Discover a different side to Florida in Bradenton, Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key.
If your vacation dreams include white-sand beaches, colorful cottages, casual island vibes and plenty of fun ways to explore, you’ll find your paradise in the Bradenton Gulf Islands region of Florida. Bordered by the Gulf of Mexico on Florida’s southwest coast, it’s located between Tampa to the north and Sarasota to the south. Beyond the beautiful beaches and laid-back charm, the area offers plenty of excitement too, whether you’re seeking family fun, sports, adventure or natural wonders.
Dream Beaches of Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key
Start your explorations on the gorgeous shores of Longboat Key, a narrow barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s not uncommon to see only a few people are walking on the beach here, appreciating the palm trees, snow-white sand and turquoise waters.
A bit farther north and connected to Longboat Key by a drawbridge lies Anna Maria Island. The sand on Coquina Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches on Anna Maria Island, sparkles bright white. Along the beach, tall trees create a shaded area where public barbecue grills and tables invite people to picnic with family and friends.
With Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key, Bradenton offers two dream islands along the Florida coast – both offering a variety of vacation rentals and boutique lodging options. These two islands are also popular for beach weddings – there’s no more romantic place to watch the sunset than over the Gulf of Mexico.
A romantic stroll along the shoreline of one of Bradenton’s Gulf beaches
Many Ways to Get in Touch With Nature
Bradenton and its islands and natural areas are known for their Old Florida charm and landscapes – recalling the days before theme parks and megamalls – and locals are determined to keep it that way. The destination’s Love It Like a Local campaign offers key tips on how to preserve and respect as you explore ecosystems and encounter wildlife, whether you’re paddling the mangrove-lined waterways of the islands, biking the coastal habitat of Robinson Preserve or hiking the forests of Rye Preserve.
At the Bishop Museum of Science and Nature, you can see one of Florida’s favorite marine creatures up close at the Parker Manatee Rehabilitation Habitat. Here, marine biologists care for injured manatees, which are returned to the wild once they’re healthy. The habitat was modeled after a cypress spring, giving these gentle giants a home like they would have in the wild.
For some high-octane action surrounded by nature, head to TreeUmph! Adventure Course, a beautiful park with canopy trails, zip lining, suspension bridges and many other challenges that will make you feel like Tarzan. Here, the focus is on the whole family – both kids and adults will love the high-flying adventures. Not a fan of heights? No problem. TreeUmph! has courses for everybody.
Couple paddleboarding through crystal-clear coastal waters
Excitement for the Sports Fans
Bradenton is home to the IMG Academy, one of the best-known and most-respected sports centers in the world. Athletes of all ages come from around the globe to improve their techniques in sports such as golf, baseball, basketball, football, soccer, tennis, lacrosse and track & field. The academy is home to the well-known Nick Bollettieri Tennis Program, as well as other sports facilities. This is where Steffi Graf, Andre Agassi and Sabine Lisicki have trained, to name just a few. Tourists and families can also find opportunities take advantage of the state-of-the-art facilities at IMG Academy. Plan sessions for a day, a weekend, a week or several weeks with instruction from world-class coaches.
Racing fans will find high-speed thrills and get to hone their skills on the racetrack at Andersen RacePark, which offers go-karting for adults and children. And you can race without fear because the track provides all the safety equipment you’ll need to race.
An array of beautifully maintained tennis courts at IMG Academy
Fly into Sarasota Bradenton International Airport (SRQ) for the quickest route from the airport to the beaches. Other nearby airports include Tampa International (TPA) and St. Pete-Clearwater International (PIE), both about an hour from Bradenton.