Egmont Key: Boating & Snorkeling Guide
A State Park and National Wildlife Refuge, Egmont Key is home to one of Florida’s 30 lighthouses and is only accessible by water. The Park Ranger is the only person who inhabits Egmont Key at this time, and visits to this national treasure must be made during daylight hours.
There are no amenities on the island and no corner store in sight. So, if you plan to visit, you need to pack your lunch, plenty of water, sunscreen, jump on a boat and then see all that Egmont Key has to offer.
The biggest commodity on Egmont Key is solace and from the Lighthouse on the northern shore to the southern tip is a little less than two miles in length. The island is about three-tenths of a mile wide at the north end. It covers almost 400 acres of ground, a pretty large area of unoccupied land. Since no one but the Park Ranger makes the island home, you can walk the trails and may not see another soul.
Egmont Key has miles of trails; however, some areas are prohibited from entering. These areas are designated nesting areas for the many birds and other marine life that make the island their home.
It’s on the water around the island where you will find the most activity at Egmont Key. Of course, everyone must get there by boat, and on warm sunny days, boaters anchor offshore from one end of Egmont Key to the other.
Where is Egmont Key?
Egmont Key is located at the mouth of Tampa Bay and lies between Desoto Point and Anna Maria Island. It is only accessible by water, has no restrooms or other amenities, and is open from 8 AM until sunset 365 days per year.
There are no camping sights on Egmont Key, and no overnighting is permitted. However, there is an excellent campground at Desoto Point in Pinellas County, Florida.
Boating on Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay covers over 400 square miles of water, and although it has an average depth of only 12 feet, it can raise a bone-pounding chop when the weather gets sour. Egmont Key is over seven miles from the Sky Way Bridge and two miles from Desoto Point, and the trip there crosses a lot of open water unless you hug the coastline to get there.
Even if you take a coastal route, the shortest passage from the coast to the northern tip of Egmont Key is two miles. The closest landmass is Passage Key, but less on that tiny island than on Egmont Key. Further, to the south by another mile is Anna Maria Island.
When seeing Egmont Key from the Skyway Bridge or Desoto Point, it looks as if you can reach out and touch it, especially on a clear day, but don’t fool yourself. There’s a lot of water between you and there.
Things to do at Egmont Key
Landside, there are paved trails that make trekking the island parklike, and it is. Part of the interest in Egmont Key is its history, and it has been home to fortresses to guard the pass into Tampa Bay for hundreds of years.
The ruins of Fort Dade are still accessible, as are the battery ruins on the north end of the island. The Lighthouse is at the north end also. Although you can see it, it is only open to the public in November during an annual festival.
Offshore of the southwestern end of Egmont Key are the ruins of The Battery Burchstead. Unfortunately, these ruins are only accessible by water because the battery is no longer connected to the island. Time, tide, wind, and waves washed away its foundations, and it slowly slid to the west.
The guns were removed from Battery Burchstead and Battery Page before they washed into the Gulf and were placed at Desoto Point. When diving on any of the ruins surrounding Egmont Key, you won’t see the guns on the batteries. However, the guns that protected Tampa Bay from marauders have been preserved. You can see them at Desoto Point along with the ruins of Fort Desoto, another local landmark.
The sparkling white sandy bottom and turquoise blue shallow waters surrounding Egmont Key make a perfect location for those beginning to snorkel. The ruins here are shallow water and can be seen by amateur snorkelers, yet challenging enough to keep advanced divers entertained.
Shelling on the island is permitted, but you can only take dead shells with you. It is prohibited to take live mollusks, of any kind, from land or sea around Egmont Key.
Can you fish at Egmont Key?
The fishing at Egmont Key is excellent; however, there are areas around the island where fishing is prohibited. These areas protect the sea turtles that lay their eggs here, colonial seabirds, shorebirds, and other marine animals.
Anglers who fish here catch snook, seatrout, flounder, grouper, and tarpon. Be aware that sharks also share these waters, and some anglers catch them, too.
There are designated wildlife areas around Egmont Key that are annual and seasonal. If you are going to fish at Egmont Key or in the Tampa Bay area, be sure to follow all state regulations. In addition, you may need to purchase a saltwater fishing license if you plan to fish at Egmont Key.
Is your trip to Egmont Key a cruise or fishing trip?
Egmont Key is as much in the Gulf of Mexico as it is in Tampa Bay and going to Egmont Key requires a large boat to take the waves that roll in off the Gulf. Your boat also needs to be large enough to deal with the rolling waves produced by the ship traffic that plies between Desoto Point and Egmont Key.
You will see little boats making the trek, as well as jet skis, because there are adventurers everywhere. However, the Gulf and Tampa Bay moods can change rapidly, and a larger boat will ensure a safe, more comfortable trip for you and your crew, good weather or bad.
Whether you live in the Tampa Bay area or are visiting from elsewhere, a private boat rental is the best way to spend a day at Egmont Key. A local boat owner has the perfect boat for you and your crew to get on the water. Bareboat or captained, a rental boat is the best way to see Tampa Bay and Egmont Key.
Is there coral reef at Egmont Key?
The only coral reef formations known in the Gulf of Mexico are near Texas and off the Yucatan Peninsula. Unfortunately, there are no others in the Gulf and none off the coast of Egmont Key.
There are coral reefs in Florida; however, they start off the coast of Jupiter Beach and follow the coastline in patches to the Dry Tortugas. However, there are grass beds around the island where snorkelers can watch large and small fish, stingrays, and other wonders of the undersea world.
Boating in the Tampa Bay area
Those of us who make our homes here consider the Tampa Bay area to include Saint Petersburg, Palmetto, and Bradenton in its scope. Tampa bay connects all of these cities, and with a boat, you have easy access to many different activities.
With a boat rental, you will have access to every corner of Tampa Bay, the Hillsborough River, Manatee River, Sarasota Bay, and, of course, the Gulf of Mexico. That’s a lot of waterways. A rental from Boatsetter will get you and your crew to any or all of these locations.