7 Ways to Explore Caladesi Island State Park
Want to experience the Gulf Coast like a local? Leave the hustle and bustle behind and head to Caladesi Island State Park, located at the northern tip of Clearwater Beach. Only accessible by boat, the island is home to enormous live oaks, tropical mangroves, fun activities and some of the world’s best beaches.
Ready for the adventure? Here’s our guide for how to make the most out of your trek to Caladesi Island.
HOW TO GET THERE
1. By ferry
A trip to Caladesi Island starts on the water, and one of the most popular options for locals and tourists alike is the Caladesi Ferry. Board at Honeymoon Island State Park and enjoy a relaxing 15-20 minute ride across St. Joseph Sound, where you may spot dolphins playing in the shallows on your way. Departures start at 10 a.m. every day, weather permitting, and run every 30 minutes. Adults are $18 and children are $9. Kids 5 and under ride for free, but note that pets are not allowed.
2. By private boat
You’ll love every minute of your private ride across the Gulf from the mainland to the island marina. Boat rentals abound along this stretch of coastline, from private, all-day boat charters (some complete with water slides!) to pontoon-boat rentals where you’re the captain. And when the boat is all yours, you can turn off your phones, turn on island time, and enjoy everything this pristine island has to offer.
3. By kayak
One of the best ways to see the Florida mangroves up close is by kayak, whether it’s by paddling through open water or pulling yourselves through tunnels created by twisted roots. It provides a close-up view of the water – and the creatures that call it home – and having a dolphin swim nearby as you paddle is a truly magical experience. From Sail Honeymoon kayak rentals, Caladesi Island is only 15 minutes away.
CALADESI ISLAND ACTIVITIES
An adventurous, 2.5-mile Island Trail covers many of the island’s habitats. The Hammock Loop takes you past massive live oaks, saw pines, palm trees and tropical flowers, as well as the ruins of the Sharrer homestead, while the Beach Loop gives you a bird’s-eye view of the island’s seagulls, oystercatchers and other tropical birds. (A word of friendly advice: if you’re heading into the scrub, bring bug spray!)
Look for birds, crabs and fish as you explore more than 3 miles of mangrove tunnels that weave around and through the island. Be sure to check the tides before you head out – some areas may require fording during low water.
Cast your line in one of the island’s designated fishing areas, and you may be having flounder, trout, redfish or snapper for dinner! A fishing license may be required, so check with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission first before you go.
If you’d like to experience Caladesi Island by night, the island marina is equipped for overnight boat camping, including water and electric hookups. And there’s nothing quite like the gentle roll of the Gulf to rock you to sleep while you gaze up at the star-filled sky far from the lights of the beaches. To make a reservation, visit the Florida State Parks reservation website.
Step on to Caladesi Island’s sparkling white sand, and you’ll understand why it was named the No. 1 beach in the country by Dr. Beach. During low tide, spend time combing the sand for conch shells, whelks, scallops and more. Just remember that live shells can’t be taken from the park.
Bring your own lunch and grab a picnic table. It’s a nice way to sit and relax while the kids play on the nearby playground. The Caladesi Cafe, located at the marina, also offers delicious casual beach fare like fish and chips, smoothies and burgers.
The Gulf waters are warm late into the year, mostly calm, and perfect for a float. Watch for sea life, enjoy the lap of the waves or dig your toes beneath the shore in search of sand dollars. You may even find yourself sharing the waters with one of the majestic sea turtles that call the island home.
Caladesi Island is open from 8 a.m. until sundown every day of the year. We recommend ending your day on its white-sand beaches — the sunsets are second to none.