A picturesque 1887 lighthouse stands along the Atlantic coastline three miles off the coast of Tarpon Springs and 30 miles north of Tampa. This lighthouse is located within Anclote Key Preserve State Park, a public recreational area accessible only by boat. Anclote Key Preserve is actually made up of 4 islands – Anclote Key, North Anclote Bar, South Anclote Bar and Three Rooker Island.
Undeveloped soft sandy beaches and clear blue-green waters of the Gulf of Mexico greet visitors desiring to swim, snorkel, collect shells, fish, camp and take in the sights of nature and wildlife all around at this Florida state park.
A visit to this pristine park is a chance to relax, unwind and soak in beautiful weather, nature and wildlife. You may observe the beautiful and graceful sea turtles, manatees, dolphins and other marine life during your stay, as well as many species of native and migratory birds. Pack a picnic, lie on the beach, collect shells or take a refreshing dip in the beautiful coastal waters.
Get a close up view of the historic lighthouse during your visit. The 1887 lighthouse is 110-feet tall and located on the southern end of the island. It may be accessed via a short 0.7 mile pathway across the beach. Touring the inside of the lighthouse is only possible during special events.
Whether you’re just visiting for the day or spending a couple of nights make sure you plan ahead for your escape to this peaceful paradise. The islands are only accessible by boat and there are no provisions available. You’ll need to bring drinking water, snacks, sunscreen and anything else that you may need.
Ferry service is available on Tarpon Springs and Ferry service is provided by these local companies:
- Sponge-O-Rama – (727) 943-2164
- Odyssey Cruises – (727) 934-0547
- Private Island Charters – (727) 534-8818
- Windsong Charters – (727) 859-0213
- Island Paradise Charters – (727) 774-0589
If you plan to camp overnight you will need to secure your own transportation; the ferry services do not accommodate overnight guests.
Here are some of the activities that you can do during your visit to Anclote Key Preserve State Park:
Swimming at Anclote Key Preserve State Park
Swim, snorkel, collect shells and rest along the beautiful shorelines inside Anclote Key Preserve State Park. The crystal clear waters allow guests to easily see all of the vivid sea life below. Guests are advised to be aware of swimming conditions; there are no lifeguards on duty.
Swimming conditions are posted at the Welcome Station and on the beaches and consist of a warning flag system. Each colored flag denotes that day’s swimming and beach conditions for guests’ safety.
Fishing at Anclote Key Preserve State Park
Pack your fishing gear for the chance to catch sea trout, snook, tarpon, sheepshead, redfish and shark. A recommended spot – in the seagrass beds just offshore. Don’t forget to pick up a Florida fishing license before heading out to the islands.
Birding at Anclote Key Preserve State Park
All types of shorebirds are commonly seen among the islands that make up Anclote Key Preserve State Park. American Oystercatchers, Royal Terns, Snowy Plovers, egrets, herons, spoonbills, least terns, Black Skimmers, Roseate Spoonbills, gulls and many others may be spotted throughout the islands.
During nesting season, May 1 through August 1, when thousands nest along the beach at Three Rooker Island. At this time a large portion of that beach is closed to the public.
Nature and Wildlife at Anclote Key Preserve State Park
Anclote Key Preserve offers visitors a somewhat close up view of wildlife throughout its slash pine forest, marine tidal swamp and beach areas. Birds, dolphins, manatees, snakes, turtles are commonly spotted here. Sea turtles are a common sight especially between May and October when they crawl from the Gulf to lay their eggs on the soft sandy beach.
Pets at Anclote Key Preserve State Park
Pets are allowed at Anclote Key Preserve State Park but must be kept on a hand held leash no longer than 6 feet. Dogs are only allowed within the North Anclote Bar area.
Camping at Anclote Key Preserve State Park
Anclote Key Preserve State Park offers primitive camping for adventurous souls desiring to spend the night inside the park. These campsites are located on the north end of Anclote Key.
There are picnic tables, grills, a pavilion and a composting restroom also on site but no fresh water; be sure to pack drinking water, food, sunscreen and anything else you might need along with your camping supplies.
Anclote Key Preserve State Park
Tarpon Springs, FL 34689
Here is a short YouTube video showcasing several attractions at Anclote Key Preserve State Park: