Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman is globally recognized as “Dr. Beach” and is considered to be America's foremost beach expert. He's the Chair Professor and Director of Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University and says he’s made a David Letterman top 10 list for having a job of "kicking sand." So yeah, the guy knows beaches. Robin Madden of Islander Properties, Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman and NBC 2

Thanks to the efforts of Robin Madden of Islander Properties on Don Pedro Island (www.islanderproperties.com), Dr. Beach and his son spent some quality time exploring the area earlier this month and local media were treated to a behind the scenes look as to how he rates a beach. They watched as he tested water current with a dissolving dye ball and extended a measuring tape to determine the beach’s width. A stacked sifting device and hand lens determined the sand grain size and type of sand.

Dr. Beach waded out into the water to assess the temperature and swimming conditions. After each evaluation, he thoughtfully checked off numbers and jotted notes on his worksheet until all 50 criteria were measured. Yes, he evaluates 50 criteria to rate a beach. He joked about giving extra points in the wildlife department since an osprey watched the activity and a dolphin made an appearance at Stump Pass on the north end of Knight Island. Indeed, there is a scientific method to evaluating a beach. Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman Measures the Beach by Stump Pass, Fla.

So what did Dr. Beach think of the beaches of Don Pedro-Knight-Palm Island, Don Pedro Island State Park and Little Gasparilla Island?

"I'm happy to say I really like your beaches a lot.  This is the type of place that I'd like to come to someday when I’m not busy or can slow down," and "What you have here is very special. There aren’t a lot of places I find like this…this is a special thing you’ve got…you’re trying to preserve nature you’re doing a superb job." And trust me, it is special out there. With summer vacations being planned, Charlotte County is an ideal and affordable beach getaway. Rent a home either on Don Pedro, Knight or Little Gasparilla Islands through Islander Properties or another rental company. Or, book a villa with Palm Island Resort. Although you can take the car ferry to Don Pedro-Knight-Palm Island, getting around while on the island is either by golf cart or foot. Little Gasparilla Island is only accessible by water taxi or private boat.
Little Gasparilla Island, Fla. Yeah, it is this pretty in person.
Little Gasparilla Island, Fla. Yeah, it is this pretty in person.
Once out on an island, you'll find spacious beaches with bountiful shells and fossilized shark's teeth. Gopher tortoises are about everywhere you look and birds can easily be spotted running from the surf or soaring overhead. Keep an eye on the water for dolphins and watch your step on the beach for sea turtle nests. Once out there, it's hard to leave island life.
Not up for an overnight getaway? Charter a boat through Grande Tours to get to Don Pedro Island State Park for the day or find a kayak trip that leads tours to the park. Or, take the water taxi over to Rum Bay Restaurant at Palm Island Resort for lunch or dinner. Order the ribs, they have a rating of two saucy thumbs up! Want to learn how to get there or where to stay? Visit www.charlotteharbortravel.com. Be sure to visit David McRee's (he's known as The Beach Hunter) posts about Dr. Beach's visit: "Dr. Beach Rates Charlotte County Beaches" and "Don Pedro Island: Back to the Good Old Days"