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Cortez Fishing Festival : Feb. 18-19, 2023

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 view at Star Fish Company includes an iconic fish shack on stilts that appears on all the Cortez marketing materials. (Photo David Blasco)
This iconic fish shack on stilts appears on many Cortez marketing materials. (Photo David Blasco)

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.

Crab traps piled nearing the working waterfront in Cortez. (Photo Bonnie Gross)
Crab traps piled nearing the working waterfront in Cortez. (Photo Bonnie Gross)

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.

Historic cottages in Cortez. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Historic cottages in Cortez. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

The 2023 festival will be held on 46th Ave at the end of 123rd Street.  

Crowds at the 2013 Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival
Crowds at Cortez Fishing Festival in past years.

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

Camping:

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

Read More: Best camping near Tampa Bay: 9 choice campgrounds

Hotel accommodations:

Things to do nearby

Anna Maria Island: Things to do in a pretty beach town

Egmont Key: 5 things I love about this wild island in Tampa Bay

Emerson Point Preserve: A jewel of a county park, off the beaten path in Palmetto

Florida Seafood Festival Calendar

Scenic roads:  A drive through Old Florida cow country

Myakka River State Park:  Playland on the Prairie

 

Editor’s Note:

The information in this article was accurate when published but may change without notice. Confirm details when planning visits. 

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Carly

Sunday 19th of February 2017

are pets welcomed?

Richard

Thursday 16th of February 2023

@Carly, I hope 5 years is not too long to wait for an answer but, yes; we take our dog every year. Enjoy!

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