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Florida Coastal Access Guide - Manatee County at a Glance Quicklinks

Manatee at a Glance

Coastal Cities
Anna Maria, Cortez, Holmes Beach, Longboat Key, Bradenton, Bradenton Beach, Lakewood Ranch, Palmetto
Popular Spot Myakka River State Park
Sandy Beaches 12.3 miles
Public Accesses 72
Great Florida Birding & Wildlife Trail 4 sites
State Parks & Lands Acres
Beker State Park 1,739
Gamble Plantation Historical State Park 33
Lake Manatee Lower Watershed 7,932
Lake Manatee State Park 549
Little Manatee River 1,071
Madira Bickel Mound Archaeolgical State Park 10
Myakka River State Park (Sarasota) 37,199
Skyway Fishing Pier State Park (Hillsborough, Pinellas) 18
Terra Ceia Aquatic Preserve 21,736
Terra Ceia Perserve State Park 1,911
Upper Myakka River Watershed 2,357
Federal Lands Acres
De Soto National Memorial 30
Passage Key National Wildlife Reserve 63.87
Bays & Inlets
Miguel Bay, Palma Sola Bay, Sarasota Bay, Tampa Bay, Terra Ceia Bay
Rivers & Paddling Trails
Little Manatee River, Myakka River, Manatee River, Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail

Manatee County's 27 miles of white sand beaches edge the gulf sides of Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key, barrier islands that attract more than two million visitors per year. Much of the population lives along estuarine bays dense with seagrasses and mangroves. The Manatee River, a popular spot for fishing, bird-watching and water sports, flows into Tampa Bay midway along the coast. The Terra Ceia Aquatic Preserve portion of Tampa Bay edges most of the coast north of the Manatee River; Palma Sola and Sarasota bays separate much of the southern coast from the barrier islands.

Anna Maria Island connects to mainland Bradenton by two drawbridges. A free, north-south trolley links the island's three cities, Anna Maria, Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach. The only county beaches that provide full amenities are Manatee Public Beach (accessible from most Holmes Beach side streets) and Coquina Beach (the island's longest beach with remnants of old piers jutting out in the water). Bradenton Beach, north of Coquina beach, offers unique shops and casual dining, while Cortez Beach has no amenities, but has calm waters that are inviting to families.

Bradenton, south of the Manatee River on Tampa Bay, is the county's busiest city with a large arts community (Village of the Arts), antique shops, a history-archaeology museum, planetarium, manatee aquarium, waterfront district, and international airport. Five miles west, De Soto National Memorial commemorates Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto's 1539 landing with rangers and volunteers presenting daily living-history programs in period dress. A third drawbridge crosses Longboat Pass south to 12-mile-long Longboat Key's three public beaches with limited parking. Beer Can Island Beach offers 2,000 feet for shelling; Whitney Beach has 1,300 feet of uninterrupted beach; and Long Boat Key Beach on the island's south is in Sarasota County.

Other points of interest

  • Gamble Plantation Historic State Park - an antebellum mansion with historic reenactments.
  • Lake Manatee State Park on inland Lake Manatee.
  • Madira Bickel Mound State Archaeological Site - a 2,000 year-old, Native American ceremonial mound near Tampa Bay.
  • Myakka River State Park - a vast, diverse natural area with canoeing, boat tours, trails, cabins, primitive and full-facility camping, horseback riding, biking, suspension bridge and tower.
  • Florida Wild and Scenic Myakka River and the Florida Trail.
  • Skyway Fishing Pier State Park - remnants of the old Sunshine Skyway Bridge converted to a very long fishing pier.
  • Terra Ceia Aquatic Preserve - edged with mangroves, oyster bars, seagrass, hard and soft coral, saltwater and freshwater fish, white pelicans, reddish egrets, bats and migratory birds.
  • Port Manatee, a deepwater seaport.
  • FISH Preserve, 95 acres of environmentally sensitive land on Sarasota Bay.
  • Historic Bradenton Beach City Pier, Cafe and Parker Manatee Aquarium.
  • Annual county events: Manatee County Fair, Anna Maria Island Art League's Winterfest, Kayak and Outdoor Festival, De Soto Heritage Festival and Fishing Tournament, Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival, and the Florida Maritime Museum's Gulf Coast Small Craft Festival.
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Last updated: October 29, 2015

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