Day 1 – Palmetto
Start your historical trip just north of Bradenton in the quaint town of Palmetto. Once you’re there, explore the only surviving antebellum plantation home in South Florida, Gamble Plantation. It’s home to some of the Bradenton Area’s best events, including the candlelit tour on Halloween. Then, stay in town to experience the Palmetto Historical Village, home of the old post office, schoolhouse and 1914 Carnegie Library.
Fuel up for the rest of your adventure with the freshest seafood north of the Manatee River at Riverhouse Reef & Grill. With perfect views of the water and an order that includes frozen mojitos and grouper stuffed with lobster cakes , you can’t go wrong.
Spend the afternoon traversing Emerson Point Preserve. Walk along the boardwalk viewing wildlife until you get to the Portavant Temple Mound. The mound predates pretty much everything in the area as the oldest Native American temple mound on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Check it out to learn more about how the native people lived, loved and worshipped long before we called this the Bradenton Area.
Finish your first day by getting cozy at the Palmetto Riverside Bed and Breakfast. The beautiful architecture of the B&B came from an old Sears, Roebuck & Co. Catalogue, as it was ordered and shipped from Chicago in the early 1900s. Today, it’s recognized on the list of the National Register of Historic Places and serves as one of the most breathtaking Florida wedding venues. Not to mention, it makes the perfect headquarters for your historical tour of the area.
Day 2 – Bradenton
After a day in Palmetto, hop over the Manatee River to explore Bradenton. First stop: say hello to Snooty the Manatee at the South Florida Museum. The museum features an array of exhibits that range from the history of the area to facts about the local wildlife. Spend hours (yeah, you’ll need a few hours for this one) immersing yourself into the history of the flora and fauna that have made the Bradenton Area what it is today. But the main attraction is none other than Snooty himself. As the oldest living manatee in the world, he’s a must-see for any visitor.
After getting some food at the waterfront Pier 22 restaurant, catch a game at McKechnie Field. The baseball park has been home to professional baseball since 1923. Stop by to catch the Bradenton Marauders in action, or see the Pittsburgh Pirates preparing for the season during spring training. McKechnie is the oldest stadium that’s still used for spring training and one of the most historic places to catch a game.
Lay your head down after a busy day in Bradenton at the Hampton Inn & Suites. The hotel is full of Florida charm and has been the place to stay dating as far back as the 1920s. From the marble floors to the restored staircase, the hotel is one of the area’s most beautiful architectural wonders.
Day 3 – Cortez and Anna Maria Island
If you haven’t been fishing or had fresh seafood on your trip yet, it’s time to change that at Cortez Fishing Village. More than a fishing hole, Cortez is the best place to dine on fresh seafood alongside local fishermen. Grab some grub at Star Fish Co. and visit the Florida Maritime Museum to learn just how anchored the area is in its fishing heritage.
Then, it’s time to dive way, way back into the history of the area. De Soto National Memorial is the site where Hernando de Soto is believed to have landed when exploring Florida’s west coast. Stop by the strip of beach to see a live recreation of the historic exploration.
Finally, get over to the newly restored Anna Maria Museum. The museum explores the rich history of how the tiny Gulf Coast island became one of the most serene vacation spots in all of Florida. It’s also home to the island’s only jail. You’ll notice there aren’t any bars or doors. Turns out there hasn’t been much of a need for a jail cell in the 100 or so years of leisure travel on the island.
End your historic trip with a tour of the piers on Anna Maria Island. From the Anna Maria City Pier to the Historic Bridge Street Pier, the area’s piers date back to 1910 and are nearly as old as the city of Anna Maria itself. Get some fresh seafood, listen to the calm waters and watch the sunset from a pier soaked in history.