If you are cruising down the West Coast of Florida, be sure to check out the great boating destinations in and around Tampa Bay. Most of these islands, formed at the end of the last ice age, have been taken over by condominiums and hotels. But a select few – thanks to government foresight and plain luck – have retained their natural beauty.
Anclote Key has always been one of my favorite camping spots in Florida. You can only get there by boat, so that ensures a certain degree of privacy. Sitting on the deserted beach in the morning as the sun filters through the pines, it is not hard to picture yourself in another era, a time when conquistadors and Indians ruled this stretch of coast. As a result, the Key is one of the more popular boating destinations on the west coast. To keep human impact to a minimum, the state has built pavilions in the middle of the island on the gulf side and one at the north end at the designated primitive campground.
Heading south along the coast, the next island is Honeymoon Island. The north end has a beautiful beach but because of the shallow water and strong currents, it is not recommended for boaters. Keep traveling south to Caladesi Island State Park.
St. Petersburg has its own great family boating destinations at the mouth of Tampa Bay.
Egmont Key, a state park rich in history, can be visited by private boat or public ferry, making it a favorite destination for class groups working on school projects. The leeward side of this 400-acre island has a mooring area for private boats.
To learn more, go to www.floridastateparks.org.