Caladesi Island State Park offers a great beach

Caladesi Island State Park offers a great beach

We love our beaches — in fact beaches are the top recreational destination for Americans, and Florida offers some of the best. Caladesi was voted #1 American Beach in 2008 and #2 in 2007 by “Dr. Beach” (S.P. Leatherman of Florida International University, who uses 50 criteria to rank beaches).

Award-winning Florida State Parks

Not only is Caladesi Island State Park a great beach, it’s also a solid example of why the Florida State Park system has twice been the National Gold Medal Winner for excellence (the only state park system in the nation to have won twice).

Caladesi is a day-use park on a barrier island near Clearwater, Florida. No roads, no housing developments, no malls. Visitors can reach the island by three routes: take the ferry from adjacent Honeymoon Island, use their own private boat, or walk the four miles from Clearwater Beach (a hurricane created a strip of sand that connects the two beaches).

beach chairs under palms tree, smuggler’s cove, Tortola
beach chairs under palms tree, smuggler’s cove, Tortola, British Virgin Islands

The island ferry leaves from Honeymoon Island State Park, just off Route 19 and the Dunedin Causeway (toll is $5/car or $1/individual). Ferries depart every hour, starting at 10:00am. The ferry costs $10 for adults and $6 for children ages 4-12 (free under age 4) and takes about 20 minutes to reach Caladesi. Look carefully — dolphins may be swimming alongside.

Note that visitors using the ferry are limited to a four-hour stay (return time is stamped on the ticket); this guarantees seats on the return trip. Last ferry departs the island at 6:00pm. For additional information about the ferry, call 727-734-1501. Learn more online about Caladesi Island State Park or call 727-469-5918.

Florida Gulf Coast Island Offers Lots to Enjoy

The 3-mile white-sand beach of Caladesi Island is on the Gulf side, so it has a gentle slope and no harsh surf. Rent beach chairs and umbrellas right on the beach; no need to haul them from home. Lifeguards are on duty Memorial Day through Labor Day. Caladesi’s dunes are nesting habitat for numerous shorebirds and sea turtles, so walking on them is prohibited. Also, no pets are allowed on the beach.


Even though the island boasts a great beach, there’s more to do beyond swimming and sunbathing:

  • Bird watching (the island is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail)
  • Wildlife watching (gopher tortoises, armadillos, rattlesnakes, sea turtles)
  • Shelling (whelks, conches, etc.; no live shelling)
  • Nature trail (2.5 miles; includes pine flatwoods, maritime hammock, coastal strand)
  • Kayaking/canoeing (3.25-mile trail)
  • Picnicking (two large pavilions)
  • Kids’ playground
  • Marina (108 berths, $4/day, $20/night)
  • Café Caladesi (ice, sandwiches, drinks, hot meals)

Kayak rentals are available at the cafe. The 3.25-mile water trail loops through a delightful mangrove forest (a tight fit in spots) and St. Joseph Sound before returning to the marina. It’s tide-dependent, so check with rangers for best time of day to go.

Comb the beach for shells such as conches, whelks, sand dollars, scallops. Check out the shell display case in the marina/dock area for numerous examples. This beach is not groomed by beach machines, so lots of shells are present. No live shelling permitted.