It doesn’t take long to figure out why Caladesi Island consistently ranks among America’s top beaches year after year. Named Caladesi (meaning “beautiful bayou”) in 1628 by a Spanish captain, the island is still beautiful today. It is often considered one of the most unspoiled areas in Florida.
Four miles of natural beach dunes teeming with sea oats, dune sunflower and beach morning glory make it a home to shorebirds such as American oystercatchers, black skimmers, royal and least terns, snowy Wilson’s and piping plovers. Loggerhead and green sea turtles also use the beach for nesting.
On the bay side of the island, wading birds such as great blue herons, snowy egrets and roseate spoonbills feed around the shallow water in the tidal flats. It is no wonder this island is on the Great Florida Birding Trail.
Although its pristine beaches are ranked among the best in America, there are also a wide variety of outdoor recreational opportunities; swimming, fishing, boating, kayaking, hiking, birding, picnicking and shelling. The Island Trail offers hikers about an hour and a half of natural unspoiled terrain where they are likely to see gopher tortoises on the ground and ospreys flying overhead.
Caladesi owes (at least in part) that unspoiled reputation to its limited access. Caladesi Island State Park is one of the few parks in Florida’s state park system that is only accessible by boat. While this makes the island somewhat exclusive, a short ferry from Honeymoon Island State Park provides access to visitors. After arrival, two paved trails lead to the beach and are a good walking distance from the entrance to the park. There are two separate boardwalks spanning the protected sand dunes with shower and restroom facilities.
While you may bring along many items on the Caladesi ferry, it might be more convenient to rent some of your items (beach chairs, umbrella, etc.) after arrival. Contact the State Park office at (727) 469-5918 for more information regarding available rentals.
The Caladesi Island Connection ferry departs daily from Honeymoon Island State Park on an hourly schedule (every half hour during peak season) beginning at 10:00 a.m. (weather permitting). The short trip takes about 15 to 20 minutes. Contact the Caladesi Island Ferry at (727) 734-1501 for currents rates and schedules.
Passengers are allowed a four hour stay on Caladesi Island before returning to Honeymoon Island and are assigned a return time due to limited space available on the ferries. Passengers are guaranteed a seat at the scheduled return time, but are only allowed on a space available basis any other time. It is advisable to call ahead to check seat availability in advance.
There is no camping on the island except on boat at the marina. If you dock at the Caladesi marina, you will be able to enjoy island life with covered picnic pavilion, grills and the Caladesi Cafe just steps away. The 108 slip marina at Caladesi Island State Park is equipped with water and electric hookups. Reservations are on a “first come – first served” basis at the marina or may be made in advance through ReserveAmerica.com.