Caladesi Island State Park #9 in 2016 by Dr. Beach


Beach lovers should be sure to add Caladesi Island State Park to their list of dream destinations in the U.S. Located on the Gulf of Mexico, this state park is on one of the last uninhabited and unspoiled islands in the U.S. While Caladesi is only three miles from Clearwater Beach, its soft, pristine white sand, wildlife, kayaking trails, and peaceful atmosphere make you feel as though you’re much farther away.

These characteristics, and more, placed Caladesi Island State Park at #9 on Dr. Beach’s Top 10 list of Beaches in 2016. And this is not Caladesi’s first time on this prestigious list. In 2008, Dr. Beach ranked it the best beach in the country, in 2006 it was ranked #4, and in 2007 it was ranked #2.

Soft Sand and Warm Water

Caladesi Island State Park offers beautiful crystalline quartz sand, and warm, sparkling blue-green water. This combination makes for a perfect day of swimming, shelling, and all sorts of beach activities.

Visitors can rent beach chairs and umbrellas, or, bring their own. Keep in mind that you will most likely be taking a ferry or private boat to the island, which is the only option other than making the long walk from Clearwater Beach. Therefore, you may want to rent beach equipment, rather than trying to bring your own.

Recreational Activities

There are plenty of things to do at Caladesi Island State Park, both for nature lovers and families.

One of the most popular activities on the island is boating because the park features a unique kayak trail through canopies of mangroves, where you can see great blue herons and other birds. The island is also an extraordinary place to snorkel, go shelling, fish, and hike. Also remember to bring along some food and have a picnic at one of the picnic pavilions, while in the park.


There are no humans residing on Caladesi Island, but there are plenty of animals that call the island home. On this three-mile-long island, visitors may spot nesting sea turtles and the famous gopher tortoise. Birders can also see ospreys, blue herons, and many other bird species as well.

Quiet, Pristine, and Beautiful

Caladesi Island State Park is a great getaway because it’s just a few miles north of Clearwater Beach and a 20-minute ferry ride from Honeymoon Island. Yet, it lacks the commercialization and noise of nearby beaches. It’s quiet, it’s pristine, and it’s beautiful.

Who is Dr. Beach? 

Who is the man behind the name, “Dr. Beach”?

In real life, Dr. Beach is known as Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman. He is a professor and the Director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University. Dr. Leatherman has written or edited 16 books and has authored over 200 journal articles and technical reports, including articles in both Science and Nature.

Dr. Beach uses 50 criteria to measure beaches, including water temperature, sand softness, noise, trash and litter, and amenities such as showers, chairs, etc.

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