Traveling has always been one of my passions. It exposes us to new cultures and experiences and makes the world a more tolerant place.
Florida does a great job with its state and county park system. There are countless beautiful nature parks where one can go to see the local wildlife and scenery in a peaceful setting. The parks are well maintained and offer visitors an opportunity to experience the beauty and wildlife of Florida’s natural ecosystems.
One such park is the Key Vista Nature Park. Part of the Pasco County park system, this 101-acre oasis is located in Holiday on Florida’s west coast, about 40 miles northwest of Tampa. Its network of nature trails, coastal scenery, wildlife, raised boardwalk, and viewing tower makes it the ideal location for a bit of exercise. And if fishing is your thing, there are plenty of spots to cast away either on the inlet canal or the Gulf of Mexico.
From the Key Vista parking lot, you’ll have a few trail options, but they all lead to the main trail that will take you to the observation tower, the Gulf of Mexico, and eventually to Anclote Gulf Park.
There are about 2 miles of trails in the park, with a couple of loops. One hugs the inlet and gulf while the other travels inland through the heart of the park. There are picnic tables, grills, and bathroom facilities at the Key Vista parking lot, so feel free to pack a lunch or snacks to enjoy after hiking the trails.
The hike from the Key Vista Park entrance to the Anclote Gulf Park and back takes about an hour, but will certainly depend on how often you stop to admire the scenery and wildlife. There are plenty of distractions along the way, including a climb to the top of the observation tower, so you could easily spend a couple of hours here.
We also noticed several strategically placed benches along the trail if you need to take a break or are just looking for a scenic spot to read a book or take in the coastal views.
Among the mangrove trees, it was hard to believe I was close to a city. Florida State Parks provide these unforgettable moments in nature, protecting special places only a short distance from, or within, urban areas.
— Eric Draper - Director of Florida State Parks System
Wildlife You May See
What you encounter for wildlife will, of course, depend on the time of day you visit and pure chance. The earlier you go, the better the chances of seeing wildlife.
Our visit happened to be mid-afternoon, not great for viewing wildlife, but we still saw a variety of coastal birds, osprey, and a large tortoise that we saw near the base of the observation tower.
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There are a lot of osprey nests in this area and also a pair of bald eagles that nest in a remote part of the park, so keep your eyes to the sky and bring your camera. There are no trails that lead to the Bald Eagle nest, as a 750-foot buffer must be maintained, but a view of the nest can be had from Baillies Bluff Road. Just down the road near the Anclote River Park is another Bald Eagle nest that is clearly visible from the road. The picture below is of this nest and as you can see there is at least one eaglet in the nest.
Great Horned Owls have also nested in Key Vista, although we did not see any evidence or nest on this visit. The one place we have consistently been able to spot a Great Horned Owl is at Honeymoon Island State Park, located just south of Key Vista in Dunedin.
Other birds you may encounter here will include Blue Heron, White Ibis, Snowy Egret, Great Egret, Terns, Brown Pelicans, Black Skimmers, and maybe even the elusive Roseate Spoonbill. The park boasts a total of over 220 different bird species and is part of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail.
You may also come across snakes, armadillo, and—if you’re lucky—a manatee in the warm waters here. Whether or not you come across any wildlife should not deter you from taking a good walk with great views of the coast.
Hours of Operation:
- Key Vista Nature Park is open every day from dawn to dusk.
- There is no fee to enter the park.
- 2700 Baillies Bluff Road, Holiday, FL 34692
Amenities Offered at the Park:
- Picnic area and grills
- Approximately 2 miles of nature trails
- Free parking with handicap, RV and bus parking available
- Observation tower
- Raised boardwalk
- Park benches along the trail
- Fishing access
- Dogs are welcome and should be kept on a leash
- Access to the new Coastal Anclote Trail, a 4.5-mile paved trail that’s great for biking, running, or walking.
Key Vista Nature Park is located on Baillies Bluff Road in Holiday, Florida, and is located very close to the Anclote Power Plant and Anclote Gulf Park. Key Vista's primary trail actually connects to the Anclote Gulf Park.
If coming from the south you can take Alternate Route 19 to Tarpon Springs and take a left onto Anclote Road, which takes you to Baillies Bluff Road. If you are coming from the north you can take Route 19 to either Trouble Creek or Moog Road. Both take you to Straub Memorial Drive, which will become Baillies Bluff Road. There is plenty of parking at both Key Vista and Anclote Gulf Park.
This part of Florida’s west coast is a great area for nature parks and there are many options available within driving distance of Tampa. Despite the inevitable expanding urban development, you'll be amazed how quickly you can be transported away from humanity and into nature's domain. Some of the other wonderful state, county, and city parks in the area are listed below.
More Wonderful Florida Parks to Explore
- Anclote Gulf Park: Fishing pier, playground, kayak launch, dog park, picnic area
- Anclote River Park: Beach, playground, picnic tables, kayaking, boat ramp, fishing, volleyball courts
- Fred Howard Park: Beach, playground, kayak rentals, picnic shelters, fishing
- North Anclote River Nature Park: Nature trails, dog park, kayak launch, splash park
- James E. Grey Preserve: Nature trails, kayak launch, playground, picnic tables, fishing
- Werner-Boyce Salt Springs Park: Nature trails, kayak launch, fishing
- Eagle Point Park: Nature trails, playground, fishing, kayak launch
- Honeymoon Island State Park: Beach, trails, nature center, kayaking, fishing, picnic pavilion
© 2020 Bill De Giulio