Caladesi Island, Florida: Make a Quick Escape
In 1921, a hurricane split this barrier island on Florida's Gulf Coast into two. Six decades later, another hurricane created a sandbar that, conveniently, allows you to walk to Caladesi Island, from nearby Clearwater Beach, about a three-mile trek, during low tide. (For lazier visitors, a 20-minute ferry departs every half-hour from adjacent Honeymoon Island.) When you arrive, you'll find one of Florida's last unspoiled spots, perfect for exploring by hiking trails, snorkeling, or kayaking through mangrove tunnels. There's an equipment-rental shop and a beach-shack restaurant (with excellent burgers and fish-and-chips) but no overnight or permanent residents. "It's a magical place," says Terry Fortner, an expert on the island — and the great-granddaughter of Henry Scharrer, a homesteader who was the only person ever to inhabit Caladesi.
Fly to Tampa or St. Petersburg, both about 45 minutes away, and base yourself in Clearwater Beach. Filled with resorts, restaurants, fishing charters, and "pirate cruises," the town is almost the exact opposite of its Robinson Crusoe–esque island neighbor. But the luxe Sandpearl Resort offers a tranquil spot away from the beachside hustle (from $249). The hotel will even pack a gourmet picnic and charter a private boat for your jaunt to Caladesi.