Living in Paradise

Where Every Day Is a Breeze

Lakewood Ranch Main Street at Twilight

Florida is a tourist destination, and rightfully so with its postcard-worthy beaches, sunny weather and abundance of attractions. However, more than 300,000 people have found that Manatee County, at the southern intersection of Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, is also the perfect place to raise a family and run a business. Manatee County and its distinctive communities--Anna Maria, Bradenton, Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach, Lakewood Ranch, Longboat Key, Palmetto, Ellenton, Cortez, Myakka City and Parrish--offer the perfect lifestyle for all, each in its own unique way.

Anna Maria
Those in search of turquoise-hued waters and a laid-back atmosphere will find that and more on Anna Maria Island. This 7-mile-long barrier isle along the Gulf of Mexico is home to about 1,800 people. The city of Anna Maria, on the north end of the island, lies just minutes from the mainland and a world away from the hustle and bustle. Visitors and residents enjoy browsing through the quaint shops, art galleries and museums flanking Pine Avenue.

With almost 54,000 residents, Bradenton is the county's largest city and serves as its seat. "The Friendly City" lovingly mixes old and new, from the 1.5-mile RiverWalk that spans downtown and overlooks the Manatee River, to the Manatee Village Historical Park and DeSoto National Memorial Park, to the downtown business and health care districts. Bradenton's community assets include everything from spring training for Major League Baseball to the Gulf Coast's largest arts district, Village of the Arts.

Bradenton Beach
Situated on the southern end of Anna Maria Island, Bradenton Beach is known for its fishing spots, piers, beaches, and retail and dining options--many of which are family owned. With a little more than 1,200 people calling it home, the city's pace and personality are ideal for those looking to relax.

Nestled along Sarasota Bay, Cortez has a population of more than 4,200. It is one of the few fishing villages left on the Gulf Coast. This waterfront town is close to beautiful beaches, piers and more. For adrenaline junkies, there are opportunities for jet skiing, kayaking and parasailing. History and environmental buffs can get in on the fun too, with the Florida Maritime Museum and the Cortez Nature Preserve.

Almost 4,300 individuals call Ellenton home, but even more shop until they drop at the locale's premium outlets. Discover the community's rich heritage at Gamble Plantation State Historical Site. This antebellum mansion is the only surviving plantation in south Florida and boasts beautiful vistas at every glance.

Holmes Beach
Approximately 4,300 people live along the 3 miles of pristine shores in Holmes Beach. Anglers find it a paradise with abundant grouper, snapper or mackerel just a cast away. Many enjoy picnicking under the towering Australian pines. Holmes Beach is a destination for boaters and beachgoers.

Lakewood Ranch

This 17,500-acre community has won numerous awards for its beauty and master planning. Residents can find schools, health care, golf courses, entertainment options, and more than 150 miles of sidewalks and trails, community parks, lakes and nature preserves.

Longboat Key
Golfers, foodies and vacationers all agree that Longboat Key has the key to their hearts. This town of more than 7,000 is situated in both Manatee and Sarasota counties. The key boasts 11 miles of beachfront, distinctive shops and eateries, and two private golf courses. Beer Can Island and Whitney Beach are popular destinations, too, for swimmers, sunbathers and fishermen.

Myakka City
Located in southeastern Manatee County, Myakka is home to the Crosley Museum and Nature Center, parks and lakes. It has strong roots in ranching and agriculture.
Nestled between Bradenton and St. Petersburg, Palmetto is Manatee County's second-largest city, with more than 14,000 residents. The community is steeped in history with an eye on the future. The Palmetto Historic District--with 208 buildings--was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. The Madira Bickel Mound State Archaeological Site was once a ceremonial center for ancient Native Americans. While both are popular tourist attractions, visitors also have access to 60 acres of green space, playgrounds, an estuary park and much more.

With an influx of development, Parrish still maintains the best of Florida's natural beauty while embracing new centers offering restaurants, retail, commerce and more. A stop at the Florida Gulf Coast Railroad Museum is a must. Guests can take a 6-mile train ride along the first tracks that were laid in Manatee County.