When people ask for suggestions of places to explore, I like to suggest destinations with a little bit of something for everyone. Egmont Key has the perfect mixture of relaxation on the beach and old-world history. Unlike Florida’s most famous key, Key West, Egmont Key is mostly a nature preserve and does not have any modern facilities like restrooms, running water, Key Lime Pie, or frozen daiquiris. However, what it lacks in amenities, it makes up for in white sand beaches, wildlife, and historical monuments.
Getting To Egmont Key
Egmont Key is located southwest of Fort De Soto State Park and is only accessible by boat. Boaters can enjoy anchoring right off the beach to enjoy the sights and stretch their legs while counting the gopher tortoises that roam the tiny key.
The Hubbard’s Ferry also runs from the Fort De Soto Bay Pier, located next to the Dog Beach; the ride to Egmont Key takes about 25 minutes. However, our boat captain made the trip an experience in and of itself. As we departed the dock watching the Skyway Bridge shrink into the background, the captain put on his tour guild hat and began to fill our heads with fun facts about the sea creatures we may see along the way: Did you know dolphins shed their skin every two hours, and stingrays will jump out of the water to swish the fish in their mouths around to keep the fish from gilling them once swallowed?!?!
Just as we began to slow down to dock, a passing boat yelled over, “there’s a large herd of manatees just off the shore, south of our dock.” The captain, already turning the boat towards the direction of the manatees, asked if we wanted to take a detour. An excited “Yeah!” echoed from the boat as passengers began to ready their cameras. Seeing manatees never gets old. These gentle giants were feasting on the seagrass and slowly making their way down the coast, unbothered by the squawking of the tourist in our boat.
Careful not to disturb the grazing manatees, we quietly made our way to the Egmont Key Dock. There we were dropped at the entrance of the abandoned lighthouse and reminded to make our way back to this location for a timely departure back to Fort De Soto.
Spend Time On The Beach
After leaving the boat, we followed one of the many paths that lead to the beach area. Charter boats were anchored to the shore bobbing in the water while their guest enjoyed time on the key. My friend and I staked out our spot and immediately realized we did not come prepared for a day at the beach. (If you’ve read any of my travel blogs, being unprepared shouldn’t come as a surprise).
It is important to note there is no shade along the beach at Egmont Key. With no shelter from the summer heat, I was praying for a cloud to cover the scorching sun. Our only refuge from the scorching sun was the cool gulf waters.
Pack a Picnic
At the same time, we realized bringing an umbrella would have been helpful, I began to unpack our lunch, only to discover we forgot our water bottles in the car. If this was an episode of Survivor, we would be the first ones voted off the island, due to our inability to be prepared.
The Hubbard’s Ferry allows guests to bring coolers on board to Egmont Key. Alcohol is the only prohibited item guest are not allowed to pack. I brought my small backpack cooler which was perfect for an afternoon snack and easy to transport.
I also learned a new word while en route to Egmont Key. Shelling, the art of walking up and down the beach collecting shells. This is a fun activity for the whole family. A casual walk down the shoreline will reveal shells of all shapes and sizes. I had a bright red shell catch my eye and decided to take it home to remember my afternoon on the Key. Egmont Key may not have modern amenities, but the beach does offer beautiful shells to take home as a souvenir. Just make sure the shells have been abandon by their sea creature tenants before packing them in your suitcase. You don’t want any smelly surprises to greet you once you get home.
I did not snorkel while at the beach, but from what I was told the clarity of the water can be hit or miss. But on those clear days, fish and undiscovered shells can be found along the beach. Snorkels and goggles can be rented from the ferry before docking at Egmont Key. They also have snacks, drinks, umbrellas, beach chairs, and pool noodles for rent. This is perfect for those unprepared people (like me) or those who do not want to lug beach equipment from the car to the ferry. The only catch, the ferry is cash only; which is why I was left sizzling in the sun.
Walk Through The Streets Of Fort Dade
Egmont Key has lived many different lives. It was first an internment camp for captured Seminoles during the Third Seminole War in the 1850s. The Union Navy then occupied it during the Civil War. Finally, in 1898, Fort Dade was constructed as a safeguard for Tampa Bay during the Spanish-American War. Today Fort Dade is left for visitors to roam its abandoned remains. Redbrick roads and the looming disheveled Lighthouse are a ghostly reminder of the people who were once captive on this tiny Key.
If you missed last week’s post, A Complete Guide To Florida’s Fort De Soto Park, I covered all the ins and outs of visiting Fort De Soto, including entrance fees and the many activities available in the park.
Don’t get left on the beach unprepared. Below are links to all the things you need to be ready for a relaxing day in the sun!
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