USA Today recently highlighted the Tarpon Spring Sponge Docks as one of the 10 great tourist attractions in the Tampa Bay region.  As you step out on Dodecadese Boulevard you will feel like you have stepped into another time and place. The Sponge Industry helped build a Working Waterfront Community in Tarpon Springs that is now famous not only for the world’s finest sponges, but for some of the finest Greek restaurants, markets, and bakeries in the country. Satisfy your big fat Greek appetite and watch the sponge boats bring their bounty back to shore inTarpon Springs. Winter brings higher tides, the waterline rising to surprising heights during full moons of December and January. The draw of the waves and high tide brought things to shore that one does not usually get a chance to see. The birds gathered to pick through the treasures, though in the early morning they more often gathered in groups to huddle against the cool breeze. The visual treasures of the beach were the type that easily create beach memories that can last a lifetime.
November marks the days for visiting the island, not because of the season, but rather the Discover the Island event which is organized by the Egmont Key Alliance,.
Egmont Key has served many purposes over the years, but its strategic position at the mouth of Tampa Bay dictated its destiny for military use. In the present, the island supports a lighthouse, several old bunkers, and the brick streets of a bygone military base that you can walk. The southern portion of the island is off limits to visitors, being the domain of nesting birds and sea turtles.
Three Rooker Island is the most recent of the barrier islands to emerge, according to Wikipedia, although the accolade of newest island now actually goes to the sand bar north of Anclote Key.
Three Rooker Bar is three miles off the coast of Pinellas County, Florida, where the cities of Palm Harbor and Tarpon Springs meet. Because the island is part of the Anclote Key Preserve State Park, it is important not to tread across areas that are marked off. Three Rooker Bar is the one of the most beautiful locations you will find in the area, perhaps even in the United States. The river and island boat tour begins with a visit to the ticket booth on locally-famous Dodecanese Blvd, home of the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks.
The Anclote River begins far inland, winding through mangrove forests and low lying terrain where no homes are built. We were invited to ride on the Odyssey Cruises tour boat via local connections, which is to say, a couple of us from the Florida Beach Rentals office live in Tarpon Springs. We landed on the southern tip of Anclote Key, beaching on the region of shifting sands and sandbars. When Private Island Charters extended an invitation to tour the barrier islands of the coast, the offer was impossible to refuse.
North Sandbar nearly connects to Anclote Key to the south but is cut off by a strong current that flows between. If you would like to stay at a waterfront vacation rental with a private dock serviced directly by Private Island Charters call us at Florida Beach Rentals and we will do our best to accommodate you. The Discover the Island event hit Egmont Key last month, giving area residents and visitors a great reason to learn more about the unique island.
Visitors were free to discover the ruins of Egmont Key’s military bunkers, which date back well over a hundred years. A lighthouse still stands on Egmont Key, providing a light, into the present day, to direct ships and other vessels that navigate near the island. For the Discover the Island Event, guided tours were available to walk guests by the most important sites.
A number of other great goodies were in store for visitors who attended the Discover the Island event.
If you are planning a visit to the Central Gulf Coast of Florida, be sure to put Egmont Key on your list of unique sites to see.
Clearwater and the City of Dunedin have some of the best barrier islands in the United States. When the area was first settled, the islands of Clearwater Beach and Honeymoon Island were in a very different condition than they are today. The shape of Caladesi Island has changed less than the other islands, probably due to the abundance of mangrove trees there.
The pass is a beautiful stretch of sand, some of the softest and whitest you will find in the area. Clearwater Marina enjoys a central location on Clearwater Beach, adjacent to the roundabout at the entrance and across the street from the beach and Pier 60.
At first glance, the Clearwater Beach Marina has two things, tour boats and fishing charters, but if you look deeper, you will find more. In addition to the passenger and charter vessels, you will also find a host of other watercraft available. You will find the Clearwater Harbor and Gulf of Mexico tours offer more than you would expect. Some of the tour boats offer a fun atmosphere with music, like the Tropics Boat Tours, the Calypso Queen, or the pirate ship, Captain Memo, which is a favorite for kids. On Dodecadese Boulevard, you can find boat tours, an aquarium, museum and shops selling local natural sponges.  Visit Tarpon Springs sponge docks, a world away in your own backyard. Summer is the time people flock to the shores to dip into the waters or sunbathe on the shores. At Clearwater Beach recently, the high tides were accompanied by high winds and larger waves, a unique event for a beach that ordinarily sees waves of a foot or less.
Peculiar creates wound up scattered across the sand, bringing delight to those who were wise enough to go to beach on a cold day. The faces of those walking the shores showed their enjoyment and the scattered display prompted strangers to discuss their finds and to comment on the peculiar volume of sea life on the sand. While Egmont Key is open all year long, the event invites guests to the island for tours, food, displays, and souvenirs which are not ordinarily present.
Amid the reminders of days gone by are railroad tracks that ran from the base out to a pier for loading boats. The large preserve is home to an amazing number of birds during nesting seasons, although our guide explained that November was not a peak month. While you can visit the island any time you like, the Discover the Island event might be the best time to learn about the island’s history.
For those who need more general orientation, it is in the Tampa Bay area but is in the Gulf of Mexico, not the bay.
Anclote Key Preserve is a nesting place for many species of birds and is also used by nesting sea turtles.
If you like beaches, remote locations, white sands, boating, and sunshine, this island is a perfect destination for you.
Lined with fun gift shops, fantastic Greek restaurants, and ridiculously stocked desert shops, Dodecanese Blvd is a perfect place to gather people together for boat tours. The river is fed by run off and by a multitude of springs, creating a constant flow toward the Gulf of Mexico. Tidal rivers ran across the island while the soft white sands the region is famous for covered the shores.  Despite being a land form in transition, plants had found purchase on the newly formed spit of land shooting off the southern end of Anclote Key. The tour started at Anclote River Park, a well-known destination for Tarpon Springs locals.
Only the concrete and some metal remains, leaving the buildings without doors, and open to tour. The lighthouse, erected in 1858, is the second to exist on the island, the first lasting only a short period before being too damaged by weather for safety. The guides, versed in the islands military and natural history, walked large groups around the island, describing the role of each building visited. Civil war re-enactors set up camp on the island, performing military drills for the crowds that gathered. The island enjoys the white sand beaches cherished on the Florida Gulf Coast, including the sparkling Gulf of Mexico waters.
They are the three best known islands in the area, consisting of Clearwater Beach, Caladesi Island, and Honeymoon Island. The most striking change is the sand bar that grew northward from Clearwater Beach, connecting the two islands. It is also a part of the beach much less traveled, leaving the beauty of the area almost to you alone. It is home to a fair number of private boats and yachts but also an extensive collection of tour boats and fishing charters.
The Clearwater Marina vendors rent jet skis, speed boats, pontoon boats, kayaks, and stand up paddle boards.


Some of the best tasting fish in the world come from our waters, and casting a line to catch them is fun. The dolphin sighting tour guides usually right were the dolphins are, helping to make your ride memorable. Whatever type of excursion you choose, you will probably come away with more than you expected. The turbulent waters detached those in unprotected areas, or that were perhaps old or even dead.
Today at the mouth of that ancient river-that-no-longer-runs is an island known as Egmont Key.
By doing so, the Egmont Key Alliance increases awareness and support for preserving the important island and its unique history. While modern technology has overcome the need for a station on the island, it was used from the Civil War through World War Two to defend the important harbor. Palm trees and mangroves cover the island, the brick streets running through a palm forest now, rather than a base. Despite most of the island being a preserve, the portion that is open for touring is quite large and more than enough to fill an entire day of exploring. It is also a good time to go if you don’t particularly want to be on an island all by yourself. The island is part of the Anclote Key Preserve State Park, being the most southern of three islands. During certain seasons, the park service will rope off areas of Three Rooker Bar and Anclote Key to protect the nests. Rentals and charters are easy to find, although renting a speedboat should be done with caution. The city of Tarpon Springs was founded along the Anclote River, where sponge divers docked their boats. They offer multiple themes for their tours, including dolphin sighting, sunset cruises, and trips to Anclote Key, which is an island just off the coast.
We offloaded onto the sands, with several other island-hopping beach-goers already there to greet us.
While the park is not so much a destination for tourists, it does have many positive draws. The sands of Three Rooker Bar are still moving about, with a channel currently cutting the island in half. The sites within reach are numerous, with even more locations either north or south of the places we visited. Egmont Key Alliance put on the event, adding plenty of fun additions to an already fascinating destination. The decaying buildings are the ruins of Fort Dade, part of a defense structure for Tampa Bay that includes nearby Fort DeSoto. The existing lighthouse has unusually thick walls, the inside being no more than a spiraling metal stairway. They shared such details as storage containers for mine field parts, underground houses, the methods for targeting enemy ships, Fort Dade operations, an island railway, and more. Other great islands are also along our coast, just to be clear, with Anclote Key and Three Rooker Island to the north and Sand Key, Treasure Island, St Pete Beach, and Mullet Key to the south. It takes a little time and effort, especially on hot summer days, but beachgoers can walk the sands northward, arriving at the old pass in less than an hour. On ordinary days, you will see visitors gathered along the sidewalks that run the length of docks.
The docks provide pirate cruises, dolphin sighting tours, giant cigar speedboat tours, party cruises, sunset cruises, and dinner cruises. Scuba excursions, parasailing boats, and sailboat charters also set off from the docks of the marina. You will also find the boat crews are very hospitable, allowing you to bring your own drinks and store them in their coolers. Whether you like the relaxation of being out on the water or the excitement of reeling in a great catch, the Gulf of Mexico will satisfy. Be sure to take your camera because the dolphins love to play in the wakes of boats, giving you ample opportunity to make them part of your vacation photo collection. It is a place to take long walks, to observe what you see on the sand, or to spend time with someone you care about. Formed by the ancient lay of land, it differs from the nearby barrier islands, which were created wind, waves, and shifting sand.
Tour guides for the event explained the various unique ways those stationed on the island kept the mouth of Tampa Bay safe. On the west side of the former buildings is the beach, a beautiful stretch of white sand paradise.
Despite what type of experience you enjoy, guided or solo, be sure to check out this island. The sponge trade is still alive and thriving today, with a multitude of sponge diving boats docked at the edge of the river. We pushed off the docks just after noon with the fascinating island of Anclote Key as our destination.
Aside from the boat ramp, it has picnic pavilions with lots of shade of trees around, a swimming beach, and a Native American mound site. Honeymoon Island State Park is within reach, as is Howard Park, the Anclote River, and the northern Nature Coast. The event was held November 8th and 9th (2014) with plenty of promotion to let us all know to show up. They also stopped the tour groups at a presentation regarding the wildlife inhabitants of the island. The order to fire was silent, however, out of respect for a wildlife attraction at Egmont Key for the day. The sands of the Florida Gulf Coast on the move, however, creating a changing history for the barrier islands. Another method would be to take the Caladesi Island Ferry from Honeymoon Island State Park. The number of opportunities to get out onto Clearwater Harbor and the Gulf of Mexico is surprising.
You can even charter a boat to take you sightseeing or shelling on Clearwater Harbor or Clearwater area beaches and barrier islands. Located on the beautiful waters of the Gulf of Mexico, this fascinating Florida island sits at the mouth of Tampa Bay. You will rarely find this beach occupied, except, of course, for the Discover the Island days. The light-weight sands that comprise the island are easy for wind and water to pick up and move.  Storms which push additional amounts of water are also a major factor in shaping the juvenile island. So, if you see areas marked or roped off, respect the zones and keep your visit to the other parts of the island.
Thanks to the active tourism at the Sponge Docks, a number of cruise companies have made the docks their home as well.
According to local boat captains, the tides of the Gulf of Mexico can push up river as much as four miles, which is about a mile beyond the docks themselves.
The ride down the river was as entertaining as ever, with our tour guide pointing out wildlife and local features of the landscape. The passengers scattered, each choosing his or her own direction.  Anclote Key is a three miles long, far too much terrain for us to explore fully, so a search of the immediate area was the next best thing. The boat ride put a number of us in the mood for the excellent deserts available just across the street, although I think some of us might have had that in mind all along. We set off from the boat dock at the park and headed out the boaters’ channel at the mouth of the river. A few people were strolling the island while a number of private fishermen worked the shallows around the island. A recent storm split the island again, and a strong current now passes between the two halves of Three Rooker Bar. Captain Todd said that, while he has taken fishermen out, most his charters are booked by vacationers who want to see the area.
The island saw military use up through the Second World War, when it served as an observation and targeting station against enemy ships who might try to enter Tampa Bay.
For the Discover the Island event, a historical re-enactor waited at the tower bottom to share his knowledge of the lighthouse, as well as the island itself. Guides told of the gopher tortoise, an endangered species which lives on the island, digging boroughs into the soft sand.


If you are considering spending a vacation at Clearwater Beach without an excursion out onto the water, you should think again.
Charters run either half day or full day, run to our shoreline reefs or out to the deeps of the gulf, use small private boats or large multi-passenger vessels. Others have sunk beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico and sit off shore beneath the waves, victims of a shifting shoreline. According to locals, Three Rooker Bar has split, reformed, and split again in just the last decade.
Smaller, personal watercraft are the most affordable but, for kayakers, days with lower winds and waves are recommended, since the three mile stretch is directly across open water. The cruises have various themes, some explaining the sponge industry in detail, others putting emphasis on dolphin sightings, sunsets, and local wildlife. For those who know what to look for, the leading edge of the tide can be spotted as a small wave moving upstream. Florida is home to some remarkable birds, most of the notable ones being large wading birds, though Ospreys, or fish hawks, are an exception to that rule. It is a beautiful place, which is most often a peaceful place to enjoy near solitude on remarkable beaches. While visitors can no longer climb the tower, it is nice for photographs as well as being an important part of local history.
The region of the Gulf of Mexico his boat plies is remarkable, with pristine natural islands, state parks, an historic river, and more.
Visitors were allowed to explore the island at will, with lots of goodies thrown in, such as historical re-enactors, a kids area with games and crafts, a silent auction to help support island preservation efforts, and, of course, a food tent.
Sea turtles nest on the island, and the entire southern end is occupied by the Egmont Key Wildlife Refuge, which is a nesting site for numerous species of birds. Owls, hawks, and falcons were out in the open for visitors to view while they walked down the preserved walkways of the island.
For the price of a ferry ride, you can tour its spectacular light house, fascinating ruins, and remarkable beaches. Dredging was discussed, and the city even voted, successfully, to purchase a dredging machine in 1977. If you are lucky enough to have a boat on hand, you can arrive via the coastal waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
With smaller charters, you can even request certain types of fish, and, if possible, the captain will take you to where they are found.
The challenges of getting to the island inhibit visitation, and that low level of visitors makes for a private, or at least semi private island experience. Thanks to the gentle currents of the Anclote River, all of the tours are guaranteed to be relaxing. The width of the Anclote River between the Sponge Docks and the Gulf of Mexico ranges from less than 200 feet to over 1000 feet, making it fairly easy to navigate –or so says a passenger.
The ride down the river was roughly three miles, winding past commercial docks, restaurants, private homes, mangrove islands, and waterfront city parks. With an affordable price tag for this boat tour of the Anclote River, the Gulf of Mexico, and Anclote Key, it is an easy choice for a bonus activity during a vacation outing to Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks. We cruised by the northern end of the island using the channel between the island and the sandbar.
With the fascinating terrain, wildlife, ruins, and rich history, the Discover the Island event at Egmont Key was a crowd pleaser. Many of Egmont Keys buildings have sunk into the Gulf of Mexico, due to erosion of the island’s west coast. The lighthouse is the best known building on the island, serving as a symbol for Egmont Key. At another site, closer to the beach, pirates (in paper hats) had taken over the lawn, with a pirate chest and kids games. Shifting sands over the last century have connected the nearby sand bars to the island, more than doubling its length.
Boaters can cruise up the coast from Clearwater Pass or down the coast from Hurricane Pass. The islands of the area are constantly on the move, with the shores often appearing different the next time a visitor stops by. Be advised, that on some occasions, such as major holidays, the island can fill up with boaters and become a pretty wild party atmosphere. Boats ply the river constantly, from small speed boats to large fishing and shrimping vessels. At the end of the river, the banks curved away and the mangroves dwindled to reveal the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico. With such an abundance of shallows, it is a great place for wading.  After circling the island on foot, which took only minutes, we waded out into the shallows of the sand bar.
Because the day was slightly windy, we did not stop the Private Islands Charter boat on Anclote Key, due to the higher surf rolling onto its western side, which is where the beaches are. The flow of water between the island halves was as strong as any river, creating surf where it issued into the waters on the west side of the island. You can ask to go where you like, or you can sit back and let Private Island Charters treat you to the treasures of the coast.
The tours provided great information, the history portions delivered in the environment where the history occurred. Near the foot of the lighthouse, memorabilia for the island was on sale, as well as a crowd pleasing grilling tent serving hot dogs, chips, and drinks. The northern extension of the island created a fantastic stretch of soft white sand beach and the enclosed waters of Pelican Cove.
In 1985, Hurricane Elena struck the area and filled the waterway with enough sand to make in impossible to navigate by boat.
On most days, however, it is a peaceful location to stroll the shores, collect shells, fish, catch sun, or just relax. The tour boats are among the traffic that use the river, making their way from the docks westward, out to the Gulf of Mexico. The springtime waters were a sparkling turquoise color, and the sand, as always, was as soft as talcum powder. Then, with more to see ahead of us, we climbed back onto the boat and headed off for more island exploring. While we wanted to circle the island on foot, the southern end was roped off for the nesting birds. Targeting towers stand amid the brush of the island while a network of brick roads lead through a military compound partly reclaimed by forest. When put together, the extras thrown into the preservation-themed event made the Discover the Island event a perfect reason to visit Egmont Key.
With the sand already moving northward from Clearwater Beach, the pass soon filled in completely.
The sand appears the same up and down the beach, rising too high for boaters to see over to the harbor. Although we were given ample time to explore, it seemed too soon when the boat horn blew, rounding us up again. The trees on the southern end of the island were inviting, but we left them to the birds and their nests and returned the way we came. Although the event provided an excellent excuse to tour the ruins, Egmont Key is open year round. One clue is the park sign, set on the beach, telling beachgoers that they have arrived at Caladesi Island State Park. The return trip to the docks was a sun-filled ride across the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Only memories and written  history allows newcomers to know that Dunedin Pass was ever there. To actually land on the eastern side of the beach, you will need a watercraft such as a kayak or a paddleboard. When you do, a very short walk takes you to the crest of the beach where you overlook the white sand beaches and the Gulf of Mexico.



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