6 Beachfront State Parks to Explore Near Tampa Bay, Florida

Looking to experience the great outdoors in gorgeous Tampa Bay? With so much natural beauty in the area, it would be a shame to not spend at least one day at a state park. Hike on an island, bird watch, collect shells or just spend a day under the palms.

6 gorgeous state parks you can’t miss:

1. Caladesi Island State Park 

1 Causeway Blvd, Dunedin, FL

One of the few untouched islands along the Gulf Coast, Caladesi Island State Park is accessible only by boat, but is worth the extra effort.

Whether it is a stroll along the island’s pristine beaches or a kayak trip through the bayside mangrove forest, a trip to Caladesi Island is an unforgettable experience.

Take a nature trail walk to the historic Scharrer Homestead through the island’s interior and listen to the ocean breeze whisper through old-growth slash pines and feel the embrace of expansive live oaks.

Discover why homesteader Myrtle Scharrer Betz called this place “paradise” in her memoirs.

The park is open from 8 a.m. until sundown, 365 days a year

2. Honeymoon Island State Park

1 Causeway Blvd, Dunedin, FL

White sand beaches, stunning sunsets and a bird-watcher’s paradise.

A short drive from Tampa, beautiful Honeymoon Island offers visitors an escape from the bustle of city life.

One of Florida’s best-loved state parks, Honeymoon Island has more than four miles of beach to explore along with a three-mile trail through one of the last remaining virgin slash pine forests.

When looking skyward, eagles, osprey and great horned owls can be seen, while ground animals include gopher tortoises, raccoons and armadillos.

A trip to the Rotary Centennial Nature Center helps visitors learn about the park’s history and natural resources. Find out how Honeymoon Island received its name!

Swimming, fishing, shelling, hiking and bicycling are all popular activities that make Honeymoon Island State Park an ideal getaway.

The park is also the ferry terminal for access to another unspoiled state park, Caladesi Island State Park.

3. Anclote Key Preserve State Park

Anclote Key Tarpon Springs, Fl 

Located three miles off the coast of Tarpon Springs, the park is accessible only by private boat or ferry service.

Enjoy the blue-green Gulf of Mexico waters that lap gently along the sandy beaches of the four islands that make up Anclote Key Preserve State Park – Anclote Key, North Anclote Bar, South Anclote Bar and Three Rooker Island. The 11,773-acre park is home to at least 43 species of birds, including the American oystercatcher, bald eagle and piping plover.

A picturesque 1887 lighthouse stands as a sentinel on the southern end of the island. Visitors can swim and sunbathe at the beach, fire up a grill and enjoy a picnic, or pitch a tent and enjoy a night of primitive camping under the stars.

There are no provisions offered on the island, so be prepared to bring your own water and supplies.

Ferry services do not drop off visitors for overnight camping. You must have your own transportation to stay overnight. Dogs are allowed only on North Anclote Bar. 

4. Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park

8737 US-19, Port Richey, FL

Paddle through the tangled mangroves, tidal creeks and expansive salt marshes or take to the open waterways to explore the Gulf of Mexico. 

You are welcome to bring your own kayaks and canoes or rent them at the park. The concessionaire, Salty Dog Kayak Rentals, is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday through Sunday.

Hike the Springs Trail that winds through pine flatwoods and oak hammocks where you can see several small artesian springs and sinks. On a low tide, you can enjoy a tidal waterfall, just past Salt Spring.

Immerse yourself in amazing history by visiting the accessible interpretive displays throughout the park.

This is a birder’s paradise with several viewing stands located on Springs and Eagle trails where you might see bald eagles, roseate spoonbills, the elusive black rail, hawks, wading birds, shorebirds and migratory songbirds galore.

Although this park protects four miles of pristine coastline along the Gulf of Mexico in western Pasco County, there are no beaches or swimming area due to the mangroves lining the shoreline. Swimming is available outside the park on Durney Key, which can be reached by launching your kayak or canoe in the park. Maps are available at the kiosk as well as the concession’s office.

5. Cockroach Bay Preserve State Park

end of Cockroach Bay Road, Ruskin, FL

Cockroach Bay Preserve State Park is a series of islands in the southeast region of Tampa Bay.

The islands are located in the mouth of the Little Manatee River and extend southward along the shore of Tampa Bay. The islands are accessible only by water using private watercraft. There are two canoe/kayak paddling trails that meander through the aquatic preserve that surrounds the islands.

The islands’ total acreage is 617 and, of that, about 500 acres are mangrove swamp. It is a paradise for anglers and bird-watchers. The islands do not have any facilities on them, so you will need to plan your trip accordingly and remember to pack it in, then pack it out.

Horseshoe crabs were once so abundant along the shores of Florida’s west coast that early Spanish explorers called them cockroaches, believing them to be seagoing cousins of the insects. Many people think that is how Cockroach Bay received its unlikely name.

The nearest public boat ramp is located west of Highway 41 at the end of Cockroach Bay Road, four miles north of the Manatee County line.

6. Egmont Key State Park

St. Petersburg, FL 

Although this park is primarily a wildlife refuge, it can be a personal refuge – a place to relax and collect shells along secluded, pristine beaches.

Accessible only by boat, Egmont Key has a unique natural and cultural history, including a lighthouse that has stood since 1858. During the 19th century, the island served as a camp for captured Seminoles at the end of the Third Seminole War and was later occupied by the Union Navy during the Civil War. In 1898, as the Spanish-American War threatened, Fort Dade was built on the island and remained active until 1923.

In addition to touring the historic sites and trails, visitors can enjoy swimming, fishing, wildlife viewing and picnicking. Egmont Key is located at the mouth of Tampa Bay, southwest of Fort De Soto Beach.

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