If you travel one mile south from our cozy Anna Maria Island spot on the shores of the glittering Gulf of Mexico, taking the bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway to the mainland, you might glimpse evidence of the area’s longstanding commercial fishing heritage: sturdy commercial fishing boats maneuvering past the footprint of bygone net camps and 100-year-old shoreline cottages and bungalows to deliver their catch.
This is Cortez Fishing Village, an iconic local neighborhood that manages to be both a bustling hub of the present-day maritime industry and a well-preserved throwback to 19th century Old Florida.
For 140 years, Cortez has been home to commercial fishermen and fishing industry infrastructure plants. The Cortez Historic District is on the National Register of Historic Places, and The Florida Maritime Museum provides visitors with a thorough and fascinating look at one of the area’s earliest industries, and a rare Florida commercial fishing village that has operated continually for more than a century.
Today, the AP Bell Fish Company continues a family tradition that began with the company’s founding in the 1940s, catching and selling grouper, shrimp, stone crab, mullet and more. Rather than focusing on a single product, it’s the diversity of the fish caught here that has allowed AP Bell to survive and flourish for so long. On average, the company processes more than 150,000 pounds of fish daily, supplying bait and seafood around the world—and right next door.
The Star Fish Company restaurant is renowned among locals for its fresh-off-the-boat seafood—including perfect grouper sandwiches—served in a laid-back dockside environment: Think picnic tables, boat slips and the occasional curious pelican. Nearby Tide Tables, too, serves up fresh seafood and a fun Florida vibe—the sort of waterfront neighborhood hangout that eschews glitz for down-home conversation.
We encourage our guests to set aside some time to stroll the streets of Cortez and soak in the atmosphere, search for trinkets in the neighborhood shops and enjoy a fresh seafood meal. It’s an experience that captures a different kind of Florida than the one that often grabs the spotlight; this Florida exudes a down-to-earth attitude and low-key environment that blends natural beauty, historic significance and modern-day charm—in other words, everything we love about the Anna Maria Island area.