Pasco County has its very own Beer Can Island.
It just has a different name.
In Pasco, it’s called Durney Key — a small island off the coast of Port Richey — just a mile west of the Pithlachascotee (Cotee) River.
It is not a designated park or preserve.
In fact, one could call it ‘No Man’s Land,’ however, that would be misleading because it is quite popular and generally has someone hanging around it, be it men, women, kids, even pets.
It’s a modest spoil island that is lush with trees and vegetation. Its shallow water is perfect for swimming, snorkeling or just doing what Floridians do best: hanging around in the water.
It’s an easy boat or watercraft ride out to Durney Key and it even includes a little bit of state history.
Visiting this small island is definitely worth the trip.
A key from the mayor
Durney Key is named after John Durney, who was mayor of Port Richey from 1967 to 1975 and also mayor of New Port Richey from 1978 to 1980.
During his tenures, Durney was a strong advocate for dredging the boat channel from the Pithlachascotee River into the Gulf of Mexico. When it was finally done, Durney Key was created as a spoil area.
Oddly enough, Pasco County does not claim ownership of Durney Key, however, according to a sign on the small island, it is owned by Florida.
It did not gain official status until 2007 when the U.S. Board of Geographic Names voted to accept the name locals have always used.
That being said, no one regulates the spot, which may explain its popularity.
No permits are required to anchor, hang out, even camp on the small island. There is nothing to prohibit temporary shelters, cooking, bringing alcoholic beverages or pets.
It’s good fishing, too.
Surrounding grass flats harbor lots of trout, while snook use the clean western beach for summer spawning. Mackerel and sharks patrol the perimeter during spring and summer, while schools of big redfish often gather nearby.
Reaching Durney Key requires a watercraft, and most are outboard motor boats or pontoon boats. But there are plenty of kayakers and paddle boarders who make the trek, including yours truly.
The most convenient launch point is nearby Brasher Park, at the west end of Koons Road or at Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park, located off U.S. 19.
It should be noted, however, that this paddling trip, which can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, is for more experienced paddlers.
While there is plenty of sun and fun at Durney Key, there’s also a bit of history.
Dotted around the small island are historic stilt houses that are a reminder of the working Florida fishermen, who built camps above the water, both as a place to store the mullet they caught and to seek shelter during storms.
Originally built in the early 1900s, there were about 24 on the water, but Hurricane Gladys destroyed many of them in 1968. Just eight remain now.
All are privately owned and have been grandfathered in by the state Legislature, which holds the leases to the land. No new houses can be built, though damaged ones can be repaired. Sadly there are none available for rent and climbing onto the houses is not allowed.
Paddling and snorkeling around the houses, however, is allowed.
Seclusion by popularity
Durney Key is basically an island paradise that can be enjoyed by all, especially those that come out and claim it for the afternoon or sunny day.
It can get a little crowded, maybe even a little rowdy, but boaters and visitors are remarkably diligent in keeping this slice of watery exploration and paradise pristine.
While it’s still not a real park, with say trash cans, there is no trash, as everyone is very good about taking out what they bring in. Visitors are also very respectable by working to make sure the island doesn’t erode over time, or with use, either.
Though no one or agency might own Durney Key, it does belong to everyone.
It is, as a paradise should be, available to everyone.
Details: A small island off the coast of New Port Richey that has become a popular docking spot for boaters, as well as kayakers and paddleboarders. Salty Dog Kayak Rentals, which operates out of Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park, occasionally will take a paddling tour out there. Making the trek is recommended only for experienced kayakers and paddlers. For more information on kayak tours, visit SaltyDogKayakRentals.com.
Published June 07, 2023