The view east along Bridge Street in the heart of Bradenton Beach

It was a warm and lazy Sunday afternoon in April when I wandered into Bradenton Beach. We'd just spent a couple hours sprawled on the sand and playing in the Gulf waters at Holmes Beach (just to the north on Anna Maria Island) and I decided I wanted to head back home on a different route. So we went back to the stop light at the north end of the island and made the right turn, heading south on Florida Route 789.

The road was lined with private homes, vacation rentals and small resorts. At the city line was a sign announcing Bradenton Beach and entrance to the Bradenton Beach Scenic Highway. As I was coming to Bridge Street I started seeing a few more small shops and restaurants, then came the Bridge Street intersection. As a rotary with large palms sticking up in the middle of the road it would have been hard to miss. I took advantage of the mechanics of the rotary and turned down Bridge Street to the pier area.

There was a post office, a few small shops, a couple pubs and the pier itself. On the north side of the pier was a mobile home park, to the south were private homes and a couple offices for tour/fishing boat operators. The view across Sarasota Bay was beautiful, you could even see the towers of Sarasota way off to the south. But I was there late on a Sunday afternoon and while there plenty of folks wandering around, the ice cream shop and Rotten Ralph's Restaurant were already closed. So I hung over the rail with my grandson watching the minnows below us and generally enjoying the view for a bit. Then we loaded up and headed back out.

The rotary made it easy enough to get back on the main road and we continued on to the south. The northbound traffic was bumper-to-bumper and almost at a dead stop. There were a couple more restaurants, another ice cream shop and then the resorts and vacation rentals closed in again until we came to the north end of Coquina Beach. Parking was tight but we found a spot and got out for a minute, took some photos and moved on again.

Around the main area of Coquina Beach the countryside opens out some, but the barrier island was getting narrow and there isn't really anywhere for developers to be planting houses. Coquina Beach was gorgeous and as large as the parking area was, parking spots were at a premium there, too.

Then came Longboat Pass Bridge and the city line with Longboat Key. And it was at the bridge where the line-up of northbound traffic finally came to an end...

While my grandson was only interested in the beach, the boats and the water, my wife really liked the look of Bradenton Beach. The palm trees, the sandy Gulf side, the rocky bay side, the small restaurants, shops and clubs, the "rasta" air in spots... and no strip malls or shopping malls of any sort.

Between 2000 and 2010, the population of Bradenton Beach dropped about 21%.