Mileage: 7.2ish miles (RT)
Trailhead: This walk begins at Frenchy's Rockaway Grill, 7 Rockaway St, Clearwater Beach, FL. Parking lot and bathrooms are directly in front of the restaurant. Parking is very expensive ($2.50 per hour), though across the street near the library (and tennis courts) is another lot where parking is half as much.
Walking to Caladesi Island? Yes, the island (apparently still considered one) found itself linked to Clearwater Beach when storms started depositing sand, slowly filling in Dunedin Pass. When hurricane Elena hit the region in 1985, she officially connected the two islands and it's remained that way ever since (locals are hoping another storm will someday wipe away the stretch of sand and reinstate the Pass).
Walked with the Clearwater Walking Group today. I'd heard there's a way to reach Caladesi Island without having to endure the expense and the schedule of the ferry from Honeymoon Island. So I decided it would be fun to find this route, better yet go with those who've walked it and know the way.
|We parked here.|
It's just a beach walk, albeit a long one. We started at 8:30, and the group spread out into one long chain of walkers.
Clearwater Beach's soft white sand stayed with us for quite a while. Then the terrain changed - the houses disappeared and the sand got more shelly, crunching under our feet. Great shelling in this area.
|It's a long beach walk.|
We reached the "shell tree" where people hang shells (for good luck!) at about 2.3 miles north of the restaurant and parking area. The tide was low and we were able to dodge some waves as we arrived at the mangroves. (It'd be wet on the way back.)
Before we knew it we arrived at the "Nature Trail" sign. We were on Caladesi (2.9 miles from our cars).
|At the mangroves.|
Today Caladesi's award winning beach was deserted.
|Honeymoon Island in the distance.|
Further up the beach we took a right onto the boardwalk entering the island proper. The marina, located on the other side of the island, was empty and the concession was closed. The ferry had opted not to run today. It runs most days in the high season but sometimes chooses not to run off season - today must've been one of those days. Very few walk to the island; we were alone, though we did see a park ranger docking his boat.
|Heading inland (bathrooms ahead).|
|Concession (closed today).|
In addition to the beach and marina, the island has hiking trails, historical landmarks, kayaks for rent, and boaters can spend the night in the marina for a fee. No ground camping is permitted.
Not much to do here today so we decided to head back. Retracing our steps we passed the remains of a fire tower and took part of the nature trail back to the beach (pay attention to the signs).
|Image courtesy of visitflorida.com.|
|Head to the beach (shortcut).|
|We crossed several bridges - water is high.|
The trip back was considerably more wet than the trip up; the tide came in and the cool water felt delicious on our feet. As we circled back to the start of the walk we were pretty done - 7 miles walking the beach is long enough. We got back to the cars at 11:30 and had lunch at Frenchys.
|Walking past the mangrove section.|