1. Florida

Dr. Beach again ranks Caladesi Island among country’s best beaches

The Pinellas County-adjacent beach retained is position as the seventh-best beach in the U.S. for the third year in a row, according to the annual list.
Times files
Times files
Published May 23, 2019

It’s almost Memorial Day Weekend, which means it’s time for Dr. Beach to tell us where to find the best beaches in the country. And for the third year running, Pinellas County is one of those places.

Dr. Beach, or Stephen Leatherman, again ranked Caladesi Island State Park, one of the county’s most remote beaches, as the seventh-best in the country. Caladesi held the same spot in 2018 and 2017, and was once named by the doctor as the best beach in the country.

FLORIDA BEACH INSIDER: Your guide to Florida’s beaches

“The white beach is composed of crystalline quartz sand which is soft and cushy at the water’s edge, inviting one to take a dip in the sparkling clear waters,” Leatherman said. “There are boardwalk trails, but my favorite is the kayak and canoe trails through the mangroves to see the large blue herons and other birds that frequent this wonderful natural area.”

Caladesi Island is one of the more unique beaches in Pinellas. For one, you’ve really got to want to get there, but the trip can be worth it. Easiest way to get there is via ferry from Honeymoon Island. You can also take a private boat or kayak from a nearby beach, but it’s one heck of a paddle. Theoretically, you can walk there from Clearwater Beach, but it’s kind of a hike and, depending on the tide, can be more of a wade than a walk.

TRAVEL GUIDE: More on Caladesi Island State Park

The remoteness of Caladesi, however, makes it a somewhat hidden gem among the renown beaches of Pinellas County’s gulf coast.

Leatherman, the director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University, holds a Ph.D. in environmental sciences and has put out his annual ranking in the days before Memorial Day Weekend since 1991.

Leatherman uses 50 criteria to evaluate beaches including water and sand quality, as well as safety and management. Bonus points are awarded for smoke-free beaches and past winners get retired from the top spot.

The only other Florida beach to make the list was Grayton Beach in the Panhandle between Panama City and Destin, which came in third,

Kailua Beach Park in Oahu, Hawaii took the year’s top spot.

Here’s how the 2019 list shaped up:

10. Beachwalker Park Kiawah Island, South Carolina

[Courtesy of Dr. Beach]

9. Coronado Beach, San Diego, California

[Courtesy of Dr. Beach]

8. Hapuna Beach State Park, Big Island, Hawaii

[Courtesy of Dr. Beach]

7. Caladesi Island State Park Dunedin/Clearwater, Florida

[Courtesy of Dr. Beach]

6. Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

[Courtesy of Dr. Beach]

5. Duke Kahanamoku Beach, Oahu, Hawaii

[Courtesy of Dr. Beach]

4. Coopers Beach, Southampton, New York

[Courtesy of Dr. Beach]

3. Grayton Beach State Park Florida panhandle

[Courtesy of Dr. Beach]

2. Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach, Outer Banks of North Carolina

[Courtesy of Dr. Beach]

1. Kailua Beach Park, Oahu, Hawaii

[Courtesy of Dr. Beach]


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