UPDATE POSTED HERE, PLEASE READ BEFORE PROCEEDING! When you imagine Florida you probably think of sandy beaches and palm trees swaying in the wind, but what if I told you that you can discover areas with pine foliage and towering pines that look like they're straight out of a fairytale here too?
I wasn't specifically on the hunt to find such a place, but I happened to stumble upon one while kayaking on Saturday.
Namely, Seda Gardens and Dolphin Observatory --a hidden island literally moments from the shoreline of Anclote River Park in Tarpon Springs. You could probably swim to it if you wanted, though, it's notable that there are a lot of motorboats passing through the channel to look out for.
Getting to the island via kayak was super quick and easy, but docking was another story.
We happened along it around low tide, and so we kept getting stuck on sand banks near the shoreline. Getting out and pulling the kayak to the beach was the only option, and while it wasn't hard to do, it was pretty gross.
The sand was more like quicksand muck that would pull your feet in and suck any shoe off that you might have been wearing. As if that wasn't bad enough, there were some sort of sticky earthworms that stuck to our feet from trudging around in the shallow waters. Yuck.
But once we got to land, all was good again. (I imagine that high tide would be a better time to go to avoid the wormy situation.)
The island had a small shoreline with some mangroves on it. It wasn't much of a "pretty" beach that you'd want to lay down and tan on, but it was wild and beautiful in its own right. The real stunning part of this hidden strip of land was only revealed after we stepped into the forestation.
And just like that it was like walking into the Snow White's enchanted forest.
Towering pines blocked out much of the sun, making the pine-needle covered forest floor shaded and dark, drowning out all other tropical vegetation that may have otherwise inhabited the island, leaving it a barren landscape of only pines. You can see a quick video of it here.
Most woodland areas of Florida are covered in tropical vegetation, vines, and everything else that makes it look like a scene from Jurassic Park --but no, not this hidden oasis.
It was clear that it was a popular place for curious paddler's to stop when they needed a rest. We certainly weren't the first people here, nor would we be the last as some other kayakers pulled up shortly after we left.
The island itself could be explored in probably under 15 min, as it was pretty small. There were some makeshift shelters and fire pits on this little slice of storybook heaven, yet the location remained surprisingly litter-free.
One of my first thoughts when exploring it was that it would be a great location to do some private photography and modeling without people photobombing your shots.
It would have also been a fun place to bring a towel and a picnic basket for a remote date on a private island, for totally free.
Of course, why limit yourself. There are certainly endless opportunities to get lost in this enchanted forest if you let your imagination wander.
DISCLAIMER: According to Google Maps, this tiny island, no bigger than a baseball field diamond, is a "community garden." There's a website for the island as well, though it doesn't look super legitimate. I have reached out to Pasco Parks & Recs department to try and gather more information about this little island, but have yet to hear back.
Whether the island is privately owned or community property is currently up for debate until I hear more from the government entities, but there were no private property signs found during my visit. Most of the private islands dotting this inlet area --and there are many, including the adjacent Sunset Key-- are marked with "no trespassing" signs.
If you do plan on visiting, respect the wildlife & surroundings, and take nothing except photos, leave nothing more than footprints. There are coast guards that patrol the area, so be good and don't trespass on the other islands!