Along the Manatee River’s south shoreline sits the Bradenton Riverwalk. Fish swim and even jump in the river’s brackish water. Palmetto’s own waterfront district sits off in the distance, taking up the northern shoreline. The landside of the walk features both things typical of other parks and unique to Bradenton.
Let’s Make the Trip — Finally
It all started out one Sunday afternoon right after making the decision to start writing about travel, journeys, and destinations. One hot afternoon and a leisurely stroll along the Riverwalk. Lots of people were out playing Pokemon Go, roaming along and across the path, lots of looking down at phones.
We came down from Tampa starting coming down Tamiami Trail until we crossed the Manatee River coming out of Palmetto. We made our very first right off the bridge, which places you in a city parking lot with direct access to the trail. Free parking at that, and even some shady spots.
Before getting to the Riverwalk itself, we came upon a restroom building along with water fountains.
A skate park is the big feature at the main parking area. At over 350′ long, the park spans both sides of the Hernando DeSoto Bridge as well as beneath, providing some valuable shade on hot days.
We walked west from the parking area. “Outdoor Living Rooms” are setup along the walk with relaxing wooden and concrete furniture, as though you’re sitting in your lounger. Wooden and canvas roofs provide shade as people who take advantage get great views of walkers and the river. This was quite the popular feature at the park.
Nearby is a beach volleyball court as well as a separate beach scene with palm trees. New condominium towers are set in the background, complete with their own private access walkways.
Signs all along the Bradenton Riverwalk point out pieces of history and facts about the Manatee River.
Pieces of local public art adorn the park. My favorite one was the Big Eyes-Big Ears exhibit. It’s a set of eyes and ears that allow one to see and hear off in the distance by sticking your head into it. It also swivels for a 360° view of the area. Its somewhat quirky art reminded me of some we saw in downtown Sanford.
A 250′ fishing pier juts out into the Manatee River. Due to the brackish water, many types of saltwater and freshwater fish can be caught.
Kids Playground and Waterpark
Opposite the fishing pier are two sets of playground equipment and a splash pad with jets that spray water out of the ground as well and additional waterproof play equipment.
Crossing the Train Tracks
Just to the west of the playground and fishing pier is the site of a railroad track with gates and marking still in place. Apparently the tracks are still periodically in use as there are no gates stopping pedestrians from walking across the railroad bridge to the north. The tracks lead to a drawbridge, normally in the open position to allow boat traffic.
After crossing the railroad tracks, the Riverwalk continues on its next phase.
Bradenton Riverwalk Bandshell
The next feature along the walk is a small, intimate bandshell allowing people to watch live performances with the water in the background of the performers.
As we went along, there were more shaded spots to stop and relax. Modern water fountains with bottle-fillers were plentiful along the trail.
A tall tower with a north compass at its base serves as sort of a centerpiece for the walk. To the west of the tower is a lawn with trees and artwork. In front of the lawn, there is a boat dock for people wanting to access the Riverwalk by boat.
Green Bridge and Barcarrota Boulevard
The next segment of the Riverwalk a passage beneath the Green Bridge, which carries Business 41 from Palmetto to Bradenton and is near the original Tamiami Trail crossing.
The Riverwalk from this point parallels Barcarrota Boulevard. A marina and an ice cream shop are the next features. Parking for the marina as well as the Riverwalk can be found on-street along Barcarrota. The original Green Bridge sat at the site of the current marina and ended up on 10th Street West.
Downtown and Memorial Pier
The next trail crossing is 12th Street West, accessing the Memorial Pier. Built in 1928, this pier is similar to the former St. Pete Pier, allowing vehicular traffic. Near the end of the pier is the Pier 22 Restaurant, which provides Florida seafood in a waterfront setting.
The Western End
The final 700′ of the Riverwalk provides access to the boat slips belonging to the Twin Dolphin Marina.
The Eastern End
East of the Hernando DeSoto bridge is a little more open with plenty of lawns and waterfront views as it wraps around to the south near Manatee Memorial Hospital. Riverfront Boulevard parallels this entire eastern end of the Riverwalk and provides additional on-street parking.
For people in canoes and kayaks, a launch is located near the end of the trail.
The Skate Park is a must-visit for skateboarders, with a little something for all skill levels. A park that 12-year-old me would have been interested in visiting (and breaking bones).
Parking is plentiful. As mentioned before, we parked just to the west of the Hernando Desoto Bridge, but more central spots are available in case thunderstorms pop up and you have to make this mad dash to the car. A map of all parking areas and features can be found here.
With the current variant of the Bradenton Riverwalk opening in 2012, it has given the city a destination and a nice attraction, not simply a sidewalk along the river.
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