Three friends and I recently embarked on an overnight camping trip that took us from Honeymoon Island to Anclote Key in the Gulf of Mexico. Our put-in was on the Dunedin Causeway side of the bridge to Honeymoon Island. Honeymoon Island is a state park that does not allow overnight camping but has numerous recreation activities available. We contacted both state parks (Honeymoon and Anclote Key) before we left Orlando and let them know when we would be arriving and departing. Honeymoon Island will allow overnight parking for the cost of the five dollar entrance fee and Anclote Key allows camping at no cost. Both parks can be found online by way of the Florida State Parks website.
Florida had been getting drenched with rains across the state during the week but we were fortunate enough not to have seen a drop until our return trip to Honeymoon Island. The water was blue and clear when we put-in from the causeway, I had to drive my truck and kayak trailer into the park from the causeway and rendezvous with the other three at a point near the parks ferry boat marina, there is not a quality launching site within the park, therefore much walking was required from point to point.
It is five miles from the northern tip of Honeymoon Island to the southern point of Anclote Key, an extra one to three miles is added depending on which route the kayaker decides to take from the put-in. We took the south end to west side of the island, adding three miles to our journey along the beaches and populated areas of the state park. Once we reached the north end of the island, after paddling through 8-10 knot winds and steady seas from the north west, we landed for a break from our 'warm-up' and regrouped for our course of travel and to don the much needed spray skirts we did not initially wear. Northbound again we were able to keep land within sight on the east and north by locating the sand bars that dot the edge of the Gulf.
The paddling was good and we landed a few times to take much needed leg and back rests. Wildlife was abundant-plenty of fish, rays, one shark, dolphins and birds. Anclote Key is part of a preserve that lines the Gulf of Mexico between Tarpon Springs and Dunedin, Florida. There are no roads or bridges that connect the island with the mainland, therefore the only way to reach it is by the watercraft of your choice. We would be meeting with three friends that would be traveling by motorboat from the Dunedin Marina. Tides would be a factor and we arrived at the southern end after three hours with the tide ebbing from the shoreline. This recession of the tide left us with a sandbar approximately one hundred yards from the shore. About 12 inches of clear water between the sandbar and shore extended for three quarters of a mile to the north along the southern end of the four mile island. The island varies in width but at the most it is only about 1/2 mile across. The shallow water allowed Glenn to set up his 20 meter kite and shred the water on his kite board. The wind remained steady at about 10-12 knots and Glenn made use of the recreation it provided.
The other three arrived and anchored their boat about 150 yards off shore and carried gear in across the shallowing bay. Later that evening when the tide flooded again we moved the boat into the bay and anchored it again next to our campsite. The campsite was large enough to accommodate five tents scattered throughout the woods, there is a recycling outhouse nearby and from that area a trail leads to the lighthouse. A state park ranger lives in a primitive cabin on the island near the light, so there is always someone on site. The light does work and they keep it maintained.
The three motor boaters are avid fisherman and they were ecstatic about the redfish and trout that they were able to land in the pool that formed by the tide at our site. The only thing that became a problem was the heavy amount of mosquitoes and no-see-ums that emerged once the sun went down and the wind died off. There was no stopping these relentless creatures, unless you went to find refuge in a tent with a quality protection system (Shawn was not so lucky-he wanted to hang himself from a tree-he slept in his boat). Not one of the sprays we used worked with any efficiency. It was also quite humid, no wind or rain, definitely a better winter trip but still it was very fun, and we had plenty of beer.
The next morning we snorkeled around the east side of the island, paddled with the dolphins and made our way south with a lighter load-the motor boaters took our garbage, the kite and board, the rest of the beer (which was the most difficult for us to pack), and some other odds and ends to lighten us up. We had following winds and seas on a hot, sunny day and it was actually a harder paddle due to the heat. We made it back to the causeway as the lightning was striking to the east and the rain was beginning to come down. Dayna paddled with me to the marina, I jumped out as he rigged a tow line and I met him at the take out.
Frenchy's Rockaway is on Clearwater Beach about 5 miles south and that's where we headed for Coronas and dinner. Great finish to a great trip. We plan on doing it again in the future, although we will most likely add a few more islands and a few more days to the itinerary.
"Escape is at Hand for the Traveling Man"
-The Tragically Hip
Pay attention to the tide line on Anclote Island, there is plenty of camping, call ahead to let the park rangers know you will be there.
Glenn paddled a Wilderness Systems Tempest 165, Dayna was in a Perception Eclipse 17.0, Edward Stacy Ivie paddled my girlfriend's Perception Carolina 14.5 and I was in my Dagger Specter 15.0. Paddles: Werner Camano(2), Harmony Adventure and a Grey Owl.
Five dollar parking fee at Honeymoon Island can be paid at the entrance gate.
Dunedin Causeway emerges into the Intercoastal Waterway and Gulf of Mexico from Curlew Road in Dunedin. You can access it from the north and south by way of Alternate 19 or Highway 19 to the east.
I utilized a National Geographic topo map and a local nautical chart as reference, I also carried a hand-held GPS. You can see the lighthouse in the distance on a clear day which provides direction.