Anclote River Park in Pasco County offers a small but popular beachfront. A rather unassuming Pasco County park in a tucked-away area north of Tarpon Springs, Anclote River Park is a geographical goldmine for boaters.
Anclote has recently seen an increase in visitors. The park offers 50 acres of waterfront views across the Anclote River and is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike. Visitors can enjoy activities such as fishing, swimming, kayaking or simply taking in the beautiful views from one of the many walking trails available throughout the park.
This recent spike in visitors is due to several improvements made by the city over recent months. These include adding more benches to provide resting spaces among nature and increasing signage around particular points of interest within the park – making it easier for people to explore without feeling lost or overwhelmed by its vastness. In addition, new boat launches were installed which have attracted more boaters to take advantage of this picturesque setting.
Set on the mouth of the Anclote River, boaters are perfectly positioned to either set out for Anclote Key, a nature preserve about 3½ miles into the Gulf of Mexico, or to journey up the river and experience the keys, bayous, and dockside restaurants of Tarpon Springs. During the weekends, the sizable parking lots can be filled with trucks and trailers of residents looking to spend a day trolling in the water.
Apart from its boating advantages, the park also serves as a community area for residents to swim and sunbathe at the sandy beach and to hold cookouts and picnics under the covered pavilions. This park has something for everyone and it’s clear why the location has cemented it as a staple for residents and tourists.
- Excellent boat launch point with cheap overnight parking.
- Pavilions and a community park vibe great for picnics and birthdays.
- A shallow and sandy beach creates a good beach spot for toddlers, the elderly and weaker swimmers.
Anclote River Park Beach
The park is home to a 300-foot sandy beach that faces the small, woodsy keys and sandbars of the Anclote River. The white sand shore isn’t very deep, maybe only 70 feet or so, and buoys floating in the water offshore to ensure that boat traffic and swimmers don’t mix.
Big oak trees dot the back of the beach zone, offering a shady picnic place or a place to pop your beach chair and do the crossword. Changing rooms, outdoor showers, and bathrooms are close by.
The water is warm, calm, shallow and only about 7 feet deep at the buoys — not a great place to swim laps. But if you feel like a causal wade or float, then this is the place. The water gets murkier the closer you get to the buoys because of sediment kicked up from passing boats, so always do the stingray shuffle to avoid stepping on a riverbed animal.
Because of its small size and gently sloping shore, the beach is a great fit for families of toddlers who need to quickly scan the waterline to check in on their children. Older couples can also be found in enjoying the calm waters and chatting.
Looking for a place to host a rowdy beach party? Beaches in Clearwater might be a closer fit. Also, no alcohol is allowed at the park, so don’t pack those margaritas in the cooler.
Things to Do in Anclote River Park
Spanning over 100 acres of lush wetlands and an unspoiled nature preserve, Anclote River Park offers a variety of activities for locals and visitors alike. Whether you’re looking for leisurely strolls or thrilling hikes, there’s something for everyone here.
One popular activity at Anclote River Park is its kayak tour of mangroves and estuaries along the river. Experienced guides lead visitors through the winding waters while educating them about the local wildlife and plant life along the way. Fishing is also allowed in designated areas along the banks of the river with a valid license from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
By far the biggest draw to the park is the use of its glorious, six-lane boat ramp.
With overnight parking and a drop point at the mouth of the channel, the ramp is perfect for boaters who are looking to motor out toward Anclote Key. The ramp also serves boaters who want to casually travel around the keys and sandbars in the channel and then journey upriver to a dockside eatery.
Technically there’s no marina in the park, but Anclote Village Marina is right next door. It has both boat storage and rentals.
But boaters be careful: Manatees love to swim the channel and have a hard time hearing boat engines, so boat slowly and keep an eye out for the threatened species.
Fishing is permitted at the park as long as you’re not standing near the boat ramp or beach area. Waters at the mouth of the channel are shallow, so don’t expect any huge prize-winning specimens, but smaller fare like mullet and crabs often can be found swimming the channel.
Picnics and parties
Giant covered pavilions, charcoal barbecue grills and picnic benches make this park a great place to hold a small outdoor birthday party or summer barbeque. If you want a pavilion just for your party, you can reserve it online (weekdays only, no weekends or holidays) at the county’s website.
A children’s playground, a sand volleyball court, and a horseshoe field add to the options to keep everybody busy. Just remember to BYOHS (bring your own horseshoes). No alcohol is permitted under park rules.
Wildlife and Florida history
Although multiple signs proudly proclaim the park as part of the Florida Birding Trail, keep in mind that there are no walking trails. Walking along the shores of the park, you can see a variety of birds like pelicans, egrets, and other wading birds. In the water, dolphins, manatees, and sea turtles are known to swim in the channel, even swimming up to the beach area.
The park is also home to a bone and shell mound by the Timucuan Native American tribe. The tribe left the area by 1800, devastated by Spanish settlers, diseases, and tribal raids. The grassy mound is a fun lookout place for a picnic or for children to play on. No digging into the mound though, as it’s protected by law.
A note on wildlife: During spring and late summer, usually May and September, expect the pitter-patter of love bugs as they bump into your car, your legs, and your gear. These copulating little critters don’t bite or sting, but expect their presence and maybe throw a tea towel over your food if insects give you the willies.
Camping isn’t permitted at the park, but a smattering of RV sites line the Anclote River if you have a camper van. Otherwise, your best bet is to drive south back into Tarpon Springs for motels, hotels and B&Bs. Because of the tourism draw of Tarpon Springs, you can also find a number of rentals on Airbnb for good prices.
Food & Drink
Trolling your boat up the Anclote River, you’ll find a huge number of riverside eateries close to the sponge docks like Captain Jacks, Dimitri’s on the Water and Rusty Bellies. Regardless of where you end up, you’ll find a spread of seafood dishes, bar appetizers and tiki bar drinks.
However, if you’re boatless and hungry, there are only a few options. A hot dog stand with drinks and snacks is stationed on the beach every Wednesday through Sunday with hot dogs and brats.
Miss Vicki’s on the River
This joint next to the hot dog stand, at Anclote Village Marina, serves burgers and fish sandwiches from an outdoor bar with a little dockside beach. The fish isn’t local and they only serve one type (Baja), but it hardly matters when the chicken wings are hot and crispy, the beer is cold, and the chili dog can be topped with all the fixings. There isn’t a direct path between the restaurant and the park (unless you’re willing to hop a waist-height fence), but it is a quick walk and the only restaurants on the river’s mouth.
Getting to Anclote River Park
Set back from civilization, this park requires a car and a bit of time to get to. Because the drive times are a little more than an hour from downtown Saint Petersburg and nearly 45 minutes from downtown Clearwater, the park is populated mostly by Tarpon Springs locals and tourists who only had to drive a nifty 10 minutes.
If you are an out-of-towner already in Tarpon Springs visiting the sponge docks and restaurants, this park would fit neatly into your travel itinerary (check the Tarpon Springs guide for more travel information). If not, and you aren’t intending to do any boating, there is probably a county park closer to you that’s more worth the effort.
Ride share is also an option, but be warned: Unless you’re in Tarpon Springs, it could set you back as much as $50 or more if you’re coming from a bigger city.
The park has no entrance fees. There is a parking fee only if you intend to park a boat trailer.
Anclote River Park
1119 Baillies Bluff Road
Holiday, FL 34691