4 Amazing Florida Barrier Islands to Visit on the Central Gulf Coast

Roller coasters or alligators?

If you thought roller coasters were the ultimate thrill, think again. Over 126 million tourists find their way to Florida every single year, and the numbers are continuing to rise. While some tourists come to ride rides, others have a much more grand adventure in mind.

The Florida Barrier Islands offer visitors the chance to go back in time and experience wild Florida. Hidden sandbars, exotic birds, dolphins, alligators, and more, wait for you to discover them in every hidden nook. Instead of following a paved path, visitors can enjoy escaping civilization as they wander along the wooded trails.

Do you hear the sound of adventure, begging you to come and play? Read on to learn about 4 of the best barrier islands Florida has to offer.

Visiting the Florida Barrier Islands

Looking at the Pinellas County shorelines of the Florida Gulf Coast, you’ll find a variety of Florida barrier islands to visit. While some of the islands are well known, like Clearwater Beach, others are Florida’s best-kept secrets.

Hidden gems like Anna Maria Island, that will scream to you, visit here! However, before you start planning your vacation to visit each island, we suggest reviewing the benefits of each island first. Certain islands are only accessible by boat, others have roads, and some only allow a limited number of visitors each day.

The more you know ahead of time, the easier it’ll be for you to plan your trip efficiently. You’ll also have a much keener eye, since you’ll know what special features, such as plant life and wildlife, that each island is famous for. 

1. Anclote Key

The Anclote River flows past one of the most popular tourist destinations, Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks. Directly offshore from the river, you’ll find the Anclote Key Preserve State Park.

As you board your tour boat from the docks of Tarpon Springs, you’ll go directly to Anclote Key. Once you’re at the state park you can enjoy hiking trails along the shore, that wind around the entire area, enjoying some of Florida’s most natural beaches.

The Anclote Key State Park is also home to a historic lighthouse, a true photo moment. One of the best things about Anclote Key is you can only reach it by boat. As a result, the island remains untouched in many ways. Visitors will enjoy finding all sorts of seashells, and driftwood along the beach, undisturbed by civilization.

2. Stump Pass Beach 

While other Florida barrier islands have almost unlimited visitors access, Stump Pass restricts its number by only providing a few parking spots. Since there are a limited number of parking spots, on busy weekends, you could find yourself having to wait for a spot to open up. However, Stump Pass Beach is such a wonderful sight to see, it’s well worth the wait.

On the Manasota key, there’s a road in Englewood. At the very end of the road, you’ll find the entrance to Stump Pass Beach. Since the area is so secluded, visitors can enjoy a nearly private beach adventure. Famous for its white sandy beaches, you’ll be able to spend hours wandering this hidden oasis.

Stump Pass Beach faces the Atlantic side of the ocean and also has little Intracoastal spots you can relax in. Visitors enjoy swimming, resting, picnicking, or fishing, in the solitude of the small sandy spots.

If you want to stay safe from the sun, we suggest walking along the sandy path that goes through the middle of the island. The trees provide much-wanted shade, and there may even be leftover puddles from the tide, you can cool your feet wading in.

3. Shell Key Preserve 

If undeveloped barrier islands are what you’re looking for, then you need to see Shell Key. While visiting Shell Key, you’ll be able to enjoy a combination of natural beauty and exotic wildlife.

Visitors enjoy looking at the beds of seagrass and watching the sealife busy itself in the slimy plant life. Shell Key’s also popular for having a lot of birds that come to nest along the shoreline.

You’ll never forget the serenity that comes from watching shorebirds nesting along the white sandy beaches. While Shell Key isn’t developed, there are still fun beach activities available for tourists. Overnight camping, day hikes, and other activities are sure to help you pass the time in this tropical paradise.

4. Three Rooker Island

Hit the bar at Three Rooker Island! Well, the sandbar at least.

Three Rooker Island is one big sand bar. The barrier island is fairly tiny, yet its sandbar qualities make it a hot spot for boaters.

The only way to reach Three Rooker Island is by going out to it on a boat and anchoring yourself off the shore. Once you anchor your boat, you’ll have to swim to reach the shore of the island.

As you step foot onto the shore, the first thing you’ll notice is how incredibly soft and powdery the fine white sand feels. Boaters enjoy lazing about on the sand bars warm beach while soaking up the sun rays.

You can also take a walk in ankle-deep water as you go from one end of the beach to the other. While you won’t find any birds nesting along the shoreline, the likelihood of seeing dolphins or sharks are higher. Fish love to circle sandbars, making them the perfect dining spot for all sorts of sea life.

Have the Adventure of a Lifetime

Now you know a little more about some of the best Florida barrier islands. We hope that our article will inspire you to take action, and start planning your dream vacation.

Do you want to learn about more ways you can juice your life up with some amazing adventures? Go ahead and read another one of our Travel articles, today!

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