The Bradenton Area is known for its gorgeous beaches, delicious cuisine, and charming Old Florida feel. But none of this could exist without its long history dating back to the Native Americans who originally settled the area, and ending with you learning all about it. Here’s how to get your history on during your next visit to the Bradenton Area.
Hop on over to the Anna Maria Historical Museum, located on Pine Avenue, which dates back to the earliest days of the island.
Start with a photo op in front of the Anna Maria City Jail – a tiny concrete structure that held the local “rowdies” from 1927 to the 1940’s. Then check out the old Florida cottage named “Belle Haven”, which was built on the 1911 Anna Maria City pier in 1920. It later fell into the ocean, but was rescued and turned into a family home before finally being donated to the historical society. It’s one of the best ways to get a feel for how islanders used to live in Anna Maria’s early days.
Take a stroll to another historic pier – the Rod & Reel Pier, which dates back to 1947. Their on-site restaurant features casual Floribbean cuisine just like it’s always been, and makes it easy to imagine being an early visitor to the island. Then head back to your bungalow and watch a famous Anna Maria sunset from your private beach.
After a quick breakfast, head inland to learn the history of the Bradenton Area starting from as early as its Native American settlers. Take a stroll through Emerson Point Preserve in Palmetto, where you’ll find the 1,200 year old Portavant Mound – the area’s largest Native American temple mound.
Then head over the Manatee River to Bradenton for a Cuban-inspired lunch at Drago’s, located in the Central Building – originally Bradenton’s high end Central Hotel, which dates back to 1900! With a belly full of authentic Cuban coffee, head to the South Florida Museum for an extensive overview of the area’s history – from its earliest settlers to its hometown modern happenings. The museum is also a second stage rehabilitation center for injured manatees, so be sure to say “hi” to Florida’s favorite native species while you’re there!
This day is all about Florida’s near-lost fishing history. Cortez Fishing Village, located just over the bridge from Anna Maria Island, is one of the oldest and last remaining commercial fishing villages in Florida.
Enjoy lunch at the Star Fish Company. This dockside joint was started in the early 1920’s and not much has changed since. You can still go into their fish market, but even better is their just-caught grouper sandwiches that are so good they’ll leave you wondering if food will ever taste the same again.
For a deeper look into Cortez’s cultural history, check out the Florida Maritime Museum. Housed in the original 1912 Cortez schoolhouse, the museum houses a collection of photos, boat models, tools, seashells and a research library that all tell the story of Florida’s gulf coast commercial fishing history. It’s also worth it to take a class at their Folk School, which teaches near-lost heritage skills that have been passed down through the generations. Highlights include ancestry, wine making, knot tying and storytelling.
Before you head back to your cozy abode, swing by Seafood Shack for a fresh seafood dinner. This thriving restaurant has been in business since 1971, and for good reason. The food is delectable, the atmosphere is tropical and relaxing and the view is unbeatable.