Discovering the Hidden Beauty of Manatee County, FL: Top Scenic Drives and Road Trips

As a travel expert, I have had the pleasure of exploring many beautiful destinations around the world. However, one place that stands out to me is Manatee County, located on the west coast of Florida. This hidden gem offers a peaceful and scenic getaway for tourists, with its stunning beaches, charming towns, and diverse wildlife. And one of the best ways to experience the beauty of this county is by taking a scenic drive or road trip.

From coastal roads to historic routes, there are plenty of options for tourists to choose from.

The Tamiami Trail

One of the most iconic drives in Manatee County is the Tamiami Trail, also known as US Highway 41. This 275-mile road connects Tampa to Miami and runs through the heart of Manatee County. The views along this route are simply breathtaking, with the Gulf of Mexico on one side and the Everglades on the other. The best time to take this drive is during sunset when the sky turns into a canvas of vibrant colors. Along the way, you can make stops at various attractions such as the Jiggs Landing Fish Camp, where you can rent a boat and explore the Braden River.

Anna Maria Island

If you're looking for a more laid-back and scenic drive, head to Anna Maria Island.

This seven-mile stretch of land is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Florida. The island is connected to the mainland by two bridges, making it easily accessible for tourists. As you drive along Gulf Drive, you'll be greeted with stunning views of turquoise waters and white sandy beaches. You can also make stops at popular spots like Bean Point Beach and Coquina Beach.

The Historic Green Bridge

For history buffs, the Historic Green Bridge, also known as the Manatee Avenue Bridge, is a must-visit.

This bridge was built in 1921 and was the first to connect the mainland to Anna Maria Island. Today, it is a popular spot for tourists to take a scenic drive and admire the views of the Manatee River. You can also park your car and take a stroll on the bridge to get a closer look at its unique architecture.

The Sunshine Skyway Bridge

Located in nearby St. Petersburg, the Sunshine Skyway Bridge is another iconic drive that offers stunning views of the Gulf of Mexico.

This 4-mile long bridge is a part of Interstate 275 and connects St. Petersburg to Terra Ceia in Manatee County. As you drive on this bridge, you'll be surrounded by panoramic views of the ocean and the Sunshine Skyway Fishing Pier. This is also a popular spot for fishing and birdwatching.

The Florida Cracker Trail

The Florida Cracker Trail is a historic route that runs through Manatee County and other parts of Florida.

This trail was used by early settlers and cowboys to transport cattle from central Florida to the Gulf Coast. Today, it is a designated scenic highway that offers a glimpse into Florida's past. As you drive along this route, you'll pass through small towns, ranches, and citrus groves. You can also make stops at various historic sites such as the Gamble Plantation Historic State Park.

The Myakka River Scenic Drive

Just south of Manatee County in Sarasota County, you'll find the Myakka River State Park, home to the Myakka River Scenic Drive.

This 7-mile loop road takes you through some of the most beautiful landscapes in Florida, including wetlands, prairies, and hammocks. Along the way, you can spot various wildlife such as alligators, deer, and birds. You can also stop at the Myakka River Overlook to get a panoramic view of the river and its surroundings.

The Manatee Loop

The Manatee Loop is a 46-mile scenic drive that takes you through the heart of Manatee County. This route starts and ends in Bradenton and passes through various towns and attractions such as the Robinson Preserve, Palma Sola Botanical Park, and the Village of the Arts.

As you drive along this loop, you'll be surrounded by lush greenery, charming neighborhoods, and stunning views of the Manatee River.


Manatee County, FL, is a paradise for nature lovers and those seeking a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Taking a scenic drive or road trip is the perfect way to explore this county's beauty and discover hidden gems along the way. From coastal roads to historic routes, there are plenty of options for tourists to choose from. So, pack your bags, hit the road, and get ready to be mesmerized by the beauty of Manatee County.

Denise Chafins
Denise Chafins

Hardcore travel trailblazer. Professional food aficionado. Hipster-friendly twitter enthusiast. Devoted music buff. Avid web advocate.