A destination on Florida’s West Coast is emerging as “king of the jungle” with many family-friendly opportunities to (safely) see some of the planet’s most majestic creatures and create memories to last long beyond next winter. From turtles to manatees, gators to birds, The Bradenton Area (Bradenton, Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key) is crawling with opportunities for families to unleash their wild sides and enjoy superb weather, nationally recognized beaches, accommodations, shopping, dining and more.
Here are just a few invigorating, memorable (and safe) wildlife activities the entire family can enjoy in the Bradenton Area:
Visitors to the Bradenton Area have the opportunity to share beautiful beaches with Florida’s abundant wildlife. Families visiting from May through November are able to experience “turtle nesting season.” At Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch families are welcome to shadow federally permitted volunteers on Nesting Beach Tours, by reservation only (in June and July only).
The World’s Oldest Living Manatee
Born on July 21, 1948, Snooty was the first recorded birth of a manatee in captivity. Today, he is the world’s oldest living manatee and he resides at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton, serving as the area’s mascot. Snooty’s life history has made him one of the most renowned stewards for endangered species and the environment. He is a one-of-a-kind “sea cow.” If visiting in July, visitors can join locals to ring in Snooty’s 67th birthday, an area-wide celebration! In addition to being Snooty’s home, the Parker Manatee Aquarium at the South Florida Museum is also a second stage rehabilitation center for injured manatees.
Robinson Nature Preserve in Bradenton is an exquisite nature preserve that is a popular destination for wildlife photography and bird watching. Tucked into the corner of northwest Bradenton, it includes 487 acres of coastal saltern, marsh, and mangrove habitat. Visitors can scale the 40-foot tall observation tower for a unique bird watching experience.
This habitat attracts a variety of rare wildlife: roseate spoonbills, wood storks, white pelicans, bald eagles, and least terns in their natural environment. For those wanting to learn a little more about conservation and preserving the wildlife habitat, Felts Audubon Preserve offers educational programs for children and adults and also leads advocacy efforts and participates in land conversation programs throughout Manatee County.
Air Boat Tours
At Myakka Park, families can climb aboard one of the world’s two largest covered airboats, the “Myakka Maiden,” or the “Gator Gal” for a scenic cruise on the Upper Myakka Lake. Passengers will discover what makes the Myakka unique among America’s freshwater lakes and hear stories about the alligator, anhinga, and sandhill crane as they become acquainted with the variety of creatures that make their home here.
Dolphin Watching Catamaran Tours
Kathleen D Sailing Catamarans located on both Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key are a great way to catch the sunset while enjoying up close views of dolphins in their natural habitat! It’s truly the “perfect getaway.” For those wanting a little extra thrill, true sailing and adventure (sailing, swimming, snorkeling, kayaking) tours are also available.
The Bradenton Area is located on Florida’s West Coast about 45 miles south of Tampa. For more information on the destination, please visit: http://www.bradentongulfislands.com/.