Detailed review by Brazilbum
Maragogi, AL Brazil
Just north of Clearwater, on the west coast of Florida, is Caladesi Island State Park, a beach that has been designated in May 2008 as the Best Beach in the USA for 2008. The year before, it was runner up. "Dr. Beach," also known as Florida International University professor Stephen Leatherman, gets national and international attention when he publishes this list annually.
We visited this renowned beach this past January during the most frigid cold snap of the year in sunny Florida. It was worth the effort for the few short hours that we spent combing the shell covered beach and visiting the bird sanctuary. The State Park is a completely undeveloped island with three miles of undeveloped beach with fine white-quartz-sand and packed with shells as well as a virgin pine forest. It owes its creation to a 1921 hurricane, which separated it from nearby Honeymoon Island where you get the simple ferry that makes the 15 minute trip to the visitor center.
Once you navigate the mangroves and reach the marina located on the bay side of the island you will find a well equipped concession where you can buy food or drink. There are nice picnic tables and a good view of the mainland. We reached the beach by walking on a sidewalk and boardwalks for about 5 minutes. Halfway to the beach there are ample restroom facilities with changing rooms, showers, and a drinking fountain.
Caladesi is a natural beach which is not raked and manicured by the beach machines or anyone else. But, we were impressed with a group of volunteers that came over with us on the ferry to walk the beach to clean up man-made rubbish. But, you encounter more seaweed and beach wrack here than on Clearwater Beach.
We walked north to the bird sanctuary and became ladened down with wonderful shells of all sizes. We saw large numbers native birds among them a large blue heron. It was a crisp and clear day, but we could imagine what it would be like with summer visitors. But, the rangers keep good order and your can only stay up to four hours if you come by the public ferry.
Upon hearing the news that this has been named the best beach in the USA, we knew we had to let everyone know that we had been here and recommend it highly.
Caladesi Island State Park