Cortez is right off Cortez Road — State Road 684 outside Bradenton — and tucked away from the shopping centers, chain restaurants and sprawling apartments only a few miles away. Its vibrancy after all these years is linked to the fierce historic pride of the old fishing families and the three-way partnership between Manatee County, the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (FISH) and the Cortez Village Historical Society.

The fish houses that date to the original founding families of this village still sell fresh grouper and shrimp to area restaurants. The N.E. Taylor Boatworks is a working boatyard that traces its lineage to 1928 and is next to our boat, Double Trouble. Those original village settlers have family living in the modest 1920s bungalows that pack the narrow roads in the 2-square-mile settlement.

Stroll around this time machine of a fishing village of 500 families or so and you will see familiar surnames — the Bells and the Taylors, the Guthries and the Fulfords, the Greens and the Moras. In the 1880s, these families came from the southern edge of the Outer Banks in North Carolina to escape the Atlantic hurricanes and settled in the area known at the time as Hunter’s Point.

Cortez pretty much looks the same now as it has all along, it’s a must see on your trip to Florida’s Gulf Coast if you want a glimpse of “Old Florida”. And, if by chance you are here in February, be sure to check out our annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival which draws about 18,000 over the two-day weekend event. It’s a fund raiser for the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (FISH) and the Cortez Village Historical Society.

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