Cristina is a Florida native and creative mind behind Wander Florida, an online guide to the lesser-known attractions and towns in Florida.
Every year Dr. Beach makes his predictions for the best beach in the US, an honor that beaches across the country hoard over each other for the entire next year. A label of “Best Beach” drives in tourists and their money, and the title is used to its fullest advertising extent throughout the year. Each year’s winner is forever retired, unfortunately, so a beach will never win the title of best beach more than once.
What makes a best beach? Several factors are used to rate beaches on a sliding 1 to 5 scale, factors such as beach width, material, number of sunny days, lifeguards, rip currents, domestic animals, access, watercolor, beach shape, and so on. There are 50 factors considered for each beach. Dr. Beach recently released his Top 10 list for 2010, with Cooper Beach in New York topping the list this year.
It would be easy to just skim down Dr. Beach’s list of
winners for 2010. Instead, here are some
of the beaches that have consistently been in the top ten over the last five
years. Some have finally won the big
prize and some have not – yet – but all of these beaches are tops.
Beachwalker Park - Charleston, SC
One of Charleston, South Carolina’s gems, Beachwalker Park offers public access to the beach at the southern end of Kiawah Island. Though the area is known for tennis and golf, the park does offer interpretive tours focusing on the plants and wildlife of the island. Kiawah Island is actually a natural barrier island just off shore, and Beachwalker Park is 11 miles of unspoiled beach beauty. A wide boardwalk meanders through the park, beneath oak trees and among the palmettos. Park amenities include a snack bar, picnic area, showers, restrooms, and beach rentals. Visitors to the park can ride their bicycles along the hard-packed sand of the beach or rent a canoe or kayak to explore the tidal inlets throughout the island. Bird lovers should also visit St. Sam’s Inlet and its thousands of birds.
Beachwalker Park first made the list in 2008 in 10th place, followed in 2009 with another 10th place before moving up to 8th place in 2010.
Caladesi Island State Park - Dunedin, FL
Among beaches, Caladesi Island State Park must be one of the most unique. Part of a fabulous one-two state park beach punch in Dunedin (just west of Tampa on the Gulf of Mexico), Caladesi can only be reached by ferry from its sister state park, Honeymoon Island, or by private boat. Accessible it is not. Beautiful and peaceful it is. Before being ranked the best beach in 2008, Caladesi had been ranked #2 in 2007 and 2006, and #4 in 2005 and 2004. Obviously this is a great beach! The park is a rookery and wildlife preserve, but it does have a marina where boaters can dock and spend the night. There are wide sandy beaches along the west and north points of the park, picnic areas, a small campground, concession stand, and beach rentals. This is another place where nature lovers will want to rent a kayak and explore the mangrove tunnels around the east side of the park.
Vacationers who might shy away from Florida’s beaches because of the oil spill should know that Caladesi Island and Honeymoon Island are 400 miles south of the oil spill and experts predict that oil may not even touch these beaches because of the loop current around Florida. The beaches here are still sparkling white. Click here for a live webcam.
Cape Hatteras - Outer Banks, NC
Cape Hatteras, a collection of barrier islands, is a national seashore, earning it considerable protection from development and giving the wildlife a safe place to call home. One of the most recognizable features of Cape Hatteras is its towering lighthouse, the tallest one in the US and one of North Carolina’s most famous landmarks. The park was the first national seashore in the US. It encompasses 24,470 acres and several small fishing villages. Visitors can enjoy outstanding board surfing, superb fishing, beachcombing, historic museums, and of course, the beach.
Cape Hatteras first made Dr. Beach’s list in 2008 in 8th position. It moved up to 7th in 2009 and 4th in 2010. Ocracoke Beach, which is also part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, won best beach in 2007, making it the first winner not located in Hawaii or Florida.
Coopers Beach - Southampton, NY
“Best Beach 2010”. Coopers Beach has been hovering around the top ten for a number of years. In 2006 and 2008 it came in in 4th place, and in 2007 and 2009 it came in in 3rd place. Though it is only officially 500 feet of beach, in actuality it stretches seven miles, showing off white sandy beach and incredible views of mansions along the grass-covered dunes of New York’s “Gold Coast”. The Hamptons are one of three gold coasts in the US, so-called for its famous posh mansions and wealthy residents. Besides an incredible amount of wealth, Southampton offers a beautiful little village for history buffs. It was the first settlement in New York, dating back to 1640. About a mile from the beach rests the cute little church, St. Andrew’s Dune Church, which was once a US Lifesaving Station. The original wood frame building still has its tiffany windows and the architecture is quite interesting. Anyone who plans to visit the beach should know that parking is pricey ($30 for non-residents) but an affordable alternative is to park in Southampton and take a short bike ride to the beach.
Coopers Beach is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day from sunrise to sunset, and has a lifeguard on duty from 10 AM to 5 PM every day. The beach gets very crowded so plan to get there early.
Coronado Beach - San Diego, CA
Take a ferry across the bay to San Diego after a day at the beach. Who doesn’t dream of sunny California vacation? Coronado Beach offers a little something for everyone. If falling asleep in the Pacific sun doesn’t suit you try fishing, bodyboarding, surfing, or swimming. Like so many California beaches, Coronado Beach has it all. That’s one reason it has been in the top ten beaches list since 2004. With a steady climb in the rankings, don’t be surprised to see it #1 in the next year or two.
Visitors in the early winter will get a treat – migrating whale sightings. In the summer, rent a bicycle to explore the trail south of Hotel Del Coronado. The island on which Coronado is located houses a naval base so there is a strong military presence, but the community also has small town restaurants and boutiques. The beach offers fire rings, restrooms, free parking in some areas, showers, lifeguards, and even an off-leash area for the dogs.
Fort de Soto Park
Fort de Soto Park - St. Petersburg, FL
One of Florida’s premier beaches, Fort De Soto Park marries beautiful beaches with natural treasures and interesting historical features. The park is a county park located just southwest of St. Petersburg in the Tampa Bay area, and 1,136 acres is the largest park in the county park system. It is made up of five interconnected islands and includes nature trails for hiking, canoe trails, two beaches including a dog beach, two fishing piers, an 11-dock boat ramp, concession stands, parts of the original fort, restrooms, and 238 camp sites.
Construction of the fort began in 1898, with the fort officially named Fort De Soto in 1900. The mortar battery and quartermaster storehouse (now a museum) still stand. The park was on Dr. Beach’s top ten list seven times before hitting #1 in 2005. The park has also been named America’s Best Beach two years in a row by Trip Advisor – in 2008 and 2009.
Hamoa Beach - Maui, HI
On the list of top beaches, Hamoa Beach is likely the most primitive. Beachgoers must park on the street above the beach and walk down stairs to it. The beach itself is small and can be crowded on weekends. With sea cliffs surrounding the small bay where the beach is located, and with lush plants and trees surrounding it, the beach has an air of privacy and seclusion. Hamoa amenities include snorkeling, swimming, bodyboarding, surfing, and diving. There are restrooms and picnic facilities, but no lifeguard. Though the tiny coconut-laden island of Alau is just offshore, this bay has no fringing reefs so there is often high surf. Hamoa Beach has been voted one of Hawaii’s favorite beaches and has been on Dr. Beach’s top ten for several years.
Hanalei Bay - Kaua'i, HI
Hanalei Bay is the largest bay on Kaua’i Island and has nearly two miles of beach. The town of Hanalei is located about midpoint along the bay and the Wai’oli River empties into the bay. During the summer the waters of the bay are glass-flat, perfect for paddle boarding, swimming, and sailing. Boats anchor in the bay while sailors and other boaters enjoy the smooth waters. In the winter the surf kicks up and Hanalei Bay becomes a favorite surfing spot. There are only two reefs within Hanalei Bay, at either end of the bay so snorkeling is not a popular activity. There are can strong currents as well, especially in the winter. However, the bay is surrounded by mountains giving beachgoers beautiful vistas of calm waters in the bay and lush vegetation in the mountains. The beach is wide and sandy, an excellent place for a family to spend a lazy weekend.
Hanalei Bay topped Dr. Beach’s top ten list in 2009, becoming Hawaii’s 12th #1 beach in 19 years. Prior to 2009, Hanalei Bay was #2 in 2008 and #4 in 2007.
Main Beach - East Hampton, NY
Located in the small village of East Hampton (which dates back 300 years), this area is steeped in history. Much of the architecture and historic farmhouses from that era are still present. In addition the village values its conservation efforts. The wide sandy beach adjoins a conservation easement and is surrounded by sand dunes and mansions. Actors and actresses often visit Main Beach as do many of the wealthy residents of nearby villages. Main Beach, like Coopers Beach, is in The Hamptons, after all. Parking in East Hampton is not easy (nor cheap) and tickets for parking without a parking permit can be high. The best way to get around the village and to the beach is on bicycle.
Siesta Beach - Siesta Key, FL
Crescent Beach on Siesta Key (also known as Siesta Beach) has some of the finest, whitest sand in the world. Sand collectors flock to this beach to collect a little of her treasure. The beach is several hundred yards wide and shaped like a crescent. Offshore on one end a collection of coral reefs and natural caves makes for excellent snorkeling and diving opportunities. Back on the beach, visitors can enjoy the calm warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, lay back in the sand while reading a book, have a picnic, or enjoy any number of other activities such as beach volleyball or a game of Frisbee. Families flock to this beach for the multitude of things to do as well as the quaint village nearby which offers bed and breakfasts, seafood restaurants and boutiques.
Siesta Beach was #2 on Dr. Beach’s list in 2009 and 2010. In 2008 it was #3, making a huge jump from its #10 spot in 2007.
© 2010 Cristina Vanthul
Cristina Vanthul (author) from Florida on July 17, 2010:
Thanks for stopping by, billy and Ann. Yes, there are some spoiled beaches out there now but the continued success of this latest cap is very encouraging, especially as three of the beaches on this list have not yet been affected and appear right now that they won't be at all. Ann, pack a bag and come on down to Florida!
Ann Lee on July 05, 2010:
Sigh. Makes me wish I was on one of those beaches.
billyaustindillon on July 05, 2010:
Nice hub - I was just thinking of all the spoiled ones from the Gulf Spill - sorry :(
Cristina Vanthul (author) from Florida on July 03, 2010:
Yes, you can walk to Caladesi. There was once a little channel between Clearwater Beach and Caladesi but it slowly closed up over the last 5 years or so. Apparently it was the inlet (once upon a time) for the big ships to get in to the Dunedin dock back in the 1800s when Dunedin was a big port, and before Hurricane Pass opened between Caladesi and Honeymoon.
We'll definitely go to Fort de Soto soon, even if its just for a day. And I will definitely take my camera (and probably write a hub about it!).
rebekahELLE from Tampa Bay on July 03, 2010:
I did grab the link for my Tampa Bay hub. wow, that walk sounds amazing from clearwater beach to caladesi. I didn't realize it could be done, but I kind of wondered if it was possible. whenever I'm at Caladesi, I feel like I'm far away from civilization, it's so beautiful.
you will love Ft. DeSoto. Be sure to take your camera. Part of the old fort is still there. The campgrounds are very nice and there are bike trails which are a lot of fun. When my sons were younger, we camped there with my parents in their RV and it was great. That's awesome that you work right on the beach! We were there a couple weekends ago for my birthday. It seemed packed to me, like any regular summer weekend. nice to meet you here!
Cristina Vanthul (author) from Florida on July 03, 2010:
Thanks, rebekah! I love Caladesi also, and Honeymoon. We usually walk to Caladesi from the north end of Clearwater Beach, about a 2 mile walk from the nothern most point where the public can park. It's a great walk though, especially looking for sand dollars at low tide while my son runs in and out of the surf. We haven't been to Fort de Soto yet but that's one of the places I'd like to get to soon, maybe camp out there next winter a few times. Looks beautiful with lots of things to do.
The live web cam I'm trying to put everywhere I can. I work at the Hilton so its very important to me that visitors realize our beaches are still beautiful. Grab the link if you can and feel free to spread the news. We all rely so much on tourism that we all need to get the word out about our oil-free beaches.
rebekahELLE from Tampa Bay on July 03, 2010:
very nice!! great to see our Florida beaches in the top ten again. hope they can stay beautiful! I love Caledesi and Fort De Soto. I've been to Siesta Key, but not as often. I love the ferry ride to Caledesi! We've seen dolphins numerous times and going through the mangroves is just beautiful. thanks! great idea to include the live web cam!!