I started the day out at the Manatee County Village Historical Park. The courthouse and church reconstructions were very well done. The dogtrot house was beautifully done. It was much larger than most that I have seen. I wandered through the structures without encountering another human being. I met squirrels, lizards, and a roosters - but no humans.
Mixon Farms was bust. I arrived at opening and found a large store that catered to tourists-not my idea of fun.
DeSoto National Monument was a beautiful location. From the film at the visitor center, I got a real feel for how and why the conquistadors came to the Americas-not a pretty sight. The coastal recreation was interesting.
Out to Anna Maria Island, I found the first beach that I really love. After walking the boardwalk out to the beach, I enjoyed a stroll along the beach picking up two handfuls of shells. The beach is gorgeous with beautiful water and tons of shells. Parking is a little tough to come by, but worth the effort. Absolutely stunning beach blue green color deep enough to swim in warm enough to be inviting. http://www.annamariaislandchamber.org/
Bradenton Beach might be even better. The beaches further north are harder to find parking on and they are prettier, but they don't have the bath houses that Bradenton Beach has. Coquina Beach is nice and parking looks to be free. Another nice thing about these beaches is that they have trees that lend shade to the beaches. Lido Key has tons of shopping and tons of people- I don’t like it.
Sarasota is beautiful to look at-they have a Roy’s too! I haven't been eating like I planned to and wish that I had come to Sarasota in the evening (Roy's is only open for dinner). One of the best meals of my life was at the Roy's Hawaiian Fusion in Anaheim, CA. If you haven't been to one of these locations-GO! Historic Spanish Point http://www.historicspanishpoint.org/ in Sarasota costs $9 per person ($5 in July after 1 pm). It looked very interesting, but I was already spent and the heat was oppressive.
The historical downtown Venice is cute. The drive on Manasota Key is quaint. It is a barely 2 lane road with trees on both sides. It is peaceful with nothing commercial on the north end of the island, except right at the bridge. The south end is more commercialized. It is not quite as nice, with lots of people and a long walk to the beach. All the way at the south end of the key you find a bunch of rentals right on the beach-much nicer. Stump Pass (don't say that too fast) State Park is absolutely gorgeous. You can access both the lagoon and the gulf sides of the island from this park. The park has showers and bathrooms, but charges $3 per vehicle. Well worth it in my book.
When I drove up to the Hyatt Place in Coconut Point, I knew I had arrived. The room is amazingly gorgeous. The staff is more than accommodating.
I walked across the parking lot to Coconut Point Shopping Center where I found Panera Bread. I ordered a half and half. Half Turkey and Artichoke on Focaccia (Smoked turkey, spinach artichoke spread, Asiago-Parmesan, tomatoes & caramelized onions) and a Greek Salad. They were incredibly good.
ROUTE: FL 64 West>CR 789 South>US 41 South>CR 758 West>US 41 South>CR 776 East>US 41 South to Estero
Lodging: Hyatt Place
Meals: Panera (****Food *****Service)
Attractions: Manatee County Village Historical Park, DeSoto National Monument, Anna Maria Island, Bradenton Beach, Coquina Beach, Historic Venice, Manasota Key, Historic Spanish Point, and Stump Pass State Park
$$$: $51 Motel $12 Postage $10 Meals = $73