Just considering a Bradenton vacation evokes images of sea, sand, sun, and outdoor fun. It is all of that and more considering the amazing vacation rentals, pristine beaches, historical sites, and more family activities than you can shake a kayak paddle at. In between cutting loose on the beach and sightseeing, you can slip in some museum visits designed to help the kids enjoy learning about the area’s history. Bradenton offers an ideal blend of fun and culture in which you can eat with your fingers in old-Florida style restaurants, or get dressed up for fine dining in town. Explore salt marshes or stroll through the Village of the Arts. While you pick and choose from a colorful palette of vacation adventures, here’s a handy list of the top 10 Bradenton vacation rental locations.

1. Bradenton, Florida

train
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bradenton_FL_MVHP_train01.jpg

Whether you select a waterfront vacation rental or drift farther inland, Bradenton offers so many options for exploring old Florida’s history via the arts, museums, preserves, and parks. If you start downtown, the Riverwalk introduces you to Manatee River history through 19 pieces of art and interactive sound sculptures. From there, less than a mile south on 9th Avenue is Village of the Arts, a working artists’ community. Or, you can walk a few blocks to the east to visit the Manatee Village Historical Park to see historical buildings. The park features a one-room school, a farmhouse, a courthouse, a cowboy bunkhouse, and a steam engine. For an old-Florida dining experience, the Linger Lodge Restaurant located on the banks of the river specializes in alligator, frog legs, fried green tomatoes, and seafood. Live oaks dripping with Spanish moss surround the restaurant, which is filled with preserved native Florida animals inside.

2. Southern Bradenton Area, Florida

golf course

If you tossed the golf clubs into the car anticipating some tees for two, the south side of Bradenton puts you in the midst of three golf courses. You can choose driving ranges on par with the golf course of choice, and experience the challenges of water hazards, natural wetlands, and greenside bunkers. Pinebrook Ironwood Golf Course and Manatee County Golf Course offer 18 holes, and Timber Creek Golf Course offers nine holes. When you aren’t playing golf, you can stash the clubs in the garage of your vacation rental while you take the family to the Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary in Sarasota.

3. Cortez, Bradenton, Florida

goggles

The small Cortez community of Bradenton provides you with access to Anna Maria Island via the Cortez Bridge. Your vacation rental puts you close to fresh seafood vendors and restaurants, typically within walking distance of wherever you’re staying. It’s an awesome opportunity to take advance of snorkeling and scuba diving. H2O Watersports offers equipment rentals and lessons for beginners. Since you’re so close, it’s a good chance to visit the Florida Maritime Museum, which is housed in a historic school building and offers exhibits related to maritime history and boat building.

4. West Bradenton, Florida

memorial trail
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Memorial_Trail_De_Soto_National_Memorial.JPG

If you feel like lacing up your hiking shoes, West Bradenton makes an ideal vacation rental destination, as the area features parks and a nature reserve that offers a variety of trails. Palma Sola Botanical Park’s 10 acres include lush, tranquil gardens, and three lakes. De Soto National Memorial Park’s nature trail meanders along the shore, passing through several ecosystems, including a mangrove forest. This park includes De Soto Point Beach and Cove Beach, which are open to swimmers. Both parks welcome dogs on leashes, so you can bring the family pet along. The Robinson Preserve offers 487 acres where visitors may bike, walk trails, fish, and skateboard. On days when you want to hit the beach, you can be on Anna Maria Island in 10 minutes or less.

5. Perico Island, Florida

horse swimming

Perico Preserve, a fully conceptualized bird sanctuary, on Perico Island makes a unique vacation destination for bird watchers. Visitors may take bikes and leashed dogs, with the exception of service dogs, only on certain trails on the island to protect wildlife breeding habitats. When you want to try something new, Great World Adventures offers horseback beach tours. Guests ride along the beach and also ride horses as they swim in the bay. Children as young as three and inexperienced riders may ride with a handler in control of the horse at all times. If you put horse surfing on your vacation to-do list, Great World Adventures offers to take professional photographs, and you may take photos, too.

6. Bradenton Beach, Florida

parasailing

When you step into your vacation rental in Bradenton Beach, you’re in your new comfort zone where sugar-white beaches, quaint shops, and restaurants all line up within easy reach. You’ll notice that the pace is slower and the atmosphere is casual and laid-back. Along Pine Avenue, Beach Bums rents bikes, paddle boards, and kayaks for exploring the area. You can fish from the Bradenton Beach Pier, which includes a bait shop and a cafe. Walk out your door and you can be on the beach with the kids in a couple of minutes building sand castles or splashing in the surf. If you need more excitement, YOLO Water Sports offers parasailing and paragliding adventures.

7. Palmetto, Florida

kayaking

Just across the Manatee River, Palmetto vacation rentals give you access to Dorado Jim’s Inshore Fishing tours. The captain takes guests out for six-hour fishing excursions. He recommends wearing wide-brimmed hats and polarized sunglasses to reduce glare. You need your own food and drinks, and cameras are welcome. If you want to tour the bayous and mangroves, Hitch Top Tent offers 90-minute guided kayak and paddle board tours to Emerson Point, Bishop Harbor, South Skyway, and Williams Bayou. To go at it on your own, Sunset Boat Rental can fix you up with a pontoon boat so that you can go where you want to go, and some of the pontoon boats are set up for fishing.

8. Bayshore Gardens, Florida

madeira beach

Get set for some fun when you stay in the Bayshore Gardens community in southwest Bradenton. Many coastal towns feature some iconic landmarks, and one of Bradenton’s featured sites is Smugglers Cove Adventure Golf. Eighteen holes of miniature golf guide you and your kids through caves, pirate ships, eerie waterfalls, and across 20 or more real, live alligators. The kids can even feed the alligators using cane fishing poles. When you’re ready to meet a more gentle creature, you can try a Manatee watching tour with Shan-T Native Kayak Tours. You get to paddle through mangroves and in the gulf’s crystal waters. Shan-T also offers sunset tours over the open Gulf waters.

9. Sarasota, Florida

myakka canopy walkway
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Myakka_Canopy_Walkway.JPG

Plot an easy escape to a wonderland of natural beauty when you book your vacation rental in Sarasota. Standing serenely along the beautiful shores of Sarasota Bay, Selby Gardens offers a botanical oasis that looks like a tropical rainforest. The plants bloom at different times and are arranged in cascades of hanging baskets and climbing vines. You can gather your thoughts and soothe your jangled nerves as you spend some time drinking in the beauty of the gardens. More natural beauty awaits in Myakka River State Park, one of the oldest and largest in the state. Visitors can take in the sights along the boardwalk over the lake, but the real excitement is taking the breathtaking stroll along the canopy walkway through the treetops. You can also fill your days with other local attractions, including the Ringling Museum, which includes exhibits from the original circus and sideshows.

10. Terra Ceia, Florida

skyway fishing pier
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Terra_Ceia_FL_Skyway_Fishing_Pier_SP_south03.jpg

Serious anglers are sure to enjoy spending time in Terra Ceia, which is just 11 minutes from Bradenton across the Manatee River and the Terra Ceia Bay. Skyway Fishing Pier State Park features the old Sunshine Skyway Bridge over Tampa Bay, making it the world’s longest fishing pier. You can park your car within a few feet of your favorite fishing spot, and the bridge is lighted at night for better visibility. The park makes snacks, drinks, bait, and fishing supplies available onsite.