Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be dropped off on a private island where all of your needs would be tended to? On my recent trip to the island, I was impressed by the number of facilities available. Caladesi Island State Park comes pretty close to providing all the beach essentials for a relaxing getaway. And while there wasn’t a cabana boy to fetch drinks or cool me with a fan, there are still plenty of reasons to visit this barrier island.
Travel to Caladesi Island State Park
Just south of Honeymoon Island is Caladesi Island State Park. Once a single island, these barrier islands were separated after a destructive hurricane in 1921 carved its way through the white sand beach. The then Hog Island was split into what we know today as Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island. The entrance to Honeymoon Island is accessible by car or boat; Caladesi Island is only accessible by boat, but it’s worth the effort to paddle or cruise over to explore all of its charm.
I took the less strenuous path to travel onto the island by taking the Caladesi Island Ferry. Weather permitting, the Caladesi Island Ferry runs every day between Honeymoon Island Docks and the Caladesi Island Docks. After 10 am, passengers can catch a ride out to the island every 30 minutes on one of the two rotating ferries. The journey out to Caladesi Island is a short 15 – 20 minute ride, depending on how choppy the water is for the day or if the captain decides to take a detour to allow passengers to catch a glimpse of a passing pod of dolphins.
Taking the ferry to Caladesi Island isn’t the only way to get there. Boaters can dock their boat at the Caladesi Island State Park Dock for $6 a day. Boat slips can be purchased at the State Park office on the island upon arrival. As an additional bonus, overnight boat camping is the only way visitors can camp on Caladesi Island. I almost wanted to rent a boat when I learned about this on my ferry ride. Being gently rocked to sleep by the boat’s swaying while staring at the darkness of the unobscured sky sounds like the perfect way to spend a weekend.
Those who are the more adventurous type can rent a Stand-Up Paddle Board or Kayak from Sail Honeymoon Inc. Located outside of the entrance of Honeymoon island, visitors can sail off on their paddleboards to take pleasure in the shallow inlet waters and discover the maze of mangroves nestled along the eastside of Caladesi Island. All is not lost if you traveled by ferry and decided you want to experience the island by water. Kayak rentals are also available at the Caladesi Island Dock.
Caladesi Island Hiking Trail
There is two way to discover the beauty of this island; by water and by land. Kayaking might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but a casual three-mile hike might be. A large portion of the island can be covered by hiking the full circular path. The landscape melts from sandy beach terrain into Florida scrubland. The trailhead starts with squat palmetto bushes acting as a wall gilding you deeper into the mature woods. The unshaded path turns to a tunnel of reprieve under the pine and oak tree branches.
Along the way, there are a few notable stops dedicated to the past life of Caladesi Island. The first of which is the freshwater pond. Why is this significant, you ask? The freshwater resource on an island is not always guaranteed. Elevation on an island must be high enough to collect rainwater from passing storms. It would have been a much shorter television series if Gilligan’s Island were located on a shallow sand bar. The freshwater pond on Caladesi Island doesn’t look like the cobalt blue waters seen in the moves. It’s a dark brown puddle of water that looks like the perfect habitat for all things creepy-crawly. But it has been the life source for hundreds of years for many of the island’s past residents.
On the furthest reaches of the trail is Henry Scharrer Homestead. In 1892, Henry Scharrer constructed and lived with his family on Caladesi Island. Today, all that remains is the home’s foundation and weathered fireplace. When the Sharrer family lived on the island, they often rescued lost sailors. It became well known to local sailors to stop by the Scharrer’s for refuge if they got into troubled waters.
The final notable stop along the island trail is the Harp tree. Unique for its double-trunk, this slash pine was named the harp tree by Henry Scharrer’s wife, Kate McNally Scharrer. I would not have looked twice at this tree had it not had a historical marker placed next to it with black and white photos of past visitors. This reminded me of pictures visitors take at the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Instead of pretending to hold a cylindrical building from toppling over, visitors of the Harp Tree frame themselves for a photo op between the parallel trunks.
Caladesi Island Amenities
The beauty of Caladesi Island beach rivals Honeymoon Island. Although they have been separated for decades, the two beaches still share the tranquility of refreshing gulf waters gently breaking on the shores over soft white sand. They also share many of the same amenities. My previous post, Fall in Love with Honeymoon Island State Park, details everything there is to do and the amenities available within the park.
A beach day at Caladesi Island includes access to Cafe Caladesi, where visitors can truly enjoy a hamburger in paradise. Not only is food available, but souvenir t-shirts, towels, and other beach essentials are available for purchase. Restrooms with changing stalls, showers, and water fountains are conveniently close for easy access to and from the beach. The Caladesi Discovery Center is currently under construction (the completion date is scheduled for the end of 2022). This three-story building will feature 360-degree views of the island and house educational materials about the history and wildlife of Caladesi Island.
Do you want to show up without lugging a cooler, beach chairs, and an umbrella onto the ferry and to the beach? This is the place to do just that. Those wanting to travel light can rent beach chairs and umbrellas for the day through Romantic Honeymoon Island & Caladesi Island Rentals. The only thing you need to bring for a fantastic beach day is a swimsuit and a noodle to float on the waves; everything else is ready upon your arrival on the island.
Honorable Mentions For Other Destinations
If you don’t mind pretending you are stranded on an island like Tom Hanks in Cast Away, might I suggest checking out last summer’s adventures to Shell Key and Egmont Key. Not to spoil too much, but you will need to bring everything necessary for survival, including water and plantly of sunscreen.