Top U.S. Beaches
Summer is here, and that means that "Dr. Beach" has again released his top 10 list of public beaches in the United States. Stephen Leatherman, a coastal scientist at Florida International University, publishes the list each year, picking out 10 beaches that excel at 50 criteria. The beaches on this list have soft, white sand, safe swimming and clean water. Let's dive in.
Siesta Beach, Sarasota, Florida
This wide, white-sand beach took the top spot on Leatherman's beach list in 2011, and it's back in 2017 after Leatherman decided to "reset" his rankings so that beaches that previously won the number one spot can vie for it again. The water at Siesta Beach is warm, clear and clean, Leatherman wrote, and recent improvements like a new playground and expanded parking helped nudge it to the top of the list.
Kapalua Bay Beach, Maui, Hawaii
Hawaiian beaches are perennial contenders for the top 10 beach list, which draws from the approximately 600 public beaches in the United States. Kapalua Bay Beach in Maui is an excellent swimming and snorkeling beach, according to Leatherman, and beachgoers can even rent snorkels at a concession hut right at the beach's edge.
Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach, Outer Banks, North Carolina
If solitude is what you seek, Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach is the place to be. This undeveloped spot on Ocracoke Island in the Outer Banks is sandy and wide. The surf can get wild later in the summer, Leatherman wrote, but the water is family-friendly earlier in the season. Ocracoke was a favorite haunt of Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard the Pirate. He died there in battle in 1718. A museum on the island is dedicated to the legendary swashbuckler and to all things pirate.
Grayton Beach State Park, Florida Panhandle
The Florida panhandle's Grayton Beach sits in a 2,000-acre state park with amenities like cabins and campgrounds. Nature-lovers can explore salt marshes and coastal forest as well as the beach, which is protected by soft white dunes. According to Leatherman, former Florida Governor Bob Graham ranked this as his favorite beach.
Coopers Beach, Southampton, New York
This wide beach on the south shore of Long Island is patrolled by lifeguards and has amenities like a snack bar. The beach is spacious and the scenery sublime: Rows of dunes and ritzy mansions form a backdrop for Coopers Beach. (Visitors do have to pay a steep fee for parking, though it's possible to park elsewhere in Southampton and bicycle in for free.)
Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
A frequent name on Leatherman's annual list, Coast Guard beach is a bit chilly for casual swimmers (the water rarely gets above 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius) in the summer, but the setting is beyond beautiful and the waves beckon surfers. The beach is at the base of a set of glacial cliffs, upon which perches the old Coast Guard station that gives the beach its name.
Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin/Clearwater, Florida
Positioned on an inlet near Clearwater Beach, Caladesi Island State Park is most accessible by boat or ferry. This undeveloped spot was the best beach of 2008, according to Leatherman's list. The sand is white, and there are free picnic pavilions and tables nearby. The park also features both a three-mile hiking trail and a three-mile kayak route through mangrove forests.
Hapuna Beach, Big Island, Hawaii
This broad white-sand beach on Hawaii's Big Island isn't far from Puako and Waimea. Parking at the beach is only $5, and there are picnic areas, food vendors, showers and other amenities nearby. Rip currents can be a concern here, Leatherman noted, but lifeguards are on duty.
Coronado Beach, San Diego, California
Coronodo Beach comes with a splash of Victorian elegance. The nearby Hotel del Coronado, built in 1888, is a rare Victorian-era spa and hotel that is still in use. It's long been a favorite spot for celebrities, but anyone can pop in to order food and drink. The beach itself is hundreds of yards wide with mild surf, Leatherman said.
Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Biking, canoeing and kayaking are all options at this public beach south of Charleston, South Carolina. The water is murky but clean, and there are options for lowcountry seafood dining nearby. Bird-watchers can head to nearby Captain Sam's Inlet for views of plovers, terns, egrets and other shorebirds. The inlet is currently the source of controversy over whether to try to stabilize and develop the shifting sands.
Original article on Live Science.
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Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science, covering topics ranging from geoscience to archaeology to the human brain and behavior. She was previously a senior writer for Live Science but is now a freelancer based in Denver, Colorado, and regularly contributes to Scientific American and The Monitor, the monthly magazine of the American Psychological Association. Stephanie received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.