Discover the wonders of nature at this spectacular wildlife reserve with top-class bird-watching, including roseate spoonbills, wood storks and bald eagles. You can explore the beauty of its salt marshes, mangrove swamps and shoreline by hiking, by bike or in a canoe, and get one of the best views around from the top of its 40-foot observation tower.
De Soto National Memorial
This fascinating State Park celebrates one of the first Spanish explorers in North America - Hernando de Soto, who landed near Bradenton in 1539. Actors in period costume tell the story of the expedition, including encounters with Native Americans, and demonstrate the weapons of the day. There's also a nature trail through the mangrove forest to explore.
South Florida Museum
Famously home to Snooty, the oldest manatee in captivity, the museum has three parts: the museum itself, which explores the history of Florida; the Parker Manatee Aquarium, where you can meet Snooty and his friends; and the Bishop Planetarium, which stages spectacular space shows in its digital domed theatre. The kids will love it.
Imagine yourself as a Southern belle (or beau!) while exploring the Gamble Plantation Historic State Park - the only surviving plantation house in South Florida. Formerly the hub of a huge sugar cane plantation, this grand antebellum house is furnished in mid-19th century style and oozes the atmosphere of long ago days when slaves toiled to bring in the crop.
There's a wealth of retail therapy available on a Bradenton vacation. Ellenton Premium Outlets has over 120 stores, while there's quirky fashion, jewellery and art for sale in the Village of the Arts, plus vintage and modern at Red Barn Flea Market. Both Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key have good shopping, too.