CORTEZ, FLORIDA

By  Mike Miller   Updated May 1, 2023

Cortez, Florida Things To Do, Lodging, Dining, & Real Estate At End Of Article

Cortez is a living remnant of Old Florida.  It is a small working fishing village located on a peninsula in Sarasota Bay.  The population of this unincorporated community is 4,377.

It is on Cortez Road (State Highway 684) that connects Bradenton with Bradenton Beach and Anna Maria Island.

Vintage Postcard of Cortez, FloridaVintage Postcard of Cortez, Florida

Cortez is not a trendy place, but a living community of weathered old houses and fish companies, fish nets, crab traps, floats and all kinds of boats, old and new.

It is fitting that several good seafood restaurants can be found in Cortez including Starfish Company, Cortez Kitchen, Swordfish Grill and Seafood Shack.

These restaurants are able to serve fresh fish every day of the week, year round.

Cortez Aerial Looking North, 1950sCortez Aerial View Looking North, 1950s

Cortez was founded about 1890 by several families from the waterfront town of Beaufort, North Carolina. These families are still represented in modern day Cortez.

Some of the names are Guthrie, Bell, Taylor and Fulford.

Cortez Fisherman StatueCortez, Florida Fisherman Statue

This maritime heritage is showcased in The Florida Maritime Museum located in the restored 1912 school house at the Cortez Nature Preserve.

Cortez is also home to FISH (Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage), a non-profit group set up in 1991 to help preserve the heritage of Florida Gulf Coast fishing communities.

Cortez, Florida at Starfish CompanyCortez, Florida at Starfish Company

Among events that also help preserve this heritage are the annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival, first held in 1981, and the recently initiated Ben Gullet Mullet Invitational.

MulletMullet, a Favorite Florida Eatin' Fish

The mullet event is a cast net only tournament that helps raise money for FISH and the Cortez Historical Society.

It is named after the late Ben Gullet of Bradenton, who was well known as a cast net fisherman and mullet smoker (a man who cooks mullet in a smoker).

For those of you who don't know much about mullet, take a look at this Youtube drone video of a giant mullet run along the Florida coast.

Cortez Florida Recommended Restaurant

STARFISH COMPANY

12306 46th Ave W
Cortez, Florida 34215
Tel:  941-794-1243

Starfish Company Dockside Restaurant is on the waterfront in Cortez, one of Florida's last remaining genuine fishing villages. 

Starfish Company Cortez FloridaDockside at Starfish Company

It was founded way back in the early 1920's as a wholesale seafood market.

Over the years it evolved into a retail seafood market and finally included a kitchen and small outside dining area.

It is a great place to eat, especially if you like fresh fish, usually fried. Most of the fish is caught in local waters along this beautiful stretch of west coast Florida.

READ MORE ABOUT STARFISH COMPANY

Artist's Rendering of Cortez Fisherman StatueArtist's Rendering of Cortez Fisherman Statue

THINGS TO DO IN CORTEZ, FLORIDA

Florida Maritime Museum
4415 119th St W, Cortez, FL 34215 | (941) 708-6120

This museum is dedicated to preserving the maritime history of Florida and the Gulf Coast. It houses an impressive collection of artifacts, models, and photographs that tell the story of the area's fishing industry, boat building, and seafaring life.

We enjoy the hands-on exhibits and the knowledgeable staff who bring local history to life. It's a must-visit for anyone interested in the sea and its impact on human lives.

As of 5/5/24, their website says “FMM is currently closed for a necessary building rehabilitation! Although we are currently closed for construction, our events, Folk School classes, & all programming are still ongoing! On site? Explore our grounds and visit our neighboring museum, the Cortez Cultural Center, Fridays & Saturdays from 10am-4pm.”

Cortez Cultural Center
11655 Cortez Rd W, Cortez, FL 34215 | (941) 254-4972

This center is the heart of Cortez's vibrant community, offering a variety of cultural events, workshops, and exhibitions. Our favorite part is the live music performances and art shows that feature local artists.

The center also provides educational programs about the preservation of Cortez's unique cultural heritage and natural environment.

FISH (Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage) Preserve
Cortez, FL 34215

As mentioned earlier on this page, the non-profit FISH owns 100+ acres of land adjacent to the fishing village of Cortez. It is one of the only undeveloped pieces of land left on Sarasota Bay.

Anyone is welcome to visit the FISH Preserve and explore the work in progress at anytime. Park at the Florida Maritime Museum, the Cortez Cultural Center, or at the BoatWorks and take a peek at the Preserve.

Cortez Deep Sea Fishing
4110 127th St W, Cortez, FL 34215 | (941) 795-6969

Based at Seafood Shack Marina Bar & Grill. This adventure offers a chance to experience the Gulf of Mexico's rich marine life up close.

Whether you're an experienced angler or just looking for a peaceful day on the water, the crew ensures a memorable experience. We enjoy the thrill of catching a big one and the serene beauty of the sea.

Cortez Watersports
4328 127th St W, Cortez, FL 34215 | (941) 798-3721

Offering kayak and paddleboard rentals, this is your gateway to exploring the calm waters and hidden mangrove tunnels of the area.

Our favorite part is paddling alongside manatees and dolphins, an experience that brings you face to face with Florida’s majestic marine life.

The Sea Hagg Inn and Gardens
4419 123rd St. Ct. West, Cortez, FL 34215 | (941) 725-2155

This enchanting inn and its surrounding gardens transport visitors to a world filled with maritime treasures and lush, tropical beauty. Our favorite aspect of the Sea Hagg is its meticulously curated gardens.

Every corner and pathway reveals an array of vibrant plants, eclectic sculptures, and nautical artifacts, creating a magical and serene atmosphere.

The inn itself exudes a cozy, inviting vibe, with each room decorated in a style that reflects the rich maritime heritage of the area.

Cortez Clam Factory
10104 Cortez Rd W, Cortez, FL 34215 | (941) 798-9898

This local bar and grill is not only known for its delicious seafood but also for its live music and entertainment.

Our favorite is the lively atmosphere and the variety of bands that play here, offering everything from blues to rock. It’s a great place to relax, enjoy good food, and dance the night away.

Leffis Key Preserve
2351 Gulf Dr S, Bradenton Beach, FL 34217 | (941) 748-4501

Just a short drive from Cortez, this nature reserve offers elevated boardwalks and trails that wind through mangrove forests and over salt marshes. They provide panoramic views of Sarasota Bay.

Our favorite is the hilltop observation platform, where you can enjoy breathtaking vistas of the surrounding waterways and wildlife.

It’s an ideal spot for a peaceful walk and an opportunity to appreciate the natural beauty of Florida’s Gulf Coast. Picnic tables are available. Dogs are allowed.

Cortez Kitchen
4528 119th St W, Cortez, FL 34215 | (941) 900-1506

As mentioned briefly above, Cortez Kitchen is located on the water and serves fresh seafood daily. The restaurant has a full bar and live music.

They have outdoor seating. Vegetarian dishes are available. Unfortunately, they don’t accept reservations so get there early.

Swordfish Grill
4628 119th St W, Cortez, FL 34215 | (941) 798-2035

As mentioned briefly above, Swordfish Grill and Tiki Bar says they offer casual, Florida-style seafood served in a homey waterfront place with a bar, deck & live music.

They serve fresh seafood daily. Outdoor seating is available. They have happy hour food and offer some vegetarian dishes. They accept reservations.

The Seafood Shack Marina, Bar & Grill
4110 127th St W, Cortez, FL 34215 | (941) 794-1235

As mentioned briefly above, here is the contact info for The Seafood Shack. It is located on the waterfront.

They offer seafood plates & sandwiches served in a relaxed backdrop with a deck. They offer happy hour food. Vegetarian dishes are available.


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