Bradenton Beach is the ideal destination to find vacation rentals in proximity to the scenic Gulf of Mexico. After just a short stroll from your accommodation to the beach, you can swim, surf, or hop on a jet ski for a fun-filled afternoon. When’s the last time you put your sandcastle-building skills to the test? The warm, white sand is perfect for little ones. When you’re ready to step away from the shore, head into town to find quaint shops, ice cream parlors, and casual eateries. The neighboring towns also offer shopping, museums, fine arts, and entertainment. Book a stay at a Bradenton Beach vacation rental today. Here are the most unforgettable places in and around Bradenton Beach, where you can realize the vacation of your dreams.

1. Bradenton Beach

When you stay at Bradenton Beach, you can take outdoor adventures as far as you like with paddle boarding, boogie boarding, and parasailing. If your kids are ages 10 and older, you why not surprise them with a thrilling horseback riding experience in the sea? C. Ponies Beach Horses offer rides along the beach and then out into the bay. You get to ride the swimming horses. When you’re ready to kick back at your vacation rental, you can stage a surf and turf cookout on your deck, and relax to watch the sunset.

2. Holmes Beach

They didn’t invent the wheel at Holmes Beach, but you can rent almost any size you want there. Zegway by the Bay rents zippy Segways for touring the island. Island Scooter Store rents scooters, bikes, golf carts, and more. If you want to keep your wheels for multiple days, just stash them in the garage of your vacation rental when you’re doing something else. On any given morning, you can step outside with your first cup of coffee and get some sand in your sandals with a brisk walk on the beach. Later, you might try a dolphin and whale watching tour with MV Minow Boat Tours or Mango Bango Adventures. It’s a chance to look for bottlenose dolphins, whales, manatees, stingrays, and more. The crews encourage guests to carry cameras and binoculars for great sightseeing adventures.

3. Anna Maria

Can you imagine watching dolphins play in picturesque Tampa Bay while enjoying meals on your deck in Anna Maria? You can fish from your back yard and watch boats go by as you relax in your chaise lounge. Small-town charm and hospitality surround visitors whether strolling along the sugar-white beaches or grabbing something to eat at Anna Maria City Pier. You can take the kids to Bean Point at the north end of the island for a beach combing adventure to look for sea shells and other treasures. The Anna Maria Island Historical Museum exhibits cover the history of the island’s first settlers and includes archives of records and newspapers for research. With free admission, it provides a nice opportunity to squeeze in some fun educational time for the kids.

4. Cortez

Cortez is for people who like convenience. To reach Bradenton Beach, simply cross the Cortez Bridge. Right at your fingertips is AP Bell Fish seafood market that features fresh seafood for sale, along with smaller seafood markets and eateries. You can prepare your own gourmet meals at your vacation rental or eat out at a different place every day. Active families enjoy water skiing, jet skiing, parasailing, and paragliding. When you are ready to slow things down a bit, the Florida Maritime Museum, located in an old school building, offers fun and interesting history of fishing and the ship building.

5. West Bradenton

Landlubbers and seafarers alike can enjoy vacation rentals in West Bradenton, along with the banks of the Manatee River. If you like keeping your feet on dry land, Palma Sola Botanical Park wants to soothe your jangled nerves with its serene gardens, three lakes, bridges, a screened pavilion, and two gazebos. A little to the north, De Soto National Memorial Park offers a mile of hiking trails among the mangroves along a 480-foot boardwalk. Visitor Center guests get to try on 16th-century helmets and armor, and there is a 16th-century living history camp to explore. When the sea beckons, Tailing Tales Fishing Charters offers fishing charters to some local fishing spots, including the Skyway Bridge, Egmont Key, Manatee River, Terra Ceia Bay, and Sarasota Bay.

6. Bradenton

It is amazing what a vacation in Bradenton can do to chase away the stress of the daily grind. It’s more than access to sugar-white beaches of the nearby barrier islands and the breathtakingly beautiful Tampa Bay. When you add world-class museums and family-oriented activities, every single moment of your vacation becomes amplified. Then, you keep going with Village of the Arts, an eclectic community made up of colorful historic cottages that house restaurants, specialty shops, healing arts, bakeries, and Bradenton’s best art galleries. If you need an adrenaline fix, TreeUmph! Adventure Course can put you in some rigging for zip lining through the trees or climb rope obstacle courses. On the ground, there are 11 golf courses where you can get in some tee times. Of course, every dog must have his day, and Happy Tails Canine Park is a cool spot where Fido can kick up his paws with his buddies. There’s a doggie drinking fountain, free waste baggies, and an enclosed area for small, elderly, and fragile pups.

7. Perico Island

Help yourself to a slice of paradise when you choose a vacation rental overlooking the sparkling Anna Maria Sound on Perico Island. Known for its stunning salt marshes and Intracoastal vistas, this all-residential tiny island is nestled between Bradenton’s mainland and Anna Maria Island. Neal Preserve features a 20-foot tall observation tower, shell trails, and boardwalks for hiking and exploring the coastal habitats. On the mainland, Robinson Preserve features hiking paths, waterways for canoes and kayaks, picnic areas, mangroves, and a view of Tampa Bay. You can reach Anna Maria Island in minutes to enjoy water sports, swimming, and enjoy the beach your way.

8. Longboat Key

Cannons Marina on Longboat Key offers boat rentals for a half day, full day, week, or month to let you experience the area’s beauty from the water. It’s time to round up the kids, load up the picnic cooler, and set out in a center console, deck boat, or a runabout. If that’s too much boat, Sea Life Kayak Adventures offers guided kayaking wildlife tours, including through mangrove tunnels, to explore for manatees, dolphins, manta rays, pelicans, and more. They also offer full moon tours and unguided tours. They offer single and tandem kayak rentals along with paddles and life jackets. The boats and tours are exciting, but sometimes the real vacation is about shaking out the jangled nerves and resetting your mind. Picture stepping off the doorstep of your vacation rental, sauntering down to the water, and wading in for a relaxing swim early in the morning.

9. Sarasota

When you want the greatest vacation on earth, Sarasota just might be the place to stay. You can start with the 1920s winter home of the circus magnate, John Ringling and his wife, Mable. They willed it to the state of Florida after their deaths in 1936, and it is known as Ca’ D’Zan or House of John. Various tours reveal different rooms and the beautiful grounds surrounding the mansion. When it’s time to entertain the kids, you can surprise and delight them with a trip to Sarasota Jungle Gardens where over 200 animals await to amaze them.