From its narrow, tree-shaded headwaters in far northeastern Manatee County until it broadens into a mile-wide waterway spilling into Tampa Bay, the Manatee River is the heartbeat of north Manatee County.
On its northwest shore is Manatee County’s second largest city, Palmetto. When Samuel Sparks Lamb arrived here by boat in 1866, he purchased considerable land holdings and named the new community after his home state of South Carolina, the Palmetto State. Wide, palm and oak-lined streets and gracious old homes, some from the turn of the last century, still characterize the town.
Twenty years ago, Palmetto was known more for its tomato packing plants, but visitors now flock to its charming revitalized historic downtown district. The private Bradenton Yacht Club and the Regatta Pointe Marina are boaters’ meccas. On quiet Snead Island, outdoor lovers flock to Emerson Point Preserve, with its nature trails, canoe launches and panoramic views of Tampa Bay and the Sunshine Skyway.
Newer residential developments range from Amberwynd, an enclave of waterfront estates on Snead Island, to Riviera Dunes Resort & Yacht Club, an upscale riverfront development of custom single-family homes and condo towers just over the DeSoto Bridge, two minutes from downtown Bradenton. Further north and east are the brand-new master-planned communities of Trevesta and Artisan Lakes (click here for more).
North of Palmetto on Terra Ceia Bay is the unincorporated town of Terra Ceia. Originally settled by the Timucuan Indians centuries ago as their prime hunting and fishing area, today it is still beloved by fishermen who head to the Terra Ceia Aquatic Preserve, 24,900 watery acres of submerged land comprising a series of inlets on south Tampa Bay.
The major residential development here is Terra Ceia Bay Country Club, with condominiums and villas sandwiched between the bay and an 18-hole public golf course. Newer single-family homes tend to be built on pilings in a Key West style, but some original farmhouses still exist; take a look at one recently for sale in Terra Ceia and learn more about the area’s fascinating history here.
If you’ve only visited Ellenton to shop at Ellenton Premium Outlets’ 130 name-brand stores, you may be surprised to know that it’s a thriving community of older established neighborhoods, many of them directly on the Manatee River. This is mobile home park central; communities like Colony Cove—so vast that it has five clubhouses—stretch as far as the eye can see.
Most of Ellenton was once the Gamble sugar plantation; the last remaining remnant is Gamble Mansion, now a state historical park. In the early 1900s, part of it was purchased by Kimball C. Atwood, who planted a grapefruit grove that was home to the very first pink grapefruit. Busy U.S. 301 runs right through the town, and there has been a bit of building in the last decade or so, notably small enclaves like Oak Creek, a single-family development right behind the mall.
Not so long ago a region of citrus groves and ranchlands, Parrish is the site of enormous regional growth. In 2019, we published an article posing the question, “Is Parrish the new center of the universe?” The answer, at least in terms of Manatee County new development, is certainly yes.
This is where the majority of the 23,918 permitted new homes are or will be located (click here for more). The once sleepy agriculture center is fast fading away, although front-page headlines in the local monthly newspaper, the Parrish Village News, promote events like the Parrish Heritage Day parade, festival and chili cook-off and the 25th anniversary of the Rocky Bluff public library. To accommodate all this growth, brand-new public schools like Barbara Harvey Elementary School and North River High School are opening, and in 2019 State College of Florida began offering classes at various Parrish locations. In anticipation of all the new residents to come, the Parrish Arts Council was founded in 2012 to foster the arts and arts education in the growing community.
While most of the new growth is more affordably priced, Parrish did see its highest single-family home sale in history in June 2020: $2,125,000 for a riverfront estate in River Wilderness.
North Manatee County by the Numbers
Size: 224,040 acres (349 square miles)
No. of residents: 85,917
No. of new homes permitted as of March 2019: 23,918
Public schools: Palmetto Elementary, Blackburn Elementary, Mills Elementary, Palm View Elementary, James Tillman Elementary, Williams Elementary, Barbara Harvey Elementary; Buffalo Creek Middle School; Palmetto High School
Price range: Upper $100,000s-$1 million-plus
Highest recorded residential sale in Parrish: $2,125,000 for a riverfront estate in River Wilderness in June 2020