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 25,000 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 groper, 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.
Remote parking for Cortez Fishing Fest for 2022
This information from 2022 is via the Cortez Fishing Festival website:
The Boy Scouts will offer on-site parking at the FISH Preserve which is located one block east of the village, off Cortez Road, for a $5 donation.
Remote Park and Ride available with $3 round trip will be located at:
- MCAT shuttle bus to Cortez from two locations: G.T. Bray Park (5502 33rd Ave Dr West, Bradenton 34209 — turn east off 59th St onto 33rd Ave Drive).
- SATURDAY ONLY-FREE Park and Ride will be available from the Cortez Baptist Church located at 4411 100th St W. on Cortez Road (1 1/2 miles east of the Festival).
Another option is to park in the western part of town. Many folks manage small parking areas throughout the village with the fee depending on how close they are to the village.
Where: Cortez Fishing Village, west of Bradenton
Florida Rambler story about visiting Cortez and dining it is authentic fish shacks along the waterfront.
Lake Manatee State Park. 60 sites for RVs and tents with water and 30-amp electric. Restrooms, showers, picnic tables, fire rings, grills, playground, boat ramp, dock, dump station. Boats available for rent. 20007 SR 64, Bradenton. Reservations 800-336-3521
Little Manatee River State Park. 30 tent or RV sites with picnic table, fire ring, water, 20, 30, and 50 amp electric. Dump station. Bathhouse with hot water showers, laundry room. Site numbers 2, 3, and 5 are wheelchair accessible with sidewalks to the bathhouse. Equestrian campground and primitive camping also available. 215 Lightfoot Rd., Wimauma. Reservations 800-336-3521
Oscar Scherer State Park. 104 tent or RV with electric and water, picnic tables, grills, accessible restrooms with hot showers, laundry. 15 miles of hiking trails, off-road biking with access to the Sarasota-Venice paved Legacy Trail. There are seven ADA accessible sites, with aprons for parking and concrete slabs for grill and table. 1843 South Tamiami Trail
Osprey, FL. Reservations 800-326-3521
Myakka River State Park. 90 RV and tent sites with 50 amp electric, water, fire ring, picnic table. 42 Palmetto Ridge sites have sewer hook ups. Dump station. Cabins available. Showers, rest rooms, laundry, boat ramp, boat rentals, fishing pier, hiking trails, camp store. Pets OK. Reservations 800-326-3521
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A note from the editor:
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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 12 years ago.