Key Preserve State Park
|Location: Tarpon Springs,
|Distance: 8.5 miles
round trip from Anclote Gulf Park to camping area
|Atlas: Page 82 C-2
|Last Update: August 2006
||Canoe OK: No
Anclote Key is a Florida State Preserve located three miles off
the mainland by the city of Tarpon Springs. The island measures
3 miles long and 1/4 mile wide, making it an ideal place to explore
by sea kayak.
A fine white sand beach covers the entire gulf side of the island.
If you look carefully, you'll find many interesting shells and maybe
even a few sand dollars. Sea turtles may be seen in the blue-green
waters, particularly near the south end of the island. For the bird
watcher, Anclote Key supports over 40 different species on the island,
including bald eagle and osprey. Camping is permitted on the north
end of Anclote, so bring a tent and sleeping bag and make the trip
an overnighter. Camping is first-come, first-served and free but
contact the park headquarters at 727-469-5942 before your arrival.
John breaking waves on Anclote
| The only access to Anclote Key is by private
boat, and there's no better way of getting there than by kayak.
Watch for bad weather as the crossing between the mainland and
the island can become quite rough if you encounter strong winds.
If you are interested in seeing the north end of the island or
camping, start at Anclote Gulf Park. To find the put-in, take US
19 to Tarpon Avenue in Tarpon Springs. Follow Tarpon Avenue west
one mile to Alt-19 (Pinellas Avenue). Turn north (right) and go
past the Sponge Docks and over the river to Anclote Road. Turn west
(left) and go to the intersection of Anclote Road and Baillies Bluff
Road. Keep west (left) onto Baillies Bluff and go two miles to Anclote
Gulf Park. The entrance is on the left side of the road.
Boat, Paddle, PFD
Cell Phone or Marine Radio
White Sand Beach
Mangroves, Pines, Palm Trees
Tour #1: Anclote Gulf Park to Anclote Key (North)
This trip starts at Anclote Gulf Park, located
just west of the Florida Power's Anclote Plant. The park features
restrooms, covered picnic area, small boat dock and a fishing pier.
When loading your sea kayak (sorry, no canoes on this trip), pack
for potentially rough water with a spare paddle, spray skirt and
pump. Also be sure to pack plenty of insect repellent as the mosquitoes
and no-see-ums are very active during warmer months. Launch from
the beach or boat dock located by the fishing pier.
Begin paddling 3 1/2 miles due west across
open water to the north end of Anclote Key. Along the way you might
see dolphin or a large spotted ray. When you reach Anclote, a small
protected cove on the northeast tip makes a perfect place to rest.
Continue your trek by paddling to the Gulf side of the island. Located
on the northwest corner is a picnic area, complete with covered
table and grill. The water here can get pretty choppy depending
on the tides and wind.
Go south approximately 1/2 mile down the island
to the camping area. In addition to camping, this is a nice spot
to relax, collect shells or play in the waves. At this point the
island is only 100 yards wide, so it's possible to portage your
kayak to the protected mangroves waterways on the backside of the
island. Here's a warning you don't want to ignore - these nice,
cool, dark Australian Pines hide more mosquitoes than the Everglades.
Wear lots of insect repellent if you're planning on playing in the
To return to Anclote Gulf Park, either reverse
your route or put-in on the mainland side of the island and paddle
due east through the mangroves until you spot the Power Plant. Navigating
toward the plant will lead you to the fishing pier at Anclote Gulf
Tour #2: Fred Howard Park to Anclote Key (South)
If you want a shorter trip, put-in at Fred
Howard Park in Tarpon Springs. To find the park, take US 19 to Tarpon
Avenue. Follow Tarpon Avenue west one mile to Alt-19 (Pinellas Avenue).
Turn north (right) and go one block to Orange Street. Turn west
(left) and go to Riverside Drive. Follow this twisty road around
the lake and over the draw bridge. Turn west (left) onto Sunset
Drive just before Tarpon Springs Riverside Park. Follow signs on
Sunset Drive to Howard Park.
After entering Fred Howard Park, the main road will take you to
a very nice Gulf beach at the end of a one mile long causeway. The
park has restrooms and outdoor showers, along with benches and picnic
tables. Snorkeling is popular in the shallow waters near the north
end of the causeway park.
Looking northwest from this vantage point, you can see Anclote
Key and the lighthouse. The southern-most part of Anclote is about
2 1/2 miles away. The area is frequented by boaters and sunbathers
and is sometimes crowded on weekends. Be sure to watch for boat
traffic coming from the Anclote River, particularly as you near
the island. Channel markers give sufficient warning.
At the south end of the island is an 1800's lighthouse, now complete
with ranger station / keeper house, boat dock and boardwalk. Land
at the boat dock and take the 1/4 mile walk over to the lighthouse
for more exploring.
After leaving the lighthouse, if you are feeling energetic, round
the south end and begin paddling north along the gulf side of the
island. You'll need to paddle offshore nearly 1/2 mile to get enough
water under the boat (that or drag across the sandbar). The gulf
side has many beautiful spots to stop, take a stroll or quick swim
and enjoy the beach. It's almost like having Gilligan's island all
Reverse direction to head back to Fred Howard Park. Trip length
is a minimum 5 miles of open water to go to the lighthouse and back.
16 miles is required to circumnavigate Anclote Key from Fred Howard
Special Interest - Anclote Key Lighthouse
Before you get ideas of climbing to the top of the lighthouse,
you'll be greeted with a chainlink fence, no trespassing signs and
a park ranger. I don't know if this will work, but you can try being
nice to the ranger to get a tour of the lighthouse. Even if you
don't get to go inside, the lighthouse makes a nice backdrop for
photos and exploring. Located nearby are grills, covered picnic
tables and boardwalk.
If you are interested in history, the year was 1886 when Congress
appropriated $35,000 to construct a lighthouse to guard the mouth
of the Anclote River. During the Spanish-American war, the lighthouse
keepers were given a small cannon for self-defense. Thankfully,
the lighthouse keepers and cannon never saw action.
Lighthouse at the south end
of Anclote Key.
For those hardy enough to camp, Mother
Nature offers a great sunset.
| GPS Location Aid
|Anclote Gulf Park
|North end of island
|Fred Howard Park