TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WFLA/AP) – With its “crystalline quartz” sand surrounded by sparkling clear waters, Caladesi Island State Park has got it going on.
The secluded island, which is just north of Clearwater Beach, was just named the No. 6 beach in the country by Dr. Beach.
Stephen “Dr. Beach” Leatherman, a coastal scientist and professor at Florida International University, has been ranking the nation’s beaches for 30 years.
“Caladesi is reached by pedestrian ferry boat, private boats or a long walk north from Clearwater Beach–the inlet is closed so Caladesi is no longer a true island, but still a great getaway,” Dr. Beach said. “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.”
Caladesi is one of two Florida beaches that were on the 2020 list released Thursday, along with Grayton Beach State Park at No. 1. The other beaches on the list, in order, are Lifeguarded Beach on Ocrakoke Island, North Carolina; Coopers Beach in Southampton, New York; Duke Kahanamoku Beach in Oahu, Hawaii; Lighthouse Beach in Buxton, North Carolina; Hapuna Beach on Big Island, Hawaii; Coast Guard Beach on Cape Cod, Massachusetts; Coronado Beach in San Diego, California; and Beachwalker Park on Kiawah Island, South Carolina.
Leatherman says he gives bonus points for beaches where smoking is banned and that are staffed with lifeguards, which elevated the North Carolina beaches.
“Beaches are not big, giant ashtrays, and that’s what some people use them for, which is really disgusting,” Leatherman said.
Grayton Beach State Park won the list’s top spot — even without a smoking ban — based on its sheer beauty. Beyond the sand, it has crystal clear emerald water, fresh water ponds that are a geological rarity and towering dunes that are unique along Florida’s 1,350 miles (2,170 kilometers) of coastline.
“You have to take what I call the tree tunnel trail,” he said. “You can just walk in this little wonderland under the canopy of the scrub oak and poke your head out and suddenly see the Gulf.”
While there are some restrictions at Caladesi Island State Park, the beach is open for day use activities. However, the ferry service is not available at this time.
“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,” Dr. Beach added.