10 best places to visit in Manatee

Spring in Florida is the ideal time to do some exploring, and Manatee County has some of our favorite places to visit. Found along the Gulf of Mexico between Sarasota and Tampa Bay, the county contains Bradenton and Palmetto along the Manatee River as well as the Anna Maria Island cities of Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach and Anna Maria, and the nearby Town of Longboat Key. There’s also the master-planned community of Lakewood Ranch, historic Cortez fishing village and many other places people proudly call home such as Bayshore Gardens, Ellenton, Samoset and Whitfield. Yes, a whole bunch of locations to survey, and we’ve explored them all with lots and lots of breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack breaks along the way. 

Like last week’s story about the 10 best places to visit in Sarasota, we wanted this one focusing on Manatee County to work as a guide for locals, snowbirds and tourists alike. You’ll find family-friendly attractions and favorite neighborhoods for dining and drinking. In fact, wherever possible, we’ve added restaurant and bar suggestions while also including recommendations for hotels, with many being destinations themselves. Presented in alphabetical order, here are the 10 best places to visit in Manatee County with lots of suggestions for things to do when you get there!

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The City Pier Grill and Bait Shop has opened on Anna Maria City Pier, pictured here July 19, 2020.

Anna Maria City Pier

100 N. Bay Blvd., Anna Maria; 941-254-4219; facebook.com/citypiergrillannamaria

The city of Anna Maria on the north end of Anna Maria Island contains a couple of historic, parallel-running piers that extend into Tampa Bay with views of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Both the Anna Maria City Pier and Rod & Reel Pier (continue reading) are ideal spots for watching our famed Gulf of Mexico sunsets, fishing or just admiring sea life such as manatees, sea turtles, tarpon, sharks or perhaps a couple of frolicking dolphins.