Part of Florida’s lively Gulf Coast, Manatee County is a haven for active outdoor enthusiasts and beachgoers, drawing in millions of visitors from all over the world each year. Residents take pleasure in the county’s easygoing outlook and excellent resources, including high-quality housing, education and healthcare, while businesses relish in its location, established infrastructure and overall business-friendly climate. Manatee County has much to offer those looking to relocate permanently or those just hoping to get away for a relaxing vacation.
The county is comprised of six distinct cities, which include Bradenton and Palmetto on the mainland, and Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach and Longboat Key located on its barrier islands. Unincorporated Manatee County includes Ellenton, Parrish and Myakka City, with Lakewood Ranch standing as a prominent master-planned community located southeast of Bradenton.
The City of Anna Maria is nestled at the northernmost point of Anna Maria Island, at the mouth of Tampa Bay between the Gulf of Mexico and Sarasota Bay. Anna Maria stretches over 1.5 square miles and encompasses approximately 1,900 permanent year-round residents who take advantage of its charming, laid-back environment and beautiful beaches. The entire City of Anna Maria is a bird sanctuary, and many species of water and shore birds can be viewed here. The aquatic life is impressive as well, with bottlenose dolphins and manatees frequently making an appearance in its surrounding waters.
Located just south of Greater Tampa Bay, Bradenton is the seat of Manatee County. It is a fabulous place to explore the arts and historical attractions, have fun in the sun on the numerous beaches in the area and spend an evening dining out or having a drink with friends in one of the many restaurants or pubs on downtown’s historic Old Main Street.
Incorporated May 19, 1903, the area now called the City of Bradenton (approximate population: 54,000; size: 14.44 square miles) was discovered in 1539 by Hernando DeSoto when he landed on Shaw’s Point to begin his 4,000-mile trek in search of El Dorado, “the lost city of gold.” Formerly known as the Town of Manatee, this area merged with Bradenton in the 1940s and now comprises the city’s eastern half.
Public safety is a top priority for Bradenton’s city leaders, and statistics released by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement show Bradenton’s state, national and internationally-accredited police department is doing a top-notch job. According to FDLE, the crime rate dropped 7.4 percent in 2004, 9.9 percent in 2005, 3.2 percent in 2006, 1.4 percent in 2007 and 5.1 percent in 2008. Members of the Bradenton Police Department assisted in the historic January 2009 presidential inauguration. The City of Bradenton is a wonderful, safe and growing place to live and visit. Come see how Bradenton has become increasingly cosmopolitan in character while retaining its small-town charm.
A small beach community, Bradenton Beach, can be found at the southern tip of Anna Maria Island. More than 1,500 people call this area home throughout the year, with a wealth of visitors coming to take advantage of the community’s outstanding recreational areas and activities. In fact, 35 percent of Bradenton Beach is reserved solely for public recreation. Two large public beaches are easily accessible at the southernmost part of town. Leffis Key is also a great site for leisure opportunities, with the historic Bridge Street open for dining and entertainment adventures.
Bounded by the Gulf of Mexico and Sarasota Bay, Holmes Beach stands as the largest of the three island cities located on Anna Maria Island. With more than 5,000 permanent residents, Holmes Beach stretches just over three miles with white sandy beaches, making it a popular vacation destination. The community offers great options for accommodations and plenty of events and festivals happening throughout the year.
Longboat Key can be found just south of Anna Maria Island across from Longboat Pass, and serves primarily as a luxury resort and retirement community in both Manatee and Sarasota counties. Around 8,000 year-round residents are situated within the 12-mile barrier island of Longboat Key, which boasts 11 miles of sandy beaches mixed with upscale retreats, fine dining establishments, world-class shopping, two private golf courses and a nationally acclaimed tennis resort.
The second-largest city in the area, with a population of more than 14,000, Palmetto is situated just north of Bradenton, along the northern shore of the Manatee River. Top historical attractions in Palmetto include the Palmetto Historical Park, the Manatee County Agricultural Museum and the Madira Bickel Mound State Archaeological Site. Palmetto is also equipped with one of the state’s most noteworthy collections of historic structures—approximately 160 buildings in Palmetto are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
ELLENTON, PARRISH, MYAKKA CITY AND LAKEWOOD RANCH
Ellenton, located in the north central part of Manatee County, is best known for its two major attractions: the Gamble Plantation State Historical Site and the Prime Outlet Mall. Both can be found on U.S. 301. Parrish, located in the northeast section of the county, is home to the Florida Gulf Coast Railroad Museum, which operates a heritage railroad and tourist excursion along six miles of the former Seaboard Air Line railway route. Myakka City, located in the southeast corner of the county, offers the Crowley Museum and Nature Center. Visitors can enjoy self-guided walking tours through the nature preserve and pioneer history area, enjoying the sights and sounds of native Florida. Lakewood Ranch, located south central of the county, is a national award-winning 8,500-acre master-planned community encompassing all aspects of residential and commercial development. The community features shopping, dining, schools and healthcare facilities.