5 places in Manatee County to catch a perfect sunset

30 seconds of Anna Maria Island sunset beach therapy

Anna Maria Island at sunset, Feb. 10, 2018. AMI is on the Gulf of Mexico coast of Florida, near Bradenton, Sarasota, Longboat Key, Tampa, St. Petersburg and Tampa Bay.
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Anna Maria Island at sunset, Feb. 10, 2018. AMI is on the Gulf of Mexico coast of Florida, near Bradenton, Sarasota, Longboat Key, Tampa, St. Petersburg and Tampa Bay.

There are plenty of ridiculously gorgeous places to watch the sunset all over the globe. Luckily, Manatee County has several places that are pretty darn nice places to catch a high quality sunset.

Here are just a few, in no particular order:

Bean Point

While all of Anna Maria Island is great for sunset views, Bean Point — at the northern tip of the island — tends to be a bit more quiet for a more serene sunset experience. Standing on the west side, it’s a striking view of nothing but the sun sinking into the horizon. If you don’t sing a little bit of Moana’s “How Far I’ll Go” while you’re standing there, what are you even doing?

Sunset as seen from Bean Point, July 5, 2017. Marc R. Masferrer mmasferrer@bradenton.com

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Sunset from Bean Point on Anna Maria Island. Mark Young myoung@bradenton.com

Sunset as seen from Beer Can Island, Feb. 19, 2016. Marc R. Masferrer mmasferrer@bradenton.com

Beer Can Island

Set up on the north side of Longboat Key, this stretch of beach provides stunning views no matter what time of day. Perhaps one of the best things about it is, you never see the same beach twice as the tides tend to rearrange the tree branches that are scattered across the shoreline. It’s a bit of a hike to get back there from the public access point of the beach (and it’s recommended to wear shoes as you walk off the beaten path), but it’s worth it every time. Set up a hammock and relax or walk back past the bridge and join the party of boats that have usually pulled up to shore.

DeSoto National Memorial

Learn a little history before the sun goes down by stopping at DeSoto National Memorial, operated by the U.S. National Park Service. The park offers several learning opportunities and nature trails. Every year, the memorial site hosts a reenactment of the May 1539 Conquistador Hernando de Soto’s landing in Tampa Bay as he claims La Florida for Spain.

Take a look around and sit alone the shoreline to watch as the sun sinks where the Manatee River meets Tampa Bay. There is a dog-designated beach area, so you can take a furry friend, just remember to clean up after them. The park boasts over 3,000 feet of shoreline, but the entire memorial is over approximately 26 acres of land so there is plenty to explore.

DeSoto Memorial JD
Sunset from DeSoto National Memorial. Jessica DeLeon jdeleon@bradenton.com

Emerson Point Preserve

Directly across the water, on Snead Island in Palmetto, is Emerson Point Preserve, where a quiet, tranquil setting welcomes sunset seekers. See the Portavant Temple Mound or hike through trails and over boardwalks before stopping to watch the sun go down over the Manatee River. There are also canoe and kayak launching points so paddlers can take in the view from the water.

Robinson Preserve

Want something other than the beach view? From the observation tower at Robinson Preserve, you can see nature for miles. Though there are quite a few stairs involved, seeing for miles from the top of the tower makes the sweat worthwhile. Arrive early in the afternoon and plan to stop by the Valentine House or the NEST (the Mosaic Center for Nature, Exploration, Science and Technology) before hiking through the newly-expanded preserve. It’s recommended to check the house and NEST schedules first to see opening and closure times. There are plenty of other sights to see while the sun is still up, including mangrove fringe, boardwalks, salt tern, and even a glimpse of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

Robinson Preserve sunset 3 MYoung
Sunset from Robinson Preserve in Manatee County. Mark Young myoung@bradenton.com

For a bonus:Marina Jack’s in nearby Sarasota offers sunset dinner cruises. The cruise takes riders along the inter-coastal waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Sara Nealeigh: 941-745-7081, @saranealeigh