Pier 22, foreground, is on the Manatee River in downtown Bradenton. Oak & Stone occupies part of the first floor and the rooftop of the The Spring Hill Suites hotel, seen back right.

It’s one of the most famous rivers in Florida and includes landmarks like De Soto National Memorial, Robinson Preserve, Bradenton Riverwalk and Emerson Point Preserve. Its brackish waters are home to manatees, dolphins, pelicans and various coastal birds and fish, as well as gators when you get farther inland. The Manatee River, which runs 36 miles before flowing into the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay, is also where you will find many of Manatee County’s top dining destinations.  

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After recommending waterfront restaurants for outdoor dining in SarasotaAnna Maria IslandSouth Sarasota County and Cortez Village, we return to Manatee County to spotlight eight places on the Manatee River; as well as one found overlooking nearby Anna Maria Sound, and another along the Braden River, the Manatee’s largest tributary.

Caddy's restaurant and tiki bar is on the Manatee River in Bradenton.


801 Riverside Drive E., Bradenton; 941-708-3777; caddys.com

If you’re seeking a beach experience – replete with sugary white sand, boat slips, beach volleyball, corn hole, live music, fire pits, postcard perfect sunsets on the water and perhaps a visiting dolphin or two – then Caddy’s is where you want to go in Bradenton for lunch, dinner or just some drinks. On Tarpon Pointe, which connects the existing Riverwalk with its planned extension east, Caddy’s is part of the Pinellas County-based chain that includes Treasure Island, Gulfport and St. Pete Beach locations. The lone Sarasota-Manatee Caddy’s offers a completely open-air dining experience with two covered bar areas and plenty of covered seating, plus tables that put you right on a part of the river often populated by dolphins.