Anna Maria’s Pine Avenue–Your New Shopping Destination
Looking for unique shopping in the Bradenton/Sarasota area but want to avoid malls and the fun- but-crowded St. Armand’s Circle?
Then check out Pine Avenue on Anna Maria Island. Pine Avenue is an up-and-coming destination for unique shops, good food, colorful buildings, and nearby beaches and fishing.
First, a little background. The beaches on Anna Maria Island are attracting more and more visitors each year, thanks to national and international promotion. Local newspaper reports herald the growing number of tourism dollars now reaching the area. Visitors enjoy Anna Maria’s Old Florida charm, where locals and tourists can enjoy laidback days biking around town or lazing on the beach till it’s time for a seafood dinner. Anna Maria Island is retiree- and family-friendly.
Anna Maria has some unique shops at various island locations–some shops we like that are found elsewhere on the island include Sand Dollar and The White Egret. However, the recent annual Food and Wine on Pine event drew our attention to what Pine Avenue has to offer. Come with us for a little tour.
Visiting the Beach Near Pine Avenue
First, if you want to hit the beach for awhile before you do your shopping, lay out your umbrella and towel at one far end of Pine. Depending on when you’re there, you might hear live jazz coming from the nearby restaurant The Sandbar. You might even smell doughnuts (yum) from the doughnut shop you’ll visit later on Pine. You’re also likely to see the set up for a beach-side wedding–Anna Maria is quite the wedding destination nowadays.
About the Food on Pine…..
Once you tear yourself away from the soft sand and warm Gulf waters, make your way down Pine, and one of the first places you’ll reach is Anna Maria Donut Shop. Fresh, hot doughnuts come off their doughnut-making machine, and you choose the icing you want (chocolate, vanilla, etc.) and then your topping–want rainbow and chocolate sprinkles? Crushed Oreo cookies? Fruity pebbles? You get the idea. Think of it kind of like a Cold Stone Creamery for donuts. Get there early, though, as it closes at 1 p.m. We hear lines can get long as well.
If doughnuts aren’t your thing, then you could try Poppo’s Taqueria in the same small shopping plaza. Taco options include the usual meat, chicken, and beans and cheese but also tempeh. The house toppings include red cabbage, pico de gallo, feta cheese, and hot sauce.
Other food options include Vinny & Cheryl’s Italian Kitchen, which we here is like the real-deal Italian stores you’ll find in New York; and Hometown Desserts, where a few customers have told us they’ve tried the best coconut cake ever. Hometown Desserts sells its cakes to local restaurants. There are a few other eatery options, including the tasty Waterfront Restaurant right off of Pine.
Now, as you’re walking along Pine, one thing you notice in addition to the food smells, bright sunshine, and colorful flowers, is the abundance of transportation choices–cars are so passé. We spotted bikes, motorcycles, scooters, segueways, a free trolley, and golf carts. Add to that the boats, paddleboards, ATVs, surfboards, and jet skis we saw at the beach, and you’ve got about a dozen ways you could get around on land or in the sea.
There are a variety of interesting shops along Pine Avenue, but some we particularly liked included an olive oil tasting shop, a spice merchant (yes, we’ve got a food theme here), a general store that sells food items from local vendors (including Florida-fresh orange juice), a number of boutiques with medium- and high-end beach clothing and home items, art studios, salons, and even a store called the Flip Flop and Candy Shop.
If all that walking is wearing you out, take a seat in one of the many colorful wooden chairs found in front of the stores and real estate offices on Pine Avenue. From there, you can people watch, dog watch, or enjoy a cold drink. You could even check out the Anna Maria “Jail” and the adjacent historic Belle Haven Cottage.
After you’ve shopped or eaten your way down Pine Avenue, make it over to the historic Anna Maria Pier. You’ll find people of all ages (and some birds) fishing, sunbathing and swimming, taking pictures, or eating at the restaurant on the pier. The pier is open for fishing 24/7, and we’ve previously watched visitors catch everything from bait fish to sharks. The famous Sunshine Skyway Bridge is in view from the farthest perch on the pier.
You could make a whole day out of your visit to Pine Avenue; if you just plan to shop (no beach time), we recommend a full afternoon so you can enjoy some of the eateries as well. You can usually find parking pretty easily, except for the busiest times on the island, where you’re better off arriving by 11 am or so. For more info on Pine Avenue, click here.