Island Exploring & Spanish-American Fort Ruins

I’m spoiled and get to visit my homeland every 6 weeks, and when my trips coincide with holiday weekends that usually means boating off the west coast of Florida. It’s a hard life, but someone’s gotta do it. One of my favorite adventures this past summer has been exploring sunken forts and island ruins from the Spanish-American War.

Fort Dade, on Egmont Key State Park, is located on an island off of Fort DeSoto Park (on Florida’s mainland). A portion of the fort (I think it was the artillery storage) is sunken off the coast of the small key, and it’s a great place for snorkeling and “cliff jumping.” (I’ll use the term cliff jumping super lightly because 6-year-olds were jumping off that thing and it’s really not scary or dangerous at all and I’m just a big baby). The rest of the fort is majorly intact on the island, and has been preserved as part of the state park so you can walk around the paths and inside the old concrete structures.

The sunken portion of the fort

The sunken portion of the fort

If you’re not familiar with the ocean, or just clueless like me, heads up that old concrete in saltwater grows slippery algae and sharp barnacles. A few people from our group came away from the jumping adventure with cut feet. Real daredevils can snorkel underneath the main structure through a tunnel that the room creates. Being personally terrified of underwater cave-like things, and seeing my friends come up with scratched shoulders from swimming too close to the barnacles, I stuck to jumping off the top.

I’m probably making this sound more extreme than it is. Seriously, children were having a blast here. Despite having grown up around water (or maybe because of it) I have irrational fears of slipping and drowning and whatnot. But seriously, this is a pretty tame adventure. Plus, look. at. that. water. 

My exploration of the actual fort grounds on the island happened by more of an accident. I was on a fishing trip and really not in the mood to rock around on a boat smelling bait in the heat, and jumping into the ocean in the 90-foot hole we were over sounded like a fast way to be shark lunch. My ManFriend (the boat captain) graciously dropped me off at the first land I spotted, which happened to be Egmont Key. Happy to be a land lubber again, I took off exploring on my own while they attempted to catch dinner.

exploring Egmont Key's Fort Dade

exploring Egmont Key’s Fort Dade

My favorite part about exploring the ruins was that I could climb the steps and go inside the old buildings. All that was left were the metal and concrete portions of the structures, and a few remaining “Danger” signs warning of contents that no longer exist. The old rooms were shaded and a little creepy, and the stairways seemed to go to rooftops or just nothing sometimes.

There’s also a lighthouse on the Key, but I forgot my shoes on the boat and the concrete was scorching in the afternoon Florida sun so I saved my little feet and plan to visit again to continue exploring.


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