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4 Eco-Friendly Florida Beaches

by Carmel Vivier

Ready to get back in touch with nature? Here are a few of the eco-friendly beaches along the Gulf of Mexico in Central West Florida.

Honeymoon Island State Park

Just north of Clearwater, near the City of Dunedin, is Honeymoon Island State Park, a natural barrier island that has been carefully preserved to protect the flora and fauna. A short causeway drive from the mainland gives you access to four miles of white sandy beaches with lots of shells, nature trails, bird observation areas and a dog beach. Honeymoon Island also provides a pedestrian ferry to another eco retreat, Caladesi Island.

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Caladesi Island

Caladesi Island also boasts white sand beaches and is a completely natural island There are no cars allowed, so be prepared to explore the island by land (there’s a three-mile nature trail) or by water (via a three-mile kayaking trail through mangrove groves). The island is accessible by pedestrian ferry from Honeymoon Island or by private boat or kayak. People travelling on the ferry are restricted to a four-hour stay on the island, and no pets or motorized vehicles are allowed due to the fragile ecosystem. There is lots of wildlife to be seen, but be sure to pack insect repellent (especially if you decide to kayak).

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Fort De Soto Park

Fort De Soto Park is a bit further south and is accessible by car. It has natural, wild beaches that provide habitat for many species of birds, as well as the loggerhead sea turtle (April and September). This park covers 1, 136 acres (made up of five islands) and is home to mangroves, wetlands and several species of grasses that hold the fragile ecosystem together. If you are into history, there is a museum with some fortifications such as gun emplacements and ammunition rooms belonging to the old Fort De Soto. You can also rent bikes and kayaks, and there are several kilometres of sidewalks throughout the park for rollerblading. If you kayak close to shore, there is an abundance of sea life and a variety of shore birds to be seen. Off to the southwest, you can see Egmont Key National Wildlife Refuge and Shell Island, which are accessible only by boat.

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Credit: Carmel Vivier

Caspersen Beach

Further down the Gulf Coast, south of Sarasota, is Venice with its several beaches—but Caspersen Beach is, in my estimate, the most eco-friendly, mostly because it is totally undeveloped. People flock to this area for shelling and hunting for pre-historic shark’s teeth. The sand here is not pristine white, but rather is almost charcoal in colour due to the mixture of sand and fossilized materials. The coastline is rugged, with huge rock outcrops, but there are boardwalks (and a roadway) allowing you to easily navigate these areas. Expect to see lots of shore birds and pelicans, and even dolphins on occasion.

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