Bradenton - Sarasota by Bicycle ⋆ Backpacker79
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Bradenton – Sarasota by Bicycle

For the next stage of exploring Tampa Bay by bike I chose a trip from Bradenton to Sarasota.
I saw a lot of wealthy residents, among them even a pretty mermaid. But the best thing: Gorgeous beaches!

Bradenton – Sarasota by Bicycle

taking a break with bicycle at anna maria beach, florida

Start in Bradenton

Driving south through Bradenton the city of 50,000 inhabitants didn’t look like much at first glance. It seemed like an array of car dealerships, car rentals and commercial lots. However, at second glance there is so much more to see here.

The Red Barn is a huge Farmer’s Market and Flea Market open Fridays through Sundays. It is in stark contrast to large franchise chains like Walmart, Target, Mc Donald’s, Taco Bell and the like. There are many farmers offering organic foods, various artists, artisans, a sea shell shop and family-run food stands accompanied by live music.

Village of the Arts is a neighborhood by artists for artists. Here, everything is about painting, healing, hand-crafting and a nature inspired lifestyle. The community website states:

„The Artists Guild of Manatee was formed in 1999 as a non-profit with a mission to build a community where artists can live and work in a stimulating, harmonious environment.“

Unfortunately, I was not able to explore this area as much as I would have liked to due to a flat tire on my bike. The website speaks for itself and I will certainly try to get back there for another post. A detailed map of the Village of Arts can be found on Google Maps.

Anna Maria Island

With the tire patched, I continued on to Anna Maria Island.

I quickly realized that this island is not for your typical backpacker. At least not for anyone wanting to stay for several nights. Land prices are astronomical and nightly rates are priced accordingly.

Therefore, while traveling along the coast it is advisable to spend nights on the mainland.

However, Anna Maria is definitely a day trip. I really enjoyed riding along the well-paved island roads, taking in the scenery with its beach homes and shops. As it is almost anywhere in the world, houses near the beach look more colorful than inland.

The constantly warm spring temperatures with its pleasant breezes are only outdone by the exceptional quality of the sea water and the cleanliness of the beaches here.

The powdery sand is super fine and almost white. The warm waters are a mixture of Caribbean emerald green and Greek azure blue.

great white ibis walks in crystal clear water at Anna Maria Beach, Florida
Great white ibis walks in crystal clear water at the top of the island
Great white Ibis at the very top beach of Anna Maria Island, Florida

The road south of the island takes you past several other beaches, all easily accessible from the main road. I passed numerous golf courses and continued on south:

St. Armands Circle

South of Sarasota lies St. Armand’s Key known for the historic St. Armand’s Circle. It’s a generously landscaped roundabout divided into four quarters, which house a total of 130 shops, cafes and restaurants. Although the term “historic” by European standards sounds a little cute (the circle is just about 100 years old), it has a Mediterranean flair.

If the prices here are too high for you to go shopping, you might just want to enjoy a large scoop of ice cream and find a nice shady spot. Maybe near the “Seven Virtues”, a number of statues arranged in a circle.

Three out of seven allegories of sarasota on St. Armands Key
Three out of seven allegories at St. Armands Key
Allegory of Sarasota on St. Armands Key
Allegory of Sarasota on St. Armands Key
Ford Model T in blue and black color with white wheels
Ford Model T

Sarasota Marina

Crossing the John Ringling Causeway to the mainland you immediately get a view of the marina. Not an elitist thing in Sarasota. It is an integrated park with many beautiful places to take a nice stroll.

Many are drawn to the harbor for fishing, somewhat of a national sport here. Of course, you can also book boat tours up and down the Sarasota coastline from here for a good chance to spot dolphins, pelicans and manatees.

Also at the marina is a world-renowned sculpture titled “The Unconditional Surrender”. Many are familiar with the original scene, here at the New York Times Square in 1945:

Background: When Japan surrendered in World War II, cheering broke out in the streets of New York. A sailor had not noticed this because he was attending a performance on Broadway. After he came outside into the streets he was so happy about the end of the war that he grabbed the next best nurse and kissed her. This photo was published in the Times and was symbolic of the end of the war.

unconditional surrender sculpture in sarasota
The unconditional Surrender sculpture

Downtown Sarasota

Every Saturday at 1pm there is a farmer’s market where you can try fresh food from local farmers and other hip delicacies like a wheatgrass smoothie. There are even two German bakers and an English double decker bus turned into a café. Overall, it made an excellent impression and anyone appreciating good food is in good hands here.

fresh wheatgrass smoothie at the sarasota farmers market
Fresh green smoothie with wheatgrass shot
organic carrots sold at sarasota farmers market
Organic carrots
old london doubledecker bus converted to a cafe at sarasota farmers market
Old London doubledecker bus converted to a cafe

If you are looking for a quiet, cool place after all that hustle and bustle you may enjoy a trip to the Marie Selby Botanical Garden.

You can explore the flora and fauna of the Rainforest under the open sky year round. It holds a special treat for friends of meditation and followers of Buddhism or Hinduism. A Buddha statue sitting under a poplar fig. According to tradition, Siddhartha received his enlightenment under this tree and became Buddha.

Buddha meditating under Bo tree of enlightment
Buddha meditating under Bo tree of enlightment

Siesta Beach

I took this snapshot on my way to the supposedly most beautiful beach of the USA. It pictures the very beautiful water canals. These canals allow access to the open sea for homeowners who park their boats in their backyard.

moorings and access to the open sea for private house and boat owners in sarasota, florida

Siesta Key Beach is slightly south of Sarasota. It truly is a wonderful beach but not as Caribbean feeling and quiet as Anna Maria Island. However, you can experience a lot more things here in a short amount of time.

For me this meant good conversation, a beach wedding and my very first encounter with a real mermaid 😉

Marriage at Siesta Beach


Apart from Downtown Sarasota with its marina, market and botanical garden the main attraction here are the breathtakingly beautiful beaches. Anna Maria Island near Bradenton has the most beautiful beaches in my humble opinion. I think it is well worth looking for a spot away from the main parking areas where you can find more secluded places like at the northern tip of the island, for example.

Pricewise Sarasota is definitely on the high end of the spectrum. At Siesta Key Beach I had a long conversation with a musician who toured through Germany in the 80s and 90s with his band. He now owns property in Sarasota and said that this area has experienced an enormous boom in recent years. Monthly rents, for example, that used to be $400 are now $2,000.

The only reasonable way to stay here for budget-conscious backpackers seems to be the Airbnb option. Another good option for avoiding high rents on a long-term stay would be to find a good spot to park a VW bus or an RV.

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