Florida’s Gulf Coast, and the Intracoastal Waterway, can be a playground for those who enjoy the salt life and the finer things that come with it.
Pearl Homes & Marina, a forthcoming net-positive energy community, puts those who choose to invest in the community in the middle of one of the most gorgeous — and fun-filled — parts of Florida. Its 35 boat slips, located on the intracoastal waterway in the historic Cortez fishing village, are just minutes from beautiful barrier islands and the Gulf of Mexico.
That means residents of this sustainable development have endless opportunities to explore the waterways of Sarasota, Manatee and Pinellas counties.
“I was told the settlers from North Carolina chose Cortez because of that channel and the protection the barrier islands offered,” said Karen Bell, who will be opening a gulf-to-table bistro in Pearl Home. “In those days people didn’t live on the barrier islands.”
Whether they’re an angler looking to bag an elusive snook, a foodie enjoying small plates while the sun sets or an explorer navigating mangrove tunnels by kayak, there is always a new adventure in the waters surrounding Ana Maria Island.
“The intracoastal is an incredible resource for recreation, for our working waterfront heritage, and for local, sustainable seafood,” said Ed Chiles, owner of several restaurants on the nearby Anna Maria Island.
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Dockside Eating and Drinking
Perhaps the most alluring aspect of the Florida lifestyle is taking in a sunset while enjoying a few drinks and local seafood.
The islands north and south of Pearl Home offer that and more. A stone’s throw from the community, residents can anchor at Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach to find restaurants like the Beach House on Anna Maria.
“In Cortez the seafood is just so darn good on its own that it’s best enjoyed without a lot of fuss,” Bell said.
Farther south, on laid-back Longboat Key, boaters can pull into Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant & Pub for an evening overlooking the intracoastal under a canopy of Buttonwood trees. On the same island, the iconic restaurateur Richard Gonzmart of the Columbia Restaurant Group is planning the Buccaneer, a new dining concept.
Those who are feeling adventurous can cross into Tampa Bay west of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge to dock at Madeira Beach. There, it’s a quick walk to John’s Pass, which has plenty of waterfront watering holes.
Fishing Where Sustainability is King
With its innovative energy features, Pearl Home fits into an attitude of sustainability that fisherman and nearby Cortez businesses share.
Across the intracoastal, Anna Maria Island boasts “the Greenest Little Main Street in America” in Pine Avenue and scientists at Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, south of Cortez, study ways to support the area’s marine life.
The seagrasses and mangroves that line both the mainland and barrier islands are ripe with the sleek, and fun-to-fight snook. But anglers can also find tarpon, grouper, snapper, and even hammerhead or bonnethead sharks.
Bay Island Park on the Siesta Key North Bridge, a short trip down the Intracoastal from the coming Pearl Home, has multiple reefs and bird rookeries where fish are bound to be hiding. Artificial reefs and similar bird sanctuaries are strewn throughout this area of the intracoastal, which boasts three national estuaries.
New Pass Bridge, south of Longboat, also offers excellent fishing. Pull into New Pass Grill for bait and one of Southwest Florida’s best burgers before you hit the water.
With inlets to the Gulf of Mexico so close to Pearl Home, anglers can be on their way to deep-sea fishing for Mahi Mahi, Sailfish or Wahoo in minutes.
More Than Fishing Along the Intracoastal
The many sandbars stretching along the Intracoastal and Gulf of Mexico offer energetic party spots for boaters on the weekends. These include Big Pass off of Siesta Key, Jewfish Key close to Longboat and a sandbar in John’s Pass near St. Pete Beach.
Boaters can drop anchor and join the fun at these spots, but the waterway also offers more secluded options. For most of the year Beer Can Island on Longboat, a driftwood-covered beach overlooking the Gulf and New Pass, can only be accessed by boat.
For the more adventurous, a kayak can be towed to South Lido Key, where Pearl home residents can explore miles of mangrove tunnels by kayak or paddleboard. The same goes for the wild, natural Robinson Preserve, which is only a short paddle from Cortez.
And just north of that, Egmont Key State Park is the perfect site for dolphin- or bird-watching.
“People come here and they get stuck. They come here, come back and tell people about it,” Chiles said. “That’s why what we’re working on with sustainability and what Pearl Home is doing are so important — you want people to keep coming back.”
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