< Top Beaches 2000 > Top Beaches 2001
Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, aka Dr. Beach, has issued his annual list of the Top 20 Beaches. The 2000 list, issued Memorial Day weekend, includes seven Florida beaches, with four listed in the top ten.
The way Dr. Leatherman began rating the nation's beaches and how he became affectionately named "Dr. Beach" is an interesting story that had its beginning in childhood. What is especially interesting is that in a few short years he has turned his passion into a legend and he has become practically an icon.
Leatherman, a professor at Florida International University of Miami, uses 50 criteria falling into three categories: physical features such as sand softness and wave size; biological factors such as water quality and color; and human factors such as presence of lifeguards and amenities. He has even written a book, America's Best Beaches, where he provides information about the characteristics of Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific coast beaches. Beaches are regionally evaluated by category: best swimming, walking, wilderness, sports, city, novelty and surfing beaches. In each region, a best overall beach is selected.
Although Hawaii's Kaunaoa Beach took top honors this year, Florida's St. Joseph Peninsula State Park captured an impressive second. Caladesi Island State Park and Fort Desoto Park scored sixth and seventh respectively and Cape Florida SRA took ninth. In the eleventh slot was St. George Island State Park and finishing 14th and 15th in the Florida rankings were Perdido Key and Siesta Beach. Let's take a closer look at this year's Florida winners.
St. Joseph Peninsula State Park
Miles of white sand beach with striking dune formations characterize this Florida Panhandle area. Located on St. Joe Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, the Native Americans first inhabited the peninsula. Known as a popular birding area, it offers a wide variety of recreational activities: boating, saltwater fishing, camping, canoeing and hiking.
St. Joseph Peninsula State Park is located near Port St. Joe off of C30-E and C30 which is off of U.S. Hwy. 98. Pets are not allowed. Saltwater fishing licenses are required by Florida. Cabins are available and reservations may be made in person or by phone up to 11 months in advance. Call 850-227-1327 for reservations or further information.
Caladesi Island State Park
Fishing, shelling and nature studies are good ways to enjoy a visit to Caladesi. Located on the Gulf of Mexico, sand dunes line the open beach with turtles and shore birds finding it the perfect location for nesting. Periodic storm tides cover the area limiting the plant diversity, but sea oats and palmetto are two of the most hardy.
Ferry service is available from the mainland, departing hourly with weather permitting. Picnic pavilions, bath houses and a park concession provide additional amenities to make your visit to Caladesi more enjoyable. Boaters can enjoy the bayside marina where overnight docking is permitted.
Caladesi Island State Park is located west of the city of Dunedin (north of Clearwater) on the Gulf Coast. Hours of operation: 8 a.m. to sundown, 365 days a year. Pets are not permitted in many areas. Saltwater fishing licenses are required in Florida. Call 727-469-5918 for further information.
Fort Desoto Park
Fine beaches, fishing, nature trails, camping, boating, and much more make this a gem for your discovery. Located at the mouth of Tampa Bay, the park is made up of five islands with a total of over seven miles of beaches and some of the best camping in Florida.
Fort Desoto Park is located in South Pinellas County and open daily 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.. Pets are restricted to certain areas. Saltwater fishing licenses are required in Florida. Reservations for camping must be made in person no more than 30 days in advance. Payment must be made at the time of the reservation. Call 813-866-2662 for further information.
Cape Florida State Recreation Area
A little over a mile of wide, sandy beachfront offers visitors exceptional Atlantic swimming year-round. Shoreline fishing from the seawall located along Biscayne Bay along with guided tours of the Lighthouse and Cultural Complex offer visitors a variety of activities. Covered pavilions provide shaded picnicking and overnight boat mooring is available based on availability.
Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is located on Key Biscayne in Southeast Florida. Hours of operation are year round 8 a.m. to sundown. Pets are restricted from many areas. Saltwater fishing licenses are required in Florida. For further information call 305-361-5811.