For 33 years, Florida International University coastal scientist Stephen Leatherman, a.k.a. "Dr. Beach," has been ranking America's best beaches. (Photo: lightphoto/Getty Images)

“Dr. Beach” is back with his annual ranking of America’s best beaches just in time for the busy Memorial Day travel weekend. According to Newser, “Dr. Beach” is the alter ego of coastal scientist Stephen Leatherman, a professor in the Department of Earth & Environment at Florida International University. He has been sharing his list of the nation’s top beaches for 33 years. Leatherman bases his rankings on 50 criteria, including the quality of the sand and waves, the number of visitors and presence of lifeguards, as well as the likelihood of spotting wildlife.

This year, a beach along the Florida Panhandle takes top honors. St. George Island State Park sprang up from the No. 4 spot on the 2022 list. Leatherman says the idyllic St. George Island State Park took the top spot in 2023 for its “miles and miles of unspoiled beaches.” It also helps that he didn’t see a single cigarette butt on his inspection. And since it’s a state park, there isn’t a lot of development on the beach, which cuts down on light pollution. That’s good for stargazers.”I think people are coming around to the point of view that our beaches are some of our greatest recreational areas,” added Leatherman.

Summer can’t get here quick enough. I can hardly wait until I smell the salt air, my feet hit the sand, and that big beautiful ocean is in front of me. North Carolina and South Carolina are also each represented on Leatherman’s 2023 list. South Carolina’s Beachwalker Park on Kiawah Island is up one spot from No. 9 to No. 8 this year. Likewise, Lighthouse Beach in Buxton on North Carolina’s Outer Banks rose one spot from No. 6 to No. 5. I’ll be there in July. You can see the rest of the list below.

Dr. Beach’s Top 10 U.S. Beaches for 2023

  1. St. George Island State Park, Florida Panhandle
  2. Duke Kahanamoku Beach, Oahu, Hawaii
  3. Coopers Beach, Southampton, New York
  4. Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin/Clearwater, Florida
  5. Lighthouse Beach, Buxton, Outer Banks of North Carolina
  6. Coronado Beach, San Diego
  7. Wailea Beach, Maui, Hawaii
  8. Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, South Carolina
  9. Poipu Beach, Kauai, Hawaii
  10. Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

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