Miles of beaches, prime golf courses, numerous local and state parks and recreation areas, plus an abundance of excellent recreational programming through the county’s Parks and Recreation Department—not to mention the area’s wonderful climate!—have made Manatee County THE place for any recreational endeavor.
BEACHES & WATER FUN
World-class beaches line Manatee County, providing residents and guests with plenty of diversions and gorgeous views. The sandy beaches of Anna Maria Island, Longboat Key and Manatee County’s mainland are ideal for a day with the family and offer a distinct experience for beach lovers. Activities range from swimming, fishing, kite surfing and parasailing to scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking and more. More than 30 marinas and eight boat ramps allow for quick access to miles of waterways, bayous and rivers that wind throughout the county, as well as the Gulf of Mexico and Sarasota Bay.
A favorite among boaters and sunbathers, Beer Can Island’s limited access makes for a quiet getaway, located on the northern end of Longboat Key. Another top spot for sunbathing is Manatee Beach, which is situated along Gulf Drive in Holmes Beach.
One of the largest beaches in the area is the 96-acre Coquina Beach, which can be accessed at the southern end of Anna Maria Island. A boat launch is available, along with playground equipment, picnic areas and concessions. Also on Anna Maria Island is Cortez Beach, a relaxing and tranquil beach popular for swimming, snorkeling, fishing and relaxing. Additional beaches not to miss include Anna Maria Bayfront Park and the Palma Sola Causeway/Palma Sola.
NATURAL OUTDOOR AREAS
Manatee County is teeming with beautiful outdoor recreation areas that offer a host of active and passive leisure opportunities. Standing as one of the oldest and largest state parks, Myakka River State Park encompasses one of the most diverse natural areas in Florida. In addition to the Myakka River, which has earned the designation as a “Florida Wild and Scenic River,” are two lakes offering ample activities including boating, freshwater fishing, kayaking and canoeing. Hiking, camping and wildlife viewing are also popular pastimes at Myakka River State Park.
The area is home to Lake Manatee State Park as well, which is comprised of a 2,400-acre lake perfect for canoeing, kayaking, boating, swimming and fishing. Traversing over three miles of the south shore of Lake Manatee is a 556-acre recreation area offering visitors opportunities for hiking, bird watching, picnicking, camping and just relaxing in the shade.
G.T. Bray Park, one of 53 public parks in the county, stretches over 140 acres, making it one of the county’s largest public park areas. You’ll find playgrounds, basketball courts, tennis courts, bike trails, a fitness room, a skate park, a splash park, volleyball courts, baseball/softball fields, soccer/football fields, picnic shelters/grills, a swimming pool and a gymnasium offering a range of programs for children through adult. The three-acre Happy Tails Canine Park at G.T. Bray and Dog Leg Park at Buffalo Creek Park in Palmetto offer fenced-in areas for dogs to achieve some much-needed exercise. Patrons can take advantage of a doggie drinking fountain and free waste bags.
Lakewood Ranch Park, located in the middle of the county on Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, offers many outdoor activities as well. Amenities include tennis and racquetball courts, basketball courts, baseball/softball fields, soccer/football fields and an open play area.
Nearly two-dozen public and private golf courses can be accessed within a 30-minute drive of Manatee County, with many of the finest courses located right within the immediate area, including Ted McAnlis’s Waterlefe Golf & River Club, Arnold Palmer’s Legacy Golf Club at Lakewood Ranch and the Concessions Golf Club designed by Jack Nicklaus in association with Tony Jacklin. These expertly designed courses aren’t the only first-class courses ready to offer a challenge to golfers of any skill level. Further well-maintained, scenic courses in Manatee County include Bradenton Country Club, Heather Hills Golf Club, Imperial Lakewoods Golf Club, Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club, the Links at Greenfield Plantation, Manatee County Golf Course, Buffalo Creek Golf Course, Palmetto Pines Golf Course, Pinebrook/Ironwood Golf Course, River Run Golf Links, Terra Ceia Bay Country Club, University Park Country Club and Stoneybrook Golf & Country Club.