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A Traveler’s Guide to Cortez, Florida

Cortez is an old-world fishing community on the Florida Gulf Coast that has stood the test of time. Established in the late 1800s, life here moves as it always has with the boats, filled with fresh catch, coming in and out of local fish houses.

Jutting out on a peninsula to the west of busy Bradenton, Cortez is surrounded by water on three sides. This charismatic town has a unique sense of community, offering a slow-paced life with loads of charm, local characters, and wonderful accessibility to the nearby barrier islands. Book your Sea Coast View vacation home, and come and explore this historic town with us!

The Best Time to Visit Cortez, Florida

With warm temperatures year-round, there’s never a bad time to visit Cortez. However, the seasons can provide different experiences.

The best time to visit Cortez overall is November through March. Not only can you enjoy a lovely escape from colder climates, but the humidity is lower, and the region can be quieter just outside of the Christmas period.

February is a wonderful time to experience Cortez. The annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival takes place on the third weekend of the month. This showcases the best of the village’s history and way of life with plenty of amazing food, music, and good times.

Getting To & Around Cortez, Florida

Airports

In Manatee County, Cortez lies on the northern tip of Sarasota Bay. The nearest airport is the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, which lies 10 miles away. However, you may find more flights land to the north at Tampa International Airport, about a one-hour drive away.

Walking and Biking

When it comes to exploring the charming and historic village of Cortez, you can forgo major forms of transport and get about on foot. Cortez enjoys a slow pace of life, perfect for morning walks and afternoon bike rides.

Public Transport and Driving

However, some of our favorite beaches and nearby destinations, such as Bradenton Beach and Longboat Key, may require alternative travel options. These can include using local public transport or hiring a car.

What to Do in Cortez, Florida

Wander the Historic Fishing Village of Cortez

Photo Credit: Helen Hotson

The allure of Cortez lies in its Old Florida charm that remains entwined in the town’s community fabric. Cortez is the oldest living fishing village in the state and you can experience much of its storied past on foot.

This village has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and as the world around it changes, the fishing traditions here carry on. As you wander, you’ll uncover boat-to-table restaurants, old-time homes and shopfronts, eclectic shopping, and a vibrant sense of community.

The Florida Maritime Museum

Exploring Cortez brings you into the world of those who left North Carolina in the late 1800s and found a new home on the Gulf of Mexico. The town’s venerable charm and beauty harbors some amazing tales. You can explore these further and learn all about Cortez’s history at the Florida Maritime Museum.

Inside an old schoolhouse lies inviting exhibits and historic artifacts that elaborate on the evolution of commercial fishing in Cortez. Come and see old navigational equipment, fishing gear and even an enchanting collection of seashells.

The museum lies on the 4-acre Cortez Nature Preserve, which is a great place to continue your adventures.

Take Advantage of the Plentiful Watersports

Photo Credit: Marintra

Cortez isn’t just a place for laid-back experiences, romantic strolls, and mouthwatering seafood. The coastal town also can provide some memorable thrills.

With the helping hand of Cortez Watersports you can explore the waters of Sarasota Bay and beyond in a variety of fun ways. It all starts with the jetskis, the more exciting (and fast) way to experience the Gulf Coast and neighboring barrier islands.

For a more social experience with friends and family, you can trade in that mini rocket for a relaxing pontoon or center console boat. Find some hidden alcoves, keep your eye out for dolphins, and even fish for mullet and grouper.

Take a Day Trip to Anna Maria Island’s Beaches

The gorgeous barrier island continues the Cortez experience with its own dose of Old Florida and relaxing vibes, and it’s less than a mile across the Cortez Bridge to Anna Maria Island’s immaculate beaches.

Holmes Beach, Manatee Public Beach, and Coquina Beach each offer their own personality, but all come with sugar white sand, plentiful shelling, and loads of relaxation potential.

Surf and Relax at Cortez Beach

Photo Credit: Wonderful Nature

Cortez Beach is two miles from the village and a few steps from the Bridge Street Historical Area. The water is consistently good for swimming, and the three piers provide some nice waves to catch.

Cast a Line on a Fishing Charter

Life in Cortez revolves around the sea. So, if you like to fish, your time here won’t be complete without embarking on a fishing charter. Florida Fishing Fleet is based in the heart of Cortez and offers a variety of inshore, nearshore, and offshore fishing adventures.

From 4-hour experiences to epic 10-hour journeys, you’ll find something that suits both your schedule and budget. The Fleet’s boats for inshore fishing are great for small groups, while their offshore boats are fit to handle travel deep into the Gulf of Mexico.

Their captains and crew are experts on the world below the surface and masters of having a good time. So you’ll make memories even if the fish aren’t biting.

Go on a Pirate Adventure

If you’ve come to Cortez as a family, the next activity is ripe for the young ones. The Pirate Adventures of Cortez brings the whole crew together to set sail on the Sea Gypsy IV in the hopes of finding long-lost sunken treasure!

You and your little buccaneers will have a blast venturing out onto the waters around Anna Maria Island. Following a mysterious treasure map, you’ll take part in an interactive, real-time pirate cruise and an encounter with the infamous Pirate Pete.

Whether you have a birthday or just want to spend a fun time as one, this adventure is not to be missed.

Where to Eat & Drink in Cortez, Florida

Star Fish Company

Photo Credit: Andrei Nekrassov
  • Address: 12306 46th Ave W, Cortez, FL
  • Favorite menu item: Soft Shell Crab Sandwich
  • Price point: $$

Operated by a fourth-generation Cortezian, the Star Fish Company has exemplified the spirit of Cortez since the 1920s. It’s a boat-to-table restaurant, something that’s a bit of a staple in town and shows that this part of Florida deserves to be known as a foodie haven.

You can’t beat the freshness of the Star Fish Company. The old fish house maintains the history of Cortez and provides fantastic views as you choose between their fresh catch and delicious shared apps. All of which come in old-school cardboard boxes. Discover simplicity and flavor all in one place, with a bucket of beer on top!

If dining in wasn’t enough, Star Fish Company also operates a seafood market, perfect for cooking up your own family feast.

Tide Tables Restaurant

  • Address: 12507 Cortez Rd W, Bradenton, FL
  • Favorite menu item: Fresh Smoked Grouper Spread
  • Price point: $$

Inside another traditional Cortez fish house lies one of the village’s most revered eateries. Tide Tables Restaurant is a casual enclave with fresh, same-day catch and beautiful views of the waterway.

To get here, you can arrive by land or sea, with the latter offering the opportunity to tie up your watercraft at the restaurant’s marina. Just keep a lookout for marker 48!

Once you’re settled in, you can enjoy classic Florida cuisine, including their beloved fish tacos, gummy gumbo, and mahi that will have you salivating. All can be washed down with local libations and a spectacular sunset.

Cortez Kitchen

Photo Credit: Kitaeva Tatiana
  • Address: 4528 119th St W, Cortez, FL
  • Favorite menu item: Scallop Risotto
  • Price point: $$

Steps from the Maritime Museum, Cortez Kitchen is where seafood classics, a lively bar, and great entertainment combine. Over the last 25 years, Cortez Kitchen has become a community favorite. That’s in part due to the amazing seafood, which arrives daily at their docks and big portions.

The other part is live music by local musicians that combines perfectly with a lengthy beer selection and uninhibited views of the golden hour.

Enjoy Your Cortez Getaway

Escaping to the historic village of Cortez promises to be a memorable getaway. Immensely walkable, you’ll enjoy exploring the town, the sights, and the beautiful waterfront with loved ones and friends, however, it’s the community and its history that will likely win you over most.

Come and discover traditions unchanged with some of the best food along Florida’s Gulf Coast with Sea Coast Views.