The city is located on US 41 between Tampa and Sarasota. The area is surrounded by miles of waterways, both fresh and saltwater. Along the blue-green waters of the Gulf of Mexico and into Tampa Bay are over 20 miles of fine Florida beaches - many which are shaded by tall Australian Pines. The swimming, boating and fishing activities available in and around the surrounding locations make this a great recreational area.
Located on the Manatee River in downtown is the South Florida Museum, Bishop Planetarium and Parker Manatee Aquarium. This one-stop museum-planetarium-aquarium offers a glimpse of Florida history, a star and laser show, and viewing of live manatees.
Spanish Conquistador Hernando De Soto first landed at Shaw's point, just to the west in 1539. From the mouth of the Manatee River, he led an expeditionary force in search of gold and other riches. This interesting story is told in more detail at the De Soto National Memorial Park. This park has very limited exhibits at its visitors center and a nature trail that overlooks the beautiful Manatee River.
The city, located on the mainland, is separated from the outer barrier islands of Anna Maria and Longboat Key by the Intracoastal Waterway. Anna Maria Bayfront Park located on the north end of Anna Maria island is a quiet beach park overlooking Tampa Bay. The business district and community of Bradenton Beach on the southern end of Anna Maria island is oriented toward vacationers who come to enjoy the surrounding beaches. Longboat Key, the next barrier island south, is popular with shell hunters along its beaches.
The Sunshine Skyway to the north is an impressive 4 mile, cross-bay bridge that soars 250 feet above the bay at its highest point and provides a link to St. Petersburg and Clearwater. Remnants of the old Skyway bridge have been converted into a first rate fishing pier extending into Tampa Bay from both sides of the bay.
At the mouth of Tampa Bay is the historic island of Egmont Key. Structures from an old fort dating back to the Spanish-American war still remain. This two mile long sandy island is only accessible by boat. Excursion boats and rental boats are available for day trips to this lovely island.
Nearby Sarasota continues the beach theme with its own beautiful white beaches. However, Sarasota has other interests to offer including the Ringling Museum of Art, an upscale shopping complex at St. Armands Key, Sarasota Jungle Gardens and Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.