Caladesi Island State Park
The only way to get to Caladesi Island State Park (www.floridastateparks.org/caladesiisland, ferry $9 adults, $4.50 children, plus admission to Honeymoon Island State Park) is by boat. If you don’t have your own watercraft, a ferry departs from near the entrance of Honeymoon Island State Park every hour beginning at 10 a.m., with the last return trip from Caladesi at 4 p.m.; the ride takes 20 minutes.
The parks department caps daily admissions, and visitors are limited to four-hour excursions, so the park often reaches capacity by midday. You’d be well-advised to call ahead and make sure there’s a seat available. Once you’re at Caladesi, however, you’ll appreciate those restrictions.
Four miles of unspoiled white-sand beaches provide plenty of space for beach activities and relaxed sunbathing, and the views from nearly every vantage point on the beach are stunning. The shallow warm water is extremely calm, and the sand itself manages the soft whiteness expected of gulf beaches while being firmly packed like many Atlantic-side beaches.
Caladesi’s perennial ranking at or near the top of every rundown of “America’s Best Beaches” will immediately make sense, thanks to unspoiled views and the population-controlled atmosphere. You won’t be roughing it, though; in addition to restroom and shower facilities, rental facilities are available to provide beach chairs (umbrella and 2 chairs $20 per day) and sea kayaks (from $10 per hour). The latter will come in handy for the verdant three-mile kayak trail that’s excellent for bird-spotting (owls, hawks, and even wild turkeys roam the banks).
© Jason Ferguson from Moon Florida, 1st Edition