Dr Stephen Leatherman, professor in the Department of Earth & Environment at Florida International University in Miami, conducts an annual assessment of US beaches and releases a ranked list of the best every Memorial Day weekend. This year’s winner is the remote St. George Island State Park, in the Florida Panhandle.
Leatherman takes a whopping fifty points of criteria into account for the ranking, including beach ‘materials’ (whether the shore consists of stones, coarse sand or fine sand), water temperature, number of sunny days, size of breaking waves, beach slope, the colour of water, smell and amount of litter.
However, the professor’s scientific method isn’t beyond criticism, as the determinations of ‘good qualities’ are quite subjective. For example, Leatherman ranks beaches with the safest and lowest waves at the higher end of the scale. That may not appeal to those keen on a surf or more adventurous swims - a quality that NZ’s world-famous Piha Beach is known for, which recently ranked among the world’s 50 best beaches for its renowned surf and scenic coastline.
Sadly many of West Auckland’s black beaches are suffering the impacts of recent weather events with access to many tracks still closed to the public as of 15 March. While it pays to plan ahead and check notices if you’re heading out west, Dr Beach’s round up gives travellers chance to do some armchair beachgoing.
The ranking may serve as a helpful guide for NZ travellers headed off to the US for a summer getaway, who are looking for some sites of relaxation.
The university professor has been issuing the annual ranking since 1991, making this list the 33rd edition. Leatherman releases the ranking every Memorial Day weekend.
1. St. George Island State Park, Florida Panhandle
With over 14 kilometres of pristine sand and a remote location on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Dr. Leatherman recommends this destination as a must-see for camping, stargazing and sunbathing.
2. Duke Kahanamoku Beach, Oahu, Hawaii
This beach is named after Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku, a competitive swimmer who popularised surfing in the early 20th century.
3. Coopers Beach, Southampton, New York
This piece of city coastline boasts a view of historic mansions and the surrounding resort area is known for its glamorous sights.
4. Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin/Clearwater, Florida
An idyllic ferry ride from Honeymoon Island State Park might be the loveliest entrance possible for this state park, as holidayers can catch a glimpse of the coast before arriving.
5. Lighthouse Beach, Buxton, Outer Banks of North Carolina
This is a popular spot for kite surfers, who congregate around an exposed point that promises a steady, constant wind.
6. Coronado Beach, San Diego
This Californian beach is tucked away by Point Loma, making it a perfect spot for a quiet, safe swim - it’s especially popular with families.
7. Wailea Beach, Maui, Hawaii
Wailea Beach is popular for swimming, snorkelling and boogie-boarding, due to its calm seas.
8. Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Warm waters bring out locals and tourists to this spot by the Kiwah River.
9. Poipu Beach, Kauai, Hawaii
Deep golden sand makes Poipu Beach a picturesque spot, which is also frequented by snorkellers due to its shallow reef.
10. Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
The clear waters of this beach make for great surfing, due to sandbars that draw the current into beautiful barrels.