The Florida Maritime Museum

The Florida Maritime Museum   – 4415 119th St W, Cortez, FL 34215

Just a short walk from Anna Maria Island Condo Rentals – 601 Gulf Dr. N. Anna Maria Island, Florida 34217

This is a small, but interesting museum housed in the former Cortez village school on the Cortez Nature Preserve. It is located in the historic fishing village of Cortez and has some wonderful exhibits that tell the history of the only fishing community left in Florida dating back to pre WWII. Founded on the importance of the regional commercial fishing industry, the museum tells a number of stories pertaining to all aspects of Florida’s maritime history.
Very enjoyable displays of the local history, including vintage photos of the founding settlers and the local economy, commercial fishing boat models, a terrific collection of shells from the Gulf of Mexico and other historic artifacts. One particular exhibit focuses on the Cuban fishing ranchos in Tampa Bay. For more than 100 years, Cuban fishermen established seasonal fishing camps along the Gulf Coast where they would catch fish, salt them and ship them back to Cuba to sell. The exhibit explores what brought the Cubans to Florida and what happened to them.
We were fascinated by the dioramas depicting how commercial fisherman and boat builders of the Gulf Coast have historically made their living.
The museum also is home to a research library relevant to maritime subjects research. With an emphasis on Florida’s Golf Coast the library offers a variety of books, diaries, letters, logs and records.
We had a guided tour because they weren’t busy, but you can do a self guided tour and read the information. Our volunteer guide was friendly and passionate about the history of the founding of Cortez settlement. He described the native Americans, Cubans and settlers from North Carolina, who all played a part in the history of the area. He also told us about the history of the local fishing industry. After the tour, which took about 30 minutes, we wandered around and look at the exhibits in detail.
The Museum is very educational surrounded by beautiful grounds to enjoy a walk around. On the second Saturday of each month they have Music on the Porch, which is quite entertaining.

There is a gift shop with some interesting nautical items. The museum is free, but donations are appreciated.

When we left the Museum we strolled down to the Cortez fishing harbour, which is also interesting and only a few blocks away.  Along the way we passed some tiny cute historic cottages and enjoyed a late lunch at a great seafood restaurant.

I highly recommend the Florida Maritime Museum and am so glad we went. What a great place to spend an afternoon!

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