Many who don’t want to be in the Sarasota Bay anchorages around Bradenton Beach can drop the hook in the Manatee River. Here they can rest up before continuing northwards on the GICW. Others may want to go up Tampa Bay, perhaps to drop in to the Jean Street Boatyard, Florida’s oldest yard. It opened in 1843!, and is the only DIY yard I found on Florida’s Gulf Coast.
A couple of good spots for an overnight stay are just inside the mouth of the river coming in off Tampa Bay. The first is DeSoto Point, often referred to by locals as the “Holy Hole” because of the three crosses on shore. You’ll drop the hook into good, hard mud about 8 feet down. If you have a dinghy you can get to a nice, sandy beach nearby. Expect wakes from boats running out to fish Tampa Bay or further out into the Gulf itself. The spot is wide open to winds from the north and northeast.
A little further in is McKay Point. There’s good-holding in soft mud a fathom down. This is where you’d go to escape winds from the north which makes DeSoto Point a lee shore.
Four and a half miles into the river by R”18” and R”20” you can anchor in soft mud in 5-10 depths. There is a marina nearby so make sure you anchor at least 100 feet away to be in compliance with Florida regulations. It’s open to winds from the north back around to the west. There is grocery shopping, restaurants, hardware stores and a hospital nearby. A dinghy dock is on the south bank.