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How to Become an Official Cortez Explorer in Three Days

If you haven’t been to the fishing village of Cortez then you’ve been missing out on a true hidden gem in the Bradenton Area. One of the last remaining commercial fishing villages in Florida, Cortez is a community frozen in time and dedicated to preserving its authentic Florida history. Fortunately, the new Cortez Passport program is a great way to get to know this charming area just on the other side of the bridge from Anna Maria Island. So here’s how to pick up your passport, get your 12 stamps, and have a blast becoming an official Cortez Explorer in just three short days.

DAY 1 – Start your day off with a hearty breakfast at Cortez Café

Chow down on a huge Belgian waffle or classic eggs and bacon at this all-American café that’s guaranteed to keep your belly full for a good part of the day. While you’re there, be sure to pick up your Cortez Passport and get your first stamp!

Search for Nautical Treasures at The Sea Hagg

In the heart of Cortez you’ll find The Sea Hagg. This magical little place is full of nautical curiosities and fun sea-dog inspired décor. It’s one of the best ways to spend the afternoon immersing yourself in authentic Cortez culture and a great way to find the perfect souvenir!

Reel in a Fresh Catch with King Triton Excursions

Next, jump on the King Triton – a fishing boat that leads excursions into the Gulf of Mexico from the docks of Seafood Shack. The boat conveniently provides your reel, bait, and everything else you’ll need to reel in the big one.

Cook Your Catch at Seafood Shack

The best part about choosing King Triton? Right after docking you can take your fresh fish to Seafood Shack for their hook to platter option! Just leave your catch with the chefs, choose your flavors and sides and dine while watching the sunset over the marina from their outdoor seating area.  

DAY 2 – Pick Up Snacks and Brews from Bunny & Pirates Bazaar

You’re due for a fun day out on the water, and how better to prepare yourself than with tasty snacks and crisp local brews? At Bunny & Pirates Bazaar you can find everything you’ll need to stock up for a day on the boat and even pick up some Cortez swag so you can cruise in style.

Have a Blast Snorkeling at Egmont Key with YOLO Adventures

Egmont Key is a small island wildlife refuge only accessible by boat so booking a tour with YOLO Adventures is one of the best ways to get out there. The island boasts an 1858 lighthouse and the partially sunken historic Fort Dade, so it’s a great place to snorkel, swim, and explore all day long!

Join in on NASCRAB at Swordfish Grill

After your day at sea you’re in for even more excitement at dinner! Every Tuesday night at Swordfish Grill you can take part in NASCRAB – a fun experience where you place your bets on a hermit crab and hope they make it to the finish line first. And don’t miss out on the fresh local seafood while you’re there.

Grab Dessert at Tyler’s Ice Cream

After a long, exciting day you’re going to want to cool off with a frozen sweet treat and Tyler’s is the perfect place to do it. This ice cream joint is a long-standing favorite for locals and visitors alike so don’t be afraid to indulge a little at the end of your night!

DAY 3 – Spot Sea Life with The Salty Dolphin Tours

Start your day off with a breezy boating excursion on the turquoise waters around Cortez and Anna Maria Island. With The Salty Dolphin as your guide you’re sure to see an abundance of wildlife ranging from playful jumping dolphins to slow-moving friendly manatees.

Chow Down on the Freshest of Fresh Seafood at Star Fish Company

Located by the still-operating commercial fishing docks of the Cortez Fishing Village is a community staple that is sure to be a delight for your taste buds. Star Fish Company is a fish market and restaurant that uses only the freshest ingredients (think caught that morning) to make for a delicious and authentic taste of Cortez.

Take an Eco Tour with Cortez Surf & Paddle

There’s no better way to explore the coastal waters of Cortez than paddling through them. Whether you choose a stand-up paddleboard or a tandem kayak, the knowledgeable local tour guides of Cortez Surf & Paddle are sure to give you an amazing experience while teaching you all about the ecology of the Bradenton Area’s wildlife-rich waters.

Check Out the Grub and Live Music at Cortez Kitchen

This waterside restaurant is known for its fresh Floribbean cuisine and laid-back atmosphere. With daily live music and great happy hour options, Cortez Kitchen is the perfect way to kick back, relax, and enjoy your last meal in Cortez.

Last but Not Least, Head to the Florida Maritime Museum to Get Your Official T-Shirt!

Now that you’ve hit 12 (or more) Cortez businesses it’s official – you’re a Cortez Explorer! Now get over to the Florida Maritime Museum to get your free t-shirt to prove it. While you’re there be sure to check out their exhibits dedicated to preserving Cortez’s maritime history and maybe even learn a new skill at their Folk School!