Caladesi Island State Park is a barrier island near Dunedin, famous for its beach and natural setting. It is only accessible by boat…or via a long walk from Clearwater Beach because a 1985 hurricane smushed the two islands together.
Location: 1 Causeway Blvd, Dunedin, FL 34698
Admission: Complicated, we’ll tackle this below.
Parking: Varies, see above.
Hours: 8:00am – Sundown
First off, let’s make clear who this beach is and isn’t for. Personally, I love Caladesi Island but I have a feeling some people will be disappointed, especially if they are vacationing in Florida for only a week. This is mostly an undeveloped island. There’s no beach bar serving beer here and this is not the location of the spring break party. It’s off the beaten path and takes some time to get to. (If you are in Tampa Bay and want the spring break scene–there’s nothing wrong with that!–I’d recommend St. Pete Beach.) However, if you want to see what an unspoiled, un-commercialized Florida beach looks like, and if you like to go on beach hikes and paddle through mangroves, then this would be a good place for you. Also, the island is beautiful.
How to Get To Caladesi Island + Admission Info
There are a few different ways to get to Caladesi Island, and how you get there will determine your admission price. There are four basic ways to get to the island.
- Honeymoon Island Ferry – This is the way the vast majority of people take to get to Caladesi Island. First, you have to drive to Honeymoon Island State Park (which is one of my favorite Florida islands and you might be tempted to just stay there instead). It costs $8.00 for a vehicle to gain entry to Honeymoon Island. From there, take the ferry. The ferry costs: Adults $14, Children (Ages 6-12) $7, Ages 5 and under are free. Those ticket prices include the roundtrip. Here is a free coupon that will get you $1 off per person for the ferry.
- Walk From Clearwater Beach – Clearwater Beach is one of my favorite beaches. And as a bonus, you can walk from Clearwater Beach to Caladesi Island. In 1985, Hurricane Elena filled in the pass between the two islands and now you can walk from one island to the next without getting your feet wet. If you walk there is no admission fee. It is approximately a six mile walk roundtrip. Make sure you wear shoes. I’ve done the walk twice, once in bare feet and once in sandals. Both times my feet got very blistered. Parking at Clearwater Beach costs around $1.50 an hour.
- Take a Kayak – There are many kayak rentals available in the area. Prices will vary. But once you have a kayak you can paddle right on over to Caladesi Island and take on their amazing kayak trail that weaves through the mangroves. Supposedly, it costs $2 to arrive by kayak, but I do not know if the fee is enforced.
- Arrive by boat – If you have access to a boat you can anchor right off of Caladesi Island Beach. It’s a $6 fee per boat. Also, you can do boat “camping” on the island. On the rear of the island are boat docks that can be rented $24 per night + $6.70 reservation fee. Florida residents over 65 pay half price for boat camping.
Things to do and a little history…
Besides the typical beach things, Caladesi Island has a 2.5 mile hiking trail that will take you to some of the most secluded areas of the island that few people go to. If you follow the trail, you will find yourself on the southern end of the island where you will see an ancient Indian burial mound among the mangroves and also the ruins of the Scharrer homestead, homesteaders from the 1880s that spent about 50 years on the island. The State of Florida bought the island in 1966 to save it from destruction by commercialization and made it a state park.
Watch out for rattlesnakes while hiking around, as the island has been known to have some. Also, you can rent a kayak at the island and take in the spectacular kayak trail which weaves through the island mangroves. Caladesi Island and Honeymoon Island used to be a single entity, but a 1921 hurricane split them in half, creating the two islands. The island has a history of being a stop over point for sailors and soldiers since the 1500s when the Spanish first made contact with the indigenous people.
If you want to learn more about the island and its history, I can highly recommend the book Yesteryear I Lived In Paradise: The Story of Caladesi Island by Myrtle Scharrer Betz. Myrtle Scharrer Betz, by the way, was the daughter of the man and woman who homesteaded on the island . She was born and raised there and wrote a book about it right before she passed away in her 80s. It was an enthralling read.
Well, thank you for reading!
Photo Credits: Caladesi Island Lagoon by Paul Bryley | Caladesi Island by Pinellas County | Caladesi Island Beach by Pinellas County | Caladesi Island State Park by Pinellas County | Nature Walk by rcgtrrz
These photos are used under the Creative Commons 2.0 Licensing Agreement.