Dr. Beach puts two Florida favorites in his Top 10 U.S. beaches

Caladesi Island and Grayton Beach state parks represent the Sunshine State on the annual list.

There’s plenty for the entire family to do on Caladesi, as long as you enjoy being outdoors. [Florida Beach Insider photo]
There’s plenty for the entire family to do on Caladesi, as long as you enjoy being outdoors. [Florida Beach Insider photo]

Two Florida favorites have maintained slots in Dr. Beach's annual list of best beaches in the United States.

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.

“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.

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

The award-winning beach at Grayton Beach State Park truly earns its accolades. [Joshua Gillin | Florida Beach Insider photo]

Coming in at No. 3 is another one of our favorites, Grayton Beach State Park, in the Panhandle between Panama City and Destin.

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

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.


Here's the full list for 2019:

1. Kailua Beach Park, Oahu, Hawaii

2. Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach, Outer Banks of N.C.

3. Grayton Beach State Park Florida panhandle

4. Coopers Beach, Southampton, N.Y.

5. Duke Kahanamoku Beach, Oahu, Hawaii

6. Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Mass.

7. Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin/Clearwater, Florida

8. Hapuna Beach State Park Big Island, Hawaii

9. Coronado Beach, San Diego, Calif.

10. Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, S.C.

This article was originally published in the Tampa Bay Times on May 23, 2019.

Daniel Figueroa IV is a staff reporter for the Tampa Bay Times.