Dr. Beach's Top 10 Beaches, 2011

Dr. Beach's Top 10 Beaches, 2011: Siesta Beach

 Coastal scientist Stephen P. Leatherman, director of Florida International University's Laboratory for Coastal Research and known as "Dr. Beach," announced his 21st annual Top 10 Beaches list on May 27. He has compiled the list annually since 1991 using 50 criteria. Here are his top 10 picks for 2011.1. Siesta Beach, Sarasota, Fla.: “Siesta Beach in Sarasota boasts that it has the finest and whitest sand in the world, and I cannot argue with this claim; the powdery sand is nearly pure quartz crystal,” Leatherman said. The water is blue, clean and clear, making it particularly inviting to bathers and swimmers.
The beach is hundreds of yards wide, attracting volleyball players, beachcombers and sun worshippers. Waves are normally measured in inches, and the beach gradually slopes into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, making it a safe area for children.
This beach park is complete with showers and bathrooms, snack bars, grills, picnic tables, shade trees and a large parking area, which fills up on summer weekends. Siesta Beach is a smokeless beach, earning extra points for cleanliness and environmental management.
“My favorite time to visit is after Labor Day when things have calmed down, and the water is still warm enough for swimming until November,” Leatherman said. “Snowbirds from northern climes call this area home during the winter because of the great weather.  The beaches are for exploring, but not swimming at this time of year, albeit I have been in the water as early as March.”
Fans of Dr. Beach will note that Siesta Beach was on last year’s Top 10 list in spite of the BP oil spill. “Siesta Beach in Sarasota was on the list in 2010 because I strongly believed that the Loop Current would keep any oil away from the southwest Florida beaches, which it did — my prediction was correct,” Leatherman said.

Coronado Beach, San Diego

 2. Coronado Beach, San Diego: This veritable oasis by the sea is the toast of Southern California. It boasts lush subtropical vegetation, a unique Mediterranean climate and fine sparkling sand. Beachgoers flock here for mild surf and great ship watching. The local landmark, Hotel del Coronado, was built more than 100 years ago and offers spectacular architecture and Old World elegance. Kings, sheiks, actors and actresses have stayed at this property, where food and drinks can be served on the beach.

Kahanamoku Beach, Waikiki, Oahu, Hawaii

3. Kahanamoku Beach, Waikiki, Oahu, Hawaii: This beach was named in honor of Duke Paoa Kahanamoku, a gold-medal Olympic swimmer who is credited with introducing surfing to the wider world. Kahanamoku Beach is bordered by the Ala Wai small-boat harbor and the Hilton Hawaiian Village catamaran pier. A shallow offshore reef protects this beach from big waves, making it a great swimming area for families with children.

Main Beach, East Hampton, N.Y.

4. Main Beach, East Hampton, N.Y.: Main Beach, one of five beaches in the village of East Hampton, provides the perfect blend of nature and a manmade environment. Wealthy summertime residents flock here to beaches protected by a conservation easement that dates back more than 300 years. Main Beach is a great place for celebrity spotting; many actors and actresses visit for the idyllic setting in a small village. The big, wide, sandy beach made of quartz has towering dunes and beautiful clean, clear blue water. Pedal a bicycle to avoid parking and take in the beautiful vista.

Cape Hatteras, N.C.

 5. Cape Hatteras, Outer Banks of North Carolina: The country’s first national seashore is a barrier island that bulges far offshore. It provides some of the best board surfing along the East Coast and features the most famous lighthouse in the U.S. Cape Hatteras attracts beachgoers to its historic villages as well as nature lovers who enjoy beachcombing and fishing.

George Island State Park, Florida Panhandle

 6. St. George Island State Park, Florida Panhandle: The Florida panhandle beaches are back, oil from the BP spill has vanished, and the sand is squeaky clean. (Just rub your feet on the sand and hear them squeak.) Fortunately, the brilliant white sands and clear waters of St. George Island were not even impacted last summer. This undeveloped beach is on a 1,962-acre barrier island that juts out into the Gulf of Mexico. Visitors can revel in swimming, shelling, fishing, canoeing, boating, hiking and camping. Stingrays are sometimes resting in the shallow waters so shuffle your feet when entering. Birding and fishing are very popular activities here. T he park has six picnic shelters with grills, tables and restrooms, along with 60 campsites that have electricity and water hookups.

Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, S.C.

 7. Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, S.C.: This public beach on the southern end of Kiawah Island is approximately 25 miles south of Charleston. Tennis and golf are featured here, as well as interpretative tours of the island’s flora and fauna. This is a nature-lover’s coast, so visitors should pack their canoes and kayaks to paddle through the tidal inlets or walk down to St. Sam’s Inlet to see thousands of birds. The water is not clear here, but it is clean and provides for fantastic seafood. Visitors can also pack their bicycles, since the sand is compact enough to ride along the 10-mile-long barrier island.

Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Mass.

 8. Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Mass.: This beach, accessible by bicycle or via shuttle bus from the Salt Pond Visitor’s Center, was formed when a sand spit became attached to the eroding glacial cliffs. The sand is fairly coarse, so the beach slopes steeply into the water. 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. In summer, beachgoers tend to take quick, refreshing dips in the ocean, as water temperatures reach only 60 to 70 degrees.

Waimanalo Bay Beach Park, Oahu, Hawaii

 9. Waimanalo Bay Beach Park, Oahu, Hawaii: This white sandy beach stretches for 5.5 miles, making it the longest stretch of shoreline on Oahu. The beach is also used for fishing and occasionally surfing. The park has ample parking, restrooms, outdoor showers and a good beach for swimming. While not as stunning as some other Hawaiian beaches, it is a safe beach because big waves and dangerous currents are rare and lifeguards are present. Hawaiians who live on Oahu frequent this beach.

Cape Florida State Park, Key Biscayne, Fla.

10. Cape Florida State Park, Key Biscayne, Fla.: This beach at the southern tip of Key Biscayne provides clear, emerald-colored waters and gentle surf. The fine white-coral sand beach is great for swimming, as waves are knocked down by a large sand shoal offshore. In addition, the Cape Florida Lighthouse allows for a breathtaking view of this beautiful beach.