Other Things To Do Near Egmont Keystate Park
We loved staying in a vacation rental in a nearby Old Florida beach town, Pass-a-Grille.
Pinellas Trail: On the west side of Tampa Bay is one of the most progressive and appreciated rails-to-trails projects in all of Florida. The 37-mile Pinellas Trail starts in Tarpon Springs and runs south through downtowns and neighborhoods in Dunedin, Clearwater, Largo, Pasadena and into downtown St. Petersburg. Theres a spur north of Dunedin that goes out to beautiful Honeymoon Island. This is a multi-purpose trail for hikers, bikers and roller skaters. Read more in this Florida Rambler article: Treasured St. Pete bike trail.
Fort Dade on Egmont Key.
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Here Are A Five Things I Loved About Egmont Key:
Egmont Key is an island at the mouth of Tampa Bay, accessible only by boat.
More Fun Things To Do
Sunbathe and swim, stroll on the beach searching for shells and snorkel around the submerged historical batteries of the fort. There are plenty of shady paths to explore and photograph, too.
Kitesurfing has become a popular sport in St. Pete/Clearwater, and you can often see kitesurfers and their acrobatics off Egmont Key and near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
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Q Are There Any Trips That Allow Snorkelling And Would I See Dolphins
A. Charters Finders run a private charter trip from Treasure Island, next to St Petes Beach, out to Egmont Key. This is a trip that is tailor-made for the more experienced snorkeler as well as offering opportunities for beginner-level snorkelling.
The Charters Finders team pride themselves on being able to find dolphins on almost every trip. You will also stand a very good chance of seeing manatees and a wide range of fish species.
The trips start and end at the Sea Dog Brewing Companys premises, with the promise of a free pint of beer at the end of your experience.
The boat used does not have wheelchair access, although service animals are allowed to accompany their owners. Strollers, however, can be taken on board. The company does not accept passengers who have heart conditions or other serious medical problems.
A trip of this kind relies on good weather. If the weather is not good enough, then a full refund will be given. If you prefer, you can opt for a different date instead.
Walk Through The Streets Of Fort Dade
Egmont Key has lived many different lives. It was first an internment camp for captured Seminoles during the Third Seminole War in the 1850s. The Union Navy then occupied it during the Civil War. Finally, in 1898, Fort Dade was constructed as a safeguard for Tampa Bay during the Spanish-American War. Today Fort Dade is left for visitors to roam its abandoned remains. Redbrick roads and the looming disheveled Lighthouse are a ghostly reminder of the people who were once captive on this tiny Key.
If you missed last weeks post, A Complete Guide To Floridas Fort De Soto Park, I covered all the ins and outs of visiting Fort De Soto, including entrance fees and the many activities available in the park.
Dont get left on the beach unprepared. Below are links to all the things you need to be ready for a relaxing day in the sun!
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Beaches And Snorkeling At Egmont Key
Sand and sun lovers often make their way to Egmont Key State Park to enjoy the stunning beaches around the islands shore.
The white sand beaches offer the perfect place to relax, with beautiful blue waters to help you cool down. Although you can swim in the waters, and its often calm, be aware that there are no lifeguards on duty, so swimming is at your own risk.
Be sure to bring your snorkeling gear with you, as the waters are an attraction for more than just swimming and cooling off. Underneath the waves, keep your eyes open for the wide array of marine life that inhabits the dilapidated structures that have sunk to the bottom of the sand.
Guided trips will take you to the sunken ruins of Fort Dade or the grass flatbeds, depending on the weather and conditions of the island. They will also provide you with the right snorkeling gear to hire.
Many people also take to the beaches to hunt for shells or other interesting finds in the sand. The beaches here are prime for shelling, but always check what you are picking up, as collecting live shells is prohibited.
Cast your line and try your luck in the waters around Egmont Key State Park.
Fishing is only allowed in specified areas, but youll have some prime fishing spots, where you could be catching sea trout, snook, snapper, tarpon, grouper, and a number of other species.
Q Are There Alternative Trips To Egmont Key
A. Yes. If you wish to leave from Anna Maria Island, which is on the south side of Tampa Bay, there are other trips available.
Salty Dolphin Tours run a private Egmont Key Charter. Each charter will be exclusive to a group of family or friends. The charter leaves from Marina Drive, Holmes Beach on Anna Maria Island. The whole trip lasts for between 3 and 4 hours, with one hour spent on Egmont Key and one hour on Passage Key.
This charter trip does not have access for wheelchairs, although passengers who rely on a service animal can bring them along.
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The Ferry To Egmont Key State Park Leaves From Ft Desoto Park
The Egmont Key Ferry transports visitors from Fort DeSoto Park, the most southern point of Pinellas County, to Egmont Key State Park.
The ferry to Egmont Key runs twice each day during the regular season It returns back to Fort DeSoto at 2:00pm and 3:00pm.
The cost is $20 for each passenger. You pay as you board the boat. Please make sure you bring cash.
The ferry is about 46 feet in length and has both covered and open area seating. You can see everything from dolphins playing in the surf, to huge tankers coming and going from Port Tampa.
Leaving from Bay Pier Beach at Ft DeSoto Park, it takes about 15 minutes to reach the island of Egmont Key, a former military defense establishment, now a Florida state park.
The trip over is highlighted with a running narrative by the Captain, which is part historical…part comedy…with background music from an old Jimmy Buffet CD.
Spend Time On The Beach
After leaving the boat, we followed one of the many paths that lead to the beach area. Charter boats were anchored to the shore bobbing in the water while their guest enjoyed time on the key. My friend and I staked out our spot and immediately realized we did not come prepared for a day at the beach. .
It is important to note there is no shade along the beach at Egmont Key. With no shelter from the summer heat, I was praying for a cloud to cover the scorching sun. Our only refuge from the scorching sun was the cool gulf waters.
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Wildlife Viewing At Egmont Key
Like much of this part of the state, Egmont Key State Park has some wonderful opportunities for viewing some of the wildlife that calls Florida home.
Shorebirds are in abundance here, so make sure you bring a pair of binoculars, or at the least, keep your eyes sharp, at all times. Around 25,000 birds nest on the island every year, so you are bound to see something, even if it is the very common laughing gull.
If you are lucky, you may also catch a glimpse of some of the other creatures, such as box turtles, gopher tortoises, which are all over the island, dolphins, and even the majestic manatee.
The south end of the island is closed to the public, as it is actually a designated shorebird refuge. Plenty of birds nest here, so even though you cant enter, you still have a good chance of seeing osprey, brown pelicans, black skimmers, American oystercatchers and so many other species.
Your boat will probably skirt around this part of the island too so youll get a chance to see it even if you cant walk around. Within moments of my boat approaching Egmont Key, we saw manatees just offshore so keep those eyes peeled!
Egmont Key Ferry Reminder
Please be cognizant of the time for your return trip back to Fort DeSoto.
You do NOT want to spend a night out on the island. The residents will not want you sleeping in their homes, and you will be out in the elements all night.
Get back to the dock at least 10 minutes before the boat even docks for the return trip.
If you get left, it is nobody’s fault but yours.
Do you like to snorkel or scuba dive? The Egmont Key Ferry will get you to this popular destination. Learn more about the adventures awaiting you.
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What To Do At Egmont Key State Park
Egmont Key is a secluded island acting primarily as a wildlife refuge part of the island is inaccessible to visitors. Most people head to Egmont Key to swim, snorkel, hike, see wildlife , and view the Egmont Key lighthouse and ruins from Fort Dade.
Booking the ferry gives you three hours to explore the island, which is plenty of time to see it all and have time to relax.
When we disembarked the ferry, the bulk of the crowd headed up the main walkway that bisects the island, ultimately walking less than ten minutes to the other side of the island. Being the family that likes to chart our own path, we headed to the right. We soon learned the beach is nicer on the opposite side, where most of the crowd headed initially. Still, we enjoyed our first stop. We walked through some seagrape tree canopies and saw multiple gopher turtles, which are a protected species.
The first beach that we came to was quiet with only one other family in sight. It felt secluded and special. The one downside of this side of the island is that due to erosion, there is a drop off of a few inches when stepping into the water.
Egmont Key Ferry From Fort De Soto Park
Take an adventurous ride to beautiful Egmont Key on a 46-foot, U.S. Coast Guard Certified Tour Boats ferry. All tours are fully narrated, informative and fun, providing insightful information about the key and the wildlife you might spot along the way, including dolphins and rare birds. Enjoy covered, comfortable seating or the open air on the deck. Refreshments and snacks are available on board. Easy ramp access to beach means it’s easy for everyone to enjoy access to pristine Egmont Key. Clean restrooms, modern snorkeling equipment.
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Are There Alligators In St Petersburg
ST. PETERSBURG, FL A badly decomposed body was discovered Thursday after two people having breakfast noticed alligators dragging it through the mangroves at a St. Petersburg lake. The couple spotted the body surrounded by about 10 alligators on the southeast corner of Lake Maggiore, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
Passage Key National Wildlife Refuge
In between Anna Maria and Egmont Key is a tiny island and large sandbar called Passage Key. Locally this is known as Naked Island and if you paddle close enough on a day when lots of boats are there, you will soon see exactly why.
The island used to be a substantial plot of solid earth and served as a rookery to a variety of bird life, but erosion and storms have taken their toll and the last time I was near the island it didnt appear to be much more than just a sandbar. The birds were gone and the boaters had moved in.
You can actually see a lot of wildlife here by kayak, however, as the large sand flat around Passage Key is a popular cruising spot for manatees, rays, dolphins, sharks, and sea turtles. In the spring it is not uncommon to see large groups of randy male manatees following a beleaguered female.
The calmer water around Passage Key also makes for a nice break from the two distinct sections of current, Passage Key Inlet and the Southwest Channel, that you must cross on your paddle to and from Egmont Key.
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Websites About Egmont Key State Park
The Florida Online Park Guide is the State’s official page on Egmont Key and contains valuable information and special notices. The Northern Prarie Wildlife Research Center has a bird checklist available for Egmont Key, as well as a map of Egmont Key, a mammal checklist and a reptile checklist. Yes, that’s what I said…a REPTILE checklist. Be sure to print that one. Lizard…check gopher tortoise…check…
Getting To Egmont Key
Take the Egmont Key Ferry from the Bay Pier inside Fort De Soto Park to the island. Plan on starting your wildlife viewing from the boatdolphin sightings are common. Its best to book in advance. See the roundtrip schedule and make a reservation here. You can also book a snorkeling cruise through the Egmont Key Ferry, with rental masks, snorkels and fins available.
Another option is the half-day Egmont Key Dolphin Cruise, a dolphin-watching and snorkeling cruise that departs twice a day from Gulfport.
Two additional charter boat companies provide excursions to Egmont Key:
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Q What Do I Need To Bring On My Trip
A. Egmont Key has superb beaches and an open and sunny environment. It is wise to pack as you would for any beach trip. Bring plenty of sunscreen, appropriate swimwear, towels, sun hats, and a shirt to protect you from excessive sun.
There are no facilities on the island. So bring plenty of water to drink and your own food. Keep in mind that there is no restroom. There are picnic benches for public use at various points around the island.
One essential item to bring is a watch, or some other means of knowing the time. It is easy to be so absorbed in your sightseeing on the island that you lose track of time. The ferry will not wait for you. If you miss it, you will have to wait for the next one and that could be the following day! Get back to the boarding place at least ten minutes before the departure time.
Anna Maria Island Boat Tours To Egmont Key
M/V Minnow offers excursions to Egmont Key. Located in Egmont Key at the mouth of Tampa Bay is Egmont Key State Park, a Florida State Park that features many recreational activities and wildlife. The Egmont Key Lighthouse and the ruins of Fort Dade, a Spanish-American War era fort, are also located in the park. Egmont Key lies southwest of Fort De Soto Park and can only be reached by boat or ferry, so this is your opportunity to check out this neat, historical site! Located on the south end of the island is the Egmont Key National Wildlife Refuge, which was established in 1974. It is one of the three ‘Tampa Bay Refuges’ and is administered as a part of the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Egmont Key was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places on December 11, 1978.
During your 4-hour excursion to Egmont Key, you will learn about he history of the park, as well as get to observe the abundant wildlife. Among the fauna are gopher tortoises, hummingbirds, and seabirds. Recreational activities include sunbathing, swimming, shelling, picnicing, touring the fort, and as mentioned before, wildlife viewing. Some of the amenities include beaches, nature trails, and picnic tables. Come aboard the M/V Minnow and join us on our cruise to explore this beautiful historic site.
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A Pristine Paradise: Egmont Key
Theres no adventure like an Egmont Key adventure! If youve ever dreamt of exploring your very own deserted island, then a day trip to Egmont Key State Park may just be the next best thing.
Boaters love to gather in the gentle, crystal-clear waters off Egmont Key for a day of swimming, sunning and wildlife-spotting.
With its crystal-clear waters, miles of white sand beaches, diverse wildlife and interesting history, this National Wildlife Refuge is a true escape.