Located in the Gulf of Mexico, Caladesi Island State Park is one of 175 state parks in Florida, United States. Located on Caladesi Island in Pinellas County, Caladesi Island State Park is considered a popular tourist attraction for its pristine beaches and variety of recreational activities. Caladesi Island is located across the Strait of St. Joseph in the western part of the city of Dunedin and north of Clearwater Beach. The name of the island corresponds to the Spanish term “cala”, which translates to cove, and was donated by a Spanish ship captain in 1628.
This tourist hotspot is designated as an attractive getaway for nature lovers for its peaceful hiking trails and gentle pine-covered white sand beaches. While there are hiking trails and ranger posts on the island, overnight camping is only permitted for boaters docking at the bay marina. In addition, fireworks and hunting are prohibited to preserve the island’s wildlife. Remarkably, the island remains intact as hotels have not yet been built there.
Originally, the national park was part of a larger barrier island connected to Clearwater Beach. In 1921, Hurricane Tampa Bay ravaged Barrier Island, creating Hurricane Pass which divides it into two: Caladesi Island to the south and Honeymoon Island to the north, both located north of Clearwater. In 1966, Caladesi Island covering an area of 9.92 km² was designated Florida State Park. Clearwater Beach and Caladesi Island were separated from each other by the South Dunedin Pass, which began to accumulate sand in the 1980s. Hurricane Elena in 1985 helped fill in the pass and made the island accessible by walking from Clearwater Beach. Thus, Caladesi Island State Park is primarily accessible via ferries that leave from Honeymoon Island, or by walking north from Clearwater Beach.
The island’s tropical climate is attributed to its location west of the city of Dunedin, Florida, where the temperature ranges from a record high of 39 ° C in July to a record high of -7 ° C in December. The island also experiences heavy rainfall from June to September.
Caladesi Island State Park is home to various habitats. Offshore, oysters and coral reefs can be observed at low tide. There are plenty of manatee beds, benches, and turtle grasses that serve as homes for underwater creatures. Many recreational activities such as snorkeling, shelling, fishing and swimming are available thanks to the shark-free waters and clean dunes of the park. The island’s pristine beaches and unique biodiversity have attracted many tourists and locals who have never heard of it.
Behind the park’s popular beaches, dunes stretch across the island. These dunes are home to various plant species, such as beach elderberries, sea oats, mangroves and cabbage palms. Interestingly, the roots of these plants stabilize the dunes. Mangroves dominate most parts of the shore. The support roots of mangroves offer young crustaceans and fish a place to hide from larger predators.