Untouched and unspoiled, Florida’s West Coast offers a safe, quiet getaway making it easier than ever to unwind with peace of mind. Just an hour south of Tampa and two hours from Orlando, you’ll find the Bradenton Area waiting to be discovered. Bradenton, Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key have some of the finest beaches in the USA, adorned with charming towns, family-friendly activities and an authenticity that’s hard to find elsewhere in Florida.
The Bradenton Area is close to all the major attractions, but far away from crowds. It’s still Florida, but not as you know it! As any building over 3 storeys is prohibited, here you can swap high-rises for palm trees, chain restaurants for independent cafes and family-run businesses, and artificial thrills like theme parks for nature reserves.
The hidden gem is an unspoiled and authentic part of Florida. Dubbed “the friendly city,” it’s the perfect place to recharge your batteries and remember what really matters like good food and spending quality time with those you care about.
Wide Open Spaces
- Beaches: Anna Maria Island is located just off the mainland, is 7 miles long and only a mile wide at its widest point. This barrier island is hugged by crystal clear waters and white sandy beaches which really are something special. If you’re looking for somewhere that is not touched by mainstream commercialisation and prefers to showcase its natural splendour, then Anna Maria Island beaches will be tough to beat. Longboat Key, just a little further south, oozes elegance and more white sandy beaches. Once sufficiently rested, holidaymakers can pack up their beach towels and rent kayaks, jet skis or paddleboards and explore the island’s hidden bays.
- Nature Preserves: Those seeking adventure can hike, bike or kayak at Robinson Nature Preserve or De Soto National Memorial Park, both of which are an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. Robinson Preserve is a protected salt marsh spanning 600 acres and is ready and waiting to be explored. Visitors can kayak through the mangrove tunnels and often see the pod of dolphins and manatees who call the nature preserve home. If you prefer to relax, just take a picnic, soak up the sun and listen to the wild birds.
Things To See & Do
- Bradenton’s Village of the Arts: This vibrant arts community is home to rainbow coloured 1920s cottages, where locals have opened up their homes to offer anything from handmade crafts, to award winning food options.
- TreeUmph! Adventure Course: Make like Tarzan and have an adrenaline-fuelled treetop adventure playing on a collection of ziplines, hanging nets, bungee swings and swinging logs.
- The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature: See everything from the prehistoric age to present day at the largest natural and cultural history museum on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Check out the state of the art planetarium, or visit the manatee rehabilitation centre, where the injured mammals are taken in to be cared for before being released back to the wild.
- Wild Dolphin Spotting: The Bradenton Area lies on a stretch of Florida’s Gulf Coast that hundreds of Bottlenose Dolphins call home year round. A boat tour is the best way to catch a glimpse of them, and there’s a 95% chance you will!
- Ellenton Premium Outlets: Shopaholics will feel right at home in this outdoor mall, complete with 130 designer stores and brand outlets including Kate Spade, Nike, Ralph Lauren and Coach. You’re in luck if you’re in the market for some new footwear as Ellenton is famed for having more shoe shops than any other mall. Better yet, shoppers can expect to save between 25% and 65% on retail prices every day.
- Downtown Bradenton: A charming and quaint downtown with plenty of outdoor dining restaurants, bars and shops to explore. The Riverwalk, overlooking the Manatee River, is a perfect spot to stroll with an ice cream at sunset or prepare to get wet at the family splash fountains.
Food & Drink
Organic and farm to fork cuisine is the norm in the Bradenton Area thanks to the many delicious heritage seafood products locally sourced from the Gulf of Mexico. Being on the coast, seafood is high on the menu but there are plenty of American classics and vegetarian options to suit all tastes. Heading out on a boat trip? Reel in some fish of your own and have award-winning chefs cook your catch of the day for you.
Where To Stay
Each spot under Bradenton’s sun holds its own special charms and offers a wide range of accommodation, including homes and villas with their own slice of beach that are ideal for privacy as well as families or groups of friends.
- Anna Maria Island: Easily the most popular tourist hotspot in the Bradenton Area, this is a laid back island with beautiful turquoise waters, white sandy beaches and palm trees taller than buildings. Accommodation options are mostly villas, apartments and cottages. Some with private pools and some right on the beach, although being such a narrow island you’re never more than a few blocks back from the beach. If it is a resort you’re after, Waterline Resort has the advantage of a full service restaurant on site but also has apartments with fully equipped modern kitchens. Those keen to explore will be happy to hear a free trolley bus service travels up and down the 7-mile stretch, so you can hop on and off to visit the beachside restaurants and bars and catch the stunning sunsets.
- Bradenton: Downtown Bradenton is brimming with atmosphere so expect small-town warmth and plenty of hospitality. Explore the peaceful riverwalk or step back in time to see Old Florida history though the museums, restored buildings and parks. Accommodation options will be more reasonable and there are plenty of hotels to choose from, including SpringHill Suites with its new rooftop bar overlooking Manatee River.
- Longboat Key: A resort island known for fine dining, luxury resorts and private beaches. Longboat Key fuses natural beauty with five-star luxury and homes that rival L.A’s mansions. For those looking for luxury accommodation head to Zota Beach Resort.