Want to live the island lifestyle without being too far away from civilization? In Florida, you can do that. All you need is a kayak or paddleboard and you can be on your way to discovering untouched island oases just moments from the coast. While there are many islands to find throughout the state, if you're looking for something close to Tampa, Anclote River Park (or Anclote Gulf Park) should be your launching point.
A quick look on the map will reveal that this inlet area of the coastline is dotted with small and large islands, some of which you can explore.
While several of the islands are privately owned, there are others that welcome visitors like Anclote Key Preserve State Park.
Besides Anclote Key, Zoe ‘Beth’ Crowe, Crew Leader of Parks and Recreation in Pasco County, says two of the islands (1 & 8 on the map below) are government-owned and are often visited by kayakers, though there is no official website to represent them.
Island "1" is only a quick paddle across the channel from Anclote River Park and features towering trees and pine foliage that makes it seem displaced from the rest of Florida's islands and more like it's part of an enchanted forest (video below).
But if this merry little island isn't enough to satisfy your craving for adventure, a visit to Anclote Key might be in order.
If you have a motorboat or strong will to paddle a few miles in the open ocean, then you can make it to the renowned Anclote Key Preserve State Park; a white sand beach that rivals Clearwater and Honeymoon Island — minus all the crowds.
Anclote Key is a great place to grab some shells and enjoy a day in the sun, but beware that there are no provisions offered on this slice of paradise.
Bring a basket and some food, and you can enjoy a free picnic on an island far away — but not too far — from the hustle and bustle of the opposing beaches.
Anclote River Park
Price: Free if you bring your own kayak
When: Dawn to dusk
Address: 1119 Baillies Bluff Road, Holiday, FL
Why You Need To Go: Launch from Anclote River Park to discover a world of hidden untouched islands not far from Tampa.
We strongly advise that before you go swimming or visit any location, you check the most recent updates on potential hazards, security, water quality, and closures. If you do plan to visit a location, respect the environment and obey any local laws.