sunset sky, Florida, gulf coast, Caladesi Island
What makes Caladesi Island State Park on the Florida Gulf Coast so special isn’t just its natural beauty, but also how uncrowded the beaches and trails are.
sunset sky, Florida, gulf coast, Caladesi Island

Because people can’t just drive to Caladesi Island in a car, it’s a lot less crowded than all the other Gulf Coast beaches and trails in the Tampa Bay Area. If you love natural beaches and want to get away from all the people you’d bump into from Clearwater Beach to St. Pete Beach, and from Honeymoon Island to Ft. DeSoto, go seek out Caladesi Island. Talking about seeking out: it’s going to take a little bit of an extra effort and planning to get there. It’s one of those cases where they journey is part of the destination itself.

There are basically two ways to get to the State Park, which depending on the water levels is not actually a true island: by water or by land.

sign with cormorants, arriving by boat to Caladesi Island State Park, Florida

To get to Caladesi State Park by water, you have three options: take the ferry from Honeymoon Island State Park, arrive by your own boat from wherever you launched, paddle over on a (rented) SUP or kayak from the free Dunedin Causeway beach or entry-fee-required Honeymoon Island pet beach. With the ferry or your own boat, you’d land at the marina on the mainland-side of Caladesi. If you’re paddling over from the north, you might just want to aim for the beach on the north end.

(On a personal note: paddle boarding from the Dunedin Causeway over the shallow waters along Caladesi on the intercoastal side is one of my favorite activities in the entire Tampa Bay region. I need to go at least one more time before “winter”.)

Caladesi island, intercoastal side, calm water reflecting sky
View from a SUP paddling along Caladesi’s east side (facing mainland, not the Gulf)

To get to Caladesi State Park by land, you’ll have to come up along the beach all the way from North Clearwater Beach. Most likely, you’ll just walk, which is how I got there most often. But there are always those people who like to ride bikes up the beach. Depending on the water level and where the mangroves grow, you might have to wade through some water though.

sign on the beach, walk up the beach to reach Caladesi Island State Park by land from Clearwater Beach

Once in Caladesi Island State Park, there’s not just the beach and the marina, but also a few trails among the trees and shrubs. The park offers bathrooms, picnic tables, beach umbrella rentals, and even a shop that sells food and drinks. Cheers!

If you want to know more, please check out the full article I wrote for Happier.Place with everything you need to know before you go to Caladesi Island.

Enough words. Now let’s see more photos…

One of several trees filling up with seashells along the beach from Clearwater Beach into Caladesi Island State Park
One of several trees filling up with seashells along the beach from Clearwater Beach into Caladesi Island State Park
Caladesi Island State Park, Florida
During high tide, walking into Caladesi from Clearwater Beach requires some wading in the water around the beach trees.
On the gulf side, the beach stretches from Clearwater Beach to Caladesi - only interrupted by mangrove growing all the way into the saltwater.
On the gulf side, the beach stretches from Clearwater Beach to Caladesi – only interrupted by mangrove growing all the way into the saltwater.
trees growing in the white gulf coast beach in Florida
Trees growing in the white sands of the gulf coast beach
Caladesi Island State Park, Florida
Can’t get enough of those trees growing in the sand and saltwater. Survivors.
Hurricane Pass between Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island, clear water, blue sky
View across Hurricane Pass of the north end of Caladesi Island – seen from Honeymoon Island pet beach.
Ferry between Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island State Park
Ferry between Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island State Park
Welcome to Caladesi Island State Park if you arrive by boat
The Caladesi Island State Park welcome sign if you arrive by boat.
mangroves, Tampa Bay, gulf of mexico
The waterway to the marina and a kayak trail wind through a mangrove forest growing in the salt water.
Caladesi State Park Marina with boat slips for overnight boat camping
Caladesi State Park Marina with boat slips for overnight boat camping and a shop and other facilities.
Terns, seagulls and sandpipers are some of the birds you'll see run around the Florida Gulf Coast beaches
Terns, seagulls and sandpipers are some of the birds you’ll see run around the Florida Gulf Coast beaches
Shallow gin clear water, skinny water, ripples in water and sand
How truly clear the Florida west coast water is becomes most visible where it is most shallow.
water ripples, sand ripples
Through the temporary ripples in the gin-clear shallow water you can see the ripples left in the sand.
Tree with shells on Caladesi Island State Park, Florida
Look closely and you’re bound to find another seashell. That’s beach life.
sunset sky with colorful clouds over the florida gulf coast with bare tree silhouette
A leafless tree silhouette to offset the stunning beauty of a Florida Gulf Coast sunset.
Dramatic purple clouds, Florida gulf coast sunset over Caladesi Beach
Florida gulf coast sunsets are something else, aren’t they?
wooden boardwalk to the beach, Caladesi Island State Park, Florida
Back to the beach! Wooden boardwalk between the marina and the beach on Caladesi Island.
Cactus blooms on Caladesi Island, State Park, Florida
Cactus blooming in the sand in the dunes near the beach.
Sea oats growing on small dunes along the Florida Gulf Coast
Sea oats growing on small dunes along the beach
Big Beach, Florida, Tampa Bay
Back to the beach, the BIG beach! Look at those tiny people up ahead.
Cormorants on exit sign with boat directions, leaving Caladesi Island State Park, Florida
Cormorants sitting on an exit sign with boat directions as you leave Caladesi Island State Park, Florida

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Caladesi Island State Park, Florida, USA, clear shallow water and sunshine, tropical vibes in Tampa Bay Area, LuciWest
Caladesi Island State Park, Florida, Tampa Bay's Best-Kept Secret, sunset with clouds over Gulf of Mexico, Florida Gulf Coast

6 Replies to “Photos of Caladesi Island State Park: One of Tampa Bay’s Best-Kept Secrets (Florida)”

  1. Wow! I lived in Southwest Florida for most of my life (Fort Myers) and never heard of this beach before. It looks amazing and I will definitely have to give it a visit when we are there next.

    1. I just learned about some state park island beaches closer to where you’re from. I suspect there are a few of these hidden gems that are just enough out of the way that only locals seem to know about them. Hope you get the chance to check out Caladesi one day.

    1. It’s even better in real life. Well, in July and August it really is a bit too hot – then just photos are maybe nicer. You and your friend should come visit your friend’s mum…

    1. As someone who only moved to Florida 3 years ago: I highly recommend it even without retiring. It’s wonderful to not have winters (especially during this covid phase) – and whenever you’re done with work for the day or the week, you feel like you’re on vacation. Let me know when you get here đŸ™‚

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