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Dr. Beach again ranks Caladesi Island as one of the best in the nation

A beach with trees on the left and water on the right
Carl Lisciandrello
For the second consecutive year, Caladesi Island State Park near Dunedin and Clearwater ranked No. 4 in Dr. Beach's national rankings for 2024.

For the second consecutive year, a Pinellas County beach was ranked as the fourth best in the country.

Stephen Leatherman, a professor at Florida International University and otherwise known as "Dr. Beach," released his annual top 10 list prior to Memorial Day weekend.

Once again, Caladesi Island State Park near Dunedin and Clearwater was named one of the country's top beaches.

Caladesi is reachable by ferry from Honeymoon Island State Park and is a healthy walk from Clearwater Beach, depending on tides.

Its boardwalk and nature trails are a favorite of naturists, and kayakers are commonly seen navigating through the mangroves there.

It boasts abundant wildlife, including fish, birds, and other species, and is a popular destination for boaters.

"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 wrote in his review. "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 also ranked No. 2 in 2022 and No. 7 in 2021.

It was only one of two beaches in Florida to make the top 10. The other, Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park in Naples, came in No. 9 despite some areas remaining closed due to damage from Hurricane Ian in 2022.

Leatherman praised the island's wildlife, including bald eagles, ospreys and manatees, and said it's a popular spot for shelling, snorkeling and fishing.

"This barrier island beach boasts of beautiful white sand beaches and crystal-clear Gulf waters," Leatherman wrote.

Hawaii had the most beaches in the top 10 with three, including the top destination, Duke Kahanamoku Beach in Oahu.

It is the widest beach on this world-famous stretch of sand and protected by an offshore coral reef, making it a good beach for families with children," Leatherman wrote. "The nearby Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon is also a favorite bathing and swimming spot. This is one of the most picturesque beaches in the USA with the iconic Diamondhead volcano in the distance."

Here are Dr. Beach's top 10 for 2024:

  1. Duke Kahanamoku Beach, Oahu, Hawaii
  2. Coopers Beach, Southampton, N.Y.
  3. Wailea Beach, Maui, Hawaii
  4. Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin/Clearwater
  5. Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, S.C.
  6. Main Beach, East Hampton, N.Y.
  7. Poipu Beach, Kauai, Hawaii
  8. Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, Naples
  9. Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Mass.
  10. Coronado Beach, San Diego, Calif.
I wasn't always a morning person. After spending years as a nighttime sports copy editor and page designer, I made the move to digital editing in 2000. Turns out, it was one of the best moves I've ever made.