape the inland heat for the cooler beaches and water activities and bring their kids who are out of school. Longer daylight hours attract after-work beachgoers. However, these visitors don’t have an impact on the rental real estate market as much as they do on the restaurant and bar trade.
As a year-round resident, who endures the high humidity and storms of summer, my respect for the wisdom of the snowbirds grows every year. From October through May, there are many days that are just about perfect. The people who come here during that period avoid a lot of discomfort and worry. They don’t have to worry about whether they are in a structure that will withstand the high winds of summer hurricanes. They don’t have to postpone a walk for fear of being struck by lightning, as often is the case in summer. The good news for those of us who stay here year-round is that high tourist season does not fill the entire period from October through May, so we get to enjoy many days that are near perfect, without crowds.
The busiest time of year seems to be around Presidents’ Day, the third Monday in February. Schools are on break and warmer weather brings out the winter hibernators. Travel can be brought to a standstill for hours as cars search for parking spots and bridge openings stop traffic flowing. Congestion is increasing each year as more people discover Anna Maria Island and try to squeeze onto a finite space.