Top Beaches 2015 < Top Beaches 2016 >
You know it's Memorial Day weekend when, Dr. Beach (formally known as Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman) issues his list of America's Best Beaches. Who wouldn't love to have his job? He visits over 100 beaches each year in an official quest for just the right combination of sand-sational sand, crystal-blue water and amiable amenities.
Florida's beaches consistently rank in the Top 10, so it is no surprise to see some of our favorites in the 2016 lineup. Dr. Beach is finally getting back around to Florida's Gulf Coast beaches, which are some of Florida's finest. The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico left many wondering if beaches along the coast would ever be the same. Thankfully, many beaches along Florida's West Coast were barely affected.
Although no Florida beach took top honors this year, the Sunshine State scored an impressive second place with Siesta Beach. Florida also took two more spots on the top 10 list, including:
Siesta Beach - Sarasota, Florida (No. 2)
Siesta Beach is not new to Dr. Beach. The award-winning beach last won the top spot on Dr. Beach's list in 2011. This year it was singled out for some of the "finest, whitest sand in the world," and its wide expanse which is "great for volleyball."
This public beach is located at the south end of Beach Road on Siesta Key. The sand is made up of white, fine-grained and mostly quartz crystals and the green waters of the Gulf invite a swim. There are plenty of amenities make you comfortable, including a full-service concession, showers, restrooms, changing areas, picnic tables and a children's playground.
Siesta Beach is open from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. daily. Parking is free.
Grayton Beach State Park - Florida's Panhandle (No. 6)
Dr. Beach revealed that Grayton Beach is former Florida Governor and United States Senator Bob Graham's favorite beach. It could become yours as well. Big dunes still outnumber area development and the pristine sugar-white sand and emerald water provide a picturesque setting.
What the beach lacks in amenities (only restrooms available), it makes up for in the convenience of restaurants and accommodations in the nearby towns of Grayton Beach and Seaside.
Caladesi Island State Park - Dunedin, Florida (No. 9)
Repeatedly on Dr. Beach's short list of top beaches, Caladesi Island State Park scored the top spot in 2008. While there are an array of nature-loving activities on the island, the beach is why most people make the trek to the island. Sand dunes with sea oats line the open beach and is shared by nesting turtles and shore birds.
Dr. Beach commented, "The white beach composed of crystalline quartz sand which is soft and cushy at the water’s edge, inviting one to take a 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."
Caladesi Island State Park is open daily 8:00 a.m. until sundown. The island is only accessible by boat, but only boaters with advance reservations may camp overnight at the park. A ferry service runs daily from Honeymoon Island State Park (requires entrance fee to park, plus cost of ferry) beginning at 10:00 a.m. on an every half-hour or hourly schedule, depending on the time of year. Amenities include picnic pavilions, bath houses and a park concession. | Photo Tour |
America's Best Beaches for 2016
- Hanauma Bay, Oaho, Hawaii
- Siesta Beach, Sarasota, Florida
- Kapalua Bay Beach, Maui, Hawaii
- Ocracoke Lifeguard Beach, Outer Banks, North Carolina
- Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
- Grayton Beach State Park, Florida's Panhandle
- Coronado Beach, San Diego, California
- Cooper's Beach, Southhampton, New York
- Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin, Florida
- Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, South Carolina
While it is nice to have Florida's beaches nationally recognized by a renowned beach expert like Dr. Beach, let's not forget that Florida's best beach vacations earn high marks on their own, simply because they cater to visitors' specific needs.