Now that schools are back in session and summer days are becoming a distant memory, the arrival of shorter days and colder nights is sure to inspire you to to seek out the perfect destination for a getaway. With Irma now in the rearview (leaving no visible footprints in many Florida destinations), those in search of the perfect beach vacation should look no further than the Bradenton Area (Bradenton, Anna Maria Island, Longboat Key) on Florida’s West Coast.

An approximate 45-minute drive from Tampa International Airport, the Bradenton Area is still as beautiful as ever and ready to welcome you and your family. Here are just a few of our top picks…

Horse Surfing: Riding horseback along the shores of a vacation locale is a fantasy for many travelers, though there are few vacation areas in the United States where it is possible. However, in Bradenton Area visitors can dive right in! “Horse Surfing” brings riders along the calm shoreline of the area’s Palma Sola Bay and into the water for a vacation experience they will never forget.

Flyboarding & Other Water Sports: In the Bradenton Area, visitors can take advantage of the destination’s top assets – the beach and water – by renting a kayak, jet-ski or powerboat, chartering a fishing boat, flyboarding (boarding up to 20 feet in the air using a jet-ski for power), parasailing, windsurfing, or just exploring the clear-blue water where they are likely to spot wildlife, including manatees, dolphins, sea turtles and fish.

Dining:This Area is bursting with locally-sourced, Floribbean flavors found at its top restaurants. The intimate Beach Bistro, located on the beach on Anna Maria Island, is consistently awarded the highest ZAGAT scores in the state and offers some of the best sunset views on the coast. The epicurean Euphemia Haye on Longboat Key is also a top choice. Be sure to save room for dessert, served in the dessert room atop Euphemia Haye – the Haye Loft! Those seeking the quintessential Florida dining experience should look no further than the Sandbar Restaurant, located right on the beach on Anna Maria Island, where diners can eat with their toes in the sand.

Craft Breweries:  The Bradenton Area is home to Motorworks Brewery, which was recently named “Best Large Brewery in Florida”. It houses a full-production Brewery and Taproom and features Florida’s largest beer garden. It is one of a few breweries in the state of Florida to have its own grain silo and offers 30 craft beers on tap, including a few more award winners.

Located just down the road, is Darwin Brewing Company, known for its distinctive artisan brews featuring flavors of South America’s Andean Region.  Darwin features a newly constructed 15-barrel production facility, tasting room and beer garden. It offers seasonal and year-round brews and the best pub grub favorites, courtesy of top food trucks!

The Naughty Monk, with Belgian-inspired brews, and Three Keys Brewing, specializing in West Coast ales and traditional German recipes with local ingredients (strawberries, oranges, grapefruit), have also recently joined the scene in Bradenton, making the area the perfect destination for couples hoping to create their own craft beer tour.

Unbeatable Beaches: This is one of the few destinations in the state to have successfully preserved the characteristics of authentic Florida while also seeing major growth in development. We are proud that “Old Florida” still thrives on our 16 miles of sugar white beaches, with options for those looking to snorkel, shell or enjoy some seclusion. And, Coquina Beach on Anna Maria Island was recently named one of the world’s top island beaches for perfect sand by Conde Nast Traveler readers.

Preserves: Robinson Nature Preserve is a popular destination for wildlife photography and bird watching. Tucked into the corner of northwest Bradenton, it includes 487 acres of coastal saltern, marsh, and mangrove habitat attracting a variety of rare wildlife and presenting careful observers with an opportunity to see roseate spoonbills, wood storks, white pelicans, bald eagles, and least terns in their natural environment. Located at the mouth of the Manatee River, 365-acre Emerson Point Preserve proves the perfect backdrop for visitors to take in the beauty of Florida’s wildlife and native plant communities and explore the area’s largest Native American temple mound. At both, visitors can also paddle board or kayak through the mangroves get up close to manatees, dolphins and more or discover a shady trail.