Explore every mile of Florida’s coastline and along the way you’ll find long stretches of waterfront mirrored by protective barrier islands; some populated, others uninhabited.
Caladesi Island is one that’s uninhabited. Uninhabited, that is, until the Caladesi Island Ferry takes you there.
If you savor the beauty of pristine shorelines, the peace and tranquility of remote beaches, and the thrill that comes with discovering a place known by few others, then step aboard the Caladesi Island Ferry and be transported to 2,450-acre Caladesi Island State Park, where you’ll find one of America’s most beautiful natural beaches.
The island is accessible only by boat, and the most convenient boat of all is the ferry, which departs from neighboring Honeymoon Island northwest of Clearwater.
The 20-minute journey across St. Joseph Sound enhances the experience of visiting Caladesi Island because even when you know your destination is only a relatively short distance away, there’s a strong sense of anticipation as the dock recedes in your wake.
The refreshing breeze, the open water, and the sight of the approaching island takes you even closer to a new world where there are no cars, no billboards, no stress. You may spy a dolphin as you cross the sound, an always pleasing reminder you are now surrounded by nothing but nature.
Soon the pilot guides the ferry into a channel and you disappear into a sinuous waterway created by banks of mangrove trees, the curving shoreline taking you further and further into the embrace of Caladesi Island.
Pulling into the slip, the pilot secures the boat, and so begins your day. Florida’s state parks preserve some of the most beautiful and diverse ecosystems, and Caladesi delivers both. Aside from changing facilities, a small café, gift shop, and concession area where you can rent kayaks, beach chairs, and umbrellas, the rest of the island is undeveloped, undisturbed, and unhurried; a perfect place for fishing, picnicking, shelling, or kayaking into the quiet sanctuary of the mangroves.
Three miles of trails lead through grass flats, beside estuaries, and through thick stands of pines, red cedar, sabal palms, and cactus. Along the way, cuts lead to uncluttered beaches revealing three miles of unbroken shoreline. This is where you are meant to be… along the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico where palm trees and sea oats sway in the warm coastal breezes.
Unlike other beaches you may have visited, this shoreline is wonderfully empty. Gopher tortoises burrow in the dunes behind you, shore birds scatter on the water’s edge, sea turtles find nesting sites in the island’s most remote stretches, and gently breaking waves lapping the shore carry with them a treasure of colorful shells, scallops, and sand dollars.
In this completely natural environment you’ll find the space you need to completely and thoroughly relax.
Keep in mind that to preserve the island’s tranquility, ferry passengers are limited to a four-hour visit. But if you simply can’t get enough (who could?) and if you travel with your own boat you can make reservations for an evening or longer. Simply dock at the marina and enjoy the park on an overnight visit.
Caladesi Island. It’s paradise found.
- Gary McKechnie
When you go...
Caladesi Island Ferry
Palm Harbor, FL 34682
Caladesi Island State Park
Dunedin, FL 34698