Description - The island of Egmont Key has unique natural and cultural histories that have made it a valuable resource since the time settlers first arrived in Florida. Named in honor of John Perceval, the second Earl of Egmont and member of the Irish House of Commons in 1763, Egmont Key has had Spanish conquistadors and nuclear submarines pass its shores as they entered Tampa Bay.
In the 1830s, as shipping increased, so did the number of ships that were grounded on the numerous sandbars around Egmont Key. On March 3, 1847, Congress authorized funds to construct a lighthouse on Egmont. The construction was completed in May 1848. Once completed, it was the only lighthouse between St. Marks and Key West. Destructive hurricanes hit in 1848 and 1852 prompting Congress to rebuild the lighthouse and lightkeeper's residence.
- In 1939, the Lighthouse Service was transferred to the U.S. Coast Guard, which has maintained the light as well as radio guidance equipment. The Key was designated a National Wildlife Refuge in 1974, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Due to staffing limitations and increased public visits, the Wildlife Service was unable to protect the resources on its own. When the Coast Guard automated the light, Coast Guard personnel were reassigned. The Florida Park Service began operations at Egmont Key on October 1, 1989, as part of a co-management agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Recreation - Visitors can spend the day on the beach sunbathing, swimming in the warm bay waters, walking through the historic ruins of Fort Dade, or walking the brick paths that remain from the days Fort Dade was an active community with 300 residents. Youth camping is available by contacting the park office. A gopher tortoise can be seen at almost every turn as you walk the historic paths. Many visitors are treated to the sight of hummingbirds as well as other seabirds.
January through May guided walks are conducted on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of each month from 10:30 AM until 3:30 PM. These walks allow the participants to view the wildlife and natural environment of the island, learn the history of the island and tour the historic lighthouse.
Climate - Winters in west central Florida are normally mild with occasional temperatures dipping into the 30's and 40's Fahrenheit. However, averages range between 52 and 64 degrees Fahrenheit (11 - 18 Celsius). Summers are normally hot and muggy with temperatures and humidity usually exceeding 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Averages range between 81 and 83 degrees (27 - 29 Celsius). Precipitation for the central west area ranges between 52 and 56 inches per year.
Egmont Key State Park is located in southwest Florida, at the mouth of Tampa Bay southwest of Fort Desoto Beach and northwest of Sarasota. Access to the island is by private boat only.