67 photos
Anclote River Park
1119 Baillies Bluff Rd
Holiday, FL 34691
(727) 938-2598

Ramps: 3 Lanes: 5 Surface: Unpaved
Parking Spaces: 120
Limited Hours: Dawn to Dusk
No Fee
Notes: Handicap parking, restrooms, beach access

This beautiful and serene park setting offers 300' of swimming area on the Gulf as well as places to have a picnic, play volleyball or horseshoes, and let the children play on the playground. Fishing is also permitted in designated areas.

There are six boat ramps and four docks but there is a $5.00 per day charge for use of the boat ramp. You can park overnight up to a maximum of 7 days. You must use exact change at the parking machine. There is a $2.00 charge to park at this facility and a fee collection pay station located in the park (follow directional signs) with an envelope giving instructions to place your money in the envelope and drop it into the pay station and hang the perforated part on your rear view mirror. Please have exact change as there will not be any staff available to make change for you.

Anclote Key Preserve State Park
Located three miles off the coast of Tarpon Springs in the Gulf of Mexico, Anclote Key Preserve State Park is made up of four islands – Anclote Key, North Anclote Bar, South Anclote Bar and Three Rooker Island – and is accessible only by private boat or ferry service.

The islands were named Anclote, Spanish for anchor, due to the method Spanish sailing vessels would use to navigate the shallow channels in the area. The navigation was accomplished by attaching a line to a kedge anchor, dropping the anchor at a distance in the desired direction of travel, and then using the line to pull the boat to the anchor. Although the name Anclote appears on maps dating as far back as 1715, it wasn’t until the mid 1860s that the area was permanently settled.

A restored, historic and picturesque lighthouse stands as a sentinel on the southern end of the island and was once used to guide boats into the Anclote River. It marks the mouth of the Anclote River. The tower was prefabricated in the north and then shipped to the island, arriving in June of 1887. It took just three months to assemble the cast-iron structure, and keeper James Gardner lit the light for the first time on September 15th.

From the southern end of the island, a wharf extended 209 feet into the gulf. A boat house, with rails leading to the water, was constructed onshore, adjacent to the wharf. The wharf, tower, dwellings, and an oil house and privy were all connected by a network of brick walkways.

Life at the lighthouse was tightly connected with life on the mainland at Tarpon Springs. The keepers frequently visited town to pick up supplies, retrieve mail, and attend church. Visitors to the island were not infrequent either, as town folks took advantage of the island’s pristine beaches. Around the beginning of the 20th century, John K. Cheyney started a commercial sponge venture in Tarpon Springs called the Anclote and Rock Island Sponge Company. John M. Cocoris, a native of Greece, was hired by Cheyney for his skill at harvesting and processing sponges. Cocoris sent for his brothers and an experienced diving crew from his homeland, and it wasn’t long before Tarpon Springs was known as the sponge capital of the world. The Grecian influence in Tarpon Springs is still clearly visible today.

The Anclote Key Lighthouse was automated by the Coast Guard in 1952, and then discontinued in 1984. A tall smokestack in Tarpon Springs equipped with strobe lights would serve as a night light for boaters. Abandoned, the station soon started to deteriorate. The keeper’s dwellings were burned, all the glass in the tower was shot or knocked out, and the tower was soon marred with “spray-painted declarations of love and teenage glory”. The skeletal tower eventually became part of the Anclote Key Preserve State Park, and a grassroots restoration effort was launched to save the abused tower. In January of 2003, International Chimney Corporation began an eight-month restoration project on the oil house and tower, which culminated in a relighting ceremony on September 13. A dwelling was constructed just north of the lighthouse to house a state park ranger who will help protect the restored tower from any future acts of vandalism.

Now known for its excellent fishing and shelling opportunities, this barrier island is also an important location for bird-nesting. The 403-acre park is home to at least 43 species of birds, including the American oystercatcher, bald eagle and piping plover.

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. The island offers no provisions, so be prepared to bring your own water and supplies. There is no charge for overnight stays in the primitive campground, but campers must first check in by calling the park before arrival. Park Telephone: (727) 469-5942.

To reach this park, you have to traverse a 2.5-mile stretch of open water. This area can be the site of rough water. Paddlers should be aware of the conditions and ensure that their watercraft is seaworthy enough to make the trip. Also, severe weather is common on summer afternoons in Pinellas County. Check local weather reports before heading out and prepare to be back to the mainland by early afternoon in the summer. The summer storms are fast-moving and can develop without much warning, posing a particular risk when paddling such a great distance over open water.
The red circle was my put-in and take-out point. Notes on the purple marker and yellow feet to follow...round-trip is about 7 miles.Hard to see from this vantage, but this really is a very nice park...just have to stay out of the way of the boats at the ramp.There are gorgeous mansions dotting the landscape south of the park......and it's a good thing they were there, because they were my focal point on my return.One of the many islands on the way to my far-off destination.Barely visible, there is a Great Blue Heron I tried to capture in time......but this was as close as it would let me get.The colors and textures of the day were breath-taking.A view of the channel the big boats used to get out to the open waters of the Gulf.Posing for a moment, this Great American Egret quickly relocated......and joined its kin on the next island over.It was a glorious day and the cloudless sky made for a vibrant backdrop behind these willing subjects.And there is my destination, some 2.5 miles away (this is actually a zoomed-in view). Looks like smooth sailing, doesn't it?Caught this beautiful Great American Egret before it slipped into the mangroves to escape me.The water was so clear I could see the rich seagrass dancing 2' below the surface.The bird population was abundant and active on the islands buffeting the main channel.Love this shot – gives an idea of how vast this stretch of the Gulf is.The Brown Pelican is among my favorite feathered friends...they are a natural mix of grace and practicality.Joining the pelican flock is another of my favorites: the Cormorant. Oh, and the white stuff on the leaves is bird poop (potty like a rock stah).They were gracious to let me get this close.