Last updated on November 7th, 2019 at 08:15 am
Egmont Key is a wild island that figured in two centuries of Florida history – from a lighthouse built in 1858 to a role in the Spanish American War to being the site where Seminole Indians were held before they were moved to reservations.
The stunning beach-lined island, a state park and wildlife refuge off the entrance to Tampa Bay, is accessible only by boat, and today is a refuge for birds and gopher tortoises with evocative ruins of a 19th century fort. It’s a popular day trip.
You can visit Egmont Key State Park most days via a ferry from Fort DeSoto County Park, but one of the best times to visit the island is when the non-profit Egmont Key Alliance hosts Discover the Island weekend, which is Nov. 9 and 10, 2019.
On all other days, there is no food, water or restrooms on undeveloped Egmont Key. For Discover the Island Day, however, there will be portable toilets and Egmont Key Alliance will sell hotdogs and Polish sausages with chips and soft drinks.
The ferry from Fort DeSoto pier will run throughout the day. Visitors should follow the brown signs to the pier that say ”Egmont Key Ferry.” Tickets are $25. There is also a $5 fee to enter Fort DeSoto Park.
Discover the Island is designed to offer visitors more information about this unique site.
- A special presentation Saturday morning from the Seminole Tribal Historic Office on the Seminole experience on Egmont.
- Opportunity to view the spiral staircase at the lighthouse. (The Coast Guard says it is not safe to climb the lighthouse, so peering inside is all that is allowed.)
- Civil War re-enactors, both Union and Confederate, with uniforms and equipment from that time.
- Guided walking tours of the ruins on the island.
- Experts on native plants, animals and the history of the island.
- Reenactors from the Tampa Rough Riders.
- Birds of Prey from Boyd Hill Preserve.
- Other activities include a silent auction, a kid’s fossil pit, local artists and live music.
Other things to do on the island include snorkeling and hiking on six miles of historic paths, many of which remain from the days Fort Dade was an active community with 300 residents. Wildlife that is often seen includes gopher tortoises, Florida box turtles and shore birds. Dolphins are frequently viewed during the ferry boat trip.
Explore the Island weekend at Egmont Key
- When: 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 9, to 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 10.
- Egmont Key State Park website
- Egmont Key Alliance website and its page about Discover the Island weekend.
- The Egmont Key ferry
What’s near Egmont Key State Park
Fort Desoto County Park is a park with a wide variety of recreational opportunities in its five islands and three miles of award-winning beach. Here’s a Florida Rambler story about Fort Desoto.
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. There’s 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.
Pass-a-Grille is an Old Florida beachtown that makes a great base for visiting Egmont Key. Here’s a Florida Rambler story on Pass-a-Grille.