Palma Sola Scenic Highway: 'Untouched Waterways'
By Dalia Colon
Length: 4.5 miles.
How to get around: Drive, or use the bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly sidewalk that runs along the entire north side of the highway.
Best time to visit: November, to witness the sand sculpture competition known as America Recycles Day at SandBlast that takes place on Manatee Public Beach.
Fun fact: Secluded Egmont Key is home to gopher tortoises and seabirds, but there are no stores on the island—making it for refuge-seeking visitors. Just remember to bring your own drinking water.
For more info: Go to manateebeautiful.com.
Manatee County is no stranger to HGTV—and with good reason.
“Manatee County is blessed by having so many untouched waterways,” says Ingrid McClellan, co-chairman of the Palma Sola Scenic Highway Committee. From pristine preserves to quaint beachfront communities, McClellan says the area attracts nature lovers who “want to enjoy Old Florida the way the postcards attracted tourists to Florida in the early days.”
Who wouldn’t want to live here, or at least visit?
A few days, or even hours, among the blue herons, sabal palms and colorful wildflowers is an ideal way to recharge your batteries.
Rent a kayak or paddleboard and glide across the calm waters of Robinson Preserve. Go for a swim with man’s best friend in Palma Sola Causeway Park, one of the area’s only dog-friendly beaches. Or try horse surfing.
No horse? No problem.
Book-end your day with visits to Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe, a favorite for all-you-can-eat pancakes in the morning and live music in the evening. After a full day of exploring, it’s time to savor the Gulf of Mexico sunset.
Says McClellan of the highway, “There’s a lot to do on that 4 ½-mile stretch.”
Photos by Bill Serne for VISIT FLORIDA