Myriad Adventures Await Visitors to Manatee County

    Florida has long been renowned for its fabulous beaches.

    Shores like Anna Maria Island’s Bean Point, a blanket of soft sugary-white sand and rolling dunes at the barrier island’s northern tip, seductively invite visitors to take a dip.

    Such shores abound, and always will attract residents and visitors alike.

    But more than just beautiful beaches await in the Bradenton area. Here a wide range of outdoor activities are drawing visitors, from kayaking through tranquil bays to strolling through historic sites, all of which are anchored by a stay at one of the area's “green” hotels.

    Topping many lists is an “ecotour,” a way to reconnect with natural Florida. These tours take visitors on hikes, kayak trips, wagon rides and other excursions through an array of parks and native habitats in Manatee County.

    Along stands of mangroves — known colloquially as “walking trees” for their intricate, above-ground root development — and under oak canopies or in the midst of wide “scrub” habitats, visitors learn first-hand about the often-delicate environments and the animals that live there.

    There are myriad options for getting close to nature in Manatee, from Leffis Key on Anna Maria Island to Duette Park in the county’s eastern stretches, along with numerous places near, in or on the tranquil Manatee River.

    One of those spots is a new rowing center at Fort Hamer Park. Built by the county, the $825,000 training facility opened in January. Coupled with a competitive rowing center at nearby Nathan Benderson Park, the pair have already begun to lure world-class rowers to the area.

    Visitors also can peek into the region’s past.

    Emerson Point Preserve, a 365-acre expanse of tropical hammock and estuarine inlets in northwest Manatee, is home to the Portavant Temple Mound, the largest Native American temple mound in southwest Florida. Archaeological work at the site — listed on the National Register of Historic Places — suggests Native Americans lived there at least 2,500 years ago.

    Gamble Plantation Historic State Park in Ellenton offers a glimpse into the antebellum era. The plantation, where Confederate Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin is thought to have found refuge after the Civil War, is gone, but the mansion remains. Guides conduct tours six times a day.

    One venue is mixing past, present and future: the Anna Maria Historic Green Village, a project in sustainable development. In this cozy community on Anna Maria Island, coordinators preserve and promote historic buildings while adding modern eco-friendly touches like solar power arrays and ground heating.

    Fittingly, hotels and motels across Manatee also have embraced “green” living. The Hilton Garden Inn near Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport employs extensive recycling, low-flow showers, motion-sensor lighting, hybrid vehicle parking and eco-friendly cleaning supplies.

    A trip to the beach is always a must when visiting the Bradenton area, but there’s much more to see and do out in the Florida sunshine – and you’ll find it all right here.

    This article was brought to you by the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitor's Bureau. To plan your trip to the Bradenton are, visit