Florida State Parks: #7 Caladesi Island State Park
Often voted as one of the best beaches in the United States, Caladesi Island State Park is a reprieve from the crowds and busyness that can take over the surrounding area.
Caladesi Island is an un-developed barrier island that harkens back to another time in Florida’s history. With fine white sands, clear water from the Gulf of Mexico that is between 75 and 88 degrees Fahrenheit, excellent shelling opportunities and lots of peace & quiet, Caladesi Island is the perfect place to get away from some of the busiest beaches in the area and enjoy some of the beautiful nature of the area that doesn’t exist in many other places.
NOTE: The Florida State Parks system requires visitors to wear a mask when talking to rangers at the entrance gate and whenever entering buildings, including restrooms. When outdoors try to keep a 6 foot distance from anyone not in your party. Masks should be worn while on the ferry as well.
The ferry runs 363 days a year (closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day) and has an additional fee which includes the entrance fee to get on the island. The Caladesi Island Ferry is the only way to access the island if you don’t have your own boat. Yes it seems like a lot of money to technically pay twice to get there, however it is well worth the cost once you arrive – promise!
If you own your own boat it is $6 for each 8 people on the boat to enter the park. If you decide to kayak from the mainland (it’s approximately 2.5 miles each way), it will cost $2 per kayaker.
Things To Do
There is a variety of outdoor activities to do at the park. Boating, jet skiing, paddle boarding and kayaking are the perfect way to explore the island and the 3-mile mangrove trail (motorized vehicles aren’t allowed in the mangroves, which are protected). Fishing is allowed – a Florida fishing license may be required.
There is a small hiking trail at the park. Wear closed toe shoes and use caution as there are rattlesnakes on the island.
A playground is onsite and there are picnic tables available so you can bring some food to enjoy in nature. There are also grills available to use. No alcohol can be brought onto the island.
And of course there’s the beach! Nearly 4 miles long, the beaches are the main reasons people visit the island. One of the few undeveloped areas of Pinellas County, Caledesi’s beaches are peaceful and relaxing. There are cabanas and chairs for rent or bring your own chairs with you. Beach wheelchairs are available.
If you’re interested in more than just sitting on the beach, you can also bird watch. Part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, you might see birds such as the American Oystercatcher, the Rose-breasted Grosbeak and pelicans catching their dinner.
Or try your hand at shelling. The beaches are located not too far from some of the iconic shelling beaches of Florida, Caladesi has some fantastic shells available and with the lack of development you’ll find a variety of shells that are still whole and rarer than in other spots around the state.
Pets are allowed on Caladesi Island as long as they are on a 6-foot leash and stay on the trails. However pets are not allowed on the beaches of Caladesi Island or on the Caladesi Ferry.
Food & Restrooms
There is an on-site restaurant and shop where you can purchase postcards, beach amenities, cooked food, chips and beer and wine. Beer and wine can only be consumed if purchased in the restaurant and on the balcony of the restaurant; no alcohol is permitted to be brought into the park or consumed on the beach.
Restrooms are located on the boardwalk to the beach and are handicap accessible.
Visit the concession stand to rent kayaks, canoes and beach cabanas.
While traditional tent camping isn’t allowed, and there are no accommodations for sleeping on the island, boat camping is allowed. For $24 per night (and $7 for electrical hookup), boaters can stay in one of the 108 boat slips at the marina.
There is a grill next to the marina for cooking. Reservations for boat camping can be made via ReserveAmerica.
Caladesi Island is open from 8am to sunset 365 days a year.
Located in Dunedin and about 45 minutes from Tampa International Airport, Caladesi Island is accessible via Honeymoon Island State Park, which is located at the west end of the Dunedin Causeway via Curlew Road.