Soak in sun, wildlife, history — and maybe spy dolphins — on ferry cruise to Anclote Key

Credit: Tiffini Theisen

Credit: Tiffini Theisen

A visit to coastal Florida isn’t really complete without getting out on the water at least once. But what if you’re not in the mood for an adventure such as parasailing or renting a Jet Ski? And what if you don’t own a boat or know a friend who does? An inexpensive ferry ride can be a good compromise.

On the Gulf Coast, one company that offers quick sightseeing jaunts, Odyssey Cruises, combines nature appreciation with a history lesson. Setting off from its dock in the charming village of Tarpon Springs — which has the highest concentration of Greek-Americans in the U.S. — the ferry makes its way down the Anclote River, passing beautiful estates, the Anclote River Park and wildlife sightings.

On a recent two-hour Dolphin Adventure Island Cruise ($18.99 adults, $9.99 children), we unfortunately didn’t see any dolphins, but our guide pointed out osprey nests — including one from which we could see the top of a tiny chick’s head — and shared facts about Tarpon’s sponge docks, the area’s archaeology and Native American past.

As we entered the Gulf of Mexico, we picked up speed to make our way to the highlight of the tour, a 30-minute stop on the south end of Anclote Key. The long, skinny island, accessible only by boat, is studded with a variety of beautiful, colorful shells, as well as interesting sponges and seaweeds to take in. Our time on the quiet beach came to much too quick of an end when our guide blew into a conch shell to herd us all back aboard for the return trip. Odyssey Cruises also offers less expensive trips that don’t stop on the island — $9.99 for an hour and $15.99 for two hours. In addition, a two-hour sunset cruise is $18.99.

A boat ride fits nicely into a full day in Tarpon Springs, a charming village with its unique sponge docks, Greek restaurants, several pretty parks and beaches, and a handful of nearby attractions such as Konger Tarpon Springs Aquarium and the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art.

Ferry service to Anclote Key Preserve State Park comes from Tarpon Springs as well as Pasco County to the north. The island itself is part of Pasco. The 403-acre park boasts more than 40 species of birds and a lighthouse built in 1887 on the south end of the island.



Anclote Key Preserve State Park


Odyssey Cruises

776 Dodecanese Blvd, Tarpon Springs


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