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.
We met a few feathered friends along the way.
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.
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.
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.
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.