Nestled a short distance from the picturesque Anna Maria Island, Egmont Key emerges like a hidden jewel amidst the shimmering waters of the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay. Not just another sandy escape, this barrier island offers an enriching blend of natural wonders and captivating history, beckoning travelers seeking a serene yet intriguing getaway.
With its strategic location, Egmont Key has silently witnessed Florida's evolving story from centuries past while preserving an untouched sanctuary for local flora and fauna. For those exploring Anna Maria Island, a detour to Egmont Key promises a tranquil and inspiring experience, not to mention a great activity to enjoy with kids! Let's delve into what makes Egmont Key a must-visit gem during your stay at Anna Maria Island.
About Egmont Key
- Hours: 8:00 AM to sunset, 365 days per year.
- Admission: Free
- Website: floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/egmont-key-state-park
We'd be remiss to introduce you to Egmont Key without giving it a bit of historical context. Egmont Key isn't just another picturesque spot in Florida; it's a place with plenty of stories to tell.
Imagine walking on the same ground where Seminole Indians once tread. Their presence on the island dates back to the turbulent times of the Third Seminole War. It's fascinating to think of this serene island as a backdrop to such significant historical events.
When you first set your eyes upon the famous Egmont Key lighthouse, you can imagine its history. That structure, which has been a guardian of these shores since 1858, has witnessed more than just passing ships. During the Civil War, it stood tall amid conflict as the Union Navy set up a base there. Later, during the Spanish-American War, Egmont Key transformed, serving as a camp and strategic naval base.
As you wander further, you'll likely come across the remains of old fortifications and gun batteries of Fort Dade. They might look like simple ruins now, but they have stories of a time when the island was bustling with military activity.
Getting to Egmont Key State Park from Anna Maria Island
Navigating your way from Anna Maria Island to Egmont Key is a straightforward journey, but it's worth noting that Egmont Key is only accessible by water. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you chart the course.
Begin your adventure on Anna Maria Island, a slice of Floridian paradise itself. Depending on where you're staying on the island, make your way to Hubbard's Marina if you opt for the ferry service. Otherwise, a scenic hour's drive north will take you over the Sunshine Skyway and over the Pinellas Byway onto the Egmont Key.
Photo Credit: Ken Schulze
Multiple operators run regular ferry trips from Anna Maria Island to Egmont Key. The most popular option is Hubbard's Ferry. Ferries provide both a safe mode of transport and valuable insights into what you're about to explore.
Especially during peak seasons, it's advisable to book your ferry seats or private boat rentals in advance to avoid any disappointments.
Private Boat Rentals
Photo Credit: freevideophotoagency
For a more intimate experience, consider renting a boat. This option is perfect if you're already familiar with the waters or if you prefer to set your own schedule. We love the offerings from Anchor Rides! They offer both boat rentals and yacht charters to Egmont Key.
The boat ride typically takes around 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the type of boat and the specific starting point on Anna Maria Island.
THINGS TO DO IN EGMONT KEY
DISCOVER NATURAL ATTRACTIONS AND LOCAL WILDLIFE
Photo Credit: Deepwater Horizon Response via Flickr CC2.0
Egmont Key National Wildlife Refuge is a veritable treasure trove of natural wonders, offering visitors an up-close experience with diverse ecosystems and wildlife.
If you're a birder, keep your binoculars at the ready. The island serves as a bird sanctuary for numerous avian species, some of which are seasonal visitors, making it an ideal spot for birdwatching. You'll find seabirds, shorebirds, gulls, brown pelicans, and more.
Under the clear waters surrounding the island, marine life thrives. For those interested in snorkeling, you're in for a treat. Dive in, and you might catch glimpses of colorful corals, playful dolphins, peaceful manatees, and maybe even a curious sea turtle or two.
Vegetation on the island is unique and reflects the resilience of nature. Amid the salt-sprayed surroundings, you'll find various nature trails lined with plants and trees adapted to the coastal conditions.
For families and individuals alike, there's an undeniable sense of connection to nature here. It's a place where you can switch off from digital distractions and immerse yourself in the beauty of the natural world. Whether you're watching a sunset, feeling the ocean breeze, or spotting a curious box turtle or gopher tortoise, Egmont Key encourages you to pause, appreciate, and soak in your environment.
When you think of Egmont Key, you might first picture serene beaches and quiet exploration. But there's more action and adventure here for those eager to dive into the island's recreational offerings.
Photo Credit: Maridav
Dip your toes in the water, and you'll soon realize there's a world of fun beneath the waves. Snorkeling is a favorite among visitors, with the island's surrounding waters revealing vibrant marine ecosystems. For the more adventurous, diving expeditions often highlight historic shipwrecks, adding an intriguing layer to underwater exploration. Don't forget your snorkeling gear!
Of course, swimming is another popular activity at Egmont Key, given its pristine location at the mouth of Tampa Bay. No lifeguards are on duty on these white-sand beaches, so be sure to swim at your own risk.
HIKING AND EXPLORATION
Photo Credit: chase sterling
Walking around Egmont Key is nothing short of a visual treat. The marked trails wind through both natural landscapes and historic sites, allowing visitors to enjoy the best of both worlds. Don't forget to carry a map or follow the signs, and always respect the environment by sticking to the designated paths.
In addition to the natural paths that traverse the island, you can also explore the brick roads at and around Fort Dade, reliving history one step at a time. You can also follow a short trail to Egmont Key Lighthouse.
Photo Credit: TeodorLazarev
The waters around Egmont Key are teeming with fish. Whether you're an experienced angler or just trying it out for fun, you'll find spots that promise a good catch. Just remember to check local regulations and ensure you have the necessary permits, regardless of whether you have a private boat or are hiring afishing charter.
PICNICKING AND RELAXATION
Photo Credit: morrowlight
Sometimes, the best activity is to simply unwind. Find a cozy spot on the beach, spread out your blanket, and enjoy a picnic. With the soothing sounds of waves and nature around, it's relaxation at its best. Remember to 'leave no trace' and always collect your trash.
Photo Credit: MheePanda
Whether you're a seasoned photographer or someone who just likes to capture memories with a smartphone, the scenic beauty, historic ruins, and wildlife make for perfect subjects.
PLANNING YOUR VISIT
Heading to Egmont Key? Great choice! Here's a practical guide to help you make the most of your trip.
BEST TIMES TO VISIT
While Florida boasts pleasant weather most of the year, visiting between November and April offers milder temperatures and less rainfall. However, the summer months might be more appropriate if you're keen on spotting specific wildlife, such as finding nesting sea turtles.
WHAT TO PACK
Egmont Key is relatively undeveloped, which is part of its charm. There are no stores, drinking water, or restrooms on the key! You'll need to pack essentials like:
- Biodegradable sunscreen: The Florida sun can be intense!
- Water and snacks: While there are no restaurants on the island, staying hydrated and fueled is crucial.
- Comfortable shoes: Ideal for exploring trails and ruins.
- Swimsuits and towels: For those refreshing dips in the ocean.
- A hat and sunglasses: Additional protection against the sun.
- A small first aid kit: Always good to be prepared.
- Trashbag: As the saying goes, leave only footprints!
DURATION OF STAY
Most visitors spend a day or half a day on the island. However, the time you allocate really depends on your interests. Whether exploring every nook and cranny, lounging on the beach, or diving into water activities, plan according to what you want to experience.
RESPECT THE ENVIRONMENT
Remember, Egmont Key is a sanctuary for many plants and animals. Always follow guidelines, dispose of waste properly, and avoid disturbing wildlife or their habitats.
Armed with this information, you're all set to experience Egmont Key to its fullest. Whether you're a history buff, nature lover, or just someone looking for a serene escape, the island promises a memorable time. Safe travels!
EXPLORE EGMONT KEY'S PRISTINE NATURE
Egmont Key is a testament to nature's beauty and history's resilience. It offers a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Each visit promises adventure, relaxation, and education — a trifecta that's hard to find elsewhere.
Egmont Key is a gentle reminder of the world's wonders, from the remnants of times gone by to the playful dolphins that grace its waters. It's a destination that satisfies the wanderlust and ignites a deeper appreciation for our shared history and environment.
Have you booked your Anna Maria Island vacation rental yet? Get in touch today!