Old Florida lives here.
Cortez Fishing Festival celebrates the small village’s establishment as a fishing center in the late 1800s, and residents today have tried to maintain the charm and traditions that have shaped it for more than a century of commercial fishing.
The village is one of the last remaining fishing villages on Florida’s southwest Gulf Coast. Efforts to preserve its past and maintain the fishing piers and fish houses in the face of development pressures have resulted in the village earning a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.
Here’s a Florida Rambler story about visiting Cortez and dining it is authentic fish shacks along the waterfront.
Bring on the Cortez Commercial Fishing Fest, an annual event that has taken hold in recent years, growing from 500 attendees when it debuted in 1981 to 20,000 over the weekend in recent years.
There is continuous live music both days, nautical arts and crafts, children’s activities, environmental exhibits, more seafood than imaginable and, of course, beer. The food court features locally caught grouper, stone crab and other seafood selections, including some for landlubbers.
But the most rewarding experience will be taking a walk through the village, past the small cottages that give this village its charm and visiting the old fish houses, seafood restaurants and the Florida Maritime Museum, which documents a unique culture and traditional life on Sarasota Bay.
Admission to the festival is $5; children under 12 are free. Festival proceeds are used by the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (FISH) to expand and restore the 95-acre FISH Preserve east of the village on Sarasota Bay.
The 2023 festival was held on 46th Ave at the end of 123rd Street.
Parking for Cortez Fishing Fest
- The Boy Scouts will offer on-site parking ($5 donation) at the FISH Preserve, which is one block east of the village, off Cortez Road just east of the light at 119th Street.
- FREE MCAT Bus service from Coquina Beach and GT Bray Park (GT Bray pick up on 59th St W.) Buses drop off and pick up near Festival entrance.
- Offsite Parking: Available at Cortez Rd. Baptist Church (located just off Cortez Road at 4411 100th St W). Free Shuttle to Festival entrance from the Church provided by The Monkey Bus.
Another option is to park in the western part of town, where residents manage small parking areas throughout the village.
The Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival is organized by a volunteer committee of the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (F.I.S.H.), a Florida not-for-profit corporation.
Where: Cortez Fishing Village, west of Bradenton
For more information: fishcortez.org
Read more about Cortez: Charming fishing village
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Bob Rountree is a beach bum, angler and camper who has explored Florida for decades. No adventure is complete without a scenic paddle trail or unpaved road to nowhere. Bob co-founded FloridaRambler.com with fellow journalist Bonnie Gross 14 years ago.