Anclote Key State Preserve is steeped in history. French and Spanish pirates used Anclote Key to launch raids in 1682, according to researchers. There are rumors of buried treasure.
The word Anclote is a Spanish word that means anchor. The island is about 180 acres, around 4 miles long, and less than a mile in width. Much of the 180 acres encompassed by Anclote Key is damp and marshy, which makes it hard to traverse unless you walk along the pristine sand beaches. The turquoise color of the water resembles that of the Florida Keys.
There are several ways to get out to Anclote Key: you can take your own watercraft, rent a boat from a marina, charter a captain or schedule a tour on one with one of the local outfits out of the Port Richey area.
The thing I like most about this quiet, peaceful paradise is that you can literally pull up to an uninhabited part of the island, set up your chairs, and enjoy your own personal part of the beach.
Recently, I joined a group from New Port Richey with “Captain Bob” of Island Paradise Charters for a full-day tour including catered lunch on the island and a guest mermaid. The fun-loving folks that made up the group all hailed from the same area of Long Island and had winter abodes in New Port Richey. Their camaraderie added to the fun of our excursion.
Bob Hubbard, known as “Captain Bob,” holds a USCG license Master Captain and an FCC license. The pontoon boat, “Magic Dolphin” is USGC inspected, and built to withstand any weather conditions we might come upon. This boat was seriously built! Bob grew up on the water in Tarpon Springs and knows this area like the back of his hand.
“My primary concern is the safety of my guests while providing a memorable and fun experience,” Bob relayed to me, “I decided to start my own tour and charter business after years of working for others in the area. I knew what I wanted, so when I contracted to have this boat built, I made sure that it met all Coast Guard standards. Island Paradise Charters and the Magic Dolphin are the only tour boat that is allowed to visit the actual island.”
Anclote Key island is beautiful! We pulled up to an isolated beach about 20 feet wide, dropped anchor and the gentlemen unloaded our beach chairs.
Captain Bob and his first mate began preparations to cook our island feast of grilled chicken, hot dogs and hamburgers accompanied by homemade potato salad and island coleslaw. Water and sodas were provided on the entire trip and several of the “northerners” brought beer and wine, as well as snacks and hors d’ovres.
Mermaid “Kassia” was happy to pose for pictures with us, but few people wanted to brave the winter Gulf temperatures for swimming.
I wandered off to explore a bit. Beautiful, white sand beach gives way to sea grass and then a pond with ducks swimming peacefully. In the distance, maybe a half mile, I could see a huge osprey nest in the tallest pine. There were shorebirds all around and they would come closer and then the flock would rise up and fly away, and then return to repeat. The waves rolled in and out lazily and the sun shone overhead.
I came upon a small sailboat that had been regaled by the sea and imagined what caused such a calamity that the owners would abandon their vessel and nature would become its keeper.
Soon enough, actually too soon, it was time to load back up into the Magic Dolphin and return to our port. We saw dolphins at play, pelicans diving for fish, and a myriad of seabirds as we traversed the Gulf waters from the island back to the shoreline. We motored past multi-million dollar homes, historic cabins that were converted to full-time residences over the years and high rise condos that allow a water’s view without the upkeep of shore living.
Then we were back to where we started, a nondescript parking lot next to the Magnuson Hotel on US 19. I want to go back on island time and I plan to return and explore the lighthouse on the next trip. Gotta keep on NatureCoasting!