Florida News Herald-Report

Florida's Best Beaches
'Dr. Beach' Names 4 Florida Beaches
as Best in Nation

"Dr. Beach" Releases 12th Annual Rating Of America's Best Beaches

(May 2002) --    A Florida beach has returned to the top spot on "Dr. Beach's" list for the first time since 1995.

St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, near Port St. Joe on the Gulf of Mexico in the Panhandle, snagged top honors on Dr. Beach's 2002 list of best beaches in America. In 2001 and 2000, the beach ranked number 2. In 1997, it ranked No. 10.

Stephen Leatherman, professor and director of the International Hurricane Center at Florida International University in Miami, has once again issued his report as Dr. Beach as he has done annually since 1991.

All four Florida beaches from this year's list are "best of the best" returnees from the 2001 list, the 2000 list and the 1999 list.

Fort Desoto Park in St. Petersburg pulled in fourth; Caladesi Island State Park in Dunedin kept its 2001 fifth-place ranking; and Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park in Key Biscayne placed ninth, the same ranking it's had since 2000.

The number one beach this year, Hanalei Beach in Hawaii, ranked 4th in 2001 and 2000.

From 1996 to 2001, Leatherman had named a Hawaii beach to the number one spot.

This year, Leatherman, an environmental-studies professor and self-proclaimed beach expert, limited his list to 10 beaches. Since 1991, he had listed 20 beaches as the best in the nation.

Because the list was shortened to 10, several Florida beaches dropped off.

Siesta Key was ranked 13th in 2001, two places from its 1999 and 2000 rankings. St. George Island State Park was 16th last year, five places lower than it ranked in 1999 and 2000. And dropping to a 17th-place finish in 2001 was Perdido Key, which had placed 14th on the 1999 and 2000 lists.

Leatherman ranks the beaches using 50 criteria organized in three broad categories: Physical Factors, such as sand softness, wave size and current strength; Biological Factors, such as water color and quality, and presence of pests; and Human-Use Factors, such as lifeguard protection, visual obstructions and amenities.

Beaches previously ranked as number one in the country are exluded from Leatherman's survey for 10 years (see table below for previous winners). That makes Leatherman's 1991 top pick -- Kapalua Beach in Hawaii -- eligible again for the 2003 list.

The last time a Florida beach was ranked number one was in 1995, when St. Andrews State Park beat out all others across the nation. The year before, Grayton Beach State Recreation Area was ranked first, and in 1992, Bahia Honda State Park was number one.

Some list-watchers are keeping tabs on several beaches which have jumped in rank dramatically.

The biggest jump ahead came from Hanauma Bay, Hawaii, which first entered the list in 1999 ranking 18th. Hanauma moved to number 17 in 2000, to number 15 in 2001 and now ranks as the nation's 10th best beach.

Ocracoke Island in North Carolina ranked sixth this year, two spots better than 2001 and four places higher than its 2000 finish.

East Hampton Beach on New York's Long Island jumped to a number 8 rank, up from 10th in 2001 and 12th in 2000.

The list, with 2001 rankings in parentheses:

1. (2) St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, Port St. Joe, Fla.
2. (4) Hanalei Beach, Hawaii
3. (3) Kaanapali Beach, Hawaii
4. (6) Fort Desoto Park, St. Petersburg, Fla.

5. (5) Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin, Fla.
  • Caladesi Island State Park, 1 Causeway Blvd. (800) 326-3521. One of the few remaining undisturbed barrier islands, this state park is accessible only by boat or ferry from Honeymoon Island and Downtown Clearwater.
6. (8) Ocracoke Island, N.C.
7.(7) Hamoa, Hawaii
8. (10) East Hampton Beach, N.Y.
9. (9) Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, Key Biscayne
10. (15) Hanauma Bay, Hawaii

Leatherman's favorite
returns to Florida.

   For the first time since 1995, Stephen "Dr. Beach" Leatherman gave the nod to a Florida beach as the best beach in America. He had named beaches in Hawaii as best six years in a row -- until now.

Leatherman cited sugar-fine sand, transparent surf, peace and quiet, and ample parking among his top reasons St. Joseph Peninsula State Park in the Panhandle was ranked number one, up from the number two spot in 2001 and 2000.

Leatherman said the beach has the finest, whitest sand in the world. He also points out as noteworthy the fact that the park is not overdeveloped. St. Joe's sets out on a peninsula.

Leatherman cites this year's No. 9, Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, as an example that brings nature and convenience together in a winning combination.

(excluded from the survey for 10 years)
1991 Kapalua, Hawaii
1992 Bahia Honda State Park,Fla.
1993 Hapuna, Hawaii
1994 Grayton Beach State Recreation Area, Fla.
1995 St. Andrews State Park, Fla.
1996 Lanikai Beach, Hawaii
1997 Hulopoe, Hawaii
1998 Kailua Beach Park, Hawaii
1999 Wailea Beach, Hawaii
2000 Kaunaoa Beach, Hawaii
2001 Poipu Beach Park, Hawaii


Related Links
Sand, Sun and Fun!
Florida State Parks and Recreation Areas
Bahia Honda State Park
Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Florida Division of Tourism Facts
Florida State Parks
Alphabetical Index
Florida State Parks
Activities and Events


Click Here to see the 2004 Dr. Beach List
Click Here to see the 2003 Dr. Beach List
Click Here to see the 2002 Dr. Beach List
Click Here to see the 2001 Dr. Beach List
Click Here to see the 2000 Dr. Beach List
Click Here to see the 1999 Dr. Beach List
Click Here to see the 1998 Dr. Beach List

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