The Best Beach Vacation in Bradenton, Florida


On Florida’s west coast you will find a little pocket of paradise just waiting for your family. The Bradenton area is a sweet beach community where everything you could ever want and then some is close by. Come here to relax, come here for adventure, come here to eat, come here to learn, laugh, and love every minute with your family. You can visit here year round, and we have all the details you need for a fun and fulfilling trip. This is the Daily Mom’s guide to Bradenton, Florida.

About Bradenton

This area of Florida is made up of small barrier islands on the Gulf of Mexico. You will find it south of St. Petersburg and north of Sarasota. Since these are barrier islands you can explore Sarasota Bay on one side and the Gulf on the other. These bodies of water provide different experiences and adventures, so this is a definite plus. Not all the beaches are the same in the Bradenton area.

  • There are some spots perfect for quiet relaxation.
  • There are some spots where you will want a paddle board to go out on the water.
  • You can fish in some areas.
  • There are some great public beaches with playgrounds, volleyball nets, and restaurants you can walk up to with your sandy feet.

If you want, everyday on your vacation to Bradenton can be completely different from the day before. Many families return here annually because of all the variety and all the unique experiences. The rental homes are fabulous. There are too many amazing restaurants to choose from, and there are family friendly activities that will delight your children.

You can use the free local trollies to get around the islands if you don’t want to drive. Trolley stops have a green sign with a trolley on it, and most of them have a covered seating area while you wait. Speaking of the wait, you shouldn’t have to wait more than 15-20 minutes for one to arrive.

 Check out all the details below before you plan your dream vacation to Bradenton, Florida.


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A Home on the Bay

The best way to find a place to stay in Bradenton is to rent a home from Anna Maria Vacations

For a large group, check out the Waterside House. This 4 bedroom, 5.5 bath home is incredible and sleeps 12. Located on a quiet spot on Sarasota Bay, your family will enjoy privacy and plenty of space. The views from the back are amazing, and both floors with bedrooms and living areas have large balconies. The bottom of the three floors opens up to a private pool and dock on the bay. There is a grill and plenty of seating outside as well. Right off the pool is a full bathroom accessed from outside so you can shower downstairs if you are extra sandy from the beach. The garage area is huge, and there is even a ping pong table and foosball table inside.

Inside, the two main floors have large bedrooms and bathrooms. There are living areas on both floors. The second floor has two bedrooms with king size beds and in-suite bathrooms. There is also a children’s room with two sets of bunkbeds and yet another bathroom attached. The laundry room is also on this floor. Go up to the top floor of the home and you will find two more bedrooms, including the largest suite, plus a large living room, kitchen, and dining room.

There is a bathroom off the kitchen as well. The home is very spacious, but even if you have someone in your family who has trouble with stairs, you can stay here comfortably, because the Waterside House has its own elevator! This makes checking in and out a breeze. Just climb in the elevator with your bags. No need to lug anything up and down the stairs.

Your home includes bath towels and beach towels, so you don’t have to use up precious suitcase space on bulky towels. When you come in from the beach or pool, just toss your towels in the dryer and you will be all set for your next adventure on the water. When you check in, there is enough soap and paper products to get you through a few days. If you are staying for a week or so, you may want to grab some extras on your way into town. Bring some DVDs for the kids to watch on any of the TVs if you need a break inside for a little while. You can bring your own groceries and cook in the full, large kitchen. However, you might not end up cooking the entire trip because as you will see, the restaurant options in this area are very tempting.


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Best of Bradenton Dining

Gulf Drive Cafe – If you can, have a sunset dinner at Gulf Drive Cafe on your first night in Bradenton. Check into your home and then head on over to this cool little spot on the beach close to sunset. Get a table right at the edge of the sand, order some tropical drinks, and let the kids play on the beach while you get yourself into beach vacation mode. When your kids can be kids while you wait for your meal, you end up with a stress free meal for everyone.

The menu is exactly what you would expect at a beachside restaurant on the Gulf in Florida. Fresh seafood, sandwiches, and salads. The kid’s menu is perfect. Service is great. If you want a drink, the bar here can hook you up. If you are there for dinner there may be a band playing by the bar. Gulf Drive Cafe is a great place to eat, play, and soak up all the atmosphere you crave when you come to the beach.


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Anna Maria Oyster Bar – You can’t go to the beach and not eat at a local oyster bar. Anna Maria Oyster Bar is the one to visit while you are in Bradenton. Located on the historic Bridge Street Pier in Bradenton, you can bring the whole family here for a casual, but delicious meal. The view from the pier is beautiful, and if you are going to take a dolphin cruise with Paradise Boat Tours, you can dine here before or after your cruise.

We love that you can order at the counter and get a fresh meal quickly before you move on to your next adventure for the day. Come here for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Brunch is served on the weekends. The fresh seafood is exactly what you crave when you are at the beach. The kid’s menu is perfect to keep the little people happy, and everyone will love the Dippin’ Dots for dessert.


Anna Maria Oyster Bar | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Beach House RestaurantIf you are traveling with children but still want to experience the best in fine, locally sourced dining, Beach House Restaurant is for you. The atmosphere at this waterfront restaurant is calm and comfortable. The indoor dining room is brand new and modern. They also recently remodeled the covered deck. Dine outside on the deck if you have kids with you. While you enjoy a cocktail or glass of wine, your kids can play in the sand right off the deck. The covered deck is cool and comfortable, so relax as the sun sets and order several small plates to share.

There is a great children’s menu to feed your little ones. You will receive a truly world class experience here, but the menu is full of local, sustainable food. Some stand out items on the menu include the House Smoked Fish Dip, Short Rib Tacos, and Seafood Bruschetta. If the boar is on the menu, try it. It is very tender, and is a very sustainable food as the wild boar are hunted in Florida to keep overpopulation down. They take locally sourced very seriously and even grow some of their own herbs right there at the restaurant. It isn’t a vacation if you don’t spoil yourself with an experience outside from your normal day to day life. Dining at Beach House is a pleasure and something you will remember for a very long time.


Beach House Restaurant | Facebook | Twitter

Ginny and Jane E’s Cafe and Coastal Store – Please have breakfast here at least once on your trip. You may find yourself coming back for more, and with their extensive menu, that’s a good idea. This eclectic cafe and shop features a full menu of breakfast classics, pastries, smoothies, coffee drinks, fresh juices, and more. The sticky buns are big enough to share. The omeletes are fresh. The smoothies taste amazing, even the ones with green stuff in them. This is a come as you are kind of place. You walk to the back, through all the local art, antiquities, and beach necessities, and order at the counter. Get your number, find a table, and you will all be chowing down in no time. Lunch is available here as well.

Poppo’s Taqueria – This local taco joint is super cool and super affordable. This is a great spot to pop in for lunch after a morning on the beach. Right in the heart of the Bradenton area you will find San Francisco style cooking. They use all natural, whole, and fresh ingredients. A lot of the produce is organic. The flavors are clean. Poppo’s uses single-ingredient spices and makes their own mixes in-house. Eat clean here with no MSG.

Right from the start you will be pleasantly surprised to see they make their tortillas the second you order them. If you don’t want a tortilla, the bowls are yummy too. Choose from spicy beef, ancho chicken, wild boar chorizo, carnitas, and tempeh. They also offer locally brewed kombucha, and their soda selection is free of high fructose corn syrup. The tastes are rich, the food is made to order, and the prices are incredible, making this place a favorite restaurant in Bradenton.


Poppo’s Taqueria | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Pier 22 – For an extremely classy but very family friendly meal, Pier 22 is ideal. So many people think family dining means fast food, and that should not be the case. At Pier 22 you can have an incredible meal with kids in tow, and you will be blown away by the food, the atmosphere, and the service. The head chef at Pier 22, Greg Campbell, takes great pride in every detail of the menu. That pride comes through in every bite. The sushi here is top notch, and they have some rolls unique to this restaurant, like the River Roll and the Southern California Roll.

Order a glass of wine or a cocktail. The bar is top notch. The kids will love the pizza on their very own menu. Order several small plates and pass the goodness around. The short rib pastry will blow you away. You won’t regret ordering any of the fresh seafood. Dine out on the patio for a view of the river in downtown Bradenton. Before you leave, make sure the kids stop at the treasure box for a little trinket to take home. You should be able to enjoy the best culinary experiences a city has to offer with your family, and we love that this is exactly what they offer at Pier 22.



Pier 22 | Facebook | Twitter

The Beaches

Beach time is classic family fun in the summer. Everyone benefits from the extra vitamin D thanks to the sunshine. The sounds of the waves are soothing. The kids love to splash around in the water. Collecting shells is a free way to find some great souvenirs to take home. What’s not to love?

If you haven’t visited the beaches in the Bradenton-Anna Maria Island-Long Boat Key area, you are missing out. The sand is soft and white. The blue water of the Gulf of Mexico is warm and usually pretty calm. Young children can play in the waves or swim with a parent without getting knocked around. These beaches are not crowded!

Your family will have space to play, relax, and make all the memories you want. Every beach in the area has its own personality, so try more than one spot for a different kind of day. If you are renting a home from Anna Maria Vacations, you can walk to the beach. This works out well with younger children who get tired and need a break after a few hours on the sand in the sun.

Family Friendly Activities

Of course your family will love the beach. However, you may want to add some other activities to your itinerary to make your beach vacation a little more enriching. A little variety goes a long way when traveling with children. Break up time at the beach with these incredibly fun ideas that are all within a short drive from each other.

Beach Bums Rentals – This friendly neighborhood rental shop makes it easy to explore the Bradenton area. You can rent golf carts, bicycles, kayaks, paddle boards, and beach supplies. You can fly into the area and still have everything you need and more to get the most out of your precious time in Bradenton.

If you rent a home on the bay, kayaks and paddle boards are a must! Beach Bums will deliver the rentals to your home so they will be waiting out by the dock when you check in. Life jackets and locks are included. The waters in the bay are so calm and inviting. Grab a kayak or paddle board and go explore with your family.


Beach Bums Rentals | Facebook | Instagram

Paradise Boat Tour – Take a boat tour around Sarasota Bay to see the Bradenton area from the water. The boat ride is comfortable, relaxing, and educational thanks to the knowledgable crew on board. The seats are covered so you can stay in the shade if you wish. That’s important in the Florida summer sun!

This is a boat tour to view dolphins, and you may get lucky and see a manatee as well. Dolphins are pretty plentiful in Sarasota Bay and the captain of your boat is familiar with the best spots to see them. Your kids will probably lose count of how many dolphins they’ve seen before the end of the trip that lasts about 90 minutes. The crew will teach you all about the area and about dolphins throughout your time on the boat, making this a fun learning experience.


Paradise Boat Tour | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

The Fish Hole Miniature GolfMini Golf is a timeless family activity, and the Fish Hole Miniature Golf Course on Anna Maria Island is fantastic. Even on the hottest day you can play here comfortably. The course is shaded and there are misting fans throughout the 18 holes. The course is not so challenging that young kids can’t play, but still enjoyable for teenagers and adults. The landscaping around the holes is lush and gorgeous.

Bring a quarter to buy some fish food and let the kids feed the fish in the pond in the middle of the course. When your game is through, you drop your golf ball in the return slot that is actually a chance to win a prize including a pass for another free round of golf!


The Fish Hole Miniature Golf | Facebook

Sand Dollar Painting at Shiny Fish Emporium – Show off your artistic talents at the Shiny Fish Emporium. This sweet little boutique is a hidden treasure. Inside you will find unique gifts, accessories, and clothing. You can also bring the kids to create a keepsake to remember your Bradenton vacation.

Here you can paint real sand dollars, and when they are all finished they make gorgeous ornaments that can be displayed all the time or saved for your Christmas tree. Shiny Fish Emporium has everything you need including smocks to keep clothing clean. There are lots of examples of how to paint the sand dollars, or just let your kids make their very own masterpiece with paint and brushes.

Leave your works of art at the shop to dry and when you return they will be sealed in a glitter coating with a ribbon attached for hanging. We can’t think of a more wonderful keepsake for a perfect beach vacation.


Shiny Fish Emporium | Facebook | Instagram

Bradenton Riverwalk – There is more to Bradenton than the amazing beaches and the communities built on the little islands. Head over the bridge to downtown Bradenton for yet another unique experience. Riverwalk is a gathering place downtown.

Bring your family here for a late afternoon ice cream treat and let the kids play in the splash pad. The 1.5 mile park overlooks the Manatee River, and the vibe here is one of community. There is an amphitheater and you may walk up to find a free concert or other community event. If there is a skater in your family, Riverwalk has a skate park. You will find lots of outdoor spaces to sit and relax. Go fishing on the pier. Walk to local museums and art galleries. This place is magic! Open up WalkBradenton on your phone when you get downtown. It will help you navigate the area and find little hidden gems.


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Bradenton Marauders Baseball Game – This minor league baseball team provides a major league experience right in Bradenton. The Marauders play at LECOM Park. This park is the location for Spring Training for the Pittsburgh Pirates. It also happens to be the third oldest baseball park in the United States after Fenway Park and Wrigley Field. You don’t feel like you are at a minor league game. The seats are comfortable.

There is not a bad view in the house. Cheer on the Marauders, dance to the music in between innings, and parents can grab a beer. The concession stands actually have lots of beer choices from local breweries. Be sure to take the kids by the Information Booth and get a free button with their name on it that says it is their first Marauders game!


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Bradenton will delight your family from the moment you step foot onto the island. The sunshine, the white sands, and the beautiful gulf and bay waters; every ounce of this place is the stuff dream vacations are made of. You may think you need to get passports and fly to tropical islands far far away to experience a beach vacation like this, but Bradenton is waiting to giving you everything you would want in an island family vacation without leaving the U.S. This place will become a family favorite, and you will be back for more after you get a taste in just one visit.

Get to Bradenton before summer is over. Here are Packing Essentials for Your End of the Summer Getaway.

Photo Credits: Dani Nicole Photography, Kristen D., EveryAvenueGirl




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Kristen Douglas
Kristen lives in Alabama with her handsome hubby and sweet son, along with her cat who thinks he’s a dog. Happily, she left behind the life of a Washington D.C. attorney to be a stay at home mama in the south.

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