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Florida State Parks:
Anclote Key Preserve State Park

Pinellas County:
Fred Howard Park

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Anclote Key Preserve State Park

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Difficulty: Moderate Scenery: Excellent
Location: Tarpon Springs,
Pasco County
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.

Anclote;Kayaker;Playing in the waves.
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.

Important Items

Boat, Paddle, PFD
Spray Skirt
Insect Repellent
Cell Phone or Marine Radio


Barrier Island
White Sand Beach
Mangroves, Pines, Palm Trees
Tidal Marsh

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 trees.

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 Park.

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 to yourself.

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 Park.

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.
Anclote;Sunset on the island.
For those hardy enough to camp, Mother Nature offers a great sunset.

GPS Location Aid


Anclote Gulf Park
Sand/rock beach
North end of island
Sand beach
Camping Area
Sand Beach
Sand Beach
Fred Howard Park
Sand Beach