Braden Castle. There's a...
Braden Castle. There's a smallish, crumbling mansion which was built by the Braden family, for whom 'Braden Town' - now Bradenton - was named. It is located in a small neighborhood on the Manatee river just a few miles east of downtown Bradenton. There are lots of large, old oak trees draped with Spanish Moss right along the river and around this site. It is nothing spectacular, but gives a nice bit of depth to the history of this town and is a nice diversion from the busier locations.
I recommend getting directions from a local or finding a good map. It really is off the beaten path.
~ Bradenton & Anna Maria Island ~
In 2001, my wife and I married and drove to Siesta Key for part of our honeymoon. Along the way, we decided to take the scenic route. After driving through Tampa and St. Petersburg, we drove our car up the famously high Sunshine Skyway Bridge, which crosses the mouth of Tampa Bay into Manatee County. A short time later we crossed a much more modest bridge over the Manatee River into the attractive waterfront city of Bradenton. With a surprising downtown of mid-rise buildings, Bradenton has the look of a place that is a little bigger than its actual resident population of nearly 50,000. Driving through the city streets, we made our way westward, eventually crossing a causeway over the north end of Palma Sola Bay. I believe it was here that we saw a group of people gathered for a picnic or party in a park setting near the water. Very shortly after that we crossed another bridge, this one over Anna Maria Sound to a quaint Gulfside jewel of a retreat known as Anna Maria Island.
Devoid of the high-rise condos and exclusive resorts that overshadow the landscape of so many Florida beach destinations, Anna Maria Island is an increasingly rare find. Very “mom and pop” by nature, the island would perhaps be better suited in the Florida Keys then across the bay from a large metropolitan area. From our perspective it seems to be an ideal place for beach bums seeking a quiet, relaxed pace of life within close proximity to urban action. We entered Anna Maria Island at about its midpoint, which is known as Holmes Beach. From here we turned south onto the primary north-south route through the island, known for most of the way as Gulf Drive. In the town of Bradenton Beach, which makes up the lower portion of the island, a stretch of Gulf Drive fronts the Gulf, where we found a small beach with a small parking area. This perfect little pull-off spot (see photos) offered us a brief respite from the road. The beach had numerous brown rocks strewn upon its sands while offshore the normally tranquil waters of the Gulf of Mexico were churning turbulent breakers to signal an oncoming storm. We were only there for a brief pit stop, but the impression was enough to make us want to return some day.
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