Last updated on June 16th, 2020 at 04:44 pm~ If pitching a tent on a tropical island is your thing, then add Anclote Key to your bucket list.
Anclote Key Preserve State Park is in the Gulf of Mexico, three miles west of Tarpon Springs over open water, and it is accessible only by boat. The island is an especially popular destination for kayakers.
The four-mile-long island offers almost five miles of pristine white-sand beaches with offshore sandbars that are hugely popular on weekends. The island also offers excellent bird watching, a historic area with an 1887 lighthouse and primitive camping.
Anclote Key Preserve State Park is comprised of four islands — Anclote Key, North Anclote Bar, South Anclote Bar and Three Rooker Island, all popular with boaters who bring their beach chairs, umbrellas, paddleboards and snorkeling gear for weekend adventures.
On weekdays, you pretty much have the island to yourself.
Paddle out to Anclote Key with Kevin Mims in this video:
Camping on Anclote Key
Camping is permitted only in the primitive campground area on the north end of the island. Beach camping is allowed, as are campfires, but do not cut down any trees. You should be able to fuel your fire with dead limbs.
The campground has a composting toilet, but that’s about it. There is no water, no grills and no waste receptacles. Bring everything you need with you and take everything out.
Raccoons do inhabit the island, and they have very little to drink, so take the necessary precautions to protect your water and food supplies from curious (and hungry) critters.
There are no grills, but campfires are allowed on the beach. Cutting live limbs from trees or brush is not permitted, but you can pick up dry wood and dead limbs from the ground. Rangers request that you build your fire below the high tide line.
For more tips on kayak camping, be sure to read Kayak Camping: Sharkchow’s Checklist
Primitive camping is free but you must call 727-638-4447 to check in. Have your boat registration number, number of campers, arrival and departure dates and a contact phone number in case of emergency.
A wide variety of shorebirds nest on Anclote Key and its beaches, making it one of the top five birding destinations in the state. The 403-acre park is home to at least 43 species of birds, including the American oystercatcher, bald eagle and piping plover.
Rangers insist that you do not disturb the birds, which is why pets are not allowed on the islands.
Launching your boatFred Howard Park, 1700 Sunset Drive, Tarpon Springs. Parking fee is $5 daily. Easy launch into St. Joseph Sound from the beach or through a mangrove trail. If you decide not to paddle out to Anclote Key, you can paddle a wee bit north to access Lake Avoca. If you stay inside, though, watch the tides. It gets pretty shallow at low tide. It’s a two-mile paddle from the beach to the south end of Anclote Key, the closest point.
Anclote River Park, 1119 Baillie’s Bluff Rd., Holiday, FL. It’s about three miles to the nearest point on Anclote Key from this park. There is a $2 admission fee and a $5 per day boat-launch fee. You can park your vehicle overnight.
Anclote Gulf Park, 2305 Baileys Bluff Road, Holiday, FL. The paddle from this launch is about four miles to the north end of Anclote Key. There is a $2 parking fee.
GPS for Paddlers
Location of Lighthouse: N 2810.020 W 08250.687
Taking the State Park Ferry (No campers)
Day visitors can take the ferry out to Anclote Key, but the ferry will not transport overnight campers. You need your own boat if you plan to camp overnight.
Ferry service to the island is offered by Sun Line Cruises (727) 944-4468 and Sponge-O-Rama (727) 943-2164. These ferries both leave from Tarpon Springs’ historic Sponge Docks, and reservations are strongly advised.
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Tarpon Springs is a good place for bicycling too because it is the northern point on the Pinellas Trail, the most popular bike trail in Florida.