Are you dreaming of a beach getaway? The kind where you stick your toes in the most amazing sand and hear the waves crash on one of America’s most stunning beaches? Or perhaps it is a spot where smaller children can play safely on an appropriate beach for your younger ones? Well, Dr. Beach has your summer shore prescription with his annual list of The 10 Best Beaches in America.
How Are The Top 10 Beaches Selected?
As “Dr. Beach,” Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, Professor, Department of Earth & Environment at Florida State University, has selected the annual Top 10 Beaches since 1991. Dr. Leatherman is an internationally known coastal scientist who has published 20 books, hundreds of scientific articles, and reports about storm impacts, coastal erosion, and ways to improve beach health and safety.
Dr. Beaches’ List of America’s 10 Best Beaches
Every year he uses 50 criteria to evaluate beaches, from water and sand quality to safety and management. Bonus points are awarded for the prohibition of smoking on beaches. Cape Hatteras National Seashore is leading the way by keeping its beaches clear of cigarette butts, among other stunning qualities.
1. Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach, Outer Banks of North Carolina
Ocracoke is an idyllic island far off the North Carolina mainland, with the pristine beach being part of Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Often called the pearl of the Outer Banks, the village of Ocracoke is characterized by delightful inns, the iconic 1823 lighthouse, and a legendary herd of once wild ponies. It is also the destination of choice for pirate lovers, being the stomping grounds of Blackbeard.
“This is my favorite getaway island, boasting 16 miles of undeveloped beach and American beach grass-covered sand dunes,” said Dr. Beach in his annual press release. “The Ocracoke Express Passenger Ferry is now operating, making it a car-free way to explore the area; I enjoy riding a bicycle or renting a golf cart around the island.”
Here you will find some of the wildest beaches in the country. Big surf dominates in late summer, so families with children may want to come earlier in the year. The main pursuits of Ocracoke Island are swimming and beachcombing, as well as exploring the historic village.
2. Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin/Clearwater, Florida
Caladesi is reached by ferry, private boats, or a long walk north from Clearwater Beach. The inlet is closed, so Caladesi is no longer an actual island but still a great getaway. The white beach is composed of crystalline quartz sand, which is soft and cushy at the water’s edge, inviting one to dip in the sparkling clear waters.
There are boardwalk trails, but my favorite is the kayak and canoe trails through the mangroves to see the large blue herons and other birds that frequent this wonderful natural area.
3. Coopers Beach, Southampton, New York
Coopers Beach is located on the south shore of Long Island, New York, shielded from the cold Labrador currents in the beautiful village of Southampton. As the first “Gold Coast” in the country, Coopers Beach is hundreds of yards wide, made of grainy white quartz sand.
The beach is backed by giant sand dunes covered by American beach grass interspersed with extravagant mansions. Some of the best beach access in the Hamptons exists on Coopers Beach; a snack bar serving lunch and drinks can also be found here.
4. St. George Island State Park, Florida Panhandle
This long barrier island, far from urban areas, is a favorite destination for beachgoers, anglers, and bird watchers as nature, not crowds, abounds. “Besides swimming in the crystal-clear water, I enjoy beachcombing and shelling,” said Dr. Beach.
While St. George Island suffered a big hit in 2018 by Hurricane Michael, the area has substantially recovered, especially the sugary fine, white sand beach. There is much to explore in this serene 2,023-acre park.
5. Duke Kahanamoku Beach, Oahu, Hawaii
Kahanamoku Beach is located on the west end of Waikiki Beach, far from the large crowds elsewhere. It is the widest beach on this world-famous stretch of sand and is protected by an offshore coral reef, making it a good beach for families with children.
The nearby Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon, next to the iconic Hilton Hawaiian Village’s Rainbow Tower, is also a favorite bathing and swimming spot. This is one of the most picturesque beaches in the USA, with the iconic Diamondhead volcano in the distance.
6. Lighthouse Beach, Buxton, Outer Banks of North Carolina
Lighthouse Beach is where the old spiral-striped Cape Hatteras Lighthouse once stood until it was moved landward in 1999 because of beach erosion. This lifeguarded beach is the number one surfing spot on the U. S. Atlantic Coast as the large offshore sandbanks, known as Diamond Shoals, cause wave refraction, focusing wave energy on this beach.
“It is fun to stroll down to the Cape Point where a long sand spit often exists, making one feel somewhat like Moses because the waves are coming from both directions as you walk along this narrow string of sand in the ocean,” remarked Dr. Beach.
7. Coronado Beach, San Diego, California
Coronado Beach is the toast of Southern California; it is a veritable oasis by the sea that is hundreds of yards wide. With its subtropical vegetation, unique Mediterranean climate, and fine sparkling sand, beach-goers flock to this beach for great ship-watching and the summer’s warm and mild surf. The local landmark, Hotel del Coronado, was built over a hundred years ago; kings, sheiks, actors, and actresses have stayed at this iconic hotel.
8. Wailea Beach, Maui, Hawaii
Wailea Beach is a series of five-pocket beaches, part of the Wailea resort complex mandated to provide a public right-of-way for visitors. Meaning, that you don’t have to be a guest at this luxury, expensive hotel to enjoy one of Maui’s best beaches.
The white coral sand beach gently slopes offshore and is excellent for snorkeling when the ocean is calm. The swanky hotels are set back far from the beach, providing a beautiful-landscaped park adorned with tropical vegetation and flowering bushes and trees.
9. Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, South Carolina
South of Charleston, Beachwalker Park is the public beach located on the southern end of Kiawah Island. This is a nature-lovers coast, so that visitors can bring their canoes and kayaks to paddle through the tidal inlets.
Walk or bicycle down the fine-grained sand beach to Captain Sam’s Inlet to see thousands of birds. The water is not clear, but it is clean and provides fantastic seafood for low-country cooking.
10. Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Coast Guard Beach, accessible by bicycle from the Salt Pond Visitor’s Center or shuttle bus, is located where a sand spit extends southward from the glacial sea cliffs. The picturesque old Coast Guard station still sits atop the glacial bluffs, allowing for a spectacular view of the Nauset Spit barrier system and bay.
During the summer, beachgoers take quick, refreshing dips in the ocean as the water is chilly. In recent years, seals have moved northward from Monomoy Island Wildlife Refuge into the populated beaches, which have attracted great white sharks. Note the red flags with shark images on days when these predators are around and follow the advice of lifeguards.
Featured Image Credit: Spark/Visit Florida