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History of Bradenton Beach on Anna Maria Island

Many Florida areas, including Anna Maria Island, were discovered decades before it became an official state. Interweaving tales of pirates, Native American exploration, Spanish conquering, and wars between nations create a riveting whirlwind of history.

Bradenton Beach on Anna Maria Island contributes to this exciting history in its own intriguing way. Our Bradenton Beach vacation rentals give you access to this history, where you can see several original structures that remain standing to this day including the Bridge Street Pier and restored buildings that now house hotels, cafes, shops and restaurants.

history of bradenton beach

2000 Years in the Making

Artifacts discovered in Bradenton Beach suggest the area was inhabited to some extent upwards of 2,000 years ago.

Though it is speculated that few Native American tribes considered the land hospitable in the long-term, many likely used the region for fishing and hunting. Its close proximity to the water and isolation made it excellent for this purpose, but most tribes stayed in the Tampa Bay area.

In 1539, the Spanish settled briefly in the area and laid claim to its beaches in an expedition led by Hernando De Soto. For centuries, the island was only mildly inhabited, with only a few very small groups independently settling in the region.

Bradenton Beach in the 20th Century

On the eve of the 20th century, George Emerson Bean officially became the first long-term settler on the island. He developed an approved homestead in 1893 in what is now called Bean Point. This northern tip of the island is a wonderfully scenic and isolated beach area that remains one of the most popular historic attractions to this day.

Despite a few sprinklings of permanent residences, Anna Maria Island was still virtually impossible to get to by anything but a watercraft.

From 1921 to 1922, a bridge was constructed to connect the island to the mainland. This connection from the Village of Cortez to Cortez Beach (now Bradenton Beach) became an island centerpiece, and trade and development bustled in the growing community.

How Bradenton Beach Got Its Name

The southern portion of Anna Maria Island was named Cortez Beach after the connected fishing village of Cortez on the mainland. The Village of Cortez has long been an important contributor to Bradenton’s fishing industry and is even included on the National Register of Historic Places.

In the late 1920s, The Bradenton Herald, a local paper, started referring to the area as Bradenton Beach in a possible effort to distinguish it from mainland Cortez. Fascinatingly, the name just “stuck.”

In 1952, Bradenton Beach was officially incorporated as a city. The booming population reinforced the need for a superior bridge connection.

In 1967, the city developed a new bridge while the old bridge was altered to a popular local community pier which was recently revamped into a tourist area in a massive rejuvenation project. It is now bustling with new restaurants, shops and unique local boutiques.

bridge street anna maria island

Bradenton Beach Historic Sites

Popular historic sites in the area offer a look through the lens of history. The Manatee Village Historical Park (1404 Manatee Ave E, Bradenton, FL 34208) is a series of restored and partly recreated homes and buildings, some of which were present in Bradenton as Bradenton Beach was founded.

bridge street pierThe Anna Maria Historical Society at 402 Pine Ave also provides extensive details about the early settlement of the island and how the Bradenton Beach area was developed, along with a few early structures that you can view.

You can also visit the Historic Bridge Street area to this day, with shops and several recently launched restaurants housed in restored buildings.

You can also find many activities in the area that celebrate the island’s long-established history of being a destination for ocean sports, including boating, kayaking, guided eco tours, and charter fishing.

The Bridge Street Pier, once the only connection Anna Maria Island had to the world, is a renowned fishing pier and gathering destination on the island. Here you can find live music, seafood restaurants, and a popular farmers market that runs from November to April every Sunday.

You won’t find tall structures or massive condominium complexes blocking your view in Bradenton Beach – an aesthetic that draws you back to the early days of Florida.

Today, you can witness the current evolution of Bradenton Beach on Anna Maria Island. Stay at some of the best Bradenton Beach vacation rentals you can find while enjoying it all at Anna Maria Vacations. Reach us at (941)-778-4178 to learn more.


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