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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.

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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    • profile image

      Ricky G 6 years ago

      Now that Johnny looks like he was made for that job. Looks like a wonderful place to go to get away.

    • rebekahELLE profile image

      rebekahELLE 6 years ago from Tampa Bay

      Habee, it looks and sounds like you had a great time.

      I recognize some of those locations in your pics. You were here during a hot week!! I hope you enjoyed it, isn't the little island amazing? it's nice you had it to yourself, it can get crowded on a weekend. thanks for sharing your experience with us!

    • dallas93444 profile image

      Dallas W Thompson 6 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

      No soldiers.. Look like fun...

    • profile image

      SilverGenes 6 years ago

      It looks like a little piece of paradise. Thanks for sharing this :)

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

      Habee, It looks like a wonderful vacation spot. I know you must have loved it there.

    • K9keystrokes profile image

      India Arnold 6 years ago from Northern, California

      Wonderful picture, and beautifully tempting locations! So many to choose from. I looks like one of these private island get-aways may be on our next agenda! Thank you for sharing your story and hide-away!

      Great job Habee!

    • sheila b. profile image

      sheila b. 6 years ago

      Your pictures showed how much fun it is for a family to enjoy eachother and nature. That clear water looks fantastic! It all looks like so much fun, glad you told us all about it.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Lovely photographs and a great review of spending a day at a private island in the gulf. How lucky we are to have these opportunities!

    • michelle.dragon99 profile image

      michelle.dragon99 6 years ago

      Hi habee, great vacation, feel like want to go also:)

    • Hmrjmr1 profile image

      Hmrjmr1 6 years ago from Georgia, USA

      Thanks Habee Great Info!!

    • G L Strout profile image

      G L Strout 6 years ago from Ohio, USA

      Okay, now you have found paradise! I want it all to myself!! Thanks for sharing such a beautiful spot with us!

    • sweetie1 profile image

      sweetie1 6 years ago from India

      wow beautiful beaches..very nice pics.. beautiful.. looks very good holiday spot

    • saddlerider1 profile image

      saddlerider1 6 years ago

      It looks delightful, fun and clean water, no oil. I hope it doesn't reach that beautiful area. Loved the pics:0)

    • billyaustindillon profile image

      billyaustindillon 6 years ago

      Thanks for sharing a wonderful holiday and holiday spot Habee.

    • Lyria profile image

      Lyria 6 years ago

      habee, this island is beautiful isn't it? And those stilt houses are something else...I can't imagine staying in one of them...Did you hear Johnny Cash actually owned one at one time? It seems like you had a great time!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you for sharing. What a paradise and everywhere we look and yet we destroy it with all the might we got.

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon

      You are making me crazy! I need a vacation....what a lovely spot to go to - did you tie yourself to the dock and threaten to stay there? I think I would have! That looks like the kind of spot where I should take Griffin to teach him to swim!

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 6 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      All this and clear water too. Wow! Sounds lovely. Good for you - you deserve it and more. Yay!

    • anglnwu profile image

      anglnwu 6 years ago

      How nice, a private secluded island all to yourselves. Looks like a fun place.

    • Sandyspider profile image

      Sandy Mertens 6 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      Next time you go, take me along. :) Looks like a fun vacation and the water is inviting.

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Hi, Ricky! I'll share your comment with Johnny!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Bekah, we loved Durney Key and really felt that it was our own private island!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Dallas, thanks for reading!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Silver, we really felt like we had found paradise on this private island!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Pam, we had a great time in Port Richey!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      K9, you'll love spending time on a secluded beach on one of the gulf islands!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Sheila, nothing like a family vacation!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Steph, we are indeed lucky to be so near great beaches!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Michelle, thanks for visiting!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      John, really good to see you!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      GL, our little vacation island was wonderful!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks for reading, Sweetie!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Saddle, no oil there so far. I hope it stays that way!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      You're welcome, Billy. Thank you for reading!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Lyria, I read that Johnny Cash's best friend had one of the stilt houses near the gulf islands and that Cash was a frequent guest. Did he actually own one, too?

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      So true, HH. Sad, but true.

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Buckie, lots of folks take their dogs to the private island. There were 3 on the secluded beach when we arrived, but they all left soon after.

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      BK, what a sweet thing to say!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Anglnwu, the private island was really neat!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Sandy, come on down and I'll take you to the gulf islands!

    • Springboard profile image

      Springboard 6 years ago from Wisconsin

      Forget those theme parks. Those are boring to tears. This island would be right up my alley. Perhaps the only addition I'd need, and I think would be a must for me, would be a gas grill attached the the pontoon. Not sure what the laws are in Florida about that, but a BBQ in the middle of the water (or on an island) would be fantastic.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 6 years ago

      Ah, I could use that lovely island just about now.

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Jim, I'm not sure about the grilling, either, but it would be a perfect addition. We could have thrown on some really fresh fish fillets!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Hi, Bpop! You deserve a break after doing all the whistle-blowing for us! lol

    • Coolmon2009 profile image

      Coolmon2009 6 years ago from Texas, USA

      I like private islands myself, no crowds and plenty of elbow room. Good article!

    • Springboard profile image

      Springboard 6 years ago from Wisconsin

      It would be something to look into for sure. I know when we visit Branson—or the last time we did anyway—you could rent pontoon boats to use on Table Rock Lake that had BBQ grills on them. I swear, something about being on the water just made the steaks we cooked on it taste that much better. Might have just been my imagination though. :)

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 6 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Glad you had a great time

    • nancy_30 profile image

      nancy_30 6 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks for sharing. It sounds like a great place to relax.

    • judydianne profile image

      judydianne 6 years ago from Palm Harbor, FL

      Another place my son, Rob, goes is Caladesi Island. It's south of Port Richey off the Dunedin Causeway. You can take a ferry to the island. Rob says the fishing is good there. Of course, he takes his kayak.

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Coolmon, private islands and a secluded beach are def the best!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Jim, I think everything tastes better on or near water!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks, Ethel! We enoyed the Port Richey area.

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks for visiting, Nancy!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Judy, we never made it to Caladesi Island, but I hear it's gorgeous!

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 6 years ago from Sunny Florida

      It sounds like a dream day. The pictures are gorgeous. Thank you for sharing your wonderful day.

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks, KKgals! Now it's just a great memory!

    • profile image

      keri 5 years ago

      are you ko boys love your mom

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