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6 Best Things to Do in Cortez, FL

Cortez is a destination reminiscent of simpler times. The ageless fishing village is one of Florida’s last commercial fishing villages and keeps its age-old traditions alive as if time stood still. Experience this quaint fishing village with the best things to do in Cortez, Florida.

Your time in Cortez will be a hook, line, and sinker when you check out some of these activities during your stay at a Sea Coast Waterfront vacation home.

1. Learn About Local History at the Florida Maritime Museum

Photo Credit: Michael Gordon

Cortez is a timeless fishing village. From the unchanged coastal homes built in the 1920s to local businesses passed down from generations, it’s a destination that’s stood the test of time. Fish out the rich stories and local heritage at the Florida Maritime Museum.

This museum is a piece of history in itself—it was established in an early 1900s schoolhouse building. These historic walls are packed with archives providing a glimpse into Old Florida.

See artifacts used for boat navigation, see artifacts of traditional fishing tools, and model boats recreating vessels that once floated in the harbor. The vintage photos give a snapshot of what Cortez looked like a century ago—see if you can spot some familiar sights!

The museum sits on four acres of the Cortez FISH Nature Preserve. The grounds also include original buildings like the Bratton Store and a boat shop that were relocated to the museum site.

2. Have a Beach Day on Anna Maria Island

Photo Credit: LMspencer

The beach is five minutes from our Sea Views at Hunter’s Point vacation rental. The Bradenton Beach area is directly across the Cortez Bridge. Get ready for sandy toes and wet clothes because every day is a beach day in Cortez. Here are the best nearby beaches to check out.

Cortez Beach

Powdery white sand decorates a 140-foot stretch along the Gulf Coast, making it one of the most beautiful beaches in Manatee County. The turquoise waters are irresistible for swimming, snorkeling, or jet ski rentals from Cortez Watersports. For more leisurely pastimes, go fishing on one of the beach piers. Fill your palms with seashells as you leave to take home the memories.

Coquina Beach

This popular beach has plenty of visitor facilities for non-stop beach fun. It’s a family-friendly beach with lifeguard towers present, so you’ll feel safe whether swimming or indulging in water sports.

Work up an appetite in the water and grab a snack from the concession stand. There are also restrooms and changing areas to get ready for a post-beach meal. You’ll keep cool with umbrella rentals or shade from the beachside palms.

3. Get out on the Water with a Boat Tour or Charter

Photo Credit: Maridav

Get a taste of life on the water with boating tours and charters. Boating and fishing are the most popular things to do in Cortez. These tours let you experience the local life.

Fishing Charter

Join a Cortez fishing charter to explore the seas for a trophy catch. An expert sea captain will take you to the best spots to catch mullet, the most popular fish in Cortez. Popular guided experiences are run by Cortez Deep Sea Fishing and Double Trouble Fishing Charters.

Eco Tours

Eco-tours promote our goal of sustainability by bringing visitors to see wildlife and coastal nature. Try Captain Kathe and First Mate Pup Pup Charters or Kim’s Charters for dolphin spotting.

Adventure Tours

To find the real treasure, take a sightseeing boat tour to take in the priceless vistas of the Florida coast. Grab the kids and climb aboard the Sea Gypsy for a pirate adventure. Pirate Adventures of Cortez offers an interactive tour that includes water spraying and reading a lost treasure map.

4. Explore the Best of Florida’s Nature

Photo Credit: Wirestock Creators

Close your eyes and breathe in the refreshing salty air. It’s one of the simple pleasures of visiting Cortez. When you check out these nearby locations, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the coastal air and island biodiversity.

Robinson Preserve

This recreational nature preserve protects more than 700 acres of undeveloped land. The 7.6-mile loop trail winds through the coastal landscape for views and birdwatching. Take the Tower Trail to the observation platform, which offers sweeping views from Palma Sola Bay to the Gulf of Mexico. The gentle waterways are great for canoeing and kayaking. Rentals are available.

De Soto National Memorial

Hernando de Soto landed in the New World in 1539 to begin the first major exploration. The De Soto National Memorial marks the spot, and it’s located inside a waterfront park. Channel your inner explorer with ranger-led kayak tours on the Manatee River, or take the Nature Trail through the coastal mangrove forest.

5. Dive into a Plate of the Freshest Seafood

Photo Credit: Dani_Solare

When spending time along the waterfront, you’ll get used to the fishy scent in the air fast. But subconsciously, it’s telling you that you’re always in the mood for seafood. Cortez built its legacy on fishing, and now it’s time to see what this historic fishing village has been cooking up all these years.

Seafood has never been fresh! Restaurants get fresh fish daily from the dock. This sea-to-table service makes dining one of the top things to do in Cortez, Florida.

A few of our favs are:

These restaurants embody the coastal atmosphere. Watch boats from open-air patios set on the gulf and listen to live music performances to accompany your meal.

Put that updated kitchen to use and prepare a fresh seafood dinner right at home! Star Fish Company has a seafood market selling fresh mullet, grouper, stone crab, and more.

6. Take a Day Trip

Photo Credit: mariakray

Cortez is the perfect home base for visiting the Florida Gulf region. It’s a short drive to popular tourist destinations in Manatee County, and major highways are nearby to access other cities in South Florida. If you need a change of pace from the quiet fishing village setting, add one of these popular day trip spots to your itinerary.

Anna Maria Island

Cross the Cortez Bridge, and you’ll arrive at this fun barrier island. It’s home to Anna Maria, a resort city hosting 1,000+ visitors every night during peak season. Follow historic Bridge Street past boutique shops, jewelry stores, and eateries. You’ll arrive at the historic 700-foot Bridge Street pier. After a few hours here, visit public beaches such as Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach.

Sarasota

Make landfall in Sarasota via boat charter from Cortez. You’ll arrive in style for a day of culture and coastal adventures. Admire modern masterpieces in the Ringling Museum of Art. Kayak beside manatees and dolphins en route to a hidden beach. For something truly out of the norm, head to the Myakka Elephant Ranch to feed and bathe elephants. It’s the location of the Sarasota–Bradenton International Airport, where most people arrive when visiting Cortez.

Nearby Major Cities

Cortez is also near several major cities in South Florida. It’s less than one hour to St. Petersburg and Tampa and an approximately two-hour drive to Orlando if you want to fit a trip to Disney World into your schedule.

Where to Stay in Cortez, Florida

Our Cortez, FL vacation rentals allow you to experience the true essence of our charming fishing village. Stay local and immerse yourself in the charming fishing village hospitality of friendly locals and cozy accommodations.

Book your stay with Sea Coast Waterfront today!