For my last day trip in the Tampa Bay area, I went Island Hopping! Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island State Park are on our list of the best beaches in the Tampa area. I have a Florida State Parks pass, so it’s free beach parking, which is hard to find in this area. These barrier islands provide miles of unspoiled white sand beaches on the Gulf of Mexico.
From this aerial view you can see that Honeymoon Island on the left is connected to the mainland via the Dunedin Causeway. The two islands were separated in a 1921 hurricane that created the aptly named Hurricane Pass.
Honeymoon Island State Park
This is the perfect place to go when looking for outdoor recreational entertainment! The South Beach Pavilion provides bicycles to rent by the hour or day and kayaks are available at Café Honeymoon. Both facilities offer beach chair and umbrella rentals and their decks are known for having great views of the gulf.
I decided to head out to the nature trails early before it got too hot. The 2.5-mile Osprey Trail meanders through a virgin pine forest with an understory of coastal plants. It gets its name from the numerous Osprey nests up high in the barren tree snags. The sign at the trailhead said to keep an eye out for rattlesnakes, gopher tortoise, and armadillos, but I didn’t see any. Of course that could be because I forgot my bug spray and the mosquitos were out in force! I ended up jogging, rather than walking the trail and I’m sure I scared off any wildlife that may have been nearby.
The trail was flooded at the north end of the island, so I split off to the Pelican Trail which works its way around the edge of the peninsula, along the Gulf of Mexico to the sound across from Pelican Point and finishes up through mangrove marshes. With the ocean breezes coming off the Gulf, it was much less buggy and I enjoyed the final leg of my nature hike.
Caladesi Island State Park
Next, I took the ferry to Caladesi Island. It was a relaxing 15minute ride over the calm waters of St. Joseph Sound. It pulled in at the marina between large red mangrove marshes on the bay side of the island. From there I had a short walk past the café and over a boardwalk.
As one of the few completely natural islands along Florida´s Gulf Coast, Caladesi´s white sand beaches were rated America’s Best Beach in 2008. I rented a chair and umbrella for an astonishing $26 and enjoyed a great book by the beach.
The park is open from 8:00 a.m. until sundown, 365 days a year
Admission Fee: $8.00 per vehicle. Limit 2-8 people per vehicle. $2 each additional person
Caladesi Island Ferry: $14 adults, $7 Children, $1 off coupon online
Departures from Honeymoon begin at 10:00 a.m. every half hour mid-Feb. to mid-Sept (departs hourly rest of the year).