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Caladesi Island Rated No. 2 On Dr. Beach’s 2022 Best In America List

Caladesi Island Rated No. 2 On Dr. Beach’s 2022 Best In America List


FLORIDA — Those headed to the beach this Memorial Day weekend might want to consider the second-best beach in the country, according to the much-anticipated list released by “Dr. Beach.”

Coastal expert Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, aka Dr. Beach, has issued his list of the top 10 beaches in the country since 1991, and this year Caladesi Island ranked No. 2 on the list after the No. 1 beach, Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach in North Carolina.

Leatherman, a professor and director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International Universityearned his nickname after he received a phone call from a travel magazine writer in 1989.

“My research takes me to beaches around the country and to many parts of the world,” said Leatherman, who received his doctorate in environmental coastal sciences from the University of Virginia. Prior to joining FIU, Leatherman was professor and director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at the University of Maryland; director of the National Park Research Unit at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; and assistant professor in the Department of Geology at Boston University.

“During the past 20 years, my principal focus has been studying beach erosion and storm impacts. But I also find myself helping to locate the best sandy beach for a solar-powered car race, dropping dye packets out of a helicopter, so TV producers can film a killer rip current in action, deciphering 200 years of channel changes from old maps to find Revolutionary War artifacts, and helping billionaires select island properties to purchase or decide where best to build their mansion near the shore,” he said.

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“I answer all kinds of questions. Should we move this historic building or lighthouse? What will this hurricane likely do? How much beach erosion should be anticipated because of rising sea level? Why did these islands disappear and what were they like? How should building setback laws be established? Did stone groins rob sand from my beach?” he said. “My most recent inquiry was from crime detectives: Where did 14,000 pounds of beach sand that replaced a shipment of French cognac come from?”

He was on his way to China for an extended trip as an exchange professor with Peking University in Beijing when he received the call from the travel writer asking him to name the country’s best beaches.

“Pressed by the reporter, I rattled off the first 10 wonderful beaches that came to mind,” he said.

The trip to China proved to be a disaster.

“I inadvertently found myself in Tiananmen Square that fateful evening in June,” he said, referring to June 4, 1989, when student protests escalated into a massacre.

By the time he returned home, he’d forgotten all about his conversation with the travel writer.

To his surprise, his spur-of-the-moment list of best beaches was a media sensation.

Newspaper articles around the country listed his top beaches and tourism bureaus quoted him as an expert. He said his phone row nonstop.

FIU
Stephen Leatherman, aka Dr. Beach, a professor and director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University, earned his nickname after he received a phone call from a travel magazine writer in 1989.

Stephen Leatherman, aka Dr. Beach, a professor and director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International Universityearned his nickname after he received a phone call from a travel magazine writer in 1989.

“Many state tourism officials inquired about the list, especially regarding why their beaches did not make the cut,” he said. “Savvy newspaper writers wanted to know what criteria were used to rate the beaches. Criteria? I didn’t have any criteria. All of this hoopla made me think about how seriously Americans take ratings. We rate everything from hotels and restaurants to graduate programs at universities, so why not beaches?”

It took Leatherman two years to develop 50 criteria to rate each beach and complete the survey of the 650 major public recreational beaches in the United States.

When Florida International University released his first official list on Memorial Day weekend 1991, Leatherman was in Venice, Italy, and his assistants went crazy trying to field all the phone calls and requests for interviews from newspapers, TV producers and radio hosts. He also received thousands of letters from beach lovers and people planning vacations asking him where they should go, leading to his writing the book, “American Best Beaches.”

During an appearance on the “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” Winfrey said Leatherman has one of the best jobs in America.

While said he’s loved exploring beaches since he was a kid growing up in Charlotte, North Carolina. But he admits putting together the yearly list is no day at the beach.

He assesses America’s 650 beaches based on minor details such as the softness of the sand to major factors such as the frequency of rip currents. In between, he looks at wind speeds, the size of breaking waves, the number of sunny days, the water temperature, the condition of the beach bottom, the amount of litter, the presence of sewage runoff, red tide and algae in the water , the clarity of the water, the presence of jellyfish and stingrays, the crowds and noise and the presence of lifeguards.

“I like to make difference. I feel like with this list I can make a difference to help push important issues especially improving beach safety and health,” Leatherman said. “I still got a full tank of gas. I’m not ready to stop. I’m enjoying what I’m doing, so why not keep doing it?”

In ranking Caladesi Island No. 2 in the US, Dr. Beach wrote:

“Caladesi is reached by pedestrian ferry boat, private boats or a long walk north from Dunedin -Clearwater Beach; the inlet is closed so Caladesi is no longer a true island, but still a great getaway. 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. 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.”

Last year, Dr. Beach ranked Caladesi Island No. 7 on his top 10 list.

By Ann White/Patch
Caladesi Island is accessible from Honeymoon Island via ferry or by personal boat.

His only other top-ranked beach in Florida for 2022 is St. George Island State Park in the Florida Panhandle, ranked No. 4, which was also rated No. 4 in 2021.

“This long barrier island, far from urban areas, is a favorite destination for beach goers, anglers and bird watchers as nature abounds. Besides swimming in the crystal-clear water, I enjoy beach combing and shelling. While St. George Island suffered a big hit in 2018 by Hurricane Michael, the area has substantially recovered, especially the sugary fine, white sand beach. There is much to explore on this serene 2,023-acre park.”

The last time Florida had a beach rated No. 1 by Dr. Beach was Siesta Beach in Sarasota in 2017.

2022 Top Beaches

  1. Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach, Outer Banks of North Carolina
  2. Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin/Clearwater, Florida
  3. Coopers Beach, Southampton, New York
  4. St. George Island State Park, Florida Panhandle
  5. Duke Kahanamoku Beach, Oahu, Hawaii
  6. Lighthouse Beach, Buxton, Outer Banks of North Carolina
  7. Coronado Beach, San Diego, California
  8. Wailea Beach, Maui, Hawaii
  9. Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, South Carolina
  10. Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Visit Dr. Beach’s website for more information.


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