The Island: Snead Island, Fl 27.5313° N, 82.6200° W
Where: in the Manatee River in Tampa Bay
How: We anchored for the night in the Manatee River to ride out a storm. We stared at the shore all afternoon and evening as we rocked back and forth in the waves and storm.
Why: We had a few minutes the next morning to take the dinghy and explore. We wanted to see the abandoned sailboat and the gorgeous flora on shore that was so close.
What: We hopped in the dinghy early that morning and cruised over to an abandoned sailboat that happened to be based in St. Thomas. We don’t know the story but an educated sailors guess would say their anchor drug, they ran aground and were never able to get enough tide to get back afloat. Interestingly, this boat was gone a few months later. After exploring the eerie derelict boat, we headed to a little sand area among the mangroves and trees.
We were greeted with conches, treasures, flora and a cool path that went deeper onto the island. Wishing we weren’t so strapped for time we waded around in the shells discovering a super cool old liquor bottle, several conches and other cool treasures.
The Island: Lido Key, Fl 27.3121° N, 82.5761° W
Where: In Sarasota Bay, Fl encompassing St. Armand’s Key
How: You can travel from Sarasota or Longboat Key and arrive on Lido Key. A small but gorgeous island boasting white, powdery sand beaches, a few restaurants and plenty of nature to go around. Are you in love with Florida yet? We certainly are.
Why: On this trip, honestly, it was just a quick pass thru. This island is definitely on our list to go back and visit and explore more.
What: This island has a little bit of everything without having too much of anything. There are parks, great little neighborhoods, a restaurant or two and the whitest most powderyist sand I’ve ever encountered in Florida. The west coast of Florida is amazing in that each few miles you go, you encounter completely different shells, sand and topography. In Love for sure!
The Island: St. Armands, Fl 27.3187° N, 82.5767° W
Where: Circular Island in Sarasota Bay, Fl
How: While this little circular island is an island, you can access it by car or private boat. There didn’t appear to be any public docking on this small island. There is, however, a marina very close by on the causeway over to the island.
Why: We decided to play tourist for the day and had a great time exploring the large variety of shops and restaurants. We especially enjoyed the Tommy Bahama restaurant.
What: The “circle” was composed of restaurants, shops and novelties all within a short walk. In the middle of the circle stood statues and many street performers looking to make a dollar or two while sharing their talents with passerbys. The outskirts of the circle were dotted with beautiful Floridian style homes, many with their own dock.
The Island: Longboat Key, Fl 27.4125° N, 82.6590° W
Where: Western Florida south of St. Pete and just North of Sarasota
How: Longboat Pass is a gorgeous island in western florida offering resorts, beaches, shopping and plenty of other things to do.
Why: We decided to tuck up into Longboat Key Moorings Club to wait out some very windy weather. We fell IN LOVE with this marina and plan to keep our boat there in the future.
What: Not only was the marina gorgeous, it had a short, easy albeit skinny channel to get in but then plenty of room to maneuver into our slip. We had a pool within sight, Italian restaurant, a pub, Publix and a golf course. The marina has all the amenities including laundry, ships store, bike rentals and a free taxi to the beach where we were waited on all day on the beach by their fantastic beach service. Even though it was windy we made the best of it and limed, relaxed, provisioned and did laundry until the weather improved.
The Island: Jewfish Key, Fl 27.4417° N, 82.6793° W
Where: Jewfish Key is a small island just inland of Longboat Pass.
How: There are very few homes on Jewfish and they are private so you have to arrive by boat. The sandbar just off the western side offers plenty of options for dinghy’s, pontoons or any water vessel that doesn’t require much of a draft.
Why: While we hadn’t planned to make a stop here, fate had other ideas for us. When our destination anchorage didn’t work out, we anchored next to Jewfish just south of the sandbar at Longboat Pass…and didn’t leave for 2 days. It was THAT good.
What: The sunsets were epic and the sandbar plentiful. It only took us a few minutes to get to the sandbar even in our not so fast dinghy. Once there, you were met with gorgeous white sand, bright blue water and an abundance of sea life. We witnessed more than one person walking away with handfuls of sand dollars. While we don’t recommend needing that many, we did love seeing so many in the water as well as crabs and other large whole shells. There are many restaurants nearby on Longboat Key and Anna Maria Island as well as Longboat Pass which offers a perfect opportunity to watch boats going in and out of its VERY skinny opening.
The Island: Egmont Key, Fl 27.5891° N, 82.7628° W
Where: Egmont is located at the mouth of Tampa Bay in western Florida
How: Egmont is the last stop before the open ocean and a boat is the only option. While there is a national refuge and plenty to do on the island there is currently no ferry, restrooms or overnight options.
Why: Egmont Key has a deep history with the military including an old Navy hospital, a fort which is now in ruins and several lighthouse keeper homes. The island also has a gorgeous brick walk that was part of Fort Dade and its 300 residents that lived on Egmont during the Spanish-American war. The army and its families offered protection for Tampa Bay. There are reports of many turtles on the island but we didn’t run into any on the day we were there.
What: We had a nice sail through the bay and anchored on the south side of the beach. It was a nice hold but a long walk to the lighthouse and ruins. I highly recommend taking water and a snack if you plan to walk the whole island. Not a hiker? The white sandy beaches brought plenty of shelling opportunities and all sorts of treasure hunting finds. It felt like a step back in time. I’m so glad we stumbled on this super cool island!
Where: An island just N of STJ. www.lovangovi.com
How: By boat, dinghy or ferry The Lovango Beach Club ferry runs from St. Thomas and St. John to Lovango. The day we arrived we were in a dinghy and it was a bit choppy. We almost didn’t attempt it but changed our minds because it looked too gorgeous to miss.
Why: Last stop on the dinghy tour! This Beach Club is new and we really wanted to check it out.
What: The history of Lovango is rich in culture and legends. Today, there are full time residents PLUS a new fancy resort called Lovango Beach Club. I will admit I’m not a resort type girl but ALL the staff were friendly and welcoming even though our salty sailor attire didn’t match the gorgeous tropical resort decor. We will definitely be back!
The Island: Small uninhabited island great for snorkeling
Where: Just north of St. John, USVI and Caneel’s beaches
How: This island can only be accessed by boat, dinghy, yacht or sailboat. There are some mooring balls just off shore for snorkeling.
Why: We love to snorkel! I’m not much of a scuba diver but I LOVE to snorkel. Being able to put on a mask and seeing what’s below the surface of the ocean is exhilarating and beautiful.
What: On this stop we saw fish and great coral and the non-snorkelers got SOAKED by a rainstorm!
The Island: St. John, USVI
Where: St. John is one of three main US Virgin Islands in the Caribbean
How: To get there, head to your local airport and take a plane to Cyril King airport (STT) then take one of two ferries (Crown Bay Ferry or Red Hook Ferry)
Why: We LOVE it! STJ was our honeymoon destination and has drawn us back many, many times. Philip first went in the 90’s with a marine biology class and first took me in 2008. Even our daughter who is now 7 has been 6 times. The community, the beaches and the crystal blue water brings us back over and over. If you’ve been then you know the mystical, magical enchanting lure this island has.
What: This trip we went with friends to relax, explore and eat good food! While there, we relaxed on our favorite beaches, limed with our island friends, ate at all our favorite local watering holes and beach hopped on a dinghy.
The Island: St. Thomas, USVI
Where: St. Thomas is one of three main US Virgin Islands in the Caribbean
How: To get there, head to your local airport and take a plane to Cyril King airport (STT)
Why: We love the Virgin Islands but typically for us St. Thomas is just a necessary stop to get to St. John, USVI!
What: There is something about the warm breeze that permeates the plane when they open the doors to St. Thomas. After a quick taxi ride to Crown Bay Marina we settled in to Tickles for lunch and wait for the ferry to St. John. From the airport, you can also head to Red Hook and take a ferry from there. Private boat options are also available.