Dr. Beach Visits Don Pedro Island State Park, Florida

Don Pedro Island State Park, Fla.
Gopher Tortoise on Don Pedro Island State Park, Fla.
Gopher Tortoise on Don Pedro Island State Park, Fla.

Don Pedro Island State Park is one of those island getaways where it’s easy to lose track of time. Visiting is a reminder there are still undeveloped, natural areas of Florida. I love gazing out over the greenish-blue water and collecting shells and fossilized shark’s teeth.

It’s accessible by private boat, kayak, boat charter or boat tour offered by Captiva Cruises, or, if staying on Don Pedro Island, it’s a leisurely walk to the state park. It’s truly worth it. Amenities include a nice pavilion providing shade along with restrooms and showers. There is also a great nature trail which meanders through 11 natural communities where it’s common to run into a resident gopher tortoise.

Last weekend, this was one of five beaches I visited with “Dr. Beach” Stephen P. Leatherman. We reached the boundary of Don Pedro Island State Park where Florida State Park rangers met up with the group and answered questions Dr. Leatherman had about the park.

Park Manager Shows Dr. Beach How Sea Turtles Nest on Don Pedro Island State Park, Fla.
Park Manager Shows Dr. Beach How Sea Turtles Nest on Don Pedro Island State Park, Fla.

In his debrief, this is what Dr. Beach said about Don Pedro Island State Park,

That’s really a different experience altogether [from spending the night in a rental home on Don Pedro Island]…That’s a day trip. That’s a different beach. Does have showers, that’s good. Does have bathrooms, that’s good. That could be a beach I could rate except that the ferry was $30. (Note: That ferry no longer runs but Captiva Cruises offer cruises to Don Pedro Island State Park.)

This isn’t necessarily a negative because many people like visiting those hideaway beaches that are not crowded and full of nature. Don Pedro Island State Park fits the bill. The purpose of Dr. Beach’s visit was to introduce him to the 7.5 miles of natural barrier island beaches, the fact that he liked Don Pedro Island State Park and the other beaches he visited is a big plus for the destination.

Don Pedro Island State Park, Fla.
Don Pedro Island State Park, Fla.

In comparison, Dr. Leatherman said Caladesi State Park in Florida has ranked in his top 10 list because it isn’t overcrowded, close and accessible with its $7 per person ferry. (Note: this fee was based on 2011 pricing; as of Aug. 28, 2016, the per person fee on the Caladesi Connection Ferry is $14.)

Kayaks at Don Pedro Island State Park, Fla.
Kayaks at Don Pedro Island State Park, Fla.

Kayaking out to the state park is pretty easy and I have taken a kayak tour with outfitter Phoenix Rising Kayak Tours and Hooked on SUP has kayaks and standup paddleboards available for rent. A host of other outfitters can be found on the Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands website.

Phoenix Rising Kayak Tours
Tel: (941) 586-2836

Hooked on SUP 
Tel: (941) 504-1699

Captiva Cruises
Tel: (239) 472-5300

Don Pedro Island State Park

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What is Dr. Beach’s Favorite Beach Anyway?
When asked about his favorite beach, Dr. Beach said Phi Phi Beach in Thailand is “fantastic.” The destination was featured in the movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio called, The Beach. However, it’s not exactly accessible. It takes a long time to get there, between 36 and 48 hours.

So, he said Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park in Key Biscayne, Fla., is his favorite for good quality beaches, nature, not very crowded – with the exception of Memorial Day weekend, swimming opportunity and the Lighthouse Café serving “great lobster.” He said he enjoys, “those little creature comforts.”

Be sure to check out The Beach Hunter’s (David McRee’s) posts about Dr. Beach’s visit in these posts:

“Dr. Beach Rates Charlotte County Beaches” and

“Don Pedro Island: Back to the Good Old Days”

Note: This post was updated Aug. 28, 2016.



Jennifer A. Huber is an award-winning travel and outdoor blogger and writer in Southwest Florida. Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., a hiking trail led her to a career path in the tourism industry for more than 30 years. She spent a decade with a park management company in Yellowstone, Death Valley, and Everglades National Parks. She founded the travel blog, SoloTravelGirl.com with the goal of inspiring others to travel alone, not lonely. The unexpected death of her former husband in 2008 reminded her how short life is. His passing was a catalyst for sharing her experiences with the goal of inspiring and empowering others to travel solo. Jennifer holds a Travel Marketing Professional certification from the Southeast Tourism Society, is a certified food judge, member of the NASA Social community, and alum of the FBI Citizens Academy. When not traveling, she is either in the kitchen, practicing her photography skills, or road tripping with her dog, Radcliff.

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