Egmont Key Island State Park, St. Petersburg, Florida

Here’s more mid-winter sunshine!

Throwback Tuesday Post (TBTP): Every Tuesday, I re-post a past post that I think is relevant and that you’ll enjoy.

This post was originally published on June 23, 2016 and updated on December 31, 2019.

A few weeks ago I posted photos of a trip to Fort DeSoto Park in Florida with my photo phriend Paula Showen. Our original intent was to hop a ferry there to Egmont Key, a small island just off the coast. However, the ferry wasn’t running that day. So, we returned a few weeks later and, by golly, hopped that ferry!

Some interesting facts about Egmont Key:

  • It was formed thousands of years ago from a river delta and stands at the mouth of Tampa Bay. Ships coming to Port of Tampa must pass Egmont Key then pass under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge before reaching the port. There is a harbor pilot station on the island for the incoming/outgoing ships.
  • Spanish explorers were the first Europeans to survey the island in 1757. It passed back and forth between Spain and England for a few years. During that time, it was named by the English for the Earl of Egmont in Ireland. It passed to the US in 1827.
  • There is no roadway to the island. You must take a private boat or ferry to reach it. Here’s our worthy vessel ($20 roundtrip per person) moored at the dock before we boarded:

And moored at the beach on the island:

  • The island stands at the mouth of Tampa Bay so all ships coming from the gulf to Port of Tampa must pass it. Because of its position, a lighthouse was built in 1847, which was destroyed in the Great Gale of 1848. Reportedly, the lighthouse keeper rode out the storm in a small boat tied to a palmetto. Afterward, he rowed to Fort Brooke in present-day Tampa and immediately resigned. A new lighthouse was built in 1858 and is operated by the Coast Guard today.
  • There is no entrance fee for Egmont Key. There are also no shops of any kind, so you have to bring your own food, water and such. It’s open from 8am to sunset each day.
  • Egmont Key was a camp for captured Seminoles who were then sent on to a reservation elsewhere. The island was occupied by the Union Navy in the Civil War during the blockade of the South.
  • In 1898, Fort Dade was built on Egmont Key because of the Spanish-American War. It was active until 1923. Today, there are many ruins of the Fort on the island. You can freely explore them; they make great photo opps:

One of my favorite shots of Paula posing in a bunker:

  • A town was built near Fort Dade for the people serving the fort and soldiers. You can freely explore the ruins of the town as well. Here’s a surviving red brick street:

Here’s a topless building near the street I turned into a black and white:

The wind, and therefore surf, was high that day. I got this dramatic shot of the water breaking over part of a ruin:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took over in 1974. They turned the island over to the State of Florida in 1989 and it became a state park. Most of the island is now a wildlife refuge. Here are some of its inhabitants:

Gopher tortoise:

Sea Grapes:

This poor sea turtle was washed up on the beach upside down when we arrived. The boat crew flipped him over – was still alive but barely moving. They phoned a rescue group and ended up taking him with us on the return trip. Someone from the rescue group met us there to see if they could save him. It didn’t look good, what with all the tumors, but I hope he was able to survive. It was fascinating being this close to a sea turtle, though. He was about the size of a hubcap:

As I said above, the wind was blowing hard that day, which made wonderful mini-sculptures of pebbles in the sand on the beach:

And these pine straws formed some kind of cubist drawing Picasso would have been proud of (do you see the face?):

I love this shot – freezing the surf. Do you realize that, before photography, no one could have ever seen this?

A dock on the island that I thought made a good, layered photo:

More layers of water and the mainland skyline punctuated by buoys:

Icing on the cake that day (a big, delicious cake) was this puppy and two of his litter mates on the boat when we returned:

Of course, I highly recommend this excursion. It’s fairly easy to get to as long as you check with the ferry service beforehand. They usually don’t run on Mondays, nor on Tuesdays during the winter months. The wildlife is interesting, and the beaches are beautiful. Bring a picnic and some sunscreen and you’re set!

Photo for No Apparent Reason:

5 thoughts on “Egmont Key Island State Park, St. Petersburg, Florida”

  1. What an awesome article! It was a beautiful, although chilly, day! One of my favorite photo adventures with you!

  2. We have been travelling this summer up north. I am just now getting back to my computer and see I have to resubscribe. It doesn’t work for me. Maybe because I have a Macintosh computer? I sure want to keep up with you. Your articles are very interesting. And I love your photos. What can I do about this?

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