Category Archives: Beaches

Barrier Island Touring

Touring Barrier Island Heaven

Barrier Island Touring with Private Island Charters

Anclote River ParkWhen Private Island Charters extended an invitation to tour the barrier islands of the coast, the offer was impossible to refuse. The tour started at Anclote River Park, a well-known destination for Tarpon Springs locals. While the park is not so much a destination for tourists, it does have many positive draws. Aside from the boat ramp, it has picnic pavilions with lots of shade of trees around, a swimming beach, and a Native American mound site. We set off from the boat dock at the park and headed out the boaters’ channel at the mouth of the river.

 

North Sandbar

North SandbarOur first destination was the island that most locals call North Sand Bar. It is part of a long sandbar that has risen above the water. It now supports mangrove trees, bushes and grass, despite being very small. The sands are perfectly soft, and bright. A few people were strolling the island while a number of private fishermen worked the shallows around the island. It is a beautiful place, which is most often a peaceful place to enjoy near solitude on remarkable beaches. We took a tour of the island on foot after dropping anchor. With such an abundance of shallows, it is a great place for wading.  After circling the island on foot, which took only minutes, we waded out into the shallows of the sand bar. Then, with more to see ahead of us, we climbed back onto the boat and headed off for more island exploring.

 

Island Currents

Anclote Key sandbarNorth Sandbar nearly connects to Anclote Key to the south but is cut off by a strong current that flows between. Anclote Key is a three mile long island that is uninhabited. It is well established, with forests and grasses along its length. Visitors to the island can almost always enjoy solitude on its beaches. The island also has a lighthouse from the 1800s. While visitors can no longer climb the tower, it is nice for photographs as well as being an important part of local history. We cruised by the northern end of the island using the channel between the island and the sandbar. Because the day was slightly windy, we did not stop the Private Islands Charter boat on Anclote Key, due to the higher surf rolling onto its western side, which is where the beaches are.

 

Three Rooker Bar

Three Rooker BarThe next island to the south is called Three Rooker Bar. Maps vary on its name, refering to it as both an island and a sandbar. The sands of Three Rooker Bar are still moving about, with a channel currently cutting the island in half. According to locals, the island was split in half in the past but then reformed. A recent storm split the island again, and a strong current now passes between the two halves of Three Rooker Bar. We stopped on the southern half, pacing around its shores for a  while. The shelling next to the tidal current was fantastic. The flow of water between the island halves was as strong as any river, creating surf where it issued into the waters on the west side of the island. While we wanted to circle the island on foot, the southern end was roped off for the nesting birds. The trees on the southern end of the island were inviting, but we left them to the birds and their nests and returned the way we came. The return trip to the docks was a sun-filled ride across the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

 

Island Boating

Private Island ChartersThe charter was a lot of fun, with Captain Todd going wherever requested. He explained that most excursions include dolphin sightings. The sites within reach are numerous, with even more locations either north or south of the places we visited. Honeymoon Island State Park is within reach, as is Howard Park, the Anclote River, and the northern Nature Coast. Captain Todd said that, while he has taken fishermen out, most his charters are booked by vacationers who want to see the area. The region of the Gulf of Mexico his boat plies is remarkable, with pristine natural islands, state parks, an historic river, and more. The choice is yours. You can ask to go where you like, or you can sit back and let Private Island Charters treat you to the treasures of the coast.

 

Private Island Charters: 727-534-8818

 

Other posts you might enjoy:

No Roads Found to Caladesi Island

Discovering Egmont Key

Wildest Islands on the Central Gulf Coast of Florida

If you would like to stay at a waterfront vacation rental with a private dock serviced directly by Private Island Charters call us at Florida Beach Rentals and we will do our best to accommodate you. (727-288-2020)

Seven Dwarfs sand

Fairy Tales in the Sand at Clearwater Beach

Fairy Tale Beach

Three Little Pigs in sandDo you remember the Three Little Pigs? Goldie Locks? Rapunzel? The Little Boy Who Cried Wolf? The Princess and the Pea? Clearwater Beach, Florida brought those and a host of other fairy tales into the realm of three dimensions at the Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival . At a mere ten dollars a ticket, visitors gained entrance to the large tent protecting the sand sculptures. A path led through the artwork, the trail composed of nothing more than ordinary beach sand which is there all year round. Guests were treated to close up encounters with their favorite fairy tales. Viewers discussed each pieces, many trying to recall the names of certain fairy tales or quotes from the stories. Sculpted into the sand of some of the pieces were their titles, helping guests along while presenting some striking three dimensional fonts. Colored lights alternated from one shade to another, helping to enhance the shadows. pinoccioTo immerse spectators further, a soundtrack played in which snippets of fairy tales were read. The walkway wound end to end inside the very large tent. The trail led guests through the fairy tale renderings, passing by a photo op in front of a fairy tale castle at one end, and a sculpture contest at the other. Loads of interesting sculptures waited in between, making a visit to the ten day Sugar Sand Festival a worthy outing for both area visitors and local residents.

 

Unique Sand Sculptures

sand sculptureThis year marks the centennial anniversary of Clearwater, Florida. The one hundredth birthday of the community was marked with a sand sculpture of a giant birthday cake at the exit to the event. Another local feature that made its welcome return to the Sugar Sand Festival was Winter the dolphin, this time with her friend Hope to help her along. The two real-life dolphins star in the Dolphin Tale movies which have brought a dose of unexpected fame to the area. Sand sculpting contestThe other sculptures that did not follow the fairy tale theme were those from the sculpting contest. A handful of artists pitted their skills against one another at the south end of the large tent. All contest designs were well done, as you might imagine, some including remarkably intricate detail. The the contestant themes ranted from  mechanical structures to the abstract art in three dimensions. Visitors were encouraged to vote for their favorites.

 

Sand Sculpting Artists

GoldielocksOne of the best features of the 2015 Sugar Sand Festival was the upkeep of the sculptures. Not only were sculpted pieces maintained and repaired throughout, new pieces appeared all week long. Team Sandtastic, a traveling group of sand sculpture artists, was responsible for the majority of the sculptures seen at the event. A talk with one of the team members revealed some interesting tidbits. Fairy Tale CastleThe one sculptor we spoke with was responsible for several tons of sculpted sand within the tent. The event itself boasted a weigh in of 1000 tons of sand. An interesting and interactive feature was the chance to get a photograph in front of a giant fairy tale castle made by the team. Guests could take home the photo from a booth outside that also sold photo booklets from the event.

 

Pier 60 Festivities

Sugar Sand FestivalPier 60 was bustling all week long. On an ordinary day, souvenir vendors line the pier for four hours a night at the Sunset Festival. Street performers entertain the crowds juggling fire, tumbling, dancing, or displaying a host of other talents. For the Sugar Sand Festival, vendors set up all day long, every day of the festival. Evening is always the prime time for street performers, but one or two could be found at almost any hour during the ten day event. In addition to the additional availability of souvenirs, a number of food carts set up along the sidewalk and on the sand to serve treats to the passing crowds. TPier 60 Sugar Sand Festivalhrown into the mix was a swimming pool where visitors could float in giant inflatable bubbles, an interactive drum circle, a sand castle building area for the kids, and even a mechanical “bull” in the shape of a shark. On the two weekends, bands play on a stage set up on the beach. The sands of Clearwater Beach were the venue for those who attended the shows. The extra activities, the food, and the music surrounding the sand sculpture tent made the event a thrill to visit.

 

Sugar Sand Festival

Little Boy Who Cried WolfThe Clearwater Beach Sugar Sand Festival was as fun as expected. Last year set a high bar that this year’s event succeeded at meeting. The event drew plenty of extra attention during a time of year that ordinarily sees fewer visitors. Artists transformed the beautiful white sands of Clearwater Beach into fairy tale sculptures, while the grounds outside took on a carnival atmosphere. For those thinking of coming to Clearwater Beach, or one of the nearby beaches in the area, April might be the month to consider. If you enjoy fascinating art and a dynamic atmosphere, the Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival is for you.

 

Genie in the lamp Pinoccio whale Banner for Sugar Sand Festival Thumbalina

Other posts you might enjoy:

Holiday Lights in the Garden

Pass A Grille Chowder Challenge

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

 

North Sandbar Anclote Key

Sandbar Island Paradise

Island in the Sun

North Sandbar IslandNorth Sandbar is a place that lives in all of our imaginations. Dream of a tiny island, one where few people go, but which is a safe place to be. Cover it with soft white sand and paint clear turquoise waters around its shores. When you are done, you might have come close to North Sandbar. It is a tiny island located off of the coast of Tarpon Springs, Florida, a fun little tourist town on the Central Gulf Coast of Florida. It is to the north of such famous places as St Pete Beach, Clearwater Beach, Caladesi Island State Park, and Honeymoon Island State Park. When you go through that list of names, you will realize that the island called North Sandbar is located in the midst of a popular vacation destination. However, if you make your way to this remote sandbar, you will find that you are nearly alone. With absolutely perfect beaches of soft, white sand, it is a destination you might want to include in your travel plans.

 

Remote Destination of North Sandbar

island boating FloridaThe only access to the uninhabited islands of our area is by boat. While Caladesi Island is a popular boat destination, you can walk there from Clearwater Beach. Honeymoon Island is connected by a bridge. Go farther north, however, and you will not reach the islands without crossing the water. Three Rooker Bar, Anclote Key, and North Sandbar are the three most northern points of land. All three enjoy a low visitation rate, due to the difficulty of getting there. If you do not own a boat, you have to rent or charter one. While you can kayak there, the trip is not recommended for beginners because of the open water between, which is exposed to wind and waves. The photos in this blog were taken on a trip with Private Island Charters. The coastal waters of the Gulf of Mexico are a boaters’ paradise, with endless locations to visit. On holidays, the little island can fill up, but on most other days of the year, it is a gentle, soothing place to soak in the sun and sea. The northern barrier islands are a perfect destination for a day of boating.

 

The Evolution of an Island

North Sandbar of Anclote KeyNorth Sandbar appears as though it might be an extension of Anclote Key to its south. The sand extends in a long bar, easily a mile in length. At its northern tip, North Sandbar rises out of the water to become a tiny island, complete with mangrove bushes and grass. Google Earth has this sandbar listed at Rapp Island, although we found no other source on the whole of the Internet that confirmed the assignment of that name, casting doubt on the title. While it seems as though the sandbar might become part of Anclote Key, the matter is debated by locals. The conflicting forces are the accumulation of sand rising to the surface and a strong current that runs between the sandbar and Anclote Key. A study of the history of Honeymoon Island formation suggests that the sandbar might become a northern extension of Anclote Key, as a nearly identical formation was in place at Honeymoon Island a mere thirty years ago. In that case, the sandbar did become part of the island, despite the channel that flowed between. Time will tell if the joining occurs, and if North Sand Bar will eventually come under the title of Anclote Key, enjoyed by future boaters who might never know the two keys were ever separated.

 

Enjoying the Shores of North Sandbar

North Sandbar of AncloteThe shores of North Sandbar are some of the most beautiful you will find. The beaches are formed by the lightest sands, those most susceptible to movement in the currents, deposited onto a sandbar that has risen from the waves. That makes the grains among the softest you will find. The white color is remarkable, dazzling to the eye and cool to the feet. When the sand is submerged in shallows, it illuminates the water to a sparkling turquoise color. The island is perfect for sitting on the sand or strolling the shores. However, a walk around the island will only take a few minutes, so plan for a large dose of relaxation. The shallows are expansive, making wading and swimming conditions perfect. If you head south toward Anclote Key, you can stroll with your ankles in the water for nearly a mile. So, if you share the inclination to restore your soul on the shores of a remote island, you should give this tiny gem a try.

 

Private Island ChartersThis trip to the islands was provided by Private Island Charters (727-534-8818) (Facebook link)

 

 

North Sandbar trip

North Sandbar

North Sandbar Anclote

North Sandbar

Boating to Anclote Key sandbar

North Sandbar

Island Paradise Central Gulf Coast of Florida

North Sandbar

 

 

Other posts you might enjoy:

Gulf Coast Sand Bar Hangouts

Finding the Lost Dunedin Pass

Florida Barrier Island Breakdown

 

Geocaching in Paradise

Geocaching in Paradise

What is Geocaching?

Geocaching Clearwater BeachThe word geocache comes from two words, geo and cache. The word geo refers to the Earth, and cache refers to a secret storage location. In the case of geocaching the item can be anything! The game is to find the stashed object, usually hidden in plain sight in a public place. Players find the locations using their phones’ GPS.

Geocache Clearwater BeachThe beauty of geocaching is that anyone can play. All you need is a phone that will accept the app (application) for playing the game presented on the web site, geocaching.com. According to the web site, there are 2,579,133 active geocaches hidden across the globe, and over 6 million geocachers worldwide.

Geocache at beachThe caches are created by ordinary people who are also playing the game. Hidden objects can be as simple as a log book which you sign when you find the cache. Others can be as large as a pirate’s chest, and have items of interest stored inside. One of the mottoes of the game is if you take something away, you should leave something else behind.

 

How to Find a Geocache

Clearwater Beach sand duneOnce you have loaded the geocache app, your screen will display the geocaches near you –or across the globe, if you want. Your job is to go out and find them. They can be in the city or the countryside. Hiking trails are favorite places, as are public landmarks. Your GPS will get you close. Once you are there, it is your job to figure out how and where the geocache is hidden. Favorite tricks are to put the items under something, or to hide them inside of common objects. Here at Clearwater Beach, one of them is hung on fishing string inside a sign post. Another is attached to a bolt set inside a piece wood, both attached to a fence at the end of a beach road. Use your wits and imagination to discover your first geocaches. After a few finds, you will get better at discovering caches.

 

Florida Gulf Coast is Geocache Paradise

Gulf Coast IslandThe Florida Gulf Coast is a paradise. Our beaches are covered in soft white sand, often with mangrove forests nearby. The boating opportunities are endless. The combination of the two make this a fantastic place to geocache. Discovering a hidden cache in the city might be fun, but have you ever found one on an uninhabited island? Some of the caches here in our area are hidden underwater, some are near ruins of wartime bunkers, and others are stashed in a wooded area on islands accessible only by boat. The terrain of our area ups the game a notch, adding water and difficulty of access.

Snorkel for geocacheWhile we don’t believe you need an additional excuse to head out to an island, geocaching on the Florida Gulf Coast makes it all the more exciting. On Anclote Key you will find miles of beach that rarely see visitors. You will also have the opportunity to find the three geocaches hidden there. Honeymoon Island State Park is a beach island paradise. It is home to at least twelve hidden items. Caladesi Island, accessible by ferry or a very long walk, hides five of the caches to date. Nine of the stashed goodies wait for you on famous Clearwater Beach.beach nature trail The long chain of barrier islands of the coastline hide many more. From Sand Key to John’s Pass, a popular tourist destination, our count is thirty five. Famous St Pete Beach has its own collection, some eleven by our tally. Fort Desoto park, which is one of the best beach destinations in our area, has enough geocaches to keep you busy for long while. A quick glance at the map told us that a geocacher can find over eighty hidden stashes without ever leaving our beaches.

 

Age Limits for Geocaching

geocaching in a kayakWhile you are hunting for the hidden items on our barrier islands, you will also be enjoying sunshine and beautiful shorelines. Shelling, sunbathing, beach walks, boating, and other pleasures await visitors to the remarkable shores of the Central Gulf Coast of Florida. Clearwater Beach, St Pete Beach, and the fun beach towns in between are some of the most cherished beaches in the U.S. Add geocaching to the mix, and you might experience an adventure you did not anticipate. After all, who hasn’t dreamed of finding a treasure on an island? barrier island geocachingYou might imagine that geocaching is the domain of the young, but, so long as you have a phone that loads apps, no age barrier exists. Anyone who possesses a sense of play can join the hunt. So on you next trip to the white sand shores of our coast, give at least one of the caches a try. You might take away a fun vacation memory you did not expect.

 

 

 

Kite Festival

Treasure Island Kite Festival and Sport Kite Competition

Beach Kite Festival

kite festival Treasure IslandThe Treasure Island Kite Festival and Sport Kite Competition flew over the Florida Gulf Coast again this January, lighting up the daytime sky with bright colors. The day started with mild breezes, not the kind you want for a kite competition, or for flying the giant sized kites. Fortune was on the side of the kite flyers, however, when the afternoon weather brought winds that were perfect for kite flying. The skies were partly cloudy, and it the type of day where some people wore shorts and others light jackets. Crowds lined the sidewalk, using the wall at the edge of the sand for seating. The turnout was fantastic, with the beach restaurants and bars filled to capacity. The large crowds lent an atmosphere of excitement to the event.

 

Sport Kite Competition

sport kitesThe completion portion of the festival was as fun to watch as ever. One of the events that drew the most comments was the children’s kite races, where youngsters, holding kites several times their size, raced across the sand. Other competitions included synchronized kite flying, sport kite flying, and flying sport kites to music.

 

Giant Kites

giant kitesWhile the sport kites were flying, all manner of non-competition kites were sailing over the beach at Treasure Island. The giant octopus kite was a favorite again. Many new kites made their first appearances as well. The kite receiving the most comments was the figure of a scuba diver with a shark swimming just behind him. A kite premiering at the beach was the image of a geisha with the flowing tail of the kite representing her dress.

 

Perfect Beach for Kite Flying

kite at Treasure Island BeachWith kites filling skies over the beach, it was easy to enjoy a walk across the sand. The combination of large, colorful, slow moving kites and racing sport kites created a mesmerizing effect.

The location at Treasure Island Beach was well chosen, the sand being wider than any other location on the coast. Plenty of fun shops and restaurants are nearby, as well as tourist activities like fishing charters and day cruises. The festival comes to the beach each year in January, providing a great excuse to get out to the shore at this great beach community.  If you are considering a trip to the Florida Gulf Coast for the winter, the Treasure Island Kite Festival and Sport Kite Competition is an event to keep in mind.

 

 

Treasure Island Kite Festival Videos

 

Other posts you might enjoy:

Sky Surfing Clearwater Beach

A Beach Less Traveled

Secrets of the Fall at Clearwater Beach

 

Caladesi ferry port

No Roads Found to Caladesi Island

Reaching Caladesi Island

Caladesi from the airCaladesi Island State Park is a favorite destination for tourism, but how do visitors arrive to a location devoid of bridges and roads? Because of the remote location, arriving at the state park is an event even for locals. Caladesi Island was named when the barrier island stood alone, detached from other land masses. Thanks to a large storm, Clearwater Beach and Caladesi Island are now connected. Despite the land bridge, the northern reaches of the island are still a long way off. Only serious hikers succeed at the 1.5 to 2 hour walk from Clearwater Beach, especially in the warmer summer months. The solution for an easier journey is to enjoy a relaxing ride aboard the Caladesi Island Ferry.

 

Honeymoon Island Ferry Dock

Caladesi Island FerryThe secret to reaching Caladesi Island State Park lies within a second park, Honeymoon Island State Park. Honeymoon Island is a fantastic destination in its own right, with hiking trails, beaches, a dog beach, and a nature center. What Honeymoon Island also has is a set of boat docks where the Caladesi Island Ferry departs. In order to get to the docks, visitors must enter the state park, paying a low entry fee per car. The ferry ride is $14 for adults, $7 for kids, and free for kids under five. Ferry service begins at 10AM. To ensure everyone gets back to the mainland, the ticket office stamps the tickets with a return time, which is about four and a half hours later. A shaded pavilion offers ferry ticket holders a place to rest while they wait for the next ride to Caladesi Island.

 

Caladesi Island Ferry Ride

Caladesi Island FerryThe whole purpose of visiting Caladesi Island is to relax. The ferry is a perfect way to begin. The ride is smooth, traveling across an enclosed waterway which is protected from the Gulf of Mexico waters by the barrier island of Caladesi itself. The ferry passes between the mangrove shores of Caladesi Island and the palm-tree-lined Dunedin Causeway, which leads to Honeymoon Island. The scenery is always fantastic, which includes a chance to see local dolphins and manatees. The waterway is well-used by motorboats, kayaks, and jet skis, creating a lively summer-like playground 365 days a year. The ferry ride travels its last leg down a mangrove-lined channel. After a short, twenty minute shuttle, the ferry arrives at the docks on Caladesi Island.

 

The Docks at Caladesi Island

Caladesi IslandThe docks at Caladesi Island are the first impression many people have of the famous Gulf Coast destination. Awaiting disembarking guests is the Caladesi Island concession stand. The food stand offers a variety of snacks, along with some much-needed refreshments on hot days. Beyond the building, visitors will find trails that lead to restrooms, outdoor beach showers, picnic tables, a playground, and hiking trails through the undeveloped lands of the island. Naturally, the beach is the number one attraction. Behind the restrooms and beach showers are long, raised walkways, transporting beach-goers through the coastal mangroves and dunes. The reward for this easy stroll is a beautiful, white sand beach of the Florida Gulf Coast. CCaladesi Island aladesi Island Beach is a fantastic stretch of bright sand traveling north and south. The length of the beach is so long that walkers and hikers are sure to be pleased. With beach chairs and umbrellas available for rent, and the turquoise waters of the Gulf to play in, the destination is one to remember. The Caladesi Island Ferry makes reaching the island paradise so easy it would be shame for area visitors to pass it up.

 

Caladesi Island Ferry Video

 

Other posts you might enjoy

Finding the Lost Dunedin Pass

Caladesi Island Kayak Trail

Southern Pleasures of Honeymoon Island State Park

 

Sand sculpture at Treasure island

Treasure Island Sanding Ovation Festival Takes Sand Sculpting Art to a Science

Sanding Ovation 2014

Go with the Flow sculptureThe Sanding Ovation sand sculpting competition returned to Treasure Island Beach again in November. The event gave residents and visitors a good reason to visit the area’s largest beach. With an enormous expanse of sand available, the event had plenty of space. Artists set up on the north end of the outdoor venue, with vendors streaming southward, the southern end capped by a stage for live music. With music streaming overhead, visitors were treated to a huge assortment of goodies to browse in the vending tents, while smoke from the food vendors wafted through the air. Live bands, food, and souvenirs added to the allure of thes sand sculptures, creating an event that drew large, happy crowds.

 

Beach Treasures and Cuisine

Food tent at Treasure IslandThe array of vending tents and food stalls were impressive at the Sanding Ovation event. Set up on the sands of Treasure Island Beach, the wares were arrayed in long lines, displaying every type of beach themed merchandise imaginable. Beach dresses, sculpted wood home décor, jewelry, art, curious, and toys were among the many choices. For those who were hungry, the Sanding Ovation event was the right place to be. Brats, fresh seafood, Greek food, and local grouper fish sandwiches were all within easy reach. Food vendors at Sanding OvationOf course, iced tea, lemonade, snow cones, and ice cream were also on the menu. At the north end of the event, a large tent held a full bar which served soft drinks as well as alcohol. Although the sand sculptures were enough to lure the crowds to Treasure Island, the extra goodies at the Sanding Ovation festival put the finishing touch on the event.

 

Sand Sculpting Contest at Treasure Island Beach

Divided Self sand sculptureThe key attraction of the Sanding Ovation event was the collection of sand sculptures. Artists from Treasure Island and across the globe converged on the beach to put their talents to the test. The Sanding Ovation artists did not disappoint. Sand sculpture entitled ForbiddenThe artistic ideals were pretty heavy, in fact, visitors commented on how much interpretation was available for each piece. One portrayed rediscovering self, another a “Divided Life,” set alongside a sculpture entitled “Forbidden,” which displayed a woman holding a ball and chain as if it were precious. An area nearby offered visitors a chance to pose alongside a snowman and snow woman crafted from sand. The logos of area businesses who sponsored the event were displayed, as you might suspect, in sand. Large crowds milled around the artwork, discussing which they liked best, what each piece might mean, and peering at who had earned the highest marks in the sand sculpting contest.

 

Sanding Ovation Sand Sculpting Contest Winners

1st Place Winner & People’s Choice Award

Love Never Dies sculpture

Love Never Dies by Jonathan Bouchard

2nd Place Winner

The Ripper by Chris Guinto

The Ripper by Chris Guinto

3rd Place Winner & Sculptors’ Choice Award

Vertigo by Sue McGrew

Vertigo by Sue McGrew

 

Treasure Island, Florida

Finding Your Old Self Again sculptureTreasure Island sits on the northern reaches of the Central Gulf Coast, enjoying the renowned white sands and beautiful waters of the Gulf of Mexico. It his home to great beach shops, ideal beach restaurants, and cool beach bars. It borders famous John’s Pass Village and Boardwalk which is home to waterfront dining and souvenir shopping. Nearby attractions are Fort Desoto Park and Clearwater Beach. If you are looking for a fun vacationTreasure Island Beach spot, take a closer look at this active beach. The sands are wider than any other beach in the region and it boasts plenty of the great tourist attractions that go along with a memorable beach vacation. One more reason to visit? The Sanding Ovation festival will return to Treasure Island again next year!

 

Sanding Ovation Video

 

Other posts you might enjoy:

Super Boat Races 2014 at Clearwater Beach

Explore the Gulf Coast Dolphin Trail

Treasure Island Kite Festival 2014

 

Discover the Island of Egmont Key

Discovering Egmont Key

Discover the Island at Egmont Key

Lighthouse on Egmont KeyThe Discover the Island event hit Egmont Key last month, giving area residents and visitors a great reason to learn more about the unique island. The island is located at the mouth of Tampa Bay, north of the main shipping channel. Egmont Key Alliance put on the event, adding plenty of fun additions to an already fascinating destination. The event was held November 8th and 9th (2014) with plenty of promotion to let us all know to show up. Attending the event was a rewarding experience, even for those who had visited previously. Visitors were allowed to explore the island at will, with lots of goodies thrown in, such as historical re-enactors, a kids area with games and crafts, a silent auction to help support island preservation efforts, and, of course, a food tent. With the fascinating terrain, wildlife, ruins, and rich history, the Discover the Island event at Egmont Key was a crowd pleaser.

 

Exploring Egmont Key

Ruins on Egmont Key

Island railroad ruinsVisitors were free to discover the ruins of Egmont Key’s military bunkers, which date back well over a hundred years. Only the concrete and some metal remains, leaving the buildings without doors, and open to tour. The decaying buildings are the ruins of Fort Dade, part of a defense structure for Tampa Bay that includes nearby Fort DeSoto. The building began in the 1800’s for the Spanish-American War. The island saw military use up through the Second World War, when it served as an observation and targeting station against enemy ships who might try to enter Tampa Bay. Today on the island, tourists can view the ruins up close. Fort ruins on Egmont KeyMany of Egmont Keys buildings have sunk into the Gulf of Mexico, due to erosion of the island’s west coast. Other ruins are open to enter, including bunkers, housing, and a guard house. Targeting towers stand amid the brush of the island while a network of brick roads lead through a military compound partly reclaimed by forest. Although the event provided an excellent excuse to tour the ruins, Egmont Key is open year round.

Egmont Key Lighthouse

Egmont Key lighthouseA lighthouse still stands on Egmont Key, providing a light, into the present day, to direct ships and other vessels that navigate near the island. The lighthouse, erected in 1858, is the second to exist on the island, the first lasting only a short period before being too damaged by weather for safety. The existing lighthouse has unusually thick walls, the inside being no more than a spiraling metal stairway. For the sake of preservation, visitors are not allowed to climb the tower. For the lighthouse reenactorDiscover the Island event, a historical re-enactor waited at the tower bottom to share his knowledge of the lighthouse, as well as the island itself. No question could stump him, his information on the site satisfying every query. The lighthouse is the best known building on the island, serving as a symbol for Egmont Key.

Guided Tours of Egmont Key

Guided tours at Egmont KeyFor the Discover the Island Event, guided tours were available to walk guests by the most important sites. The guides, versed in the islands military and natural history, walked large groups around the island, describing the role of each building visited. They shared such details as storage containers for mine field parts, underground houses, the methods for targeting enemy ships, Fort Dade operations, an island railway, and more. They also stopped the tour groups at a presentation regarding the wildlife inhabitants of the island. Guides told of the gopher tortoise, an endangered species which lives on the island, digging boroughs into the soft sand. History display at Egmont KeySea turtles nest on the island, and the entire southern end is occupied by the Egmont Key Wildlife Refuge, which is a nesting site for numerous species of birds. Another station provided an up close look at military memorabilia. The tours provided great information, the history portions delivered in the environment where the history occurred.

Discover the Island Goodies

Boyd Hill Nature Preserve raptorA number of other great goodies were in store for visitors who attended the Discover the Island event. Civil war re-enactors set up camp on the island, performing military drills for the crowds that gathered. The drills were well done, with historical commentary from the commanding officer. The order to fire was silent, however, out of respect for a wildlife attraction at Egmont Key for the day. Boyd Hill Nature Preserve  brought a collection of live raptors. Owls, hawks, and falcons were out in the open for visitors to view while they walked down the preserved walkways of the island. Reenactment camp at Egmont KeyAt another site, closer to the beach, pirates (in paper hats) had taken over the lawn, with a pirate chest and kids games. Near the foot of the lighthouse, memorabilia for the island was on sale, as well as a crowd pleasing grilling tent serving hot dogs, chips, and drinks. When put together, the extras thrown into the preservation-themed event made the Discover the Island event a perfect reason to visit Egmont Key.

 

Egmont Key

Egmont Key beachIf Egmont Key sounds like a destination you would like to visit, you are right! The island enjoys the white sand beaches cherished on the Florida Gulf Coast, including the sparkling Gulf of Mexico waters. A ferry departs from Fort Desoto Park on a regular basis. Be sure to check the schedule ahead of time. Egmont Key Park is open year round for visitors. For the price of a ferry ride, you can tour its spectacular light house, fascinating ruins, and remarkable beaches. The brick roads of Fort Dade are yours to explore. For those who keep their eyes peeled, the local wildlife might make an appearance as well.

If you are planning a visit to the Central Gulf Coast of Florida, be sure to put Egmont Key on your list of unique sites to see.

Egmont Key video

Egmont Key video

Egmont Key video

Guns on Egmont Key video

 

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