Island Hopping on the Sun Coast

With the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other, the landscape of Florida is diverse, and beautiful. Taking road trips throughout our state is a regular occurrence for us and we are especially partial to visiting the coastal areas.  The Sun Coast was the focus of our attention during this three-day trip. On average there are 251 days of sunshine on this coast. There are also twenty barrier islands and miles and miles of sugar white sand beaches to discover. We have been impressed by many things during our quest to visit all of Florida’s Ten Coasts, but most notably, our State Parks. On a recent trip to Tamps and St. Petersburg, we found two outstanding parks among those unique barrier islands, that we want to share with you.

Fort DeSoto State Park

Fort DeSoto State Park sits on the Gulf of Mexico on Florida’s West side. It is a short drive from St. Petersburg. The park has overnight facilities,  camp sights, pavilions and picnic tables, several snack shops (hot food and sundries), equipment rental agents, a fishing pier and even a Ferry to transport visitors to nearby Egmont Key for a close-up view of its lighthouse.

The park is significant to the preservation of wildlife and the ecosystem in Florida, so a bike ride or kayak tour through the area is a must for nature lovers and conservationists. Spend some time with a Park Ranger to fully understand the intricate and delicate balance of nature among the Mangroves and estuaries throughout the park.

Beach combers, shell seekers and sunbathers have a multitude of beautiful choices along this three mile stretch of white sand beach. All locations have ample parking and the convenience of facilities. Coolers, beach umbrellas and flotation devices are highly recommended if you plan to spend the day.  Some locations are more congested than others, and on this day, North Beach was our choice for a peaceful walk along the shore.

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We met a few feathered friends along the way.

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Below is a view of Egmont Key Lighthouse from the Fort DeSoto pier. For about $10 you can take the Ferry over to this primitive (no facilities) island and channel your inner Gilligan, or Maryanne. The photo was zoomed and cropped for a closer look.

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Fort DeSoto Website

Honeymoon Island State Park

Continuing north, to Dunedin, we crossed the Dunedin Causeway to Honeymoon Island State Park. You will pay $8 to enter the park and enjoy the beach, but we think it is well worth the price to enjoy this beautifully maintained state park. Local folks, and those in the know, tend to think of it as an alternative to Clearwater Beach, which has become overcrowded with tourists in recent years. Thin the crowds even more by heading out to Caladesi Island, which can be reached by Ferry from the park for a fee of $14 for the twenty-minute trip. Read the story behind Honeymoon Island here.

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Honeymoon Island

Tidal pools and an abundance of shells add to the “natural Florida” feel of this small island.

After a day of island hopping, we headed over to Tampa for dinner and a most excellent sunset.

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If you go, plan to base in St. Pete or Tampa for three to five nights. That should provide ample time to explore this area’s beaches and culture. During this trip, we visited Tampa, Ybor City, Tarpon Springs and St. Petersburg and will share more about those destinations in a future post.

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16 Responses to Island Hopping on the Sun Coast

  1. Dan Antion says:

    Beautiful pictures of some very pretty beaches. I’ve been to that area several times, but with very little time to explore the beaches. I made it to Sand Key beach for a couple hours in the afternoon.

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  2. Gorgeous! I so seldom see a beach that isn’t taken over by people. We may make it to Florida next year for an event in Boca Raton and, if we do, we’ll turn it into a road trip. Thanks for the suggestions of where we might want to visit.

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    • Suzanne says:

      Janis, a road trip from Boca, up the West Coast would be a beautiful thing! Captiva Island, Sanibel, Ft. Myers Beach, Naples,Marco Island, Boca Grande. ……it’s all good. Plan at least ten days. Keep me posted and maybe we can meetup along the way.

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  3. Hi Suzanne what a glorious part of the country and I’ve never really known much about Florida. I love the photos of the seagull and pelicans (a favourite of mine) and the colour of the water is beautiful. Thank you for sharing and starting my week savouring nature. P.S. I have pulled out my camera because of you, so that is the first step! Have a beautiful week. xx

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  4. Love those Gulf Coast beaches!

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  5. I love following your travels and adventures, Suzanne. Your photos are gorgeous!

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    • Suzanne says:

      Thank you. We will be going back to the West Coast in October (unfinished business), then Ashville, NC in November. After that, it’s home for the Holidays!

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  6. Just missed you! We could have had a coffee at O’Keefe’s or a sandwich at the Pub on Indian Shores, around the corner. We visited in 1977, moved to Punta Gorda in 1980 after 14 winters in Minnesota. Then 23 years in Fort Myers. We loved our times on Sanibel, but not the snowbird traffic. We were like those Europeans who had to contend with the tourists, until the season was over. Now, ten years here in Indian Shores, we realize it’s always the season. And we survive. And it’s mostly beautiful, except for the hurricanes, and now the Red Tide.
    Your trip was well described. The pictures were truly awesome!

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    • Suzanne says:

      James, I don’t know what made me think this way, but I had you pegged as an East Coast Floridian.Had I known you were on the left side, we would have connected for sure. I would prefer to live on the West Coast, but my husband has an aversion to traffic; understandably, after living in Miami for many years. Nice to hear that you get used to it. Maybe one day we will make the transition. We have been reading a lot about the Red Tide, but did not see any signs of it around St. Pete.

      I have visited your Blog a few times and am intrigued with your topics. You have a wonderful writing style and a great sense of humor. Have you met Dan Antion? If not, scroll up the comments until you find him and take a look at his Blog. I think you two would get along famously. Thanks for stopping by today.

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  7. Tracey says:

    I love State Parks! Beautiful beaches. We found one in Washington last week that wasn’t covered with folks and it was so serene.

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