Posted on 8/17/2023

Soaking Up the Bradenton Beach Scenic Highway

If you're gearing up to visit Florida for a stay in one of our lavish beach rentals on Anna Maria Island, chances are you've already heard of Bradenton Beach, home to one of Florida's most beautiful National Scenic Byways.

A drive along the Bradenton Beach Scenic Highway is a journey along some of AMI's most scenic coastline, with palm trees swaying in the breeze, charming beach shops, and delicious food. Although it may not be as well-known as places like the Palma Sola or Florida Keys Scenic Highways, you can bet that this picturesque path is a hidden gem you don't want to miss!

Here's everything you need to know about taking this historic coastal byway.

About the Bradenton Beach Scenic Highway

Photo Credit: Height Advantage Media

The Bradenton Beach Scenic Highway is a three-mile section of the Gulf Drive that runs from the northern city limits of Bradenton Beach down to the Longboat Pass Bridge. It's one of the newer roadways officially recognized by the Florida Scenic Highways Program.

This drive follows the edge of the meandering Gulf of Mexico and Sarasota Bay, offering unparalleled views of Florida's natural beauty.

While many people choose to drive along it, the full stretch of roadway is actually pedestrian-friendly as well. Visitors and vacationers can walk or bike along this portion of the Gulf Drive, one of AMI's most beloved leisure activities!

While we recommend you drive and stop along the way, if you're an avid biker or want the chance to hop on and off quickly, feel free to rent a bike and see our beautiful stretch of Manatee County as you, please!

Where to Stop Along the Way

Grab A Waterfront Meal in Bradenton Beach

Photo Credit: Larry Hoffman via Flickr CC2.0

Without a doubt, you should make time to stop at the actual town of Bradenton Beach. This island community brings back the flavor of Old Florida, right down to the stunning architecture and friendly locals.

Walk around downtown, enjoying gift shops and waterfront restaurants like the Kokonut Hut, or a refreshing ice cream stop at Island Scoops before you embark on a blistering hot journey in the Sunshine State.

Get on the Water in Bradenton Beach

Photo Credit: Laurel A Egan

With many great access points to the warm Gulf of Mexico waters, watersports are a popular pastime along the Bradenton Beach Scenic Highway!

You'll find many places along the shores to stop and rent any number of things, from kayaks to canoes and even standup paddleboards (SUP) for enjoyment in the water, but Bradenton Beach is the perfect place to grab snorkel or scuba diving gear! The Coastal Watersports staff in Bradenton Beach can help you with any rentals you might need along the way!

Stroll and Shop on Historic Bridge Street

Photo Credit: Bradenton Beach Historical Bridge Street Market

As you continue along Gulf Drive, you'll come across Bridge Street, a designated historic area with charming shops, restaurants, and galleries. If you happen to be passing through on a Sunday, you're in luck! The Bridge Street Market features many local vendors and food from 10.00 am to 3.00 pm.

You can also find the Bridge Street Pier, where you can take a leisurely walk or try your hand at fishing. The pier provides excellent views of the water and a chance to spot marine life like dolphins and pelicans.

When you're finished, try your hand at a round of mini golf at The Fish Hole Miniature Golf, see the Bridge Street Clock Tower, or shop to your heart's content at the island boutiques.

If you have some time to spare, many popular boat tours and fishing charters depart from the Bridge Street Pier, making this a great stopping point on your road trip!

Soak Up Some Rays at Cortez Beach

Photo Credit: Unwind

After you've passed Historic Bridge Street and made a stop for some refreshments, you'll find various access points to beaches as you continue on your way. Pull over at Cortez Beach, where you can stop for a stroll, a swim, or catch some rays before continuing on to the southern tip of the island.

Amenities like picnic tables, bathrooms, and beach eat, and parking is easily accessible - it's just a short distance to the sand and water!

Grab Takeaway and Picnic at Coquina Beach

Photo Credit: Carol VanHook via Flickr CC2.0

End your trip along this scenic highway with a stop at one of the Coquina Beach picnic areas. Grab some eats from the beachside Coquina Beach Cafe and take in the views of the Gulf of Mexico and neighboring Longboat Pass Bridge and Longboat Key.

This is also a great place to launch your watercraft if you've brought one along or rented one for the day. The crystal-clear hues and white beaches are like something out of a postcard and best viewed in the Gulf or Bay! Boat rentals are available at the Bradenton Beach Marina or at Coastal Watersports!

The two most popular stopping points are the Coquina North Boat Ramp and the Coquina Beach South Boat Ramp.

Enjoy the Best Scenic Highway on the Gulf Coast

Taking the Bradenton Beach Scenic Highway is a great way to acquaint yourself with the southern part of AMI. When you're done making memories in the sun, return home to the comfort of you Anna Maria Island Rental and prepare for another amazing day on the island!

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