Posts Tagged ‘Egmont Key’

Shell Collecting in the Clearwater St Pete Area

Posted on: April 14th, 2016 by MB 1 Comment

Seashell collection

The Beauty of the Florida Gulf Coast

The Central Gulf Coast is the area of Florida from Tampa Bay regional beaches down to greater Naples region. The area is defined by the remarkable white sands that cover the beaches in volume. This article will cover our stomping grounds of Tampa Bay, where we have personally gone to collect our shells. These beaches have grown in popularity, now that the secret it out. The weather is usually agreeable in this region and basking on the beaches is a slice of heaven. During the hot months of summer, the water turns to a striking turquoise hue, lit from above by the more direct rays of the sun that are not present in the winter.

seashell collecting

The Best Seashells

The beaches are better traveled now, more visitors understanding the joy of walking the shores. That of course, leads to shell collecting. So are there enough shells? You would think not, but experience has shown that a walk down the beach will find beautiful shells to collect. Still, the question has arisen, “Where can I find the best shells?”

Going the Extra Mile for Seashells

The answer is that to get the best shells, you have to do a little extra work. You probably saw that coming but to soothe your disappointment, we will point you in the right direction.

The Right Timing for Seashell Collecting

The best time to collect seashells is before someone else gets there! Too easy, we know, so let’s break it down. Morning is best, sunrise even better. If you can arise early and hit the beach, you will find the shells that will otherwise get picked up by the larger daytime crowds. The other timing you might want to watch for is low tide. Check local charts for your area to see when the water will be lowest. More goodies which you can reach will line the shore. Be careful to leave living creatures alone, which includes starfish. Starfish go so slowly that their movements are often missed. Shells with inhabitants should be left alone.

Beachcoming Clearwater Beach

The Right Place for Seashell Collecting

The best places for seashell collecting are those that are infrequently visited. Plenty of beaches along the Central Florida Gulf Coast fall under that designation, so let’s get started.

Caladesi Island State Park is hard to get to. You have the choice of walking for a very long way north from Clearwater Beach or taking a boat. A ferry runs from Honeymoon Island to the Caladesi Island which makes it not so difficult as some other islands, but you have to pay the ferryman. Once there, you will not have to wonder why this beach is on the list of good shelling locations. While you will still have to hunt for the big, dazzling shells, you will find no lack of scallops, clams, oysters, and cockles. Depending on how the waves have impacted the shore, you might find them in heaps.

Honeymoon Island State Park is another place that has hard to reach parts. The northern end takes a long time to reach on foot, leaving boating as the easiest method to reach it. Once you leave the frequently visited parking lot area of the island, headed north, you will head farther and farther into the zones that people don’t often go. Thanks to that, and the great length of the beach, you are virtually guaranteed to find great shells. If you do make it to the northern tip of the island, congratulations. Not only will you find fantastic shells, you will also be standing at one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

spiral seashell

Anclote Key Preserve State Park includes the island of Three Rooker Bar, Anclote Key, and North Sand Bar. These three islands are uninhabited and have no roads to reach them. Boating is the only option. Non-motorized craft should be operated by those with some experience because of distance, waves, wind, and motorized boat traffic. Once there your eyes will pop at the shells you find. We have no need to run through the list of Florida shells for these islands. You have a chance to find them all. Anclote Key Preserve State Park sees so little traffic, especially Anclote Key, that you might encounter the shelling treasures of a lifetime.

Fort Desoto County Park and Shell Key are side by side barrier islands that have fantastic shelling opportunities. Fort Desoto is accessible by car and Shell Key by boat. Kayaks can be rented at the park to help you reach Shell Key. While Fort Desoto receives a large amount of traffic during peak seasons, it still has areas that are hard to reach, or which visitor simply don’t explore. That leaves those zones to you, the shell collector. Walk away from the main parking lot area in any direction and you will encounter a wide variety of shells. And if you rent a kayak, here is the key; cruise the shallow inlets where the water is only a foot deep or so. Shells no one else will find will appear just beneath your boat.

Egmont Key is the last location on our list. It is far from the other islands and motorized boats are recommended as reaching it crosses major boating channels. Fortunately, a regular ferry departs Fort Desoto for the island. Here you will find miles of beaches that see very few visitors. Aside from the archeological goodies on Egmont Key, walking the beach will fill your shelling bag, and quite quickly. It is a shell collector’s dream.

Seashell on Clearwater Beach

Finding Shells the Easy Way

Clearwater Beach, Sand Key, Indian Rocks, Redington, Madeira, Treasure Island and St Pete Beach all receive tourism traffic but enjoy ample sea life as well. Lucky finds can still be encountered on our standard beaches, and often are by the fortunate passersby. Keep your eyes sharp in all these locations for things other than shells. You never know what you might find amid the sands of the Florida Gulf Coast.

 

Other posts you might enjoy:

Discovering the Artificial Reefs of the Florida Gulf Coast

A Beach Less Traveled

Beach Walk of a Lifetime at Honeymoon Island State Park

 

Discovering Egmont Key All Over Again

Posted on: November 24th, 2015 by admin No Comments

Egmont Key flowersA long time ago, in a land right under your feet, a river ran to the sea. As the eons passed, the shoreline moved and the seas rose and fell. Today at the mouth of that ancient river-that-no-longer-runs is an island known as Egmont Key. Formed by the ancient lay of land, it differs from the nearby barrier islands, which were created wind, waves, and shifting sand. Located on the beautiful waters of the Gulf of Mexico, this fascinating Florida island sits at the mouth of Tampa Bay. Egmont Key beachEgmont Key State Park is remote and well worth the effort of visiting.

November marks the days for visiting the island, not because of the season, but rather the Discover the Island event which is organized by the Egmont Key Alliance,. While Egmont Key is open all year long, the event invites guests to the island for tours, food, displays, and souvenirs which are not ordinarily present. By doing so, the Egmont Key Alliance increases awareness and support for preserving the important island and its unique history.

Egmont Key lighthouseEgmont Key has served many purposes over the years, but its strategic position at the mouth of Tampa Bay dictated its destiny for military use. A fort sat on the island as well as guns for defending the mouth of the bay. While modern technology has overcome the need for a station on the island, it was used from the Civil War through World War Two to defend the important harbor. Tour guides for the event explained the various unique ways those stationed on the island kept the mouth of Tampa Bay safe. Many of the concrete structures still stand. Others have sunk beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico and sit off shore beneath the waves, victims of a shifting shoreline.

Train wheels Egmont KeyIn the present, the island supports a lighthouse, several old bunkers, and the brick streets of a bygone military base that you can walk. Amid the reminders of days gone by are railroad tracks that ran from the base out to a pier for loading boats. Palm trees and mangroves cover the island, the brick streets running through a palm forest now, rather than a base. On the west side of the former buildings is the beach, a beautiful stretch of white sand paradise. You will rarely find this beach occupied, except, of course, for the Discover the Island days.

Egmont Key beachThe southern portion of the island is off limits to visitors, being the domain of nesting birds and sea turtles. The large preserve is home to an amazing number of birds during nesting seasons, although our guide explained that November was not a peak month. Despite most of the island being a preserve, the portion that is open for touring is quite large and more than enough to fill an entire day of exploring.

Egmont Key FerryMark your calendars for November to take advantage of this fun and informative event. While you can visit the island any time you like, the Discover the Island event might be the best time to learn about the island’s history. It is also a good time to go if you don’t particularly want to be on an island all by yourself. Despite what type of experience you enjoy, guided or solo, be sure to check out this island. A ferry runs to it regularly from Fort Desoto Park. Don’t miss out on this unique experience!

 

 

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Shaking Hands with Pirates

Clearwater Beach Marina

Native American Indian Mounds of the Florida Gulf Coast

 

Discovering Egmont Key

Posted on: December 7th, 2014 by admin No Comments

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

 

 

Florida Barrier Island Breakdown

Posted on: April 4th, 2014 by admin No Comments

Barrier Islands of the Central Gulf Coast of Florida

Off the Pinellas County shorelines of the Florida Gulf Coast are a series of barrier islands. It is very likely you know the names of some of them, like Clearwater Beach, or Honeymoon Island. We’ll break them all down for you, so that you too can be an expert on the barrier islands of our area. We’ll start in the north off the shores of Tarpon Springs and head south past Palm Harbor, Dunedin, Clearwater, Belleair, Largo, Seminole, Gulfport, St Petersburg, and beyond. Once you are a barrier island expert, you will be able plan your Gulf Coast vacation trek up and down our shoreline with much keener insight.

 

Anclote Key

Anclote Key barrier island lighthouse

Anclote Key lighthouse

Anclote Key Preserve State Park is directly off shore of the mouth of the Anclote River, the waterway that runs past the tourist destination of the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks. You can depart from those docks on a tour boat that will take you to Anclote Key, where you can walk the shores, view the historic light house, or just spend some time on one of Florida’s best natural beaches. You will find lots of driftwood and seashells on this island, since it can only be reached by boat.

 

Three Rooker Island

Gulf Coast ShoresThree Rooker Island is one step up from a very large sand bar. This tiny barrier island is a favorite hangout spot for boaters. You can only get to the bar by boat and anchoring off its shores is a great way to spend the afternoon. The shores of the small key are the soft, powdery white sand for which the Florida Gulf Coast is famous. Swim from your boat or from the shore. On a walk down the beach in ankle deep water you might be able go from one end to the other of the two mile stretch of Three Rooker Island.

 

Honeymoon Island

Honeymoon Island, Florida

Honeymoon Island sunset

Honeymoon Island State Park is one of the most famous of the barrier islands along our coastline. It has long stretches of white sand beaches, a concession stand, lots of parking, a dog beach, nature center, playground, and nature trail. It is also where you catch the ferry to neighboring Caladesi Island to the south. The island is a great place to beachcomb for shells. You can also see nesting ospreys, bald eagles, and great horned owls, or perhaps one of the burrowing gopher tortoises. On a trip to Honeymoon Island you can choose the type of adventure you want to have. In fact, you will have to, because the Honeymoon Island is too large to see all in one day.

 

Caladesi Island

Caladesi Island

Caladesi Island

Caladesi Island is just north of Clearwater Beach. You can even walk to the island from the south, because a storm some decades ago filled in the opening between the two islands. Of course, you can skip the long walk by taking the ferry from Honeymoon Island. Caladesi Island is known for its pristine white sand beaches. You will feel as if you are in the wilds when you walk along its northern shores. You can also view plenty of Florida birds that use the island for nesting. This famous retreat belongs on your must-see list for your Florida Gulf Coast vacation. Caladesi Island is one of our best.

 

Clearwater Beach Island

Clearwater BeachThe most famous of all the barrier islands along our coast is Clearwater Beach Island. It was formerly known as Tate’s Island, named after a family that lived on the island when the area was first settled. Clearwater Beach became the tourist destination we know today after the bridge was built from the city of Clearwater. Clearwater Beach has more tourist attractions than you can shake a stick at, including the famous Pier 60 nightly sunset festival, and the nearby home of Winter the dolphin from the Dolphin Tale movies. With its beautiful white sand beaches and multiple attractions, Clearwater Beach makes a perfect base of operations for a Florida Gulf Coast vacation.

 

Sand Key – Sand Key Beach to Madeira Beach

Madeira Beach, Florida

Madeira Beach, Florida

The long barrier islands of Sand Key starts just south of Clearwater Beach. It extends down through some great beach communities until it ends at John’s Pass, which is one of the best tourist destinations in the region. To the south of Sand Key Beach is Belleair Beach, Indian Rocks Beach, Indian Shores, Redington Shores, North Redington Beach, and Madeira Beach. The beach communities on Sand Key are some of the calmest of our region of the Gulf Coast, perfect for family vacations. You should definitely check into the many diners along the scenic drive down the length of Sand Key.

 

Treasure Island

Treasure Island BeachTreasure Island has one of the widest swaths of sand on the entire chain of barrier islands. This is a good location to look into local festivals. The beach makes a perfect location for large events, which is exactly what they do on Treasure Island. The bridge heading east from Treasure Island leads into Seminole, Gulfport, and St Petersburg, which is why this is a good location to find restaurants, pubs, and gift shops. Treasure Island is one of the barrier islands along our coast you will want to keep your eye on.

 

Long Key – St Pete Beach and Pass A Grille Beach

Long KeyLong Key is the last of the residential barrier islands on the strip. You will find St Pete Beach and Pass A Grille Beach here. St Pete Beach is one of the more developed tourist districts in the area. You will find plenty of dining and entertainment in the area. It is also a great place for family vacations. Pass A Grille Beach has the distinction of being the most southern beach community on our coast, with plenty of Florida charm.

 

Mullet Key and Shell Key Preserve

Fort Desoto ParkMullet Key is home to famous Fort Desoto Park. The interior waters are shallow and calm, thanks to the islands’ horseshoe shape, making a great place for boating. The park is rich with history, and beautiful white beaches. It is a fantastic destination for a family beach day, complete with shaded picnic areas and shallow wading areas. Shell Key Preserve is just north of Fort Desoto. It is a preserve for local wildlife, especially a large number of local birds, who nest and rear their young there. Shell Key is a great place for boaters and birdwatchers.

 

Egmont Key

Snorkeling FloridaEgmont Key State Park sits at the entrance to Tampa Bay. The lighthouse has been used in times of peace and war since 1858. Ruins of Fort Dade, from the same era as Fort Desoto, can be found on the island. Be aware, however, that access to the southern end of the key is limited because of the shore bird refuge there. The island is reachable only by boat. Once there, you can fish, picnic, swim, hike, or tour the ruins. It one of the most difficult to reach islands listed here, but Egmont Key is definitely worth visiting.

 

Other blog posts you might like:

Wildest Islands on the Central Gulf Coast of Florida

Treasure Island Kite Festival 2014

Aerial of Caladesi Island and Honeymoon Island

 



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