Caladesi Island | Caladesi Nature & Shells |
Even before you arrive on the island, nature catches your attention.
Dolphins play around the ferry, mullet school near the docks,
pelicans and ospreys dive for fish nearby, cormorants sit atop
pilings drying their feathers, and who knows what else will
On Caladesi you may see few animals other than birds
during the hottest part of the day on the beach and around the
picnic area, but venture into the cool pine forest or oak / palm
hammock and you may see a rabbit, an armadillo, a wild turkey, a
hawk hunting for birds, or a black snake may cross your path. An
owl may call out.
Enjoy the transition from thick dry brush and
deep sand to shady forest, tall pines, and knarled oaks as you
walk the loop trail.
3 miles of undeveloped beach, you won't run out of shoreline to
explore. Walk north to Hurricane Pass, where
Honeymoon Island is
just a stone's throw away, or walk south toward
Beach, 3 or 4 miles away. You won't hear any noise from traffic,
because there isn't any, and no noise from construction either.
Caladesi beach is quiet and relaxing and natural.
It's also a great
place for beachcombing, especially after the winds have been
blowing on shore for several days. You never know what will wash
Caladesi has always been a quiet
place. Only a handful of people have ever lived here, and most
of them only stayed a couple of years. The early settlers were
fishermen and grew their own vegetables, selling both fish and
produce in town. They had a few chickens and hogs for meat and
eggs, and used sailboats and rowboats to travel back and forth
to the mainland.
There is no camping allowed on
Caladesi, but if you have a boat you can dock at the marina and
sleep on your boat. Alcohol is not allowed in the park or on the
beach, and pets are not allowed on the beach. Fishing is
permitted, but be sure to observe
Florida law regarding
saltwater fishing license requirements.
During the cooler months you can
arrange a nature tour on the island by one of the rangers. If
you have an interest in nature and/or the island's history I
highly recommend a guided tour. There is no extra cost for a
tour. Call the island administrative office in advance and
arrange the tour.
You simply will not believe how much the
rangers know about the island wildlife and the island's
history--information that you could never get from a book or
website. Some of the rangers have lived on the island for years
and they do have stories to tell.
Summers are really a bit too hot to
enjoy the tours, but from about November through March/April the
temperature on the nature trail is quite comfortable. During
winter days when the beach is too windy and cold, spend your day
poking around on the nature trails.
Caladesi is a great place
for shelling. Some days are better than others. If you come here
and don't find many shells, come back again another time and you
may. It's the seashore, not the mall, and it's different every
Shells on Caladesi beach during the summer (left) and winter (right).
Winter winds and surf usually bring in more shells than the
relatively calm summer weather. If you want to find the best
shells on Caladesi, come when the tide is low, and come after a
period of strong onshore winds. Myrtle Scharrer, one of the few
permanent residents of Caladesi in the late 1800's and early
1900's loved to walk the beach after a storm. She was always
excited about what she might find.
This live whelk was easily visible in less than two inches of water at low
tide. It is a beautiful shell. Live shells are protected in the
park and must be left unharmed. That includes sand dollars.
Mullet schooling in the shallow waters near Caladesi Island. Florida
fishermen, including Native Americans, have depended on this
fish as a food staple. Years ago, fishermen from as far as Cuba
regularly sailed to Florida to fish for mullet, which they
salted and took back home.
Mullet has a robust flavor and tends to be a fatty fish. It is
rarely on the menu in Florida seafood restaurants, but is making
a comeback. It is very popular when smoked. Smoked fish spreads
made of mullet are often served in restaurants.
An armadillo roots for food at my feet. They have very poor
eyesight, and if you stand really still and quiet, they often
don't even notice you are there. If they smell you, they'll take
off running, crashing through the bushes like a little tank. They are gentle creatures.
Look! Wabbit twacks! The white sandy trails of Caladesi often yield the first clues as to
And here's the rabbit. Myrtle Scharrer said there were no rabbits on Caladesi
when she and her father lived here in the early 1900's. I would
imagine that the rabbits came over from Clearwater Beach when
the pass between the two islands filled in, creating a land
Early settlers on Caladesi Island (and the only permanent residents). About the same time
my grandfather, Thomas Bennett McRee, was born near the banks of
the Manatee River in Palmetto, Florida, Myrtle Scharrer was a
young girl living on Caladesi Island with her father Henry
This is the island's only fresh water
supports a variety of wildlife on Caladesi. It's murky and
doesn't look very appealing, but to early settlers, weary
travelers, and animals it represented life. It is not a spring,
but is rain-fed. During dry weather the water evaporates and
this little oasis becomes a black mud hole. Early settlers tried
to dig wells on the island, but did not find drinkable water, so
they collected rainwater in cisterns for drinking and bathing.
The inlet that used to separate Clearwater Beach from Caladesi Island is now closed in.
This photo is looking toward the Gulf, which is just beyond the
narrow land bridge between Clearwater Beach (left) and Caladesi
(right). Now it is possible to walk from Clearwater Beach to
Caladesi Island. From Pier 60 its about 3 miles or so.
The famous double-trunked pine of Caladesi. According to park manager Bill Gruber, a
double-trunked pine tree like this isn't particularly rare. What
makes this tree "famous" is that so many people have posed for
pictures next to this tree over the last hundred or so years.