Sunday, March 18, 2012

Falling in love with Cortez

March 11-18, Cortez, Florida

With our three days at Arbor Terrace up, we felt unsure of where to go next.  Our plans to spend another week in Zephyrhills before heading to the Panhandle were not for another week.  I kept trying to get a reservation at Fort de Soto in Tampa, but every time I tried on-line the campground was full.  We were not too eager to drive to this busy area of Tampa across the skyway bridge only to find there was no room at the inn. Again, our friends BJ and Mike came to the rescue.  On their way to Bradenton Beach, they checked out a campground they had seen last year when they were staying at the very lovely (and rather expensive) Holiday Cove in Cortez. The campground, called Buttonwood Inlet, has undergone major remodeling and the addition of big-rig friendly sites with pavers and lovely landscaping surrounding a small pond.  It sounded like a place we should check out as we really like this part of Florida and would consider it for a long-term stay—maybe next year. We drove to Buttonwood on a Sunday (only 20 minutes from Arbor Terrace) and the office was closed, but we managed to find another worker who told us where we could stay at least for that night.  We were immediately impressed with the back area of the park. Everyone was incredibly friendly, the sites were gorgeous, the proximity to the beach was incredible (1.5 mile), and the price was good for high season—about $60 a night. 
Our site at Buttonwood

On Monday when the office was open, we asked if we could have our site for a week; we were lucky to work it out as this was spring break in the local area.  After talking to many others in the park who just loved the place, we decided to find out what reservations for next year looked like.  They had a waiting list of 50-60 people already.  It turned out Dec. and Jan were still open, so we put our name on the list with the understanding that there is no cancellation penalty if you are more than 60 days out.  Our immediate attraction to this place surprised us both. We had not anticipated wanting to stay anywhere for more than a month, but we could both envision it right away--felt good to be feeling the same vibe. 

Exploring this area for one week actually increased our attraction to this part of Florida (and this park in particular). There are no park models here—only fifth wheels, trailers, and motorhomes—and there is a canal access for fishing and kayaking right in the park itself.  Across the street from the park (walking or biking distance) are several local cafes and even a tiki bar. Cortez used to be a well-known fishing village and it has kept its laid-back charm and old Florida innocence.  Across the bridge to Bradenton Beach (1.5 mile) is a large public beach area (Coquina Beach) and a cute downtown area of locally-owned shops and restaurants.  Just a little to the north (on Anna Maria Island) is the town of Holmes Beach which allows dogs to use its municipal baseball park for an off-leash area when no baseball is going on. At the north end of the island is a well-known fishing pier and more cafes. Further to the south of Bradenton Beach, takes you across a bridge to Longboat Key (which is where we went to a more secluded beach almost daily).

Shorebirds at our favorite beach on Longboat Key

We also discovered a sweet little county park about two miles east of our park that allowed dogs off-leash in an area where they could actually swim in the bay. The downside was the traffic during spring break over the bridge to the beach—but we could walk or ride our bikes, plus we discovered if we went to our special spot on the beach by 9 a.m. and returned by noon, we had no traffic issues.  Another downside to the park itself was a lack of organized activities--such as Zumba! (but we did attend a St. Patrick’s Day potluck complete with live music.) Considering all the pros and cons, we would be thrilled to spend a few months here next year.

A whimsical store next to Buttonwood

Packing up at Buttonwood

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