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Bradenton Beach - Florida

Choose Your Beach

The town of Bradenton is on Florida's Central Coast, just south of the Tampa/St. Petersburg area, tucked between Sarasota Bay and the Manatee River.

Facing the Gulf are Longboat Key and Anna Maria Island -- both barrier islands with a wide variety of resorts to stay, and places to eat, plus lots of beach activity to keep everybody happy.

First settled in the 1840s, the area has had its booms and busts, and now has a thriving tourism industry, based on the island beaches, and other recreational activity along the Central Gulf Coast.

beaches & parks | where to stay | where to eat

What to See & Do

Bradenton -- the mainland town -- sits on the northeastern corner of Sarasota Bay, and the city of Sarasota is found on the eastern shore. Several smaller, funkier, communities are spread along the two barrier islands that shelter the bay from the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Anna Maria Island (to the north) has its small namesake community near the northern tip. Just to the south are Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach. As you continue driving south, along Gulf Drive (Route 789), you pass through the town of Longboat Key. Most tourists take a loop drive along the two islands, starting at either the south or north access point, and returning to the mainland at the opposite end. The drive, with only a few sightseeing stops, takes an hour to 90 minutes.

But there's not much sense in just driving down the islands without enjoying the beaches and other scenic spots on Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key. Many visitors stay on one or the other island, to enjoy the very unhurried and low-key beach experience.

Aside from the beaches, most area attractions are on the mainland, including the superb Ringling Museum of Art, located at 5401 Bay Shore Road, in Sarasota. Here is the fabulous estate of the circus family, including a European-style palace which was the Ringling home, named Ca' d'Zan. After John and Mabel Ringling built their palace (1924 to 1926) they built the art museum, which was completed in 1929. Upon his death, John Ringling bequeathed the entire estate and art collection to the people of Florida. The complex includes the Ringling Circus Museum, which celebrates the art of the circus, and was redesigned in 1988. The Museum of Art now includes art covering a creative span of more than 500 years -- most of it purchased by Ringling. You can spend a day or even two on the estate, and never retrace your steps. The complex is open daily, except on major holidays, from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Visitor Services: (941) 359-5723. For a recorded info line, call 351-1660

Nature lovers just have to visit Marie Shelby Botanical Gardens. Also in Sarasota, this non-profit center is found on a peninsula on the downtown waterfront, off South Palm Avenue. In addition to greenhouse displays, you'll find outstanding outdoor gardens. The huge orchid collection has more than 6,000 plants. Many of the species come from trips made by collectors to tropical rainforests. It's open daily except Christmas, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 811 South Palm Avenue; Information: (941) 366-5730 or 366-5731.

This is a good area for golfing, although the courses are on the mainland, in Sarasota, Bradenton, and Palmetto. The Manatee County (public) Golf Course is at 6415 53rd Avenue West, in Bradenton. The Palma Sola Course, at 3807 75th At. W., in Bradenton, is a par 72 course -- quite scenic with creeks and ponds, with a restaurant. The River Run Golf Links are also found in Bradenton (1801 27th St. E., call 941-747-6331) You must give two days advance notice for obtaining tee times. 18 holes, par 70.

There are 27 holes at the excellent University Park Country Club, on University Blvd. There are undulating fairways, a few lakes, and a pleasant restaurant with outdoor dining. You might also like to try the challenges at the 18-hole, par 58 course at the Village Green Golf Club, 1401 Village Green Pkwy, in Bradenton. This is a well-treed, fairly flat course. In all, there are a dozen golf courses in the immediate area.

Island Beaches & Parks

At the extreme northern top of Anna Maria Island, is Bean Point. The beach here is blessed with extra fine sand, with tall dunes vegetated by seaoats. This is a great beach for walks and ramblings. No lifeguards at this beach.

Bayfront Park is found just north of the Anna Maria Oyster Bar. This is more of a family playing place, equipped with picnic tables, grills, and restrooms. No lifeguards here either.

Manatee County Public Beach is located in the village of Holmes Beach. Drive to the end of Manatee Avenue. You'll find picnic areas, beach cabanas, a restaurant, playground, restrooms, and lifeguards.

Farther south, via Gulf Drive, Coquina Beach has picnic tables, beach cabanas, a playground, restaurant, and lifeguards.

Palma Sola Bay offers additional recreational opportunities, including horseback riding. You can rent watercraft here. Other features include restrooms, and a restaurant. Unlike at the other island beaches, you can walk your dog on this one.


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Bradenton Beach, Florida

Where to Eat

Seafood is the preferred cuisine focus on Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key. And THE placec to go for the seafood experience are the Anna Maria Oyster Bar at 6696 Cortez Road West in Bradenton. There are two other restaurants in the group: in Ellenton, across the Manatee River, and another in Bradenton. This is the original, serving a wide variety of seafood appetizers, salads, sandwich platters, pasta with seafood, crab cakes, and surf and turf, plus the main fish and shellfish entrees. You can get Maine lobster here, for a price, but why do that when you can get seafood from the Gulf waters in a fresh state -- grouper, flounder, Key West shrimp, scrod, the list goes on and on. For information, call (941) 792-0077. The restaurant is open Mon.-Thurs & Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday & Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Another long-time favorite for seafood, is Moore's Stone Crab Restaurant, at 800 Broadway, on Longboat Key. (941) 388-1748

Rotten Ralph's is another, famed for its quirky name and ambience. The food is good. It's at 200 Bridge Street - Bradenton Beach, on Historical Bridge Street Pier For information, call (941) 778-1604.

For a relaxed atmosphere, try the City Pier and Restaurant, in Anna Maria, on Pine Avenue (941) 778-3953. The setting is superb, and the food is good. The restaurant has a small pub with lots of microbrews.




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