Egmont Key off St. Petersburg, Florida is a tiny island with a grandiose past that’s only accessible by boat. This 450-acre island was used as a jail for Seminoles, and was held by the Union in the Civil War for its strategic location in the bay. With the threat of war against the Spanish in 1898, a fort was built on the seashell shore to guard against potential attack, and stands today as concrete reminder of the island’s historic past. When visiting Egmont Key today on a boat ride from Fort DeSoto Beach, pack along shoes to enjoy the hiking trails that weave through the island’s interior, and keep a lookout for gopher tortoises that inhabit the sandy the island. Also bring your bathing suit, of course, for wading in the cerulean waters, and sunscreen to keep your skin protected while lounging out on the beach. Towards the end of the island is Egmont Key Lighthouse, which has stoically stood here since 1858 as an aid to passing ships. Today it’s one of the only structures that still remain on the key, which is a calming retreat of seashells and wilderness just minutes from bustling Tampa Bay.
Egmont Key is a Florida State Park and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There are no shops or facilities on the island, so you’ll have bring everything with you, including food, water, sunscreen, and anything you need for the beach. From March-September ferries run twice per day, departing Fort DeSoto at 10am and 11am, returning at 2pm, 3pm, and 4pm. From after Labor Day through the end of February, one ferry per day runs at 11am, returning at either 3pm or 2pm depending on the time of year.
Address: St. Petersburg, Florida, USA 33711, USA
Hours: Open daily 8am-Sunset
Admission: Prices vary from $15/ferry ticket to fares for a private boat
Florida's Gulf Coast is haven for all kinds of interesting and exotic wildlife, and the Boyd Hill Nature Preserve near St. Petersburg offers the chance to explore unique ecosystems, including hardwood hammocks, sand pine scrub, pine flatwoods, swamp woodlands, willow marsh and lake shore. The 245-acre park has six miles of trail and boardwalk along the shore of Lake Maggiore, where you can spot alligators and lizards, myriad birds, butterflies and much more. The park also has an aviary for birds of prey, picnic areas, a playground and overnight camping.
Boyd Hill Nature Preserve is just outside of St. Petersburg, about halfway between Clearwater and Sarasota. It's situated along the southwest shore or Lake Maggiore, near the St. Petersburg County Club. For visitors looking for an easy way to explore, tram tours run daily at 1 p.m., or 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Saturdays. The tram costs $2 per person.
Address: 1101 Country Club Way South, St. Petersburg, Florida 33705, USA