Bradenton/Anna Maria Island/Longboat Key in Florida

We take a look at the wide range of exciting attractions in one of the lesser known areas of the State’s Gulf Coastline

The Bradenton/Anna Maria Island/Longboat Key area is located on Florida’s west coast between St. Petersburg and Sarasota. It is bordered on the north by Tampa Bay, and to the west by the Gulf of Mexico. But once you are here, you will feel worlds away.

The Bradenton Area is one of the few destinations in the state to have successfully preserved the characteristics of authentic Florida while also seeing major growth.

Area beaches are found on the idyllic barrier islands of Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key, where cozy beachfront cottages, intimate resorts and inns and smaller, low-rise condos dot the landscape. Quiet villages offer boutiques, fine dining, cafes and a range of island-perfect shops: from fly-fishing charters, to bike, kayak or Segway rentals.

Those venturing off island or staying on the mainland find an area rich in all that Florida was before the age of the amusement park and expansive resorts. Visitors enjoy quaint downtowns embracing the past while offering entertainment, dining, history, culture and more. Those seeking to embrace Florida at its most natural can enjoy fascinating tours of working wineries, dairy and produce farms, as well as citrus groves and processing.

Easy to get to, but off the beaten path, filled with “Old Florida” ambience and brimming with opportunities to experience Florida at its most real and authentic, the Bradenton Area is a part of the state worth discovering and exploring again and again.

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Here are just a few of the activities you can enjoy during your stay in Bradenton

Soft Adventures Hard to Beat

While planning a family vacation can be a wild ride, when selecting a destination, parents and children alike are in search of the real adventures, during which lifelong memories are made. For those looking for the perfect family vacation, packed with thrills for all ages, the Bradenton Area is hard to beat. Top options include:

  • Horse Surfing
  • Flyboarding
  • Treeumph! Adventure Course
  • Andersen RacePark
Size Up Bradenton’s Signature Events

Year after year, the Bradenton Area comes together to bring unique events to the destination, providing its visitors with worldclass activities to enjoy (and return for) time and time again. Top one-of-a-kind events include the following. All can be found here.

  • The Bradenton Area River Regatta
  • Symphony on the Sand
  • Long Table at the Station
  • The Bradenton Blues Festival
  • ArtSlam
Sustainability and Agritourism

As sustainable tourism grows in popularity, the Bradenton Area is setting the bar, thanks in part to sustainable operations like:

  • Bunker Hill Vineyard and Winery
  • Pine Avenue
  • Dakin Dairy Farm
  • Gamble Creek Farm
  • O’Brien Family Farms
  • Mixon’s Fruit Farms
  • Hunsader Farms
All-Star Destination for Sports

With perfectly manicured grounds and open-air stadiums, Florida is a perennial favorite for top athletes, teams and coaches year-round. But not all areas of the state are on an even playing field. The Bradenton Area is emerging as the all-star sports destination in the state thanks to:

  • IMG Academy
  • Premier Sports Campus
  • LECOM Park (formerly McKechnie Field)
  • Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex
  • Nathan Benderson Park
Dining: Doing It Differently

The Bradenton Area offers arguably the best opportunities to partake in two Old Florida culinary traditions – Dock and Dine and
Hook and Cook.

Dock and Dine: Visitors spending the day on the open water and looking for a place to dock their boats just steps from a restaurant serving the freshest, seasonal seafood around can dock and dine at restaurants also offering the best food and views in the state. They include:

  • Riverhouse Reef and Grill
  • Seafood Shack
  • Mar Vista
  • Star Fish Company
  • Pier 22
  • Anna Maria Oyster Bar

Hook and Cook: Those who catch something delicious (the destination is known for its redfish, snook, and tarpon) can bring their catch to many of these restaurants to be prepared to their liking. Top stops include:

  • Mar Vista
  • Star Fish Company
  • Pier 22
  • Anna Maria Oyster Bar
Unexpected Historic Charm

From the site where De Soto came ashore and began his conquest and exploration of America, to the last standing antebellum plantation house in South Florida, the Bradenton Area is the perfect spot for families in search of a unexpected historic destination.Top historic events, sites and activities include:

  • Manatee Village Historical Park
  • Palmetto Historical Park
  • De Soto National Memorial
  • The South Florida Museum
  • The Gamble Plantation Historic State Park
  • The Fishing Village of Cortez
Extend Your “Beach” Vacation with Legoland

With the clear majority of theme parks landlocked in Central Florida – without a beach in sight – many families think they must make a choice between the beach and the parks when visiting the Sunshine State. Fortunately, that’s no longer the case!

In 2017, LEGOLAND Florida opened its newest hotel, Beach Retreat, a village-style resort with 83 beach-themed bungalows with LEGO décor inside and out, an outdoor play area and shaded patios – all on the picturesque Lake Dexter, adjacent to the theme park. Best of all? Just like the park, this “beach” is situated a short drive from the Bradenton Area, making the two the perfect options for an extended family beach getaway!

Superior Shopping Sites

Those who get nostalgic for the time when chain restaurants and department stores were not on every street corner should look no further than the Bradenton Area where, local shops, general stores, boutiques and cafés line the streets instead and offer one-of-a-kind items for purchase. Top stops to shop are:

  • Pine Avenue
  • Main Street at Lakewood Ranch
  • Historic Bridge Street
  • The Village of the Arts in Bradenton
  • Downtown Bradenton and Old Manatee
Craft Breweries are Bubbling Up

As the craft beer scene across the globe continues brewing, the Bradenton Area is bubbling up as a top destination for those in search of a place to enjoy the local flavors – all thanks to:

  • Motorworks Brewery
  • Darwin Brewing Company
  • The Naughty Monk
  • Three Keys Brewing
Unbeatable Beaches

Found on the area’s barrier islands on the Gulf of Mexico, area beaches offer 16 miles of sugar-white sand with convenient public access. And, six of the area beaches have earned the prestigious “Blue Wave Certification” from the Clean Beach Coalition:

  • Anna Maria Beach
  • Coquina Beach
  • Cortez Beach
  • Holmes Beach
  • Manatee Beach
  • Whitney Beach
Eco-Tourism Soars

Known for its pristine beaches, cultural activities, untouched nature preserves and on-going efforts to preserve its “Old Florida” charm, the Bradenton Area is a top destination for eco-tourism. Just a few of the many experiences follow:

  • Robinson Nature Preserve
  • Emerson Point Preserve
  • The Fishing Village of Cortez
  • Kayak Tours at Beach Bums
There’s More than the Shore

Though the destination is known for its beaches, for years Downtown Bradenton has been developing into one of the finest small downtowns in the country, helping to set the Bradenton Area apart from other beach destinations in the state thanks to the following downtown stops:

  • Old Main Street
  • The Riverwalk
  • The South Florida Museum
  • The Village of the Arts in Bradenton
  • Manatee Performance Art Center