Tag Archives: Honeymoon Island

Clearwater to Caladesi shoreline (3)

Finding the Lost Dunedin Pass

Barrier Islands of the Florida Gulf Coast

Caladesi IslandClearwater and the City of Dunedin have some of the best barrier islands in the United States. They are the three best known islands in the area, consisting of Clearwater Beach, Caladesi Island, and Honeymoon Island. Other great islands are also along our coast, just to be clear, with Anclote Key and Three Rooker Island to the north and Sand Key, Treasure Island, St Pete Beach, and Mullet Key to the south. The sands of the Florida Gulf Coast on the move, however, creating a changing history for the barrier islands.

 

Clearwater Beach and Honeymoon Island

Honeymoon IslandWhen the area was first settled, the islands of Clearwater Beach and Honeymoon Island were in a very different condition than they are today. Clearwater Beach was called Hog Island and later on, Tate’s Island. It had no access other than by boat. Later, a causeway was built and it was named Clearwater Beach. Honeymoon Island was much smaller. Development plans came and went for the island, the land eventually becoming a state park. Shifting sands over the last century have connected the nearby sand bars to the island, more than doubling its length. The northern extension of the island created a fantastic stretch of soft white sand beach and the enclosed waters of Pelican Cove.

 

Dunedin Pass

Caladesi Clearwater land bridgeThe shape of Caladesi Island has changed less than the other islands, probably due to the abundance of mangrove trees there. The most striking change is the sand bar that grew northward from Clearwater Beach, connecting the two islands. The waterway that used to run between the two islands was called Dunedin Pass. It was a popular passageway for boaters entering and leaving the intra-coastal waterway. Over time, the sands on the south side of the pass began to move northward. Dredging was discussed, and the city even voted, successfully, to purchase a dredging machine in 1977. The plan to keep Dunedin Pass open was not to be, however. In 1985, Hurricane Elena struck the area and filled the waterway with enough sand to make in impossible to navigate by boat. With the sand already moving northward from Clearwater Beach, the pass soon filled in completely. Today, beachgoers can walk across the sand bridge between the two islands. It has filled in with enough sand to create a complete beach. Only memories and written  history allows newcomers to know that Dunedin Pass was ever there.

 

Exploring Dunedin Pass

Clearwater Caladesi land bridge 2Several methods exist for exploring Dunedin Pass. Walking northward from Clearwater Beach is the most common. It takes a little time and effort, especially on hot summer days, but beachgoers can walk the sands northward, arriving at the old pass in less than an hour. Another method would be to take the Caladesi Island Ferry from Honeymoon Island State Park. Once on the beach, visitors can walk south to find the narrow area of sand. If you are lucky enough to have a boat on hand, you can arrive via the coastal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Boaters can cruise up the coast from Clearwater Pass or down the coast from Hurricane Pass. While in a boat on the coast, it is not easy to spot the old pass. The sand appears the same up and down the beach, rising too high for boaters to see over to the harbor. One clue is the park sign, set on the beach, telling beachgoers that they have arrived at Caladesi Island State Park. Clearwater to Caladesi shoreline (8)The remains of the pass are just south of the sign. The last route to pass is by boat on the intra-coastal waters. This route, however, is not for larger boats. To actually land on the eastern side of the beach, you will need a watercraft such as a kayak or a paddleboard. The water shallows to just a few inches for quite a long stretch before you can land. When you do, a very short walk takes you to the crest of the beach where you overlook the white sand beaches and the Gulf of Mexico.

The pass is a beautiful stretch of sand, some of the softest and whitest you will find in the area. It is also a part of the beach much less traveled, leaving the beauty of the area almost to you alone. Dunedin Pass is well worth visiting.

 

Other posts you might enjoy:

Remarkable Origin of Clearwater Beach Sand

Native American Indian Mounds of the Florida Gulf Coast

Curious History of Philippe Park

 

 

Honeymoon Island State Park

Southern Pleasures of Honeymoon Island State Park

The Southern End of Honeymoon Island

Honeymoon Island State ParkHoneymoon Island State Park has many faces, each one making the trip to the island worthwhile venture. It features natural beaches, a nature trail, nature center, a public beach, concession stand, loads of parking, and more. It provides a fantastic setting for anyone who likes wildlife or the beach.

One of the best thing about Honeymoon Island is that there is more than one type of beach. To the north you will find a very long stretch of beach that is in its natural state. Next to the parking lots is the best area of the island to have a day at the beach that will make your vacation memorable, with restroom facilities and a concession stand nearby. The southern end of Honeymoon Island is yet another region of the island that is a world of its own. This blog post focuses on the fantastic south end of the island. Read on to discover the southern pleasures of Honeymoon Island State Park.

 

Honeymoon Island Beach Trail

Beach trailYou can access the southern end of Honeymoon Island via the beach or the trail. While it might seem that they are almost the same, they actually quite different. At the beach, you will have the sea breeze to cool you and the beautiful views of the Gulf of Mexico. On the trail, the sea breeze might cool you off -or it might not. In the summer, it is a very warm walk. The payoff, of course, is that when you reach the end, you can dip into the water to cool off. If you have always wondered what it would be like to walk down a sandy trail amid the beach grasses, then this is a walk you should take. You will walk past palm trees and shrubs before breaking out into the open. Keep your eye out for wildflowers, as this trail is a very good place to view them. The sandy trail is also a great walk for photographers because the scenery changes in subtle ways as you go along. When you near the end, the path forks, leading to different sides of the island, which is quite narrow at this point. Beach trailTo the right is the dog beach and to the left is a cove. We recommend both! The dog beach is part of the main beach of Honeymoon Island while the cove offers a view of mangrove coastline and the Dunedin Causeway from a very small section of beautiful, white sand beach. If you want to see it all, then head left toward the cove, then walk the beach around the tip of the island. You will come wind up at dog beach and a second cove once you round the end of the island.

 

Fishing on Southern Honeymoon Island

Fishing at Honeymoon IslandAny shore you chose on Honeymoon Island is a fun fishing trip. Plenty of fishermen head to the park to fish just off shore, standing waist or chest high water. Because the Gulf Coast shores are shallow, you can walk surprisingly far out to do your fishing, well away from the swimmers at the beach. The very southern tip of the beach is a local fisherman favorite, however. The currents pass by the location strongly which provides excellent fishing opportunities. The current has also has washed away the softer sands, and that keeps most of the beach-goers away, leaving the spot open for fishermen. You will rarely visit the southern tip of Honeymoon Island without seeing someone fishing from this locally favored fishing spot.

 

Honeymoon Island Dog Beach

Dog Beach at Honeymoon IslandThe dog beach on Honeymoon Island is easy to find via the many signs. The best route to the dog beach is the beach trail. The path helps you to avoid pulling your dog through all the sunbathers on the regular beach, which is actually not allowed. You will definitely want to bring a baggie for dog droppings. Canisters to deposit used bags are provided. Your pets will enjoy the beach trail but they will definitely love the beach. A small section of split rail fence marks the area where your pet is allowed to be. Unfortunately, leashes are required on this beach and park rangers in boats might give you a ticket if you break the rule. While this might seem unfair, the land surrounding the trail to dog beach and all the grassland bordering the beach is a bird sanctuary. Keeping your dog on the trail and on the sands of the beach is a must. Rules aside, the dog beach is a fantastic place to play with your pet. It is also a fun place to sunbathe, which means you and your four legged friend can both get what you want from a trip to Honeymoon Island.

 

Coves of Southern Honeymoon Island

Cove at Honeymoon IslandYou will find two coves on the southern end of Honeymoon Island. They are both very small, one at dog beach and the other on the far side of the island’s tip. Both are great for swimming and are also fun places to land smaller watercraft such as kayaks of standup paddle boards. The eastern cove is less traveled, which might give you intermittent stretches of solitude. The other cove is right at dog beach. The dog beach cove is created by a sand spit reaching southward, separating the small section of water from the Gulf of Mexico. Because the spit is all soft white sand, it is a popular place for visitor to spend time and is therefore the most multi-purposed section of the entire island. Regardless of what you do at these two tiny coves, you might find them to be a pair of the most enjoyable spots on Honeymoon Island.

 

Caladesi Island Ferry

Caladesi Island FerryThe Caladesi Island Ferry sets out from the southern edge of Honeymoon Island. The ferry costs $14 for adults, $7 for kids, and is free for those 5 years and under. The boat ride is fun and you will definitely enjoy the beauties of Caladesi Island. To reach the ferry port, look for the signs right after you pass the entry gate of Honeymoon Island State Park. The road, which leads to the ferry or the dog beach parking lots, will be on the left.

 

Honeymoon Island offers a Beach for Everyone

Honeymoon Island State ParkIt is quite remarkable how many different activities you can enjoy just on the southern end of Honeymoon Island. Sunbathing, hiking, swimming, fishing, boating, beach combing, bird watching, photography, and fun with your pet are all found in one relatively small space. And, oddly enough, it is one of the less-visited sections, which means you will also have a fair amount of elbow space. Put this park on your list of sites to see on your next Florida Gulf Coast vacation. Among the many other pleasures of island, you should definitely give the southern end of Honeymoon Island State Park a try.

 

Other posts you might enjoy:

Beach Walk of a Lifetime at Honeymoon Island State Park

Exploring the Honeymoon Island Nature Trail

Hurricane Pass Tidal Currents

 

Honeymoon Island Florida

Beach Walk of a Lifetime at Honeymoon Island State Park

Setting out for the North End of Honeymoon Island

Honeymoon Island State ParkAnywhere you go at Honeymoon Island State Park can be a fantastic experience. The island has multiple areas that offer great entertainment for those arriving from near or far. You can visit the main beach area, the nature trail, nature center, or the dog beach. However, if you want to enjoy a beach walk you will remember for a lifetime, then set the north end of Honeymoon Island as your destination.

The park entrance fee is 4 to 6 dollars, depending on the size of your party, and the parking lots are large, with a surprising capacity. Your destination, however, is the north end of the beach. Honeymoon Island State ParkYou will drive past the sign for the Caladesi Island Ferry and the Dog Beach. You will ignore the concession stand and the area of the beach most popular for sunbathing and swimming. You will drive past the nature center and the nature trail. At the very end,, the road will loop back and, after you drive around the 180 degree turn, you will find the entrance to the parking lot you seek.

Here you will find fencing marking off an area of beach eroded by storms and, to the north, you will see the brush of the island. With your hat on and your sun lotion applied, you are ready to go on your Honeymoon Island beach walk.

 

Preparing for a Walk on Honeymoon Island Beach

Honeymoon Island State ParkThe beach walk is long, taking as much as two hours to reach the tip of the island, so here are some tips to help you better enjoy the experience. Take along a bag for collecting shells. A net-style sack is best since plastic is uncomfortable to carry on warm days. If your skin is sensitive to the sun, you might want to wear long sleeves. The sun here can be hot, and in the summer, quite intense. For those who are accustomed to sunshine, sun tan lotion is still recommended. With the sea breeze and the bright rays, you’ll want to be protected on this wonderful, long walk on the beach. A sun hat is the other item at the top of the list. Leave your sunbathing for another day and enjoy this stroll in as much comfort as you can. The other tip for comfort and safety is checking on the weather. In the summer, if the rain chances are over 20 to 30 percent, then a brief seasonal storm is likely to occur along the coast. Honeymoon Island State ParkThese storms build toward late afternoon and then burst with heavy showers and lightning. They come and go quickly but it is a good idea not to be on the beach when they occur. If you see tall clouds building over the Gulf or inland, it is a good idea to turn back. This beach walk is best planned for the morning. In normal conditions, you can walk all the way to the tip, explore your surroundings, and then make the return stroll without having any worries about the weather.

 

Starting your Beach Walk on Honeymoon Island

Honeymoon Island State ParkThe start of your walk to the north end of Honeymoon Island begins at the parking lot where you will see a trail winding through the bushes and palm trees. Immediately beyond, you will see a small body of water to your right, which is the southernmost tip of Pelican Cove. Of course, to your left, is the beautiful Gulf of Mexico. Honeymoon Island State ParkThe beach here, depending on conditions and season, is often gravely with very little sand. Don’t get discouraged though, this beach has many faces, and the best is yet to come. Head north from here, keeping between the island grasses and the water. As you go, the beach will change, and you will be treated to many sights and sounds of Honeymoon Island.

 

Birds of Honeymoon Island

Honeymoon Island State ParkOne of the fantastic sights on your Honeymoon Island beach walk is the multitude of birds that live on the island. Great blue herons, white egrets, sand pipers, pelicans, black skimmers, gulls, ospreys, terns and many more species of birds occupy the shoreline and the island’s interior. You will see signs as you walk that inform you that the interior of the island is a bird sanctuary. Honeymoon Island State ParkIt is easy to agree with this code, because aside from protecting the birds, the beach sands make a far better terrain for walking than the brush-filled interior. You can find to identify birds at various shops, and perhaps at the Honeymoon Island nature center. The best charts are laminated so that they last longer. It can be fun to try and identify the birds you are viewing while you continue along the coast into the soft white sands of Honeymoon Island.

 

Beach Combing on Honeymoon Island

Honeymoon Island State ParkBeach combing the shores of Honeymoon Island is a favorite activity. The shoreline changes while you go along, providing many different surfaces where you can search for treasures. The eroded section where you begin the northward walk is one of the best for the more unusual items, such as rocks with interesting patterns. Farther north, where fewer people visit, you will encounter more of the undisturbed items. Honeymoon Island State ParkHere you might find complete clam or snail shells, as well as whole sand dollars. On certain days, the beachcombing can be so good, it might put you in danger of not reaching your destination, if you indeed intend to make it to the northern tip of the island. You might have to choose which of the pleasures of Honeymoon Island you want to indulge in most.

 

Remarkable Sands of Honeymoon Island

Honeymoon Island State ParkThe Gulf Coast of Florida is known for its remarkable white sands and Honeymoon Island beaches are no exception. While some parts of the shore might be strewn with gravely, white, coral stone, others are covered with the soft white sands that make the Florida Gulf Coast famous. Walking along the waterline will give you ample opportunity to enjoy the changes on this natural section of beach. The farther north you go, better the sands become. Be sure to look around while you go, the natural shapes the sand takes can be quite interesting. If you have the fortitude to keep going, you will eventually find yourself at the northernmost tip which might find to be the very best part of Honeymoon Island.

 

Beach Walk of a Lifetime

Honeymoon Island State ParkAt the northern tip of Honeymoon Island you will find beach paradise. Take a moment to sit and take in the scenery. You will see the other arm of Honeymoon Island to your southeast, across the waters of Pelican Cove. Boats will surely be out on the Gulf of Mexico. You will see the mainland to your east and a scattering of more barrier islands to your north. For an added treat, closely observe the sands surrounding you. You will see that the wind has sculpted them into shapes courser sands cannot hold. You will also see footprints of birds, perfectly preserved in the tiny grains. The waters and breezes of the Gulf of Mexico move the sands of the island north. That means that the softest, lightest grains of sands find their way to that part of the island. Honeymoon Island State ParkMake sure you take off your shoes –if you are still wearing them. Sink your toes into the powdery sands for an experience like no other. The shallow waters, with white sands just beneath, will glow a beautiful turquoise in the sunlight, a perfect place to dip your feet. Once you have had your fill, it will be time to turn back and walk the beach south once again. You will then be among those who know why the walk north on Honeymoon Island is a beach walk of a lifetime.

Other posts you might enjoy:

Exploring the Honeymoon Island Nature Trail

Florida Barrier Island Breakdown

Wildest Islands on the Central Gulf Coast of Florida

Honeymoon Island State Park

Honeymoon Island State Park

Honeymoon Island State Park

Honeymoon Island State Park

 

Honeymoon Island State Park

Honeymoon Island State Park

Honeymoon Island State Park

Honeymoon Island State Park

 

Florida Gulf Coast osprey

Exploring the Honeymoon Island Nature Trail

Location of Honeymoon Island State Park

Honeymoon Island State Park

Click map to enlarge

You will find Honeymoon Island State Park on the Central Gulf Coast of Florida. It is just north of Clearwater Beach and Caladesi Island, both of which are popular tourist destinations. Honeymoon Island is reachable by car thanks to the Dunedin Causeway, which is a popular weekend destination for boaters, fishermen, and those who enjoy a more casual beach experience. The park has a manned entrance gate with a required entry fee of 4-8 dollars depending on the number of people in your car.

 

Honeymoon Island Nature Center

Honeymoon Island Nature CenterAny trip to the Honeymoon Island State Park nature trail should begin at the nature center. While the nature center is not at the trailhead, it will give you an idea of what you might find on the island. The rangers are always willing to help, and will answer any questions you have. Mangrove shores Honeymoon IslandYou will find books on the area, dioramas of island wildlife, kid-friendly displays they are allowed to touch, interactive videos, and a display on the island’s history. Outside is an observation deck that overlooks the shallows of St Joseph Sound where you can often observe Honeymoon Island ospreys diving for fish.

 

Honeymoon Island Loop Trail

Honeymoon Island nature trailThe Honeymoon Island nature trail is a 2.5 mile loop, which runs the length of the island’s pine forest. Honeymoon Island has two peninsulas that reach northward. The western arm is mostly beach, while the eastern stretch is forested, with shores covered by mangrove trees. The stretch of water between the two peninsulas is called Pelican Cove. The looping nature trail, which is on the eastern arm of the island, has a number of connectors, allowing hikers to shorten their hike by making smaller loops. Although you will walk through a forested area, the trail will also have lots of sun, so be sure to bring your hat and perhaps some sunscreen. The surface of the trail is sand, sometimes covered with grass or pine needles, but sometimes not. Be sure to use footwear that goes well with soft, sandy terrain. Keep an eye out for the small signs along the nature trail that give you information on island features.

 

Honeymoon Island Nature Trail Foliage

Honeymoon Island slash pineThe most prominent plants you will find on the Honeymoon Island nature trail are the tall slash pines. You will also see them as the barren dead trees where the ospreys like to build their nests. The other common trees are palms and mangroves, a staple plants for the Florida Gulf Coast. In the past, the island appeared somewhat dry, with stretches of low foliage where you could see hikers on the other side of the loop trail. Cactus flower FloridaAfter the island received a prescribed burn a few years ago, the plants filled in the spaces that were previously empty. Now a host of the new slash pines are growing, which is one of the main purposes behind prescribed burns. In addition to the trees you will see a seemingly endless variety of other plants, many of them with flowers. During the spring you will also see the prickly pear cacti in bloom.

 

Honeymoon Island Nature Trail Wildlife

Florida osprey nestThe most popular feature on the Honeymoon Island Nature Trail are the ospreys. These fishing hawks are expert at catching their meals out on the Gulf of Mexico, in St Joseph Sound, and in Honeymoon Island’s Pelican Cove. You will often see them flying back to their enormous nests with fish in their claws. The grand nests are easy to see because the ospreys most often build them in dead trees. Joining the ospreys on Honeymoon Island are breeding pairs of bald eagles and great horned owls. These latter two, however, are not as easy to spot as the abundant ospreys. Gopher tortoise on Honeymoon IslandIn addition to many types of birds on the island, you will also come across the gopher tortoise, an island inhabitant that is also popular with visitors. Some of the tortoises will make hasty retreats into the island brush while others will calmly watch you walk by. The tortoises and the birds mentioned above are not the only natural inhabitants, so keep your eyes peeled and you will surely discover more wildlife along the Honeymoon Island nature trail.

 

Honeymoon Island Nature Trail Amenities

Picnic area Honeymoon Island State ParkAt the head of the Honeymoon Island nature trail you will find a number of helpful amenities. A small park sits next to a parking lot that never seems to fill up, which is very handy. The small park contains picnic pavilions and a fairly large playground for the kids. You will find a restroom across from the parking lot which also happens to be next to the western trail head of the looping nature trail. If you turn right on path behind the restroom, you will be heading onto the nature trail. If you take the path to the left, it will take you to the famous Honeymoon Island beach. As for that beach, we will let you know more about the other fantastic features of Honeymoon Island State Park in upcoming blogs.

 

Other posts you might enjoy:

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Suncoast Primate Sanctuary

Gulf Coast Bald Eagles

Florida Gulf Coast beach

Ever Changing Sands of the Florida Gulf Coast

Beaches on the move

Clearwater Beach dunes and beachThe beaches along the Florida Gulf Coast are among the best loved beaches in America. The soft white sand is soothing to the feet and glows brightly in the sunshine. The pleasant nature of the sand makes the beaches famous, and the area has become a favorite vacation destination. What visitors to the area might not realize, however, is how much Mother Nature can move around that soft white sands.

 

Effects of Wind and Sea on the Beach

Kiteboarding Clearwater BeachA visit to the beaches of the Central Gulf Coast of Florida will introduce you to the powdery white sands of which we speak. While pushing  your toes through the sands, your feet will tell you how soft the tiny grains are. Some call it “sugar sand” while others compare it to powder. On a day with higher winds, you might feel the sand gently blowing across your ankles. Over time, this can create a considerable effect. In addition to the wind, the weather patterns create different currents offshore. Over time, the effects of wind and water can significantly change the beach landscape.

 

Mangroves and Sand Dunes on the Florida Gulf Coast

Mangrove shores of the Florida Nature CoastWhile you visit the beaches of the Florida Gulf Coast, you will notice two things; mangrove trees and sand dunes. Mangrove trees are easy to identify from their sturdy root systems that lift the trees up over the sand or water. These trees help to clean the water while protecting the shoreline from erosion. While a shore of mangrove trees may not be as appealing to some as a wide-open, sandy beach, the trees are an essential part of the Florida coastline. Mangroves can even withstand the powerful forces of hurricanes, protecting inland areas from many of the storms’ effects. Clearwater Beach sand dunesSand dunes may sometimes block the view of the open sand and sea, but they form an irreplaceable function for the beaches. They store sand for times of greater erosion and help to block the flood waters during storm surges. A beach without dunes is far more vulnerable to erosion than one with a healthy dune system. On your Florida vacation, be sure to treat the mangrove forests and the grasses on the sand dunes with the respect they deserve.

 

History of Shifting Sands on the Florida Gulf Coast

Johns Pass

Johns PassThe most famous story of our changing shoreline comes from a location known as John’s Pass, currently a fun tourist day trip destination. However, the popular boating route and tourist stop of John’s Pass did not always exist. The barrier islands along the coast of what is now Pinellas County continued uninterrupted past the present day channel. According to local history, a storm in 1848 washed away the sands and left an opening in the barrier islands, connecting the Gulf of Mexico and the intra-coastal waterway. The passage is now an essential route for boaters that includes a large drawbridge. Waterfront dining and shops have capitalized on the location, which is a plus for tourists to the Central Gulf Coast.

Dunedin Pass

Clearwater Beach to Caladesi IslandThe second, well-known change in the shoreline was started in 1921 by a hurricane. The water channel known as Dunedin Pass was altered by the storm, and in combination with other forces, caused the sand bar at the north end of Clearwater Beach to migrate northward until the pass closed. It is now possible to walk from Clearwater Beach to Caladesi Island, although locals have not allowed Caladesi’s status as an independent island to fade.

Three Rooker Bar

sand barAnother unique feature of the local coastal landscape shaped by tidal forces is Three Rooker Bar. This land feature began as a sand bar but now is a tiny island supporting both plant and animal life. Thanks to the quickly changing landscape of Three Rooker Bar, you will find it listed online as both an island and a sand bar, depending on where you look. If the forces that made the sand bar continue, not only will the title of island remain, but the island will continue to grow in size.

 

Florida Gulf Coast has a Tradition of Change

Hurricane Pass Dunedin FloridaThe beaches of the Florida Gulf Coast have a tradition of change. While mankind can and does have an effect on preserving beaches, the landscape will continue to shift. You can experience this process for yourself by visiting the channel that runs between Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island. This passage owes its existence to the hurricane of 1921, thus giving it the name Hurricane Pass. You will find long spits of soft, white sand reaching out toward the passage from both islands. You will also see large, areas of sand just beneath the surface, many of which you can walk on during low tides. If you are lucky enough to return to the beaches year after year, you will notice a marked change at Hurricane Pass. The sands on either side of the boating channel are in constant flux. The shape of the beaches changes visibly, while the sand bars move from one location to another.

 

Gulf Coast Beaches

Palm shadows on the beachYour beach holiday on the shores of Florida’s West Coast will surely be amazing. The beaches are renowned for their soft white sands and wonderful weather. You can choose between a manicured public beach or the wild shores of the less-visited barrier islands. In fact, you can visit both during the same day! Keep in mind that the beaches you walk upon might appear the way they do just for you, right at that moment. The next time you visit, you can then see if you recognize the subtle changes in our beaches. Finding the differences can be entertaining so be sure to bring your camera. It might be fun to add the changing sands of the Central Gulf Coast to the list of beautiful sights you will see on your Florida vacation.

 

 

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

 

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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Bald Eagles Live on the Florida Gulf Coast

Bald EagleBald Eagles are primarily a northern bird but did you know they also live in Florida? They summer in the far north and then some migrate south or gather along the coasts of Alaska and Canada in the winter. However, the ones that live in Florida enjoy the same weather as the rest of us in the Sunshine State, which means you can find them here year round. Like so many other birds, Bald Eagles nest along the Gulf Coast. Finding one of their nests is a rare treat for locals and visitors alike.

Local Pride toward Bald Eagles

Bald Eagle

Homosassa Springs

Bald Eagles are no longer on the endangered species list but they are still under protection by law. A casual search on the Bald Eagle locator found over 44 nests within 15 miles of Clearwater Beach (2012.) However, you might find the local populace is quite protective of their Bald Eagles. Be sure to obey any signs posted regarding approaching the nests to closely.

Were to see a Bald Eagle

Florida Bald EagleWhile you can go to the locations listed on the Bald Eagle locator application, it might be easier to see them in a park, where you can approach on a hiking trail rather than someone’s front yard. Honeymoon Island is a paradise for birds, containing nests for Ospreys, Great Horned Owls and Bald Eagles. When the Bald Eagles return to nest, the rangers are usually the first ones to notice. They will let you know where the birds are and you might also see signs along the nature trail. Be sure to obey signs in the state recreation area. The eagles in this park enjoy a fair amount of protection from park caretakers. You will not get a close up view so be sure to bring your binoculars or a camera with a good zoom lens. Despite the distance, this location makes the local secrets list because it is easier to find, the nest site is fairly predictable, and it is not on private land.

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