Make us your home page

Caladesi Island rises to top on Dr. Beach's list

Coastal scientist Stephen Leatherman likes wide, soft beaches that are family friendly and unspoiled by development.

Tourism marketers drool over the promotional possibilities of Leatherman, otherwise known as Dr. Beach, designating their stretch of sand as the finest in all the states.

Their interests intersected 2 miles off the north Pinellas coast Thursday when Leatherman named Caladesi Island State Park as the top pick in his list of America's best beaches for 2008.

The 3-mile-long island — with its powdery sand, kayak trails through thick mangroves, abundant wildlife and remote location — inched up his list for a decade, most recently as second best the last two years.

On Thursday, the Florida International University professor called Caladesi his favorite getaway beach in six live interviews from the beach on MSNBC.

He happily repeated it to newspapers, local television and radio. Today, he's scheduled to chat via satellite with 35 television programs from Portland, Ore., to New York City.

Leatherman grades beaches on 50 criteria, from physical attributes to biology to safety, on a scale of 1 to 5. In 18 years of compiling the list, no beach earned a perfect 250. Caladesi got a "real high" score of 239, he says.

The beach has lifeguards, few rip currents and not a pickpocket in sight — all good for safety. Caladesi's sand is fine-grained and bleach-white, not yellowish and pebbly like beaches renourished with sand dredged up offshore. Another big plus, says Leatherman.

The island's cafe and bath houses are nice touches. Cars, condos and crowds don't intrude on nature. "You've got to kind of figure out how to get here," he says. The only drawbacks: a little too much seaweed in the swimming areas and lots of hungry bugs.

Those annoyances don't get much time in his interviews or in the marketing Pinellas and state officials will unleash.

Visit Florida, the state's tourism marketing agency, sent out 100,000 e-mails Thursday trumpeting Caladesi as well as No. 3 Siesta Key near Sarasota and No. 9 Cape Florida State Park in Key Biscayne. The agency also ponied up $54,000 for a truck, a crew of 14 and the satellite time to beam Dr. Beach interviews to television stations.

This spring, the travel Web site picked Fort De Soto as the nation's top beach. The combination of respected independent endorsements for two local beaches is unprecedented, says D.T. Minich, Pinellas tourism director.

He's already ordered promotional totes with TripAdvisor and Fort De Soto on one side and Dr Beach and Caladesi on the other.

Steve Huettel can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3384.

Caladesi Island rises to top on Dr. Beach's list 05/23/08 [Last modified: Friday, May 23, 2008 10:09am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. SeaWorld cuts 350 jobs across company, including in Orlando


    ORLANDO — SeaWorld, which has struggled with declining attendance, announced Wednesday it is cutting 350 positions.

    Kalia, a 12-year-old orca whale, during rehearsals for the upcoming Orca Encounter at SeaWorld San Diego, on May 18, 2017. [Howard Lipin | San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS]
  2. As Clearwater Marine Aquarium expands, it asks the city for help


    CLEARWATER — When Clearwater Marine Aquarium CEO David Yates saw an architect's initial design for the facility's massive expansion project, he told them to start all over.

    Clearwater Marine Aquarium Veterinarian Shelly Marquardt (left), Brian Eversole, Senior Sea Turtle and Aquatic Biologist (middle) and Devon Francke, Supervisor of Sea Turtle Rehab, are about to give a rescued juvenile green sea turtle, suffering from a lot of the Fibropapillomatosis tumors, fluids at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Wednesday afternoon. Eventually when the turtle is healthy enough the tumors will be removed with a laser and after it is rehabilitated it will be released back into the wild.  -  The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is launching a $66 million renovation to expand its facilities to take in injured animals and space to host visitors. The aquarium is asking the city for a $5 million grant Thursday to help in the project. American attitudes toward captive animals are changing. Sea World is slipping after scrutiny on the ethics of captive marine life. But CEO David Yates says CMA is different, continuing its mission of rehab and release, it's goal is to promote education, not exploitation. JIM DAMASKE   |   Times

  3. One of the best places for investing in a rental house is in Tampa Bay

    Real Estate

    Two Tampa Bay ZIP Codes are drawing national attention.

    . If you're looking to invest in a house to rent out, few places are better than  ZIP Code 34607 in Hernando County's Spring Hill area, according to ATTOM Data Solutions.
 file photo]

  4. Tampa Chamber of Commerce announces small business winners


    TAMPA — The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce selected the winners of the 2017 Small Business of the Year Awards at a ceremony Wednesday night at the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. More than 600 attendees celebrated the accomplishments of Tampa Bay's small business community.

    Vincent Cassidy, president and CEO of Majesty Title Services, was named Outstanding Small Business Leader of the Year by the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.

  5. International array of artists chosen as finalists for pier project

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — A diverse group of six artists will compete for a chance to install their work at the city's multimillion-dollar Pier District, expected to open in early 2019.