The tropical paradise of the barrier islands of Manatee and Sarasota counties brings many to the beaches to soak up the sun and swim in the azure waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The waters are tranquil, the temperature is always good and the beaches white, and sugary. Relaxing is the number one sport! However, if you are feeling more adventurous, there are certainly many other activities available to you. Paddleboarding, kayaking, fishing, boating, jet skiing, parasailing, volleyball, and more. Below are some of the beaches and their amenities – go explore!
Palma Sola Causeway
From Manatee Avenue in Bradenton, heading west to the coast you will come to the Palma Sola Causeway. This causeway crosses Palma Sola bay, where you can boat and jet ski without going on the open ocean. The beach itself is small, but is the only one in the county that allows pets. There are restrooms, picnic tables and shady trees for those who prefer them. You can kayak through Robinson preserve from this causeway – just look for the surfer bus. Occasionally there is a concession stand available and very often you will see horses on this beach taking a swim. You may ride them for a fee. Parking is free, but the road is close and busy as this is the main thoroughfare to Anna Maria Island
Manatee County Public Beach
Continue on over the bridge and you will reach the Manatee County public beach. Parking is free, there are restrooms and showers and a cafe right on the beach. There is also a playground for the kiddies and volleyball courts for the althetes – a very family oriented beach. If you prefer somewhere a little quieter, head north on Anna Maria Island and choose one of the many public access areas to the beach, and park you chair on the white sands away from the crowds.
Anna Maria Island
This 7-mile-long barrier island borders the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay. You will find beach public beach accesses to the Gulf on the west side and to Tampa Bay with views of the Skyway Bridge to the east side. There is a 678-foot City Pier where you can eat, fish and watch dolphins play in the Bay.
Southbound on Gulf Drive you will come to Bradenton Beach. This beach is spectacular having recently been replenished after many storms had eroded the coastline. While there are no amenities on this beach, there are several restaurants that are directly on the beach, so take time to sip a cocktail and watch the wonderful sunsets. Look out for the rays and dolphins early in the morning as you take your early morning walk or join one of the many yoga classes that take place on the beach daily. Alternatively you can rent jet skis, kayaks and small Hobie cats from this beach
Heading still further south you will reach Coquina Beach, named after the many small coquina shells that can be found there. There are lots of Australian pines lining the beach and there are restrooms, picnic areas and a cafe. Barbecue pits are also available. There is a playground, ample parking and during the season a Sunday flea market. Across the road you will find the Coquina Boardwalk, where you can take a leisurely stroll through the mangroves and watch the boats on the intercoastal waterway.
Continue south over the bridge and now you are on Longboat Key. Beach accesses are scattered along the 11 mile island, but they are difficult to spot, so keep your eyes sharp! There are no amenities on this beach and many residential properties are literally on the beach. It is quiet and peaceful – take a good book!
After crossing another bridge and driving through the popular St Armand’s Circle you will come to the very popular Lido Beach. This is a popular spot for anyone who wants to be seen! There is a pavilion, a concession stand, restrooms and a swimming pool which is open to the public for a small fee. Parking is free.
The crystal white sand on this beach ranks it one of the most beautiful beaches in the country. With clear, calm waters, 800 free parking spaces and lifeguards on duty, this is the area’s most popular beach. There are grills, a playground, volleyball and tennis courts plus a fitness trail and 13 beach accesses located between the main each and Siesta Village, where you will find popular restaurants, bars and boutiques.
Fishing Piers and Charters
There is always a fish out there! Saltwater fishing in the Gulf of Mexico is year-round. Depending on what you want to catch, you will need to check the seasonal calendar and abide by all fishing regulations, including having a license. Below are some piers, so grab your gear and go!
Tony Saprito Pier (Causeway Park)
420 John Ringling Causeway,
Centennial Park Pier
1059 N. Tamiami Trail
Ken Thompson Park Fishing Piers
1700 Ken Thompson Parkway
Rod and Reel Pier
875 North Shore Drive
Anna Maria Island
Historic City Pier
100 Bay Blvd (end of Pine Ave)
Anna Maria Island
Sunshine Skyway Fishing Piers
South Pier 7901 US Hwy 19 South, Palmetto
North Pier 11101 34th Street South, St Petersburg
If you want to get out on the water, but don’t have a boat, there are many marinas that rent boats, jet skis, etc. Many have bait shops and fishing charters, fuel and restaurants:
2 Marina Plaza Sarasota
6040 Gulf of Mexico Drive
Cortez Cove Boatyard and Marina
4520 121st Street W. Cortez
5501 Marina Drive
Twin Dolphins Marina
1000 1st Ave W
Bradenton Beach Marina
402 Church Avenue
Parrot Cove marina
11510 36th Ave W.
6904 Manatee Avenue W.