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A Day on a Private Island in the Gulf of Mexico

Updated on March 2, 2012

Florida vacations

My family and I take Florida vacations any time we get the chance! Since we live in South Georgia, the Florida state line isn't far away, so we often go to beaches on the Atlantic and on the Gulf of Mexico. Ii have three grown daughters, three sons-in-law, and eight grandkids, and we really enjoy vacationing together. On our recent family vacation, we had the unique opportunity to spend some time on a private island with a wonderful secluded beach. By “private island” I’m referring to the fact that you’ll have plenty of privacy on this gulf island – not that it’s privately owned. I’m assuming that the state of Florida owns it, since many people enjoy it as part of their beach vacations. The name of this private island is Durney Key.

Getting to the private island is half the fun!
Getting to the private island is half the fun!

Where is this vacation island?


Durney Key is located near the mouth of the CoteeRiver, just west of Port Richey and just north of New Port Richey and Tarpon Springs. If you’re boating on the CoteeRiver, just follow the channel markers out into the gulf. You’ll see the gulf island to your left. We were advised to pass channel marker 2, go around the red-white-and-blue stilt house, and enter the island from the back side. Since we weren’t familiar with the waters around Port Richey and Tarpon Springs, we followed these directions and had no problems reaching the private island. If you have a boat with a shallow draft, you should be able to go straight to this gulf island. We heard there were some large submerged rocks on one side of the island, but we never saw any. Just have someone at the front of the boat watching, just in case. They’ll be easy to spot in the clear water.


Don’t be alarmed if the water appears very shallow. In some spots, it looks like the water is only a foot or so deep, but it’s actually much deeper. I was sure we were about to run aground several times, but when we measured the depth with a long fishing rod, we were surprised to learn that we were in 6 or 8 feet of water – it just looks incredibly shallow because the water is so clear.


We had a pontoon boat, so we were able to slide it onto the sand. For boats with V-hulls, most people visiting this private island anchor offshore and then swim or wade to the beach.


Our vacation island - Durney Key.
Our vacation island - Durney Key.

A description of this gulf island


Durney Key is tiny, and there’s nothing on it except trees, shrubs, and sand. We liked the secluded beach on the southwestern side of the private island. It was white and sandy, and it was surrounded by clear, shallow water, making it the perfect vacation island for our family vacation. The water remains shallow for a long time, and there were no waves or undertow, so the kids had a blast playing in the shallows.


On the beach, there’s a neat tree with low hanging branches. We decided this was the appropriate place for the baby to nap in the shade while the toddlers and older kids played.


When we first arrived, there were two other boats docked on the secluded beach, but they soon left, making Durney Key our own private island.

The secluded beach.
The secluded beach.

Things to do on the gulf island


If you’re into theme parks, arcades, shopping, and restaurants, you’ll be bored to tears on this private island. Remember – there’s nothing on Durney Key. If you enjoy natural beauty and outdoor activities, however, you’ll love the wild, secluded beach. You can swim, fish, sunbathe, and collect shells. The kids also enjoyed chasing fish in the shallows and catching fiddler crabs on the sand.


We packed a picnic and had lunch on the beach. We also took along some sand toys and buckets for the kids. If you have older kids in tow, you might want to include a Frisbee, a football, and a skim board.


You’ll also see several species of birds, so if you enjoy bird watching, you’ll be all set. Be sure to take your camera! It’s not every day you get to visit a private island with a secluded beach.

Another shot of the secluded beach.
Another shot of the secluded beach.

What to take with you to a private island


If you’re planning an adventure to Durney Key, go prepared. You can’t just run to a convenience store once you’re on the private island. Take a cooler with plenty of ice, water, soft drinks, and snacks.


You’ll also need a good supply of sunscreen. It’s hot on this key in the summer, so you’ll be taking lots of dips into the water in order to stay cool. You’ll probably need to re-apply your sunscreen frequently.


Since there’s no fresh water on the island, we took along baby wipes. We didn’t encounter any biting insects, but it’s a good idea to be prepared with some insecticide. A portable radio is also a good idea. You might also want to take a beach blanket and a couple of folding camp chairs.


Notice how clear the water is!
Notice how clear the water is!

Other private islands in the area and gulf coast islands


Near Port Richey, New Port Richey, and Tarpon Springs, you’ll find several private islands. These private islands are accessible only by boat and have no roads or bridges.


The most popular of these private islands is Anclote. Anclote has a state park and a wildlife preserve, and it’s not as “wild” and pristine as Durney Key. We chose Durney because of its location and its very secluded beach.


Of course, there are other gulf coast islands you can visit on beach vacations that have bridges and are accessible by automobile. All the gulf coast islands we’ve visited have beautiful beaches, but not all have a secluded beach and privacy.


Wading to the secluded beach.
Wading to the secluded beach. | Source

Why visit private islands on your family vacation?


For a great family vacation, find a private island with a secluded beach and make it your own vacation island. It’s truly a unique experience for a family vacation that the kids will never forget.


With today’s “instant gratification” society, kids are often too jaded with video games, giant theme parks, and a family vacation with posh resorts and all kinds of structured entertainment. Why not do something different for your next family vacation? Get your kids back in touch with nature on a private vacation island. Help them learn to appreciate the simple pleasures in life, without a TV, a video game, or a computer – just family, nature, a secluded beach, and the warm waters of your own vacation island.

"Captain Johnny" got us to and from the private island safely.
"Captain Johnny" got us to and from the private island safely.

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