3 Amazing Experiences at the Egmont Key National Wildlife Refuge

Some parks are isolated and quiet retreats for nature lovers. Others are truly isolated, hidden nooks far off-the-beaten-path, and accessible to only a select few who go out of their way for a big adventure.

Egmont Key National Wildlife Refuge is the latter. The fact that it is only accessible by boat only scratches the surface. The Egmont Key National Wildlife Refuge in St. Petersburg little wildlife retreat, and quaint, untapped, and gorgeous escape.

Make it a must-see stop when you stay at one of our Anna Maria Island vacation rentals.

We cover our three favorite experiences at the refuge and how you can get the most out of your special trip.

Aerial shot of Egmont Key National Wildlife Refuge

The Historic Site

The main attraction at the refuge is the historic site. The island was essentially a prison- a place where captures Seminoles were held during the Third Seminole War.

The union navy subsequently took it over during the Civil War and used it as a naval launching point for battles along the coast of Florida.

Finally, the refuge stood as a pivotal fort site during the Spanish-American War. In 1898, Fort Dade was built and remained in some state of operation until the early ’20s.

You can still some relics of the site today in all its iterations. Stone blocks are still scattered about, like a maze, at the refuge’s main historic site of Fort Dade. If you inspect under and around the surrounding waters, you may find large structures and buildings which have dilapidated under the gulf water.


Due to the underwater building relics, it should come as no surprise that snorkeling is one of the main things to do here. Egmont Key snorkeling is very popular, though it is often unmonitored and at your own risk. Make sure you are comfortable in the water before partaking on this fun day trip activity. It makes for a nice complement to one of the Anna Maria Island rentals with a pool!

Tortoise at Egmont Key National Wildlife Refuge

Catch the Wildlife Along the Trails

Due to the lack of big crowds and the quiet isolation of the refuge, it has become a key site for wildlife. Shorebirds gather in staggering numbers along the quiet coastline. Hummingbirds frequent the nearby brush along the south end of the island. This area is dubbed the Shore Bird Refuge, and the name is no coincidence.

You can hike along the refuge’s six miles of trails alongside the Shore Bird Refuge beach and by Fort Dade. You may also find some of the refuge’s famous turtles along the trails. These include the cute Florida Box Turtle or the often big and often cranky Gopher Tortoise.

Along the way, consider some Egmont Key fishing. It is only allowed in certain areas, so be wary of signed posting. A fishing license is required. If you don’t care for fishing, try digging around for some shells. Egmont Key shelling is a lot of fun, but you can’t keep live shells.

Venturing the trails offers a lot of quiet reflection. Take your time as you see the majority of the Egmont Key Wildlife Refuge.

Wildlife Refuge Details

The whole park is open every day of the year- no exceptions. This means you can at your leisure any day you see fit, from 8 a.m. to sundown. Keep in mind, there are no restroom amenities anywhere on the island. Be aware of this if you plan to bring the kids.

Make this a memorable journey and add it to your list of places to see when staying at our local Anna Maria Island vacation rentals.

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