Tucked away on the Gulf Coast of Florida is a little piece of authentic Florida.
The Bradenton Area is the enemy of the artificial. It includes the town of Bradenton, Palmetto right across the Manatee River, Ellenton, the barrier island of Anna Maria, and a portion of Longboat Key, all part of Manatee County. Somehow this area survived the waves of development that washed away most of Old Florida, and seems to still float in a time when people didn’t just live, but flourished, before air conditioning, theme parks, fantasy leagues, Gangnam Style, and Twitter.
Wine… in Florida… really? Yes… We made a visit to the Greenest Winery in America. Check it out.
(video coming shortly)
EXPLORE SOME LOCAL HISTORY
Step back in time with a visit to Manatee Historical Village. Past and Present seem to work in harmony at the Cortez Fishing Village (don’t forget to hit up Starfish Company for lunch while your there).
DON’T DENY THE FISHING. Here is a place where the fisherman don’t have to lie.
I donned my Secret Hotel Inspector (or no-s0-secret depending how you look at it) persona for a day and visited a few places:
Palmetto Riverside Bed & Breakfast – Not your parents B&B. No doilies here. Loaded with style and an awesome tree swing.
Courtyard Bradenton Riverfront – It’s the Courtyard and you know exactly what you’ll get, plus it’s pet friendly!
Mainsail Beach Inn – Somehow they perfectly blend, rustic with modern, and you step out into some buttery white sand.
The Anna Maria Island Club – Need more space, then opt for the rental of a private condo right on the beach.
Tortuga Beach Resort – Lush, lush, lush is how I’d describe this place.
WHAT TO DO
Our Gold List for Bradenton Area family activities:
Catch a Fish with AMI Outfitters
Hit the beach on Anna Maria Island; Coquina, Holmes, Bean Point, Anna Maria…. all great!
Andersen Race Park
Go Ice Skating at Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex
Riverwalk Skate Park – Come to shred or like so many, just kick back and watch the action.
TreeUmph! Adventure Course – Under a canopy of Spanish Moss swing like the monkey you wanted to be as kid.
Surfer Bus Safari on kayaks or paddle boards. See a Manatee bob beneath your board.
BEST SAND IN THE LAND
WHAT AND WHERE TO EAT
The Sandbar – On the north end of Anna Marie Island, this place stands above the rest. Try the Mullet belly or maybe the Salmon chips with Mullet pate.
Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant and Pub – We ate some seafood that was hours from the water in a very unique tree’d setting. Highly recommended!
Tarpoon Point Grill – Lively vibe and a nice place to catch the breeze (and a shot of Tequila with a beer chaser as well) while gazing down the Manatee River.
B’Towne Coffee – quiet little place to grab a Cuban sandwich and a smile in the heart of Bradenton.
O’Bricks Irish Pub & Martini Bar – The name says it all and to top it off we ran into the mayor of Bradenton enjoying his evening as well.
Riverhouse Reef & Grill – Across the Manatee River from Bradenton, you just might actually see Manatee’s out front. We saw dolphins during our lunch stop.
Star Fish Company Restaurant and Seafood Market – There is no doubt the most authentic eatery in this most authentic of villages is the Star Fish Company, a dockside joint that dates to 1923. Mullet, grouper, stone crab and shrimp are cleaved, gutted, grilled, fried, blackened, sautéed, and served in plain paper boxes, along with cornmeal hush puppies, coleslaw and French fries. Yet, despite the pedigree, there’s something fishy here, and the owners would appreciate the bad pun… signs groan all around the picnic tables, such as:
“Why did the mermaid stop dating the clam? He was too shell fish.”
“Seas the Day!”
“Time flies when you’re having rum.”
“Sometimes I wake up Crabby—but mostly I let her sleep in.”
“Arrive a stranger; leave even stranger.”
And my favorite, “Give a man to fish, he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, he will sit on a boat and drink all day.”
Every dish here comes with a side order of puns.