Family, friends, crystal blue waters, and a boat... What could be more enticing than a day on the water along Florida's stunning gulf shores? Cruising around the Bradenton area is always fun, but have you considered taking your boat to other nearby areas? Each part of southwest Florida's coastline has something unique to offer.
Related Blog: Top 5 Beaches in Florida
Here are five special places you'll definitely want to visit, even if you have to rent a boat to do it! Just remember to observe proper boating etiquette while enjoying your time on the water, especially if you're new to boating.
1. Anna Maria Island
Paddling a dragon boat and parasailing are just two of the many watersports available to adventurous visitors on Anna Maria Island. You can also go for a leisurely horseback ride along one of the beaches.
This charming island offers more than seven miles of shoreline with fishing spots scattered throughout its length. Will you catch a bluefish, flounder, grouper, or something else from one of its fishing piers? It's easy to explore the island and enjoy all it has to offer since there's a free trolley that will take you from one end of the island to the other.
2. Palma Sola Bay
This small bay, nestled between the commercial fishing community of Cortez and the Robinson Preserve, opens onto Anna Maria Sound. It's home to manatees, dolphins, wading birds, and other wildlife, making it a nature lover's dream. If you're lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of sea turtles nesting on the west side of Palma Sola Bay near the entrance to the Sound.
For even more wildlife sightings, take a guided kayak or paddleboard eco-tour of nearby Robinson Preserve. This idyllic coastal preserve includes more than 600 acres of salt marsh that's home to hundreds of species of marine life, including jumping mullets and many other types of fish. There are also mangrove forests, hiking and cycling paths, elevated walkways, picnicking areas, an open-air treetop playground for energetic youngsters, and a 53-foot tower with stunning views of Manatee County and Tampa Bay.
3. Longboat Key
Watersports and fishing are both great along this island north of St. Armands Key. Once home to Native Americans, Longboat Key now hosts spectacular waterfront golf courses, a multitude of casual eateries and fine dining establishments, all the usual amenities, and 12 miles of white sand beaches. The scenery is breathtaking and beachcombers will especially love the gulf side of the key, which is almost entirely beach.
Pull into the free boat parking on Beer Can Island to enjoy the excellent fishing which is so popular with the locals. Don't worry — there are more than enough great fishing spots to share! Don't forget to take pictures of the scenery while you're there.
4. The Riverwalk
Tie up your boat at the free day dock and spend some time exploring the delights of The Riverwalk. This expansive 1.5-mile park overlooks the scenic Manatee River and offers picnic-perfect lawns, a play area and splash pad for younger kids, a skate park, and beach volleyball courts. Join a pick-up game, enter a tournament, or just enjoy the action from the sidelines. A variety of restaurants, museums, and other downtown delights are all within easy walking distance of the dock.
5. The Regina Underwater Preserve
The Regina is a sweet option for snorkelers and scuba divers. This molasses barge sank just 75 yards off of Bradenton Beach back in 1940 and is now one of Florida's Shipwreck Underwater Preserves. The wreck lies in about 20 feet of water and is clearly marked with a buoy. Anchor your boat nearby and enjoy exploring the wreck and hanging out with the hundreds of tropical fish, crabs, and other sea life that call it home.
Whether you're a seasoned marine traveler looking to absorb Floridian culture or a visitor with a craving for Florida's panoramic scenery and iconic white sand beaches, Bradenton and these five boat-friendly destinations have just about everything you could want.
Are you in need of a new dock or other marine construction services? Contact Duncan Seawall. We're Southwest Florida's choice for marine contractors!