© St. Petersburg Times, published June 21, 2002
Welcome to our special section on beaches. Our cover headline, This Is The Life, perfectly describes what this section is about. After all, if you live in Tampa Bay, some of the most beautiful beaches in the world are right outside your door.
In addition to our lead story, we highlighted five beaches with specific allure. Fort De Soto is perfect for families. Clearwater Beach is one big party. Caladesi Island is a nature-lover's dream. Anclote Key is great for boaters. And Pass-a-Grille is a sunset paradise.
To tie our five stories together, we sent several of our staffers to each beach and came up with a 10-category ratings system. We also rated the other beaches that fall between Anclote Key to the north and Fort De Soto to the south.
Our original plan was to spend hundreds of hours on our critiques, but then we got . . . distracted. We went armed with pen and paper. But it was hot. And the water looked great. And there was that smell of grilling hamburgers . . . And all those drinks with the little umbrellas . . .
Okay, so we lost track. That tends to happen at a beautiful beach.
In the end, we came up with the following good-natured ratings system. If you disagree with any of our findings, don't get too upset. It's all in fun.
Here are the 10 categories. (Keep in mind that the weather was perfect on the day we did our ratings.)
1) Sand quality: Is it white, fluffy, rocky? Is there plenty of it?
2) Food: Are restaurants, snack shops, convenience stores and ice cream parlors plentiful and accessible?
3) Restrooms: Are there plenty of them? Are they clean? Safe?
4) Parking: Are there lots of spots? Parking meters?
5) Access: How bad is the traffic flow getting to the beach? How many traffic lights, drawbridges, etc.?
6) Aesthetic appeal: When you stand with your back to the water, what do you see?
7) Water quality: Is it clear? Good flow? Any dangerous currents?
8) Safety: Are there lifeguards, police patrols? Is there a lot of boat traffic? Are there stingrays or sharks?
9) Shade: Are there any trees? Can you rent cabanas or umbrellas?
10) Activities: Volleyball, jet skis, entertainment centers?
The best rating is five starfish. The poorest is one.