There are four islands that make up Anclote Key Preserve State Park. Most notable
is Anclote Key - home to a historic lighthouse constructed in 1887. The park also
includes North Anclote Bar (Dutchman Key), South Anclote Bar and Three Rocker Island.
Located three miles off the coast of Tarpon Springs, it is only accessible by boat
or ferry service. The three minor islands are sand bars that tend to change shape
with each new tropical storm that blows through.
Anclote Key is about
four miles long from north to south and occupies 180 acres. The Gulf side is lined
with a beautiful unspoiled white sand beach. The side of the island facing the mainland
is composed of mangrove forest and grass marshland. Boating in the area can be interesting
since the water is shallow - especially on the coastal side and at the north and
south ends. On the southeast tip of Anclote Key there is a pier - but it is off
limits to boaters unless docking priveleges are obtained. It is permissable to anchor
along the sandy beach adjacent to the pier.
The lighthouse is located near the south tip of the island. Originally commissioned
in 1886 by president Grover Cleveland, it was built and placed into operation in
September of 1887. In 1952 the Anclote Key Light was automated, and lighthouse keepers
were no longer stayed on the island. As the years went by, the lighthouse fell victim
to vandalism, and in it was finally decommissioned in 1984.
In 2002 a project to restore the lighthouse and other historical structures on Anclote
Key was initiated. The lighthouse has now been restored completely and is operational.
A new pier and boardwalk was constructed that leads to the lighthouse. Access to
the interior of the lighthouse is not permitted except during special events.
There is a trail along the Gulf side of the island that begins near the lighthouse
compound and extends about a mile to the north. From there it is possible
to hike along the beach all the way to the north tip of Anclote Key. Tent camping
is allowed at the north tip, as well as on the south portion of Three Rocker Island.
Since almost the entire Anclote Key Preserve is considered a bird sanctuary, dogs
are not permitted except on North Anclote Bar.
Getting to Anclote Key Preserve State Park requires a boat or private ferry service.
Private boats may anchor along the beaches. If you like open water kayaking, you
can launch from Sunset Beach or Howard Park in Tarpon Springs, or from Anclote River
Park in Pasco County. Various private ferry operators in Tarpon Springs and New
Port Richey offer round trip shuttles to the park. If you take a private ferry,
be forwarned that some do not have docking priveleges at the pier on Anclote Key,
and will drop you off on South Anclote Bar instead. You will not be able to access
the lighthouse area from South Anclote Bar.