Caladesi Island State Park: Shelling And White Sand Beach Paradise In Florida

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As I’ve already mentioned, when my parents came to visit, we had a shelling packed trip planned. Our first stop was Clearwater Beach after meeting up in Tallahassee and we did a lot of shelling here. Not super great shelling but shelling.

I feel like we saw more sea specimens here than good shells (like spongey coral-y stuff) which I still enjoyed especially because I watched the Always Sunny episode where they go to the Jersey Shore and Charlie collects sea specimens with the waitress all night right before we got here.

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I was really looking forward to shelling on Caladesi Island and Honeymoon Island State Parks but we only ended up visiting Caladesi.

We were timing our visit to low tide later in the day and by then we were just too tired (and my shoes were hurting) after walking in the sun on Caladesi. But I’m glad we picked Caladesi.

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I think it’s less busy since you have to take a ferry over but it was a full ferry. Most people stay right near the path from the ferry side of the island to the beach side but it’s super easy to get away from people.

They were doing a prescribed burn the day we were there so when we got to the beach side we went to the right (the burn was to the left) and just walked way up the beach.

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The further you walk, the fewer people you’ll encounter and it’s totally worth the walk. I heard the shelling was better that way but I didn’t find anything particularly awesome further down than closer to where we started.

I honestly don’t think I found anything spectacular here or on this trip in general. Lots of barnacles and things with barnacles on them, lots of coral, some kitten paws, a few olives, and some other little stuff.

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Everything I found here was pretty small but it was still fun looking for everything. I really loved coming here and the beach itself was beautiful.

It was perfect white sand, perfect weather, gorgeous water. It’s hard to beat that. So far it’s probably my favorite beach in Florida that I’ve been to. At least for beach. For shelling it’s got to be Cape San Blas or Tigertail on Marco Island.

But the Cape San Blas Beach was also amazing. I think they’re tied for first. I would definitely recommend a visit to Caladesi Island for some shelling, or even just a beach trip if you’re in the Clearwater or Tampa area.

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Where is Caladesi Island State Park?

Caladesi Island State Park is right off of the coast near Clearwater, Florida. It’s just south of Honeymoon Island State Park. It’s about 40 minutes (to the ferry terminal) from Clearwater Beach, 25 from Clearwater, an hour from St. Petersburg, and 50 minutes from Tampa. This all varies with traffic as well.

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How to get to Caladesi Island State Park

It’s super easy to get to Caladesi Island State Park. Wherever you are in the area, first make your way to Honeymoon Island State Park. Then you’ll go to the ferry parking area which will be on the left after you enter Honeymoon Island State Park.

You could actually technically walk there from Clearwater Beach but it’s a fairly long haul. two to four miles each way on sand and you’d have to be careful of high tide as well.

I wouldn’t really recommend this for casual visitors or walkers but if you’re way at the north end of Clearwater Beach, then maybe. But it would also be quite hot no matter the time of year.

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How much is the Caladesi Island Ferry?

You’ll have to pay the Honeymoon Island entrance fee first which is $8 per vehicle then the ferry fee which is $8 for kids 6-12 and $16 for adults.

The ferry runs everyday but Thanksgiving and Christmas, weather permitting. The ferry is chilly in the winter so a towel or light jacket might not be the worst idea. And if you sit at the front of it you’ll probably get wet.

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What to bring shelling on Caladesi Island

Mesh shell bag – We just used grocery bags we got on the trip, but this would be soooo much more convenient.  This will help loose sand fall out and you could even dip the whole thing in the ocean if necessary for a little rinse.  We rinsed them all off with the hose anyways because they collect so much sand in them.  Buy the mesh shell bag here.

Water bottle – It’ll be hot and humid and you’ll need to stay hydrated.  A Hydro Flask will keep your water ice cold all day long.

Sunscreen – If you plan on being outside, you’ll want sunscreen. If you’ll be swimming, you’ll want a reef-safe sunscreen.

Hat – You’ll want some kind of hat to keep the sun out of your eyes.  A baseball hat should be fine but a bucket hat or sun hat could help keep the sun off your neck.

Sunglasses – This is a must, especially with the wind.  Sunglasses are best paired with a hat on those really bright days.

Shell scoop – This is so helpful for picking up shells in the water if you aren’t swimming. I don’t have one but I will definitely get one for future shelling trips. It also saves your back from the Sanibel Stoop. Buy shell scoop here.

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What kind of shells are on Caladesi Island?

There are so many great shells on Caladesi Island and tons of beach to look for them on. The picture below is at the park and shows all kinds of shells you can find. Here is a list of some shells on Caladesi as well if you can’t read the picture (I barely can, so don’t worry!)

  • Augers
  • Sand dollars (I’d look in the water for these and dig with your toes a little)
  • Wormies (the squiggly ones in the top right)
  • Fighting conchs
  • Whelks
  • Scotch bonnets
  • Olives
  • Jewel boxes
  • Scallops
  • Angel wings
  • Tulips
  • And so much more!
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Is Caladesi Island worth visiting?

Absolutely! I loved it and it’s probably one of my favorite Florida State Parks so far. The shelling was just fine this trip but I would for sure go back for more shelling and just some quality beach time.

It may not be Sanibel quality shelling (apparently, I didn’t have the great Sanibel shelling experience) but it’s still 100% worth visiting for an afternoon or morning.

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Tips for visiting Caladesi Island:

  • Pets are not allowed on the ferry
  • The ferry ticket is good for a four hour visit
  • Boat camping is available on the island
  • I would go earlier in the morning for better shelling and cooler temperatures (it was pretty hot when we left later in the day)
  • If you find any live shells or sand dollars, put them back in the water. Live shelling is illegal and just not very nice to the critters living in them.
  • After you get your shells home, rinse them out really well with a hose to help with any sea smells
  • There is a store and snack bar on the island
  • I think the best way to find shells is walking in the shallow part of the water and right along the section where the waves crash and shells are kind of piled up
  • The ferry takes about 25 minutes and leaves every half hour. If it’s busy, there may be a wait for an available ferry.
  • For the return trip, you have a scheduled time to return but if there is space available, you can leave earlier.

Have you been to Caladesi Island? Did you do any shelling on Caladesi Island? Did you find anything good? Do you want to go?

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