Anclote Key Preserve State Park
Along the beach at Anclote Key Preserve State Park
Located on a barrier island 3 miles off the Gulf Coast near Tarpon Springs, Anclote Key Preserve State Park is accessible only by boat. Anclote Key offers picnic pavilions with grills, boating, fishing, bird watching, swimming, hiking and primitive camping. On the south end of the island is a historic lighthouse, built in 1887. Three Rooker Island is another key, also part of the preserve, just south of Anclote Key. Three Rooker Island is considered an important bird nesting sanctuary. Because of the great numbers of birds that rest and nest on these islands, dogs are not allowed outside the designated areas on Honeymoon Island and North Anclote Bar. Even there, your dogs need to be on a leash no more than 6-feet long, and completely under your control at all times.
Anclote Key is home to at least 43 species of birds. Among them are the piping plover, the bald eagle and the American oystercatcher.
To get there: SunLine Cruises (727-944-4468) and Sponge-O-Rama (727-943-2164) both run ferries to the preserve from the historic Sponge Docks in Tarpon Springs. There are no provisions on the islands so whatever you might need there, better bring it with you. And the trash protocol here is "Pack it in, Pack it out."
Campers need to call the park and register (727-638-4447) before camping but there is no charge involved. Other than that, the park is open from 8 am to sunset, 365 days a year.
By the bay on Anclote Key
Photo of the bay on Anclote Key courtesy of Colleen Braun