Maybe it’s because I was a ferryboat captain at Walt Disney World that I have a fondness for them, but I think one of the neatest experiences in Florida is boarding the ferry that takes you to quiet, peaceful Caladesi Island State Park.
Leaving from Honeymoon Island State Park ($8) north of Clearwater and west of Dunedin, the ferry ride takes only about 20 minutes (727/734-1501, $14) to reach the barrier island that is part of a larger 2,400-acre complex. For that price you gain admission to one of the most picturesque and undisturbed corners of the state; where there are no loud bars or souvenir stands or T-shirt shops.
It's simply Florida.
On pristine Caladesi, quiet paths lead along the dunes, palms stand against the warm coastal breezes and shore birds and sea turtles live without interference from people. Gopher tortoises burrow behind the dunes, and water laps against beaches sprinkled with scallops and sand dollars.
This doesn’t mean you’re marooned on an abandoned island. There’s a concession stand, fishing, picnicking, shelling, nature studies and marked kayak trails among the mangrove trees. Three miles of trails lead through thick stands of pines, red cedar, sabal palms and cactus. Perhaps the most attractive draw is the waterfront, which ‘Dr. Beach’ ranked as America’s best in 2008.
Even though your time on the island is limited to four hours (the ferry schedule requires the time limit), consider this your first deposit on a lifetime of visits to marvelous, magnificent Caladesi.
If You Go...
Caladesi Island State Park
1 Causeway Blvd.
Dunedin, Florida 34698