Still a well-kept secret, Manatee County is often considered an area one drives through to get from Tampa or St. Petersburg to Sarasota. Those of us who have lived and loved Florida’s gulf coast know it as much more, though. The area offers a variety of unique neighborhoods and communities to suit a range of lifestyles. In many cases, it is often more affordable than Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, without sacrificing the natural beauty coastal Florida is known for. Proximity to Tampa and St. Petersburg make it a great option for those who want the best of what the gulf coast has to offer without the price tag.
From urban centers to coastal towns, there is something for everyone in Manatee County.
Bradenton is the largest city in Manatee County, offering a mix of urban amenities and a laid-back coastal lifestyle. The city has a charming downtown area with restaurants, shops and cultural attractions like the Bishop Planetarium and the South Florida Museum. Bradenton’s mix of natural beauty and historical charm make it a unique and interesting location.
Anna Maria Island
Anna Maria Island is a beautiful barrier island located on the Gulf of Mexico. It offers a relaxed and charming coastal lifestyle with stunning beaches, tons of outdoor activities and a smattering of unique shops. It is well-known for its seafood restaurants as well. Travel + Leisure magazine considers Anna Maria Island one of Florida’s “most scenic destinations.”
Lakewood Ranch is a master-planned community located in eastern Manatee County. It offers a family-friendly atmosphere with a range of amenities, including parks, golf courses and shopping centers. Being “master planned” means that Lakewood Ranch was thought out with specific amenities in mind. For example, it’s great for those who love to bike because the community was built to be bike-friendly. It’s also well-known for polo, golf and horseback riding.
Parrish is a rapidly growing community located in northern Manatee County. It offers a peaceful and quiet lifestyle with easy access to the Tampa Bay area. An up-and-comer in the Tampa Bay area, Parrish retains that “Old Florida” charm but offers the benefits of new-construction homes and large lots. For nature lovers, Parrish is a great option because it’s surrounded by conservation areas and an abundance of lakes.
Palmetto is a historic city located on the Manatee River. Palmetto offers a unique mix of small-town charm and waterfront lifestyle with marinas, parks, and fishing piers. Palmetto offers great proximity to Sarasota and St. Petersburg, making it a good midpoint for people who want access to both cities.
Longboat Key is a luxurious barrier island on the Gulf of Mexico with 11 miles of coastline. It offers a high-end coastal lifestyle with private beaches, upscale shops and world-class restaurants. Culture and breathtaking beaches walk hand-in-hand in Longboat Key, making it a unique place to experience both. Protected wetlands and walking/bike paths make it easy to explore and enjoy.
Manatee County offers a range of options to cater to different lifestyles, but one thing is sure for all of them: they make the best of Florida’s natural beauty. If you’re unsure which area is best for you, speak with someone who knows the area well.
Alex Plotkin has been a Tampa Bay area resident for over three decades, and even though Manatee County might be the gulf coast’s best-kept-secret to most, he knows all of its nooks and crannies.
Questions about the area? Alex is ready to help.