The Sunshine Skyway was the gateway to our getaway.
Driving across the bridge to Manatee County is mesmerizing; fortunately Jack usually drives so I can take in all the beauty of the manmade wonder of the bridge and the natural wonder of the sparkling waters of Tampa Bay, below and all around.
As soon as you reach the Manatee County side the Madira Bickel Mound State Archaeological Site is just a mile or so down the road. Historic mounds and middens are a part of what makes this state an archaeological treasure. The ceremonial mound and adjacent burial mound were part of an extensive village and mound complex, now called the Terra Ceia site, that was constructed and used from approximately 1500 to 800 years ago.
Stepping further back in time and just over the Terra Ceia Bay and Manatee River is the South Florida Museum in Bradenton. From the explorations and discoveries of the Paleoindians to a replica of Hernando de Soto’s home and a gift shop with a wonderful selection, the South Florida Museum is one of our favorite places to visit.
The Bradenton Riverwalk along one side and Historic Downtown Bradenton on the other makes this a destination, and our favorite place to stay is the Historic Hampton Inn. We watched the metamorphisis of this hotel transformed back to the beauty of a 1920’s hotel. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, some of the original stone flooring is still in place along with other features of the once thriving hotel.
This Mediterranean revival hotel, completed in 1926 has gone through a many changes. The seven-story structure featured a roof top garden and band stand at one time. It became a senior home and hotel, then renovated again as a senior vacation center, then renovated again as an assisted-living facility.
The 2013 hotel rebirth, of a newly renovated Hampton Inn, in historic downtown Bradenton, is now on the National Register Historic Places.
Over 100 years ago travel by steamboat along the Manatee River was common, today we follow the river route by automobile, but it allows for some interesting stops and detours along the way.
A stop by the DeSoto National Memorial on our way to Anna Maria and Bradenton Beach and a drive along the Bradenton Beach Scenic Highway, before driving back to the mainland through the Cortez Fishing Village, rounds out our day away.