Although beautiful beaches abound along the Gulf of Mexico, sometimes you need to cross a bridge to feel like you’ve truly been to the beach.
If you’re seeking an island experience near metropolitan Tampa, we at ICI Homes have four suggestions. These islands are located from north to south along the Gulf, which functions as Tampa’s westernmost neighbor, and all four islands offer different experiences.
They’re an easy day trip from your new Tampa-area home and require minimal stocking-up, unless you’re towing a boat and half your new neighbors with you.
Another bonus? These four islands are Florida state parks. So it’s easy to find information and helpful detail online, especially if you haven’t visited them.
Here’s our guide to four island experiences near Tampa Bay.
Honeymoon Island State Park
If your new Tampa home is located north of downtown Tampa, head west to the beachside town of Dunedin. It’s the gateway to opens in a new windowHoneymoon Island State Park and later, Caladesi Island State Park. The two are a package deal — you can’t get to Caladesi without going to Honeymoon.
Generous public recreation areas and parking lots dot this state park — a barrier-island devoted to beaching and other shoreline pursuits such as boating, swimming, running and biking.
All necessary rest rooms and shower facilities are in place, and white sand beaches are clearly the big draw. On the southeast side of Honeymoon Island, leashed dogs are permitted. Boats typically loll and anchor on the north side.
Caladesi Island State Park
opens in a new windowCaladesi Island is an undeveloped neighbor of Honeymoon Island. You’ll need to take a ferry from the latter, to access it. Another option is private watercraft.
Once you’re there, enjoy the pristine white sand beaches, a three-mile hiking trail, a kayaking trail through mangrove islands on Caladesi’s eastern flank, and blissful quiet except for your fellow park visitors. There are picnic tables, shelters, a marina, snack bar and gift shop.
A great time to visit is at low tide, when shelling is at its best. Because Caladesi only hosts day trippers, there are fewer people scrambling for the same treasures!
Fort De Soto State Park
It’s the largest of the four islands listed here and the only one where you can stay overnight. opens in a new windowFort De Soto is located on the southernmost Tampa Bay-area barrier island — Mullet Key — that’s accessible by driving.
Once there, you have more than 1,100 acres to explore. Those include smaller, connected islands, campgrounds, fishing piers, a circa-1890s fort, amenities (restrooms, concessions, bait shop), hiking and biking trails, and three miles of white sand beaches.
Fort De Soto also functions as a renowned bird habitat.
Egmont Key State Park
This tiny key at the mouth of Tampa Bay is the biggest adventure of our four island destinations. It’s uninhabited, non-drivable and accessible only by private boat. Yet it boasts some amazing history, vistas and photo opportunities.
opens in a new windowEgmont Key contains a working, circa-1858 lighthouse, vintage brick roads from the early 20th century and traces of landscaping and structures that once were part of a U.S. Army installation — Spanish-American War-era Fort Dade.
White sand beaches are a huge draw. But bring all water, food and other supplies you might require. There are no stores or entrance fees. The park is open from sunrise to sunset.
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