These fish camps, perched high above the Gulf of Mexico on wooden legs, stand in silent tribute to Florida’s yesteryear. The water surrounding these camps is calm and shallow – ideal for paddleboards.
Paddleboard Tours at Green Key
Half-kayak and half-surfboard, stand-up paddleboards dot the placid waters surrounding Green Key. Paddleboarders dance across key lime water, away from buff-colored shores and out toward a slice of Florida history.
As you paddle into the Gulf, the world beneath your feet comes alive. Cownose rays – tiny, timid stingrays, no bigger than a dinner plate – flutter over sea grass. Mullet twist and toss themselves into the air. As your paddle pushes you through saltwater, redfish zig, then zag, just beneath the surface of this oversized aquarium.
Caleb Aitken found his calling here. Originally from Wyoming, Caleb came to the Gulf coast on vacation, took one look at the water and mailed his boss his resignation. Now he gives paddleboarding tours of the stilt houses, offering four-mile, round-trip paddles to those seeking a challenge with a bit of Floridana.
“This is paradise!” he shouts as he pushes away from a labyrinth of gnarled red mangroves and glides over a school of silver bait fish. Caleb leads seasoned paddleboarders past stilt houses and out to Durney Key, pointing out sea life and sharing his passion for Florida’s Gulf coast along the way.
The Stilt Houses
The shallow, sapphire-studded waters reflect the sun-bleached wood on these houses, private residences used as fish camps in the Gulf. Celebrities from Johnny Cash to Billy Graham have sought respite in these weathered bits of old Florida. The stilt houses remain as long as the weather permits: State law says those destroyed in a storm cannot be rebuilt. The fish camps stand in mere feet of water, so paddleboards are one of the few ways to get close.
Landfall at Durney Key
Tucked amidst the watery stilt city, Durney Key attracts paddleboarders, kitesurfers, kayakers and boaters. Driftwood and bits of sea glass adorn its shore and fiddler crabs scurry over packed brown sand. A cluster of trees in the key’s center offers shelter. Day-trippers and campers alike search for shells and watch the sun set over the fish camps.
On the paddle back toward Green Key, fish scurry from your path as the nightly seabreeze pushes you home. From the sand, you can see the stilt houses in the distance, waiting for your return.
If You Go:
Meet Caleb Aitken and let him take you on a paddling tour. Learn more at www.downsouthkiteandpaddle.com/
Green Key’s Robert K. Rees Memorial Park (4835 Green Key Road, New Port Richey) has shelters, restrooms and paddleboard access. The park closes at dark; paddlers who expect to return after sunset should park east of the entrance alongside the road. Durney Key primitive camping is first-come, first-serve. Pets are allowed.
This article was brought to you by the Pasco County CVB. To plan your trip to Pasco county, visit www.VisitPasco.net.