Where would you expect the greenest main street in America? Portland or San Francisco, perhaps? It is actually Pine Avenue on Anna Maria Island, one of a trio of islands that makes up the Bradenton area on Florida’s gulf coast.
This hidden gem is a diamond in the rough for family vacations, boasting “Old Florida” charm. So leave behind the jumbo resorts and chain restaurants for quaint shops and restaurants owned by locals, who are just as passionate about food as they are about the ecosystem and sustainability.
Pine Avenue was recognized by the United Nations in 2014 for its part in sustainable tourism, visiting and developing a manifesto for other locations to learn from, including how to become a LEED Certified Green Village. But what exactly does Pine Avenue do differently?
Energy Efficient and Storm Strong Buildings
As part of a restoration project, buildings on Pine Avenue are constructed with insulated concrete forms from a company located in Stuart, Florida. The fortress-like structures are securely fastened to the ground using steel and then filled with concrete to be able to withstand extreme wind conditions. The insulted walls also help to regulate temperatures inside the structure. Additionally, hurricane windows with full solar heat gain are installed for both temperature control and durability, tank-less “on demand” hot water systems replace the traditional tank to conserve water and energy, and many of the buildings have incognito solar panels. It’s worth noting that no building on the island is over three stories tall, to keep with the charm.
Landscaping and Vegetation
Between the buildings are community gardens, crushed seashell sidewalks, and native landscapes that require minimal upkeep or additional watering. Fruits and vegetables are up for grabs in the gardens maintained by the University of South Florida’s Culinary Innovation Lab and scanable codes are posted for quick access to simple, healthy recipes. Encouraging farm-to-table noshing doesn’t end at the gardens either.
Look around and you won’t find any chain restaurants or traditional fast food here. The locals take pride in their dishes and prefer to use local and sustainable produce, live stock, and dairy products, as well as seafood from the Cortez Fishing Village. Waste is composted and the cycle begins again. Click HERE for more ideas on where to eat!
Bunker Hill Vineyard and Winery
Even the wines are green (well, not literally). All wines are produced from Florida grapes and fruit infusions and housed in 100 percent recycled bottles with no labels, real cork, and recycled shipping containers. The irrigation system is solar powered and uses collected rain water.
Piers and Beaches
At the end of the main street, enjoy a stroll along the Anna Maria City Pier. Five of the pristine white-sand beaches in the Bradenton area are Blue Water Certified and declared to be eco-friendly. If you do come in contact with a dolphin or manatee (we had one swim right up to us), make sure to not touch or feed them — just enjoy their natural beauty and friendly disposition. Make sure you pack my beach essentials that you didn’t even know you needed before you head out!
We enjoyed our stay at the Tortuga Inn, the perfect blend of hotel amenities and rental features, such as kitchens, laundry, and spacious spaces. The pools were perfect for relaxing after a day at the beach or a parasailing adventure.
Getting around the island is easy. While we darted here and there in our roomy SUV, there is also the Anna Maria Island Trolley and the Monkey Bus (no live monkeys, I asked). Many visitors also rent supped-up golf carts.
For more information on planning your trip to the Bradenton area of Long Boat Key, Anna Maria Island, and Bradenton, please visit bradentongulfislands.com.
A big thanks to the Visitors Bureau of the Brandenton Gulf Islands for the tour of Pine Avenue and local eateries. All opinions and statements are 100% my own.
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