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Don Pedro Island, Sombrero Beach and more beaches calling your name

Don Pedro Island, Sombrero Beach and more beaches calling your name

This is a test:

Ever heard of Don Pedro Island, Klondike Beach or Sombrero Beach ? Hands up for Yes. My hands are down. All new to me! Florida native David McRee, aka The Beach Hunter, is our guest blogger this month with his second installment of five barefoot-worthy beaches in Florida you might not know about.

School is out. Officially summer has started. Off the beaten path beaches are calling your name. Here we go . .

Don Pedro Island, Klondike Beach and three more you may not know

By David McRee

In an earlier article we looked at five Florida beaches you’ve probably never heard of. I hope you found some beaches in that list that piqued your interest.

Now I’ve got five more. If you prefer to avoid traveling with the herd, you’ll be happy to learn about the following Florida beaches still off the beaten path, but fairly easily accessible to the public. But don’t tell anyone.

Don Pedro Island State Park
Don Pedro Island State Park. Photo by David McRee

Palm Island is an archipelago of four interconnected islands north of Boca Grande in the Gulf of Mexico: Knight Island (aka Palm Island), Thornton Key (no beaches), Don Pedro Island (also has a state park), and Little Gasparilla Island (Wow!). These islands are accessible only by boat. The Palm Island Transit Company provides a ferry service to the Palm Island Resort, and to part of Don Pedro (but not to the state park). The islands offer seven miles of uncrowded beaches, excellent beachcombing, and plenty of peace and quiet. There are no stores on the islands except for the restaurant and shop in the Palm Island resort. Golf carts are the main method of transportation. The best way to see the islands is to book a rental, but Don Pedro Island State Park is great for day visitors.

Palm Island Resort

Palm Island Transit Ferry

Don Pedro Island State Park

Cayo Costa Ferry to Don Pedro

Guana River Beach is part of a National Marine Reserve, which means there’s plenty of pristine nature to be enjoyed. It’s located between St. Augustine and Jacksonville on the Atlantic Ocean along a nine-mile stretch of completely undeveloped ocean beach. Three parking lots with accompanying boardwalks make beach access easy. The dunes at Guana River Beach are some of the tallest you’ll encounter anywhere in Florida, and the view from the top of the dunes is incredible. It’s one of the most scenic spots in all of Florida. Maybe you’ll even spot an endangered Right Whale!

Guana Beach Access Information

Klondike Beach is the most remote part of the twenty-four mile long beach known as Canaveral National Seashore. Klondike is the twelve mile stretch of completely undeveloped beach between New Smyrna’s Apollo Beach and Cape Canaveral’s famous Playalinda Beach. Access Klondike Beach from the southernmost parking area of Apollo Beach, or from the northernmost parking area of Playalinda. Klondike has no facilities of any kind. It’s a wilderness experience. Before doing any serious exploring of the Klondike Beach area, check with the park service—you may need a backcountry permit. The beach is absolutely pristine and undeveloped. You want quiet? You’ve got it at Klondike Beach.

 

Klondike Beach
Klondike Beach. Photo by David McRee

Access Information

Questions answered

Sombrero Beach is my favorite beach in the Florida Keys. You’ll find it in the City of Marathon, about halfway to Key West. Although it has full facilities and is a popular local beach, most folks from outside of south Florida have never heard of it. Most people who come to Marathon are here for fishing or diving, so while they are out in their boat, you can hit the beach. Sombrero is a crescent-shaped beach of white coral sands fringed with coconut palms. It’s the perfect spot to get that truly tropical beach feel without going all the way to Key West. And, unlike many beaches in the Florida Keys, the water at Sombrero is deep enough to swim.

 

Sombrero Beach
Sombrero Beach. Photo by David McRee

Sombrero Beach Access Information

Anclote Key (Anclote rhymes with “boat”; the “e” is silent) is one of those few islands close to densely populated cities that has entirely escaped the bulldozer. The island is now protected as a state park. It has one full-time ranger, a lighthouse, and offers primitive camping on the north end. Four miles off the coast of Dunedin and Tarpon Springs, Anclote Key can be reached only by boat. It is within kayaking distance of the mainland. Most visitors to Anclote Key arrive by their own private boat or by tour boats operating from the sponge docks of Tarpon Springs.

 

Anclote Key Beach
Anclote Key Beach. Photo by David McRee

 

 

 

 

 

Anclote Key State Park Access Information

Getting to Anclote Key

 

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What would outdoor Florida be without wading along the shoreline, swimming, tubing, snorkeling, diving, kayaking, boating and fishing?

Definitely a sorry place indeed – I honestly wonder how many of us would stick around without all these wonderful wet places we take for granted.

Fortunately for visitors and residents alike, aquatic preserves, the Florida Springs initiative, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Coral Reef Conservation all ensure these ecosystems will be around for a long time, thank goodness.

Let’s explore a bit of what we take for granted – Florida’s outdoor coolest spots.

Floating over Another World in Florida’s Outdoor Coolest Spots

A small group of us took up the offer to go on a free snorkeling trip to explore the estuarine world of Gasparilla Sound-Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserve in Southwest Florida near Punta Gorda and Placida.

Florida's outdoor coolest spots - Snorkeling in Gasparilla Sound.
Snorkeling in Gasparilla Sound.

Off we go on a pontoon boat. Even non-swimmers felt comfortable about getting wet. The water depth was, at most, four feet so it was easy to stand up at any time.

What a difference a mask and snorkel make! I float along, hands loose at my sides, looking down at swaying clumps of sea grass. Schools of little fish dart back and forth. A young grouper goes by giving me the eye but moving on quickly. I’m in their water world now – a visitor in a foreign land and it is fascinating.

I stand up with reluctance. Our two hours are up. Bummer. I promise myself I’ll be back.

In the upper Florida Keys at Key Largo is John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Land sits next to water with its living communities of protected coral reefs. Naturally, snorkeling tours are immensely popular. Make reservations at (305) 451-6300. The two and a half hour tour take you out by pontoon boat. You are in the water for an hour to an hour and a half. Bring gear or rent equipment there (prices on Web site). Snorkeling tour fee is $29.95 for an adult, $24.95 for children under 18.

Springs Bubble with Blue Beauty

Florida's outdoor coolest spots - divers at Ginnie Springs
Divers at Ginnie Springs

Forty-four parks, mostly in Central and North Florida, have accessible springs – get wet, canoe, bring a picnic lunch, dive, even float on an inner tube, carried by the current on clear blue water. Some samples: Ginnie Springs Outdoors near High Springs. Ichetucknee Springs State Park where tubing down the river carries on as a family tradition over the generations and Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, the last undeveloped habitat in Kings Bay with 30 known springs. This is a refuge for West Indian manatees.

Water trails in Florida are called blue highways. They meander through mangrove, down rivers, along the coast, paddling can be very addictive – and for the super serious there is the CT, the Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail. It is the longest saltwater paddling trail in the continental United States. The keeper of all things related to Florida paddling is the Florida Paddling Trails Association.

Florida's Outdoor Coolest spots - canoeing at Alexander Springs
Canoeing at Alexander Springs.

For a truly other world experience, join A Day Away Kayak Tours for a black night/cold light bioluminescent night tour in the Indian River Lagoon. Bioluminescent season started in June and continues until October. See their calendar to know when the black nights (no moon) times are. Prices vary by weekday/weekend and whether you bring your own boat or use theirs. To know more call (321) 268-2655. No need to be a kayak expert – they’ll have you gliding along in no time.

Three of us went on this tour, leaving from the Haulover Canal Launch Site 20 minutes east of Titusville We pushed off at sunset stopping first in an area known for manatee sightings (not that night) then lazily making our way to the Lagoon. Now it is dark, pitch dark. I dip my paddle in the water and a trail of silver follows the paddle. A mullet swims by trailing bioluminescent in its wake. No one really knows what causes millions of tiny organisms in the water to light up when the water is disturbed and it only happens in certain months.

Overhead the sky is a huge inverted black bowl filled with stars. We rest our paddles. It is utterly silent and so beautiful it takes my breath away. Pictures? No. I didn’t even try.

This is one of those “you have to be there” experiences.

Florida’s outdoor coolest spots are waiting for  you – just do it!

 

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