Florida is home to pretty much every decent beach in the US, I use that phrase loosley as it depends how you define a good beach. For some it is golden sand with a rollercoaster in the background, but for most people a good beach has white talcum powder-esque sand, warm turquoise waters and a stunning backdrop oof natural beauty.
It may come as no surprise then that a pretty much isolated beach with white sand, warm waters, mangroves, palm trees and littered with turtles, rattle snakes, hermit crabs and birds repeatedly makes the list as being the best beach in the whole of the United States.
Back in 1921 there was a hurricane which ripped through the land and separated the land North of Clearwater making two islands. Though to be honest they aren’t really islands as they can both be walked to when the tide is low. Nonetheless, tourists found out how stunning the beaches were (particularly Caladesi) and up popped a ferry service which will gladly screw you $14 for adults and $7 for children. Not far behind was the national park service who were quick to knock up a booth and charge a further $6 for all vehicles. In true US non common sense style the ferry service only allows you four hours on the beach, which when combined with the extortionate fare makes for a pointless journey.
You can however walk to Caladesi from Clearwater and avoid all those fees, but when researching the journey I came across so much conflicting information I figured I would walk it today with the kids and clarify the hike to America’s best beach.
We did the walk on the 27th July 2014. It was 38 degrees Celcius, which is around 100 Farenheit and it took us about 90 minutes.
Florida parking laws are designed to catch you out, but our car here is literally parked as far north as possible without entering the members only Carlouel. This is north out of Clearwater. You can park wherever you like, but the further south you park, the farther north you must walk. Note the parking sign giving room for literally just one car.
The Carlouel is a private neighbourhood with no parking for anyone other than residents. You can get onto the beach, but we figured we should use asphalt to walk as far north as possible.
Here is a members only gate to the beach. The kids have spotted a member leaving so ran to the gate to hold it for us.
Walk along the scorching hot boardwalk to the beach, and then take a right, continuing the journey north.
Almost instantly you will start to leave civilisation and be seemingly walking to no where. But keep the ocean to your left and keep at it.
You will see plenty of these fellas who stand around 4ft tall but are completely harmless.
Fantastic that Florida protects turtles with hefty fines and imprisonment. We passed quite a few of these.
Eventually you will come to a tree with shells on it, we chilled out a little here and watched dolphins jumping around nearby in the sea. This took about 40 minutes to get to, but the tide was high making it more difficult.
Continue on and you will come to the mangroves. Watch out for rattle snakes and hermit crabs (which my daughter swore was a walking coconut!)
This sign is just past half way, it was scorching hot and we had a gatorade stop.
This is tide at the high point. People will tell you it’s a waist high wade through treacherous waters, maybe in winter. But in summer it was a knee deep avoidance.
Eventually you get to Caladesi and this is where I suggest you end the walk as it is easily the best part of the beach. We however kept walking north.
When you get here you can either bail and take the ferry, or be inquisitive like us and check it out.
It led to toilets…
And a picnic area with a BBQ and childrens play area.
We took the trail which turned out to be a bad idea since there was suddenly no sea breeze and lots of cacti which had shed their needles meaning we got jabbed feet. Actually, I have to say this was the hardest part of the hike as the heat really hammered us, it reflected off the sand and by the end of it we were dripping in sweat.
Eventually the trail leads back to the beach. You are now about fifteen minutes from Lone Oak Point, which is the far north of Caladesi.
This is the final part of our walk.
After 90 minutes we made it!
The kids were by now desperate to cool down!
On the way back we quickly realised that we had passed the best parts of the beach so relaxed and swam.
For me this is the best part of Caladesi, the tide had dropped and we were suddenly alone on a long stretch of beach that you simply couldnt stumble upon – You had to want to be there and that for me was what made the beach so special. It is easily the best beach we have ever been to in the USA but not due to aesthetics, but because it takes effort to get there. And once there you are surrounded by nothing but pure virgin sand, amazing natural beauty and the only sounds you can hear is the waves crashing against the shore, and the laughter of eachother.
Caladesi is special and it is one of those places you don’t want to share with others for fear it will lose that special attraction of solstice and intimacy. But equally you want to scream from the roof tops at an amazingly pristine slice of beauty that is well hidden and that will provide a beauty unrivalled anywhere else in the country.
I spoke to the kids about whether it was our favourite beach and we all agreed it didn’t quite top Boracay in the Philippines, but it came close. And when you factor in the endangered species that roam the shores, the dolphins in the sea and the sound of rattlesnakes in the sand you have to nod that Caladesi is easily not just the best beach in the USA but one of the best beaches in the world and would sit proudly in the top ten of any global list.