Category Archives: Florida Vacation Day Trips

Caladesi Island

Florida Barrier Island Breakdown

Barrier Islands of the Central Gulf Coast of Florida

Off the Pinellas County shorelines of the Florida Gulf Coast are a series of barrier islands. It is very likely you know the names of some of them, like Clearwater Beach, or Honeymoon Island. We’ll break them all down for you, so that you too can be an expert on the barrier islands of our area. We’ll start in the north off the shores of Tarpon Springs and head south past Palm Harbor, Dunedin, Clearwater, Belleair, Largo, Seminole, Gulfport, St Petersburg, and beyond. Once you are a barrier island expert, you will be able plan your Gulf Coast vacation trek up and down our shoreline with much keener insight.

 

Anclote Key

Anclote Key barrier island lighthouse

Anclote Key lighthouse

Anclote Key Preserve State Park is directly off shore of the mouth of the Anclote River, the waterway that runs past the tourist destination of the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks. You can depart from those docks on a tour boat that will take you to Anclote Key, where you can walk the shores, view the historic light house, or just spend some time on one of Florida’s best natural beaches. You will find lots of driftwood and seashells on this island, since it can only be reached by boat.

 

Three Rooker Island

Gulf Coast ShoresThree Rooker Island is one step up from a very large sand bar. This tiny barrier island is a favorite hangout spot for boaters. You can only get to the bar by boat and anchoring off its shores is a great way to spend the afternoon. The shores of the small key are the soft, powdery white sand for which the Florida Gulf Coast is famous. Swim from your boat or from the shore. On a walk down the beach in ankle deep water you might be able go from one end to the other of the two mile stretch of Three Rooker Island.

 

Honeymoon Island

Honeymoon Island, Florida

Honeymoon Island sunset

Honeymoon Island State Park is one of the most famous of the barrier islands along our coastline. It has long stretches of white sand beaches, a concession stand, lots of parking, a dog beach, nature center, playground, and nature trail. It is also where you catch the ferry to neighboring Caladesi Island to the south. The island is a great place to beachcomb for shells. You can also see nesting ospreys, bald eagles, and great horned owls, or perhaps one of the burrowing gopher tortoises. On a trip to Honeymoon Island you can choose the type of adventure you want to have. In fact, you will have to, because the Honeymoon Island is too large to see all in one day.

 

Caladesi Island

Caladesi Island

Caladesi Island

Caladesi Island is just north of Clearwater Beach. You can even walk to the island from the south, because a storm some decades ago filled in the opening between the two islands. Of course, you can skip the long walk by taking the ferry from Honeymoon Island. Caladesi Island is known for its pristine white sand beaches. You will feel as if you are in the wilds when you walk along its northern shores. You can also view plenty of Florida birds that use the island for nesting. This famous retreat belongs on your must-see list for your Florida Gulf Coast vacation. Caladesi Island is one of our best.

 

Clearwater Beach Island

Clearwater BeachThe most famous of all the barrier islands along our coast is Clearwater Beach Island. It was formerly known as Tate’s Island, named after a family that lived on the island when the area was first settled. Clearwater Beach became the tourist destination we know today after the bridge was built from the city of Clearwater. Clearwater Beach has more tourist attractions than you can shake a stick at, including the famous Pier 60 nightly sunset festival, and the nearby home of Winter the dolphin from the Dolphin Tale movies. With its beautiful white sand beaches and multiple attractions, Clearwater Beach makes a perfect base of operations for a Florida Gulf Coast vacation.

 

Sand Key – Sand Key Beach to Madeira Beach

Madeira Beach, Florida

Madeira Beach, Florida

The long barrier islands of Sand Key starts just south of Clearwater Beach. It extends down through some great beach communities until it ends at John’s Pass, which is one of the best tourist destinations in the region. To the south of Sand Key Beach is Belleair Beach, Indian Rocks Beach, Indian Shores, Redington Shores, North Redington Beach, and Madeira Beach. The beach communities on Sand Key are some of the calmest of our region of the Gulf Coast, perfect for family vacations. You should definitely check into the many diners along the scenic drive down the length of Sand Key.

 

Treasure Island

Treasure Island BeachTreasure Island has one of the widest swaths of sand on the entire chain of barrier islands. This is a good location to look into local festivals. The beach makes a perfect location for large events, which is exactly what they do on Treasure Island. The bridge heading east from Treasure Island leads into Seminole, Gulfport, and St Petersburg, which is why this is a good location to find restaurants, pubs, and gift shops. Treasure Island is one of the barrier islands along our coast you will want to keep your eye on.

 

Long Key – St Pete Beach and Pass A Grille Beach

Long KeyLong Key is the last of the residential barrier islands on the strip. You will find St Pete Beach and Pass A Grille Beach here. St Pete Beach is one of the more developed tourist districts in the area. You will find plenty of dining and entertainment in the area. It is also a great place for family vacations. Pass A Grille Beach has the distinction of being the most southern beach community on our coast, with plenty of Florida charm.

 

Mullet Key and Shell Key Preserve

Fort Desoto ParkMullet Key is home to famous Fort Desoto Park. The interior waters are shallow and calm, thanks to the islands’ horseshoe shape, making a great place for boating. The park is rich with history, and beautiful white beaches. It is a fantastic destination for a family beach day, complete with shaded picnic areas and shallow wading areas. Shell Key Preserve is just north of Fort Desoto. It is a preserve for local wildlife, especially a large number of local birds, who nest and rear their young there. Shell Key is a great place for boaters and birdwatchers.

 

Egmont Key

Snorkeling FloridaEgmont Key State Park sits at the entrance to Tampa Bay. The lighthouse has been used in times of peace and war since 1858. Ruins of Fort Dade, from the same era as Fort Desoto, can be found on the island. Be aware, however, that access to the southern end of the key is limited because of the shore bird refuge there. The island is reachable only by boat. Once there, you can fish, picnic, swim, hike, or tour the ruins. It one of the most difficult to reach islands listed here, but Egmont Key is definitely worth visiting.

 

Other blog posts you might like:

Wildest Islands on the Central Gulf Coast of Florida

Treasure Island Kite Festival 2014

Aerial of Caladesi Island and Honeymoon Island

 

Movie star hippopotamus

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

What is Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park?

Florida manateeHomosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is home to a variety of animals native to the state of Florida. The park is home to a many rescued animals, along with its other exhibits. The animals are displayed in open areas which make viewing easy. The park walkways wind among tall trees, providing plenty of shade for Gulf Coast’s warmer days. A bayou extends into the park which is frequented by manatees, one of the park’s main attractions. Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park emphasizes natural Florida Manatee at Homosassa Springsand the preservation of native species. It is a worthy stopover on a Gulf Coast vacation, especially for those who want to see manatees, alligators, or other native Florida species. The Homosassa Springs is a great place to spend the afternoon and makes great entertainment for kids.

Where is Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park?

Homosassa Springs boat rideHomosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is located seventy miles north of Clearwater Beach. It is south of Crystal River Preserve State Park and north of Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge. Crystal River, Homosassa Springs, and Chassahowitzka are all located on the coastline known as the Nature Coast of Florida. The park is situated on a bayou branching off from the Halls River. You will find the park in the community of Homosassa Springs off of Hwy 19 (Suncoast Blvd), or by taking the alternate route on Fishbowl Drive, which is a very scenic back road. An old sugar mill is nearby on the Fishbowl Drive route, for those interested in history. Homosassa Springs FloridaBoth parking areas leads to the same entrance but the large parking area off of Hwy 19 includes an informative and beautiful boat ride over to the parking area on Fishbowl Dr. We recommend the boat ride, because it starts at an interesting info center and gift shop. Plus, on your ferry to the park entrance, you can see the natural Florida environment and a good number of native animals living in the wild. The address of Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is 4150 South Suncoast Blvd., Homosassa, FL 34446.

What to See at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Homosassa Springs hippoOur first recommendation for things to do at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is the boat ride to the park entrance. If you miss this ride, you’ve cut out a vital part of the complete experience. You will hear plenty of interesting tidbits from the boat captain as you wind down the slow moving water channel. You might also learn some history, such as the names of famous movies filmed in the area, and about the only non-native animal in the park, Lu the hippopotamus, granted official state citizenship so that he could stay in the park after the end of his Hollywood movie career. You will find gift shops at either end of the boat tour.

Homosassa Springs manateeOnce you enter the park, where you go is up to you. The walkways wind in different directions throughout the park, displaying both native plants and animals. Any walk along the waterway should be done with your eyes alert. You will undoubtedly see manatees swimming in the bayou. Even better is the underwater viewing room where you can see schools of fish and any nearby manatees. Your chances of seeing the large marine mammals is very good, because park rangers feed them at regular intervals from above. You might also find a number of manatees inside of pens on the others side of the waterway, recovering from illness or injury suffered in the wild.

Florida pantherThe park is essentially a zoo, displaying Florida’s native species. You will see just about any bird you can imagine, plus some others. A few of the larger species are egrets, bald eagles, owls, and even turkeys. You can also view of deer, black bears, wolves, cougars, bobcats, alligators, and otters.

While the park has a concession stand, it is also a great place for a picnic. You also won’t want to miss the ice cream stand just past Lu the hippo’s pool. Alligator at Homosassa SpringsThe park makes for a great afternoon on a Florida Gulf Coast vacation and is just over an hour from Clearwater Beach, making it a great outing for the day. If you are going to strike out from the beautiful beaches of the Central Gulf Coast, Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is one of the best attractions out there.

Other blog posts you might like:

Suncoast Primate Sanctuary

Places to See Alligators on the Florida Gulf Coast

Top Theme Parks near Clearwater Beach

Fort Desoto Park Florida

Fort Desoto Beaches, Boating, and History

Visit Fort Desoto for the History

Fort Desoto cannonThe history of Fort Desoto Park in Florida is still present in its large cannons, and rooms buried under sand dunes that you can tour. Visitors can get up close and personal with the fort, touching the cannons and entering the old store rooms. Fort Desoto was built and named at the turn of the century in 1900 during the Spanish-American war. Henry B Plant, a railroad tycoon who brought the railroad to Tampa Bay, helped to urge the government to build the fort. Real history buffs might also want to visit the Henry B Plant museum in Tampa. The large Fort Desoto cannons were set to shoot ships trying to enter Tampa Bay, with help from a lookout on nearby Egmont Key, which also has ruins. The remains of Fort Desoto are fun to tour and are very close to the beach and the visitor center at the park.

 

Visit Fort Desoto for the Boating

Boating and kayaking at Fort Desoto FloridaOne of the best features of Fort Desoto Park is the waterways that surround the barrier islands there. Fort Desoto is a barrier island with several other small islands nearby. A good number of them are mangrove islands but you will also find locations where you can land your boat on a tiny, sandy beach. The type of boat you choose will determine where you can go. With a power boat you will be able to cover more ground but you will also need to be aware of the vast shallows surrounding Fort Desoto. On a kayak you will be able to navigate in even the shallowest waters but you will be limited by how far you can paddle. Plenty of other boat types are possible but power boats and kayaks are the most readily available. Naturally, your finances and personal preferences will have something to do with the boat you choose. One of the perks of boating in the area is finding a private strip of beach which is virtually your own for an hour or two. You also might find beautiful areas of wildlife, or coves with lots of shells to beachcomb. Boating is a great addition to a beach day at Fort Desoto Park.

 

Visit Fort Desoto for the Beaches

Fort Desoto beachThe best beaches in America are found along the Florida Gulf Coast, and Fort Desoto is definitely one of them. The beaches there, as well as several others along our coastline, win awards for the beast beaches in America repeatedly. Once you visit Fort Desoto, you will see why. The coastline is covered in fine, white sand, and the waters are blue, with a bright turquois color where the sun strikes the sand in the shallows. It is a long beach which can support quite a lot of visitors. This is a good thing, because on busy days like holidays or Spring Break, the beach fills up. Fortunately, the parking lot is built to accommodate very large crowds. The park also has a picnic area under shade trees right next to the beach. Last year the beach won an award for Best Family Beach. With wide swaths of sand, picnic areas, and plenty of sights to see, it is easy to see why Fort Desoto won the award.

 

Other blog entries you might like:

The Best Beaches in America

Best View of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge

Dog Beaches and Parks

 

Johns Pass

Johns Pass

What is Johns Pass?

John's Pass drawbridgeJohn’s Pass is a fun tourist stop along the waterway known as John’s Pass. According to local history, it was created by a hurricane in the mid 1800’s, when the storm rearranged the shoreline, forming a new opening into the bay. Today the bay is known as Boca Ciega Bay, with John’s Pass serving as a major entrance. On your visit to John’s Pass, you will undoubtedly notice the active drawbridge, allowing taller sailboats into John’s Pass. Fishermen still embark from the shores of the pass and seafood restaurants dot the shoreline. Dolphins swimming in John's PassClose to major barrier island beaches, the undeveloped shores of the pass are lined with mangroves, a plant that is very good at fighting erosion. While you walk along the boardwalks, you will see plenty of seafood shops, mangroves, and passing boats. You might even get to see some of the dolphins that also frequently use John’s Pass to enter and exit Boca Ciega Bay.

 

Where is Johns Pass?

John's Pass mapJohn’s Pass divides the barrier islands that host the cities of Madeira Beach and Treasure Island, Florida, USA. Barrier islands line the coast of Pinellas County, home to Clearwater Beach, St Petersburg, and St Pete Beach, as well as the popular beaches of Honeymoon Island, Caladesi Island, Sand Key, Indian Rocks Beach, Indian Shores, Redington Shores, Redington Beach, and Fort Desoto Park. John’s Pass sits among these famous beaches as a unique feature, being a well-visited attraction despite having no white-sand shoreline. You will find John’s Pass 16 miles south of Clearwater Beach and just 5 miles north of St Pete Beach. It is a fun place to visit and definitely worth the short trip from any of the local beaches. John’s Pass is an entertaining addition to a Gulf Coast beach vacation.

 

What to Do at Johns Pass

John's Pass restaurantJohn’s Pass is a quintessential tourist stop. You will find every type of nautical gift shop you can imagine, loaded with shells, starfish, toys, souvenirs, specialty soaps, t-shirts, dresses, hats, and even pirate costumes.  After you’ve cruised the gift shops, you will definitely want to dine at John’s Pass. The restaurants are one of the main reasons for visiting! Cruise the streets and the boardwalks to find your perfect dining experience. You can dine inside or out, on a pier over the water or down below the boardwalk in a fun and rustic setting. Some of the restaurants are tall enough to provide sweeping views of the area. Keep your eye out for the restaurants south of the drawbridge too! Jet Ski and parasail rentalAfter you have dined, it’s time for some taffy, coffee, or ice cream in one of the many sweets shops. You’re on vacation after all, right? Lastly, you will want to take advantage of the rentals and cruises at the docks. You can take a dolphin sighting tour or a cruise on a fun pirate ship. If that’s too slow for you, then rent one of the powerboats or jet skis. Fishing charters also cast off from the docks, so you might want to try them too. Whatever you like on a fun filled vacation, you will find some fun memories at the docks of John’s Pass.

Souvenir shop John's Pass

John’s Pass souvenir shops

Shops at John's Pass

John’s Pass restaurants

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other blogs you might like:

Treasure Island Kite Festival 2014

Hurricane Pass Tidal Currents

Where the Heck is Pinellas County and Why Should I Care?

 

Florida road trip

Top Clearwater Beach Day Trip Destinations

Clearwater Beach Day Trip Adventures #2

Map Tapron Safety Dunedin Tampa StPetersburgFun Florida Gulf Coast Cities

Looking for a great place to go on a day trip from Clearwater Beach? The region has some great tourist spots that you might want to know about. Try sampling some of the tourist hotspots in the neighboring towns of the area. Here is a brief summary of what you can find in the towns and cities of Tarpon Springs, Safety Harbor, Dunedin, Tampa, and St Petersburg.

 

Tarpon Springs

Tarpon Springs, FloridaTarpon Springs is known best for its history and Greek culture. The sponge industry began in the early 1900’s with many Greek divers recruited for the industry. The Greek community still thrives in Tarpon Springs and so does the sponge diving industry. You will see this for yourself when you walk past the sponge-laden boats moored alonge the riverside docks. You will also have multiple opportunities to eat Greek food at the area restaurants. Gift shops abound in Tarpon Springs. The souvenirs have a nautical theme, with an interesting addition of specialty soap and culinary shops. The Tarpon Springs Aquarium is entertaining for adults and a lot of fun for kids. If you like history, you will love Tarpons Springs. The historic district makes a nice scenic drive. History buffs should not miss the antique shops on East Tarpon Avenue, the Tarpons Springs Cultural Center, or the restored Safford House.

 

Safety Harbor

Safety Harbor, FloridaSafety Harbor is a quiet town on the east side of the county that is known for its art. Main Street in Safety Harbor is a pleasant walk with a mixture of diners, restaurants, art shops, and pubs. The walk to the Safety Harbor City Marina and pier is a pleasant diversion, while the dock area are often used for community events. The small but interesting Safety Harbor Museum and Cultural Center is very nearby. The local library is bracketed by the Art Park to the north and Baranoff Park to the south. The well-known Safety Harbor Resort and Spa sits over natural springs, which have been in use as a spa since the early 1900’s. The scenic drive along the coast of Safety Harbor is one of the best in the area, with beautiful Phillipe Park near the north end of the scenic drive. The other thing to note about Safety Harbor is that they seem to have an endless line up of festivals and street fairs.

 

Dunedin

Dunedin, FloridaThe Main Street strip of Dunedin is well-known for its large events and smaller street fairs. It hosts a Mardi Gras parade and a large St Patrick’s day evening event, as well as other seasonal events. Keeping an eye on Dunedin events is a good idea for anyone looking for diversions in the Clearwater Beach area. Main Street has a good number of pubs, restaurants, and gift shops. Main Street ends at a pier, marina, and city park, all within easy walking distance. Fresh seafood is available for sale at the docks. The popular Pinellas Trail bicycle and walking path runs directly through the center of town, and is built along the old railroad tracks. The old train station is a central historic building to the downtown area. The Toronto Blue Jays baseball winter training games are also held in Dunedin and are very close to Main Street.

 

Tampa

Tampa, FloridaTampa sits on the other side of Tampa Bay from the City of Clearwater, and is very likely where you will land when you fly into the area. While downtown Tampa is oriented more toward business than tourism, there are still plenty of great sites to see, especially along the many miles of waterfront. The popular Channel District is a great place to try out the dining or the bar scene. In the same general area you will find the Tampa Museum of Art and the Florida Aquarium. Another great museum you should visit is the Henry B Plant Museum, located at the grand hotel the railroad tycoon built to attract visitors to the area once the railroad was built. Old Water Street and Channelside Walk Way are great places to dine or spend the evening out. Close to the waterside attractions is the Tampa Bay Times Forum sports stadium. Tampa is also the home of the yearly Gasparilla Pirate Invasion, one of the largest events in the entire Tampa Bay area, in which a pirate invasion of Tampa is reenacted. The city of Tampa is large, so be prepared to drive between the many attractions.

 

St Petersburg

St Petersburg, FloridaWhile St Petersburg is also a large city, the downtown attractions are all surprisingly close together. In a relatively small area along the waterfront you will find the famous Dali Museum, the St Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts, and the St Petersburg Museum of History. The Bay Shore Drive area is a hotspot for nightlife and is a good choice for an interesting dining experience. The University of Southern Florida is found amid the downtown attractions, with its own Barnes and Noble bookstore. The developed shorefront parks go on for a surprising distance, including Vinoy park, North Straub Park, and South Straub Park, among others. The sports stadium is located on the western side of downtown. Two main attractions of downtown St Petersburg are the very large pier on 2nd Ave, and the popular Saturday Morning Market, an outdoor flea and farmers’ market.

 

Road Trip!

While on your Clearwater Beach vacation, don’t miss the opportunity to head out for a day of fun. Find out for yourself what makes the Central Gulf Coast of Florida one of the best places on Earth!

 

Other blog posts you might like;

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Clearwater Marina

Fishing Charter Hotspots on the Florida Gulf Coast

Fishing the Gulf of Mexico

Gulf shores fishing

Dunedin Causeway, Florida

Fishing the Gulf of Mexico is lots of fun. While this blog is about charters, be aware that you can also fish from beaches, piers, causeways, and other great locations. Wading into the coastal waterways is popular, especially in Clearwater Harbor or St. Joseph Sound. Our coasts are very shallow, so you can wade out a surprising distance. If you take a drive down the coastal roads of Clearwater and Dunedin, you will spot fishermen wading far out into the harbor. However, the shallow waters are home to certain types of fish, while the deeper waters off the coast are home to completely different varieties. That is why fishing charters on the Central Gulf Coast are so popular.

 

Find Fishing Charters on the Central Gulf Coast of Florida

Fishing Gulf of MexicoFinding a fishing charter near Clearwater Beach is not difficult. In fact, you will find fishing charters on the Central Gulf Coast are plentiful. A walk down the docks of Clearwater Marina will light up the eyes of anyone who likes deep sea fishing. You have the choice of small private charters or very large fishing vessels.

Map of Florida Gulf CoastYou will also find a lineup of fishing charters at the Dunedin docks, just north of Clearwater on the coastal road. If you are closer to the southern beaches of St Pete Beach, Treasure Island, Madeira Beach, or the Redington Shores area, you will find fishing charters along the intra-coastal waterway, or at the popular tourist docks of John’s Pass.

Prices will vary, usually related to the size of the boat or the quality of the charter. Some are simple fishing trips. Others include perks like a cooler of beer and snacks. The charters usually run from 4  to 8 hours. The minimum of 4 hours is necessary because of how far out your captain will have to go in order to reach deep waters.

 

Best Fish of the Central Gulf Coast of Florida

Clearwater Marina fishing charter

Clearwater Beach Marina

The Gulf of Mexico has some delicious fish, and the Central Gulf Coast of Florida is no exception. Topping the list of yummy Gulf Coast fish are flounder, grunts, Spanish mackerel, dog fish, and grouper. (If you catch a black grouper, make sure that’s the one you cook up!) The recipe you use is up to you, but if you don’t feel like cooking fish on vacation, that’s ok. Many of the local restaurants will cook your fish for you! That’s right, the local cooks will take your fish and serve it up restaurant style. It’s a great way to go, and it makes for some fond Florida Gulf Coast vacation memories too.

Fishing the Gulf of Mexico

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Honeymoon Island of the Florida Gulf Coast.

Wildest Islands on the Central Gulf Coast of Florida

Clearwater Beach Day Trip Adventures #1

Islands on the Central Gulf Coast of Florida

Clearwater BeachThe Central Gulf Coast of Florida is known for its islands. In fact, you might already know one or two of their names without realizing it. Did you know that Clearwater Beach was an island? Most of the popular beaches along our coastline are situated on barrier islands, those little strips of land that sit just off the mainland. All of the beaches from Clearwater Beach down to Fort Desoto State Park are found on just such islands. Those fantastic stretches of beach are known for their beautiful white sands and sparkling turquoise waters. But what about some of the other islands nearby? Read on, because the Central Gulf Coast of Florida has some great island surprises in store for you.

 

Anclote Key Island

Anclote Key barrier island lighthouse

Anclote Key lighthouse

You will find Anclote Island at the northern end of the Central Gulf Coast. The island sits just off the mouth of the Anclote River. Anclote Island is roughly one mile off the coast, and it has no bridge leading to it. If you want to visit the island, you have to go by boat. Thankfully the waters of the Gulf of Mexico are calm, and you can make the journey in pretty much any type of craft. You can also catch a ride on a tour boat out of Tarpon Springs, a tourist town located on the Anclote River. Just let them know where you want to go ahead of time and they will take you out to Anclote Island for a visit. The southern end of the island has a lighthouse you can view, although its stairs are no longer open for climbing. Otherwise, the island is a wilderness. Why visit a wilderness? Several miles of beach almost entirely to yourself is the answer. You will see wild palms ruffling in the breeze while you collect shells from shoreline a bounty not found on the more frequently visited beaches. The north tip of the island has a swath of some of the softest, whitest sand you will find anywhere. If you enjoy wilderness areas, Anclote Island is a must see destination on the Central Gulf Coast of Florida.

 

Weedon Island

Weedon IslandWeedon Island is situated on Tampa Bay, one of the best-known bodies of water on the west coast of Florida. While Tampa Bay does not really have beaches, Weedon Island is still a worthy destination. You will find a wilderness park on the site with boardwalks that weave through the various types of mangroves along the shoreline. A historic site has been excavated at the park, close to the parking lot. The park also boasts a large nature center with an outdoor garden. Despite all these features, the park is known for something else; its fantastic kayak trails. Weaving throughout the mangroves is a waterway suitable for kayaks and canoes. This popular attraction is the longest kayak trail on the Central Gulf Coast. Part of your waterway journey will take you past a panoramic view of Tampa Bay itself, with the city of Tamp visible in the distance. You will also pass by and under the boardwalk trail leading hikers throughout the mangroves. The convenient kayak launch dock also has a popular fishing pier that makes good use of the currents that flow in and out of the park at high and low tides. If you enjoy hiking or kayaking in a natural Florida setting, then Weedon Island might become one of your favorite Central Gulf Coast islands.

 

Honeymoon Island

Honeymoon IslandHoneymoon Island is one of the most popular destination along the Central Gulf Coast of Florida. The island offers a perfect blend of developed and natural coastline. A very large parking area accommodates the high season beach traffic along this very long beach. A concession stand sits at the south end of the parking lot. If you have a dog, this is the beach for you, with a dog beach at the south end of the island. You will need a leash but this is still a great place to introduce your pooch to the Gulf of Mexico. The eastern side of the island has a great Nature Center, a playground, and a long nature trail. The nature trail leads past nesting osprey, great horned owls, and bald eagles. You will also see gopher tortoises and armadillos along the trial. The most visited feature, of course, is the beach itself. It is a long island, with only the southern end developed for tourists. However, you are free to walk northward, immersing yourself in the natural coastline. The beach is beautiful white sand most of the time, although rougher weather will sometimes expose the small coral rocks underneath –as well as a lot of great seashells! Walking to the northern tip of the island is not a hike for beginners, especially in the full heat of summer. If you do make it to the northern end, you will be treated to one of the most pristine coastlines of powder-soft white sand the Central Gulf Coast has to offer.

 

Caladesi Island

Caladesi IslandCaladesi Island may be the most idyllic of the island destinations of the Central Gulf Coast of Florida. Formerly a separate island, a storm rearranged the sands and connected the island to the barrier island to the south. What is the island to the south? It’s Clearwater Beach! While that makes walking to Caladesi Island possible, it doesn’t make it easy. The walk from Clearwater Beach is a long one, another hike you might want to consider carefully if summer is in full swing. However, armed with a water bottle or two, you can make the hike up to Caladesi Island along some of the most beautiful coastline in the world. Soft white sand, sea shells, palm trees, and long stretches of bird sanctuary will mark your journey as you head northward. The northern tip of the island is similar to Honeymoon Island and Anclote Island, with a deposit of remarkably soft, white sand. You will also find that the north end of Caladesi Island is only a short distance away from Honeymoon Island’s southern end. You will likely see dogs playing on the strip of dog beach located there on the other island. If a long walk is not your style, that’s OK. You can catch a ride on a boat from either Honeymoon Island or Clearwater Beach. Whether a ferry boat or a charter, the boat will take you to the docks at Caladesi Island, located within the water channels leading into the island interior. Beyond the dockside concession stand is the beach access and a wilderness trail. You will also find a kayak trail at the docks, similar to the one at Weedon Island. Caladesi Island wins awards on a regular basis as one of the best beaches in the United States. When you arrive, you will see why Caladesi Island has earned a top spot among the islands of the Central Gulf Coast of Florida.

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Homosassa Springs

Homosassa Springs hippoHomosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is located seventy miles drive north of Clearwater Beach. The park displays rescued and other creatures native to Florida. The list includes black bears, alligators, bald eagles, otters, and many more. The number of different bird species at the central pond and the aviary are amazing. A unique park resident is the hippopotamus once used in Hollywood movies, granted official Florida citizenship to overcome its status as a non-native species. The number one attraction at the park, however, are the manatees. Both wild and park animals can be seen swimming in park waters. The manatees you will find in pens are there to receive care, followed by release back into the wild. The park has a unique underwater room where you can view the manatees being fed.

 

Lowry Park Zoo

Lowry Park Zoo orangutanLowry Park Zoo sits just north of the city of Tampa and is a 25 mile drive east from Clearwater Beach. It is a large zoo with plenty to see. Stoll on wooden boardwalks past large aviaries or ground level animal enclosures. You can get a close up view of a wide variety native and exotic species of animals. The Lowry Park Zoo is large enough to plan an all day trip from Clearwater Beach. Kids love the zoo because of the carnival rides located at the center of the park. The kids’ area includes fun things like slides, a water fountain area to play in, pony rides, and a petting zoo.

 

Busch Gardens

Busch Gardens Tampa Florida tigerBusch Gardens is the top theme park within easy reach of Clearwater Beach. Busch Gardens in Tampa has an African theme, which goes well with the animals you will view there. You will find fantastic roller coasters and other fun rides, as well as kid-friendly attractions, like the massive playground called Treetop Trails. Click here to see their huge list of attractions. If you want to offer your family some extra excitement on your Clearwater Beach vacation, then give Busch Gardens in Tampa a try.

 

 

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Dinosaur World Florida

Dinosaur World

Florida Road Trip Adventures #1

Dinosaur World (1)Dinosaur World Is Fun for the Whole Family

Dinosaur world is great fun for kids but parents will enjoy it too. The dinosaur models are full size and placed amid Florida brush and tall palms, giving the park an authentic setting. Kids get very excited to see the life size dinosaurs. The park takes over an hour to walk around, with enough displays to satisfy even the most avid little dinosaur enthusiasts.

Dinosaur World Is an Interactive Kid Experience

Dinosaur World has great extra activities for kids. Young visitors love the fossil dig, where they get to take home real, fossils from the age of dinosaurs. Some of the dinosaur models can be touched, including the carnivore that where kids can peek out at the mom and dad photographer from inside the mouth. A shelter at mid park lets kids dust off a large replica of stegosaurus dinosaur bones. A few other treats can be found along the way.

Dinosaur WorldDinosaur World Gift shop

The gift shop is a kid paradise, with walls lined with dinosaur toys. Actual fossils are for sale for the grownups. The gift shop greets you on the way in but if you want to catch it on the way out, that’s OK too.

Dinosaur World Is a Great Outing for the Kids

If you want to spend half a day entertaining the family, Dinosaur World is a great diversion. Be sure to take your camera to get shots of your kids alongside these behemoths from the past. Florida’s Dinosaur World is in Plant City which is within an hour of the cities of Tampa and Clearwater.

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Tarpon Springs sunken s hip

Gulf Coast Sunken Ship

Gulf Coast Local Secret #17

Does the Gulf Coast Have Sunken Ships?

Of course the Gulf Coast has sunken ships! You will find that any harbor locations around the world have long histories of sunken ships. Before European ships arrived, Native Americans plied the waters in smaller craft. The coasts of the Central Gulf Coast of Florida have been in use by large ships since the Americas were first settled. Settlers, war ships and even pirates used the shores of Florida, especially Tampa Bay, where Fort De Soto State Park still displays cannons used to defend the mouth of the bay. The maritime history of the Florida Gulf Coast is fascinating, and worth looking into.

 

Sunken Ships on the Florida Gulf Coast

ShipwreckA number of websites help divers and others locate known shipwrecks along Florida’s coast. If you are a diver, these are great resources. However, if you are the average tourist, it is not likely you will be diving on shipwrecks. So how can you see your own sunken ship?

 

Tarpon Springs Sunken Ship

Tarpon Springs (7)This local secret turns out to be in Tarpon Springs. Tarpons Springs is a fun, Greek-style tourist destination with enough shops, boat tours, and dining to keep any visitor happy. Located on the Anclote River, Tarpon Springs is known for its Sponge Docks, where the catch of the day is sponges. Little known to most of those walking the docks is that Tarpon Springs has its own sunken ship that you can see. Protruding from the waters of the Anclote River, you can catch a glimpse of part of this ship, identified by the pitch of its mast and derricks. Look for it midway down the docks. If you are lucky enough to take a boat tour past this ship wreck, the guide will surely tell you all about it, and you will get a close up view of this modern sunken ship.

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