Category Archives: Florida Vacation Day Trips

Anclote Key

Discovery Tour of Anclote River and Anclote Key

Boat Tours of the Anclote River

Odyssy Cuises boatThe river and island boat tour begins with a visit to the ticket booth on locally-famous Dodecanese Blvd, home of the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks. Lined with fun gift shops, fantastic Greek restaurants, and ridiculously stocked desert shops, Dodecanese Blvd is a perfect place to gather people together for boat tours. The city of Tarpon Springs was founded along the Anclote River, where sponge divers docked their boats. The sponge trade is still alive and thriving today, with a multitude of sponge diving boats docked at the edge of the river. Thanks to the active tourism at the Sponge Docks, a number of cruise companies have made the docks their home as well. Gulf of Mexico tourThe cruises have various themes, some explaining the sponge industry in detail, others putting emphasis on dolphin sightings, sunsets, and local wildlife. Thanks to the gentle currents of the Anclote River, all of the tours are guaranteed to be relaxing. And for scenery, an Anclote River tour cannot be beat.

 

Anclote River

Anclote River TourThe Anclote River begins far inland, winding through mangrove forests and low lying terrain where no homes are built. The river is fed by run off and by a multitude of springs, creating a constant flow toward the Gulf of Mexico. Rain and spring waters are not the only forces to affect the river, however. The Gulf of Mexico plays it part twice a day as tides rise and fall. According to local boat captains, the tides of the Gulf of Mexico can push up river as much as four miles, which is about a mile beyond the docks themselves. For those who know what to look for, the leading edge of the tide can be spotted as a small wave moving upstream. Anclote Key lighthouseThe width of the Anclote River between the Sponge Docks and the Gulf of Mexico ranges from less than 200 feet to over 1000 feet, making it fairly easy to navigate –or so says a passenger. Boats ply the river constantly, from small speed boats to large fishing and shrimping vessels. The tour boats are among the traffic that use the river, making their way from the docks westward, out to the Gulf of Mexico.

 

Heading out to the Gulf of Mexico

Ospreys on Anclote RiverWe were invited to ride on the Odyssey Cruises tour boat via local connections, which is to say, a couple of us from the Florida Beach Rentals office live in Tarpon Springs. Odyssey has a large pontoon boat which is perfect for carrying tour groups down the river. They offer multiple themes for their tours, including dolphin sighting, sunset cruises, and trips to Anclote Key, which is an island just off the coast. We pushed off the docks just after noon with the fascinating island of Anclote Key as our destination. The ride down the river was as entertaining as ever, with our tour guide pointing out wildlife and local features of the landscape. Anclote River ParkFlorida is home to some remarkable birds, most of the notable ones being large wading birds, though Ospreys, or fish hawks, are an exception to that rule. The ride down the river was roughly three miles, winding past commercial docks, restaurants, private homes, mangrove islands, and waterfront city parks. At the end of the river, the banks curved away and the mangroves dwindled to reveal the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Our destination was in plain view three miles out, the island of Anclote Key.

 

Anclote Key

Anclote Key, FLWe landed on the southern tip of Anclote Key, beaching on the region of shifting sands and sandbars. Tidal rivers ran across the island while the soft white sands the region is famous for covered the shores.  Despite being a land form in transition, plants had found purchase on the newly formed spit of land shooting off the southern end of Anclote Key. Seashells on Anclote KeyWe offloaded onto the sands, with several other island-hopping beach-goers already there to greet us. Odyssey Boat Tours gave us a time limit to play on the island and set us free. The passengers scattered, each choosing his or her own direction.  Anclote Key is a three miles long, far too much terrain for us to explore fully, so a search of the immediate area was the next best thing. Shelling on shifting sands of a sandbar was ideal. The tidal rivulets running across the sand made it even better. The shells were easy pickings. The springtime waters were a sparkling turquoise color, and the sand, as always, was as soft as talcum powder. Although we were given ample time to explore, it seemed too soon when the boat horn blew, rounding us up again.

 

Return to the Sponge Docks

Anclote Key beachOur return trip included a search for dolphins, though we had no luck on that day. It did, however, give us some appreciated extra time on the water. We arrived back at the Sponge Docks happy travelers. The overall tour was quite enjoyable. The boat ride put a number of us in the mood for the excellent deserts available just across the street, although I think some of us might have had that in mind all along. The tour seems a great idea for adding a pair of entertaining hours to the day. With an affordable price tag for this boat tour of the Anclote River, the Gulf of Mexico, and Anclote Key, it is an easy choice for a bonus activity during a vacation outing to Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks.

 

Odyssey Cruises: 727-934-0547 rio@odysseycruises.net

 

Other posts you might enjoy:

It Is All Greek to Florida

Tarpon Springs Holiday Lighted Boat Parade

Dolphin Sighting Tours at Clearwater Beach

 

John Levique Pirate Days

Pirate Day Fun and Warfare

John Levique Pirate Days at John’s Pass

Happy Return of Piracy

Maidens au portPirate days returned to John’s Pass in Madeira Beach, Florida May 8th through the 10th. The pirate festival has become a well-known excuse to visit the already popular tourist destination of John’s Pass Village and Boardwalk. The site is a well-known favorite for locals and visitors alike, due to its fun shops and great restaurants. The tourist-style shops sell nautical knickknacks, T-shirts, mugs, and lots of other touristy items. The restaurants are fantastic, some of them having dining docks on the waterfront. The ice cream and taffy shops add the finishing touch. The boardwalk and village are the perfect size for strolling, big enough to keep visitors looking but small enough so that you can see it all.

 

Pirates Everywhere

PiratesJohn Levique Pirate Days added a special buzz to the shopping and dining village at John’s Pass. Merchant tents lined the streets while the main parking lot had been converted into a tent with a stage for bands. A second performers’ tent stood at the other end of the street, with a fighting ring for pirate disputes and tents for visiting pirates. The streets were filled with visitors shopping, eating or just sightseeing. At every turn more pirates showed up, walking the streets in every directions, grizzly pirates, lady pirates, lone pirates, or packs of pirates. A lot of pirate paraphernalia was for sale in the merchant tents, for anyone wanting to join the fray.

 

Real Life Pirate Battle – Almost

Pirate shipThe pirate invasion of John’s Pass happened at noon. The battle, as it turned out, was between the pirate tour boat that docks at John’s Pass and the Hubbard’s Dolphin Tour boat. The two large vessels spun around the waters of the pass at surprising speed, shooting water cannons at one another. Added to the mix were cannon blasts that echoed off the shops of the boardwalk. SmPirate cannonsaller boats weaved into the battle, armed with their own water cannons, taking any opportunity to strike at the “invading” pirate ship. On the shore, more pirates fired cannons, ones much larger than those on the ships. The pass reverberated, literally, with the booming of cannon fire.

 

 Join the Pirates

John Levique Pirate DaysAfter the pirate show, it was time to return to the shops, the vendor tents, the shows, and a chance to dine on the waterfront. Despite the all the activity, the parking was reasonably priced and easy to find. Thanks to the small size of John’s Pass Village and Boardwalk, it was not difficult to find the car again. The event was a lot of fun, which it always is. Visitors to this yearly festival are advised to check the online schedule. It will help guide you toward the times when bands are playing, when the pirate invasions and battles occur, and promotional specials offered by bars of John’s Pass. If you are living in the area, or you plan to visit in May, be sure to check this event out in the coming years. John Levique Pirate Days really is one of the best events of the year.

Pirate Battle Video

 

Other posts you might enjoy:

Treasure Island Kite Festival and Sport Kite Competition

Pass A Grille Chowder Challenge

Salvador Dali Museum

 

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)

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

 

St Petersburg Florida

For the Love of Speed – Fast Cars and Fun on the Florida Gulf Coast

Festival of Speed

race carTwo automobile events hit the Tampa Bay area this spring. The first is the Festival of Speed. This event displays the high priced cars and boats we all would love to own. The car show runs from March 6th to the 8th and is held outdoors at Vinoy Park. Attend the Festival of Speed to see for yourself where auto meets art.

 

Grand Prix of St Petersburg

race carThe second exciting event for lovers of speed is the Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg. This race is held on the streets of St Petersburg, with the beautiful waters of Tampa Bay within view. Watch professional racers zip through the streets of one of America’s favorite vacation destinations. This event hold all the thrills you are looking for in professional racing.

 

Illuminated Light Parade

Set on the beautiful St Petersburg waterfront, the 2015 Illuminated Night Parade is a night time treat. This grand display of lights travels through the streets of St Petersburg, each float casting bright light into the coastal towers of St Petersburg, Florida. Enjoy floats, marching bands, dancers, and race cars in town for the Grand Prix of St Petersburg. This is definitely a great weekend to visit this Gulf Coast city.

St Petersburg Florida

Downtown, St Petersburg, Florida

St Petersburg Florida

Downtown St Petersburg, Florida

 

Downtown St Petersburg, Florida

Downtown St Petersburg, Florida

 

Other posts you might enjoy:

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

9 Need to Know Differences between Hotels and Vacation Rentals

Best View of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge

 

Tarpon Springs

It Is All Greek to Florida

Tarpon Springs, Florida

Tarpon Springs shopsTarpon Springs is a fun and unique tourist town on the Florida Gulf Coast. It is well known for its dining, and its sponge diving industry. The main road through the tourist district is one lane in each direction, with slow traffic that allows tourists to have a fairly free rein of the town. The street has a Greek name. Because the name is relatively unknown in the U.S., it sometimes is mistaken for other, somewhat similar Greek titles. It starts with a “D,” but is it Diogenes, Dionysis, or something else?  Remembering the name isn’t always easy. It might help if you first define three words from the country of Greece that start with a “D,” which we have listed below. Learn them here, and, on your next trip to Tarpon Spring, Florida, you can sound like an expert.

 

Diogenes, Greek Philosopher

DiogenesRemember the philosopher who carried a lantern in the daytime to find an honest man? It was Diogenes, or so the tale goes.  He lived in Greece, the exact years unknown, roughly from 404BC to 323BC. The tale of the lantern might be the most famous, but is not the only one to survive him. As a philosopher, he was best known for challenging conventional wisdom and roles in society. An account exists telling of Diogenes meeting Alexander the Great. When Alexander sought out the philosopher, Diogenes did not bother to stand up, asking Alexander to stand out of his sunlight. Despite being a poor man, he was famous in Greece, and other philosophers of the time were familiar with his views.

 

Dionysus, Greek God

Le_joueur_d'aulos_(BNF_-_Opéra_de_Paris)Dionysus was the Greek god of wine, grape harvest, wine making, and ritual madness. As the story goes, he was a deity, but his mother was an ordinary human. In one version of Dionysus’ story, Zeus rescued his son when his mother died. To preserve the child, Zeus stitched Dionysus into his thigh, an act which transferred immortality. Dionysus was later accepted into Mount Olympus as a god. Dionysus, in mythology, was raised by nymphs, and is associated with satyrs. The followers of Dionysus apparently worshiped their god in the woods. His followers engaged in holidays so excessive that, at one point, the celebrations were outlawed.

 

Dodecanese, Greek Islands

Dodecanese IslandsDodecanese is the easiest of these three words to define. It refers to a group of 162 islands off the coast of Greece. The islands lie between Greece and Turkey, in the Aegean Sea. The core islands are twelve in number, with smaller islands surrounding them. The words Dodeca means twelve, thus Dodecanese Islands. They are positioned at the crossroads of the world, between Asia and Europe. Evidence of habitation dates back to prehistoric times, with ruins from various eras still to be found on the islands. The architecture includes both Classical Greek structures and medieval castles.

 

Dodecanese Boulevard in Tarpon Springs

Tarpon Springs diver sculptureYou will find the small tourist town of Tarpon Springs on the Central Gulf Coast of Florida, near Tampa Bay. Tarpon Springs’ claim to fame is that it is the number one sponge diving location in the United States. Back in 1905, when the sponge industry became mechanized, a local entrepreneur invited 500 sponge divers from the Greek islands to come to Tarpon Springs. Thereafter, the sponge industry and the city were known as a haven of Greek culture. Today, when you walk down the streets of Tarpon Springs, you stand a good chance of hearing Greek spoken in the shops or on the streets. The name of the main street leading through the Sponge Docks is Dodecanese Blvd. On the first Saturday of the month, during the summer, you will find a Greek festival on that streets called Night in the Islands. One can only assume that the name of the festival refers to the Dodecanese Islands. So, when you visit Tarpon Springs, remember, the main street through town is Dodacanese, named after the Greek Islands, not philosophers or gods.

spice shop Tarpon SpringsThe town of Tarpon Springs is a great tourist stop, with loads of nautical souvenirs and natural sponges for sale. The Greek food is fantastic, and the pastry shops are good enough to make the trip to Tarpon Springs worth it all on their own. If you happen to slip up and use the wrong “D” word from above, don’t worry. The important thing is to enjoy the food, fun, and goodies in this charming tourist town.

Other posts you might enjoy:

Discovering the Artificial Reefs of the Florida Gulf Coast

Never Confuse a Bayou with a Backwater Again

Osprey Nesting Season on the Florida Gulf Coast

 

References: http://tarponspringsareahistoricalsociety.org/Local-History/local-history.htm
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

 

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

 

Other posts you might enjoy:

Discovering the Artificial Reefs of the Florida Gulf Coast

Native American Indian Mounds of the Florida Gulf Coast

Florida Barrier Island Breakdown