Friday, June 8, 2007

Pristine Gulf Island takes #2 spot two years running

Caladesi Island State Park has done it again. For the second consecutive year, one of the last untouched barrier islands on Florida’s Gulf Coast has been named the #2 beach in the country by Dr. Stephen Leatherman, a Florida International University coastal geologist better known as —Dr. Beach.” 

Accessible only by boat, Caladesi Island State Park sits out in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, more than a mile offshore from Dunedin, one of 24 Pinellas County communities that make up the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area. 

This back-to-back recognition is no surprise for tourism officials in the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area. In fact, Caladesi has been rated among the country’s top five beaches for the last four years, and another local standout, Fort De Soto, was named America’s Best Beach in 2005.

—Dr. Beach recognizes that the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area consistently has some of the best beaches in the United States,” said DT Minich, executive director of the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. —Caladesi Island State Park is a treasure that everyone should experience.”

In 2006, more than 250,000 beachgoers did experience this timeless treasure, where dune-fringed, sandy expanses front the Gulf and kayak trails wind through labyrinthine mangrove tunnels on the bay. Visitors can listen for the calls of more than 375 species of birds along nature trails that traverse virgin pine flatwoods and pristine live oak hammocks, take ranger-guided tours, or simply take advantage of the location’s peerless opportunities for swimming, fishing, shelling, boating and relaxation.

The island also offers a 108-slip marina with electric and water hookups, picnic shelters, bathhouses, a ranger station, and a concession stand. Boardwalks provide beach access while protecting the fragile ecosystem that thrives in the dunes and sea oats. 

The Caladesi Connection, a ferry service that operates from nearby Honeymoon Island, offers roundtrip transportation for $9 for adults and $5.50 for children ages 4-12, and dolphins can frequently be seen escorting the 10-minute voyage. The park is open daily from 8 until sunset. For more information, visit http://www.floridastateparks.org/caladesiisland/