Cortez, Florida Population: 4,491
This Manatee County fishing village comes with a side of historical local lore. Claiming to be the oldest remaining fishing village in Florida, Cortez dates back to the late 1800s, and many of its current inhabitants are descendants of original residents. Today, commercial fishermen in the village still make their livings catching fish, crab, and shellfish in Sarasota Bay’s blue-green waters. Learn more about the area’s proud history by visiting Cortez’s Florida Maritime Museum, which displays historic vessels, houses a research library, and even runs boat-building programs.
Local Eats: Star Fish Company takes a laid-back attitude toward eating, so don’t worry about peeling off those sandy clothes or changing out of your flip-flops before entering. Picnic tables right on the water provide casual seating to enjoy the day’s catch.
The website SmarterTravel.com, in a travel feature, listed Cortez Village as one of its “Most Unforgettable Villages in North America.”
In its comments about Cortez, the website says the fishing village in Manatee County “comes with a side of historical local lore. Claiming to be the oldest remaining fishing village in Florida, Cortez dates back to the late 1800s, and many of its current inhabitants are descendants of early settlers from North Carolina.
“Today, commercial fishermen in the village still make their livings catching fish and crabs in Sarasota Bay’s blue-green waters.”
The website says visitors can learn more about the area’s history by visiting the Florida Maritime Museum, which “displays historic vessels, houses a research library, and even runs boat-building programs.”
The website also lists several restaurants in Cortez that offer fresh-caught local seafood.
Karen Bell, owner of A.P. Bell Fish Co. and the Star Fish Co. Market & Restaurant in Cortez, said she was surprised to learn of the ranking.
Bell, whose family roots go back to the early settlers, said she was pleased the village has been recognized.
“I was surprised and shocked. It’s quite an honor to be recognized as one of the great villages in North America,” Bell said.
“We’re glad to share our history with others who come to visit,” she said.
Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau marketing director Deb Meihls said she found the ranking to be “wonderful and exciting.”
This confirms what we already knew, “what a special place Cortez is,” Meihls said.