It was a beautiful day for a paddle. I learned a lot today. This trip was from Anna Maria Island Florida to Egmont, and then Passage Keys at the mouth of Tampa Bay. The trip from Anna Maria to Egmont Key is a 3-mile paddle across a major channel. I learned a little late that there is a park on the north end of Anna Maria on the bay side of the island which is primarily used by locals to launch all types of watercraft. Unfortunately, I did not know about this part until I was almost finished with the trip. I launched from the parking lot at the Sand Bar restaurant, which is owned by a son of the late governor of Florida, Lawton Chiles. I asked a couple of the employees if they would mind if I launched from there and they said not at all. This launch site put another .5 mile on the trip each way. Anna Maria Island is a little known oasis in the mostly over-developed shoreline of Florida. I begun the paddle at approximately 8:30 am, and started paddling north toward the end of the island. This took about 15 minutes. Once at the end of the island, you could see Egmont Key in the distance. Egmont key was initially used as a lighthouse beginning in the 1830's. Then it has had history as a Seminole prisoner camp, a confederate holdout, a city called Fort Dade, a Coast Guard post, and now a wildlife sanctuary.
The paddle began as an easy very calm paddle north up the beach of Anna Maria where I quickly encountered a pod of dolphin. Several dolphins came close to the boat, but they would not cooperate with photos. Once in the Tampa Bay channel, the water became rougher and rougher. In the middle of the channel, I encountered a 3-5 foot chop. There were even some white caps. Not for the faint of heart. Once I got out of the main channel, the water smoothed out again. The first thing I saw on Egmont was a bald eagle guarding the perimeter of the beach. This is a magnificent creature in the wild. Next I noticed hundreds of rays (variety unknown) swimming under my kayak (Ocean Kayak Frenzy-red). I also have a Competition Kayak tandem, but I was alone on this trip. Egmont is a bird sanctuary, and it is illegal to get out of your boat on shore. So once I got to Egmont, I paddled north up the bay side of the island. I decided that I did not have enough time to circumnavigate the island, so I decided to turn around and head for Passage Key. The entire trip to Egmont from Anna Maria took about 1.5 hours. Passage key was on the way back to Anna Maria and I decided it was worth a look. I had heard that it was a nudist colony of sorts, and also a bird sanctuary. When nearing the key I noticed a large number of birds, and a lot of nude people on boats. The birds were the highlight. I paddled around Passage Key and noticed a couple of other Kayakers on up the island. I decided to go and speak to them. As I got closer and closer, I noticed that they too, were naked. I told them they were my first naked kayakers, and we had a chuckle. I parted company with them and paddled back to the launch spot. The entire trip took about 4 hours, and was well worth it.
There are many hotels there, but I recommend the Bali Hai.
No feed or permits, just make sure you have a PFD and a whistle. The game and fish will stop kayakers, as I found out.
Take state road 64 off Interstate 75 and go west all the way to the end. This is Anna Maria Island and anyone can tell you how to get to the sand bar, or the park.