Beach Rankings Galore!
Just in case you hadn’t noticed the 90-plus degree temperatures that have been oppressing much of the nation for the last few weeks, summer is here. A lot of people will be heading to the beach to beat the heat, but how do you decide on which sandy shore to lay your towel? Sure, you could just go to whatever is closest, but there is no shortage of critical beach analysis out there to help you decide which coastal areas to patronize—or maybe which to avoid.
Every Memorial Day since 1991, Dr. Beach—a.k.a. professor Stephen Leatherman, director of Florida International University’s Laboratory for Coastal Research—has released a list of the Top 10 beaches in America. Dr. Beach uses 50 different criteria—ranging from “sand softness” to “smell”—to create the annual ranking. Recent winners of the No. 1 slot have included Siesta Beach in Sarasota, Fla.; Coopers Beach in Southampton, N.Y.; and Hanalei Bay on Kauai, Hawaii. This year, the honor went to Coronado Beach in California, which Dr. Beach praised for its “wide sandy beach” with “a silvery sheen because of the presence of mica.” (It was also featured prominently in Some Like it Hot, one of our Top 5 Movies Featuring Conventions.) Here is the full list for 2012:
1. Coronado Beach, San Diego, Calif.
2. Kahanamoku Beach, Waikiki, Oahu, Hawaii
3. Main Beach, East Hampton, N.Y.
4. St. George Island State Park, Florida
5. Hamoa Beach, Maui, Hawaii
6. Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Mass.
7. Waimanalo Bay Beach Park, Oahu, Hawaii
8. Cape Florida State Park, Key Biscayne, Fla.
9. Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, S.C.
10. Cape Hatteras, Outer Banks, N.C.
Dr. Beach isn’t the only expert out there rating beaches. With a greater focus on public health concerns, the Natural Resources Defense Council analyzes 200 popular U.S. beaches and assigns them one to five stars, reflecting not only short- and long-term water quality but how that information is collected and publicized. The 2012 report identifies 12 beaches that met its five-star standard:
–Gulf Shores Public Beach, Alabama
–Gulf State Park Pavilion, Alabama
–Bolsa Chica Beach, Calififornia
–Huntington State Beach, Brookhurst Street, California
–Newport Beach, 38th Street, 52nd/53rd Street, California
–Dewey Beach, Delaware
–Rehoboth Beach – Rehoboth Ave., Delaware
–Ocean City at Beach 6, Maryland
–Park Point Franklin Park / 13th Street South Beach, Minnesota
–Park Point Lafayette Community Club Beach, Minnesota
–Hampton Beach State Park, New Hampshire
–Wallis Sands Beach at Wallis Road, New Hampshire
–South Padre Island (Town of South Padre Island), Texas
That may cover environmental issues, but what about the human factor? Depending on how much importance you put on people watching, a crowded beach can be a blessing or an annoyance. To help gauge how hard it will be to stake out a spot on the sand, Travel + Leisure assembled a list of America’s most crowded beaches. Here are the Top 10 most-popular coastal destinations and the number of annual visitors they attract:
1. Venice Beach, Calif.: 16 million
2. Miami Beach, Fla.: 13.3 million
3. Coney Island, N.Y.: 11.2 million
4. Newport Beach, Calif.: 9.4 million
5. Daytona Beach, Fla.: 8 milliion
6. Huntington Beach, Calif.: 7.9 million
7. Hollywood, Fla.: 7.7 million
8. Jones Beach, N.Y.: 5.1 million
9. Brevard County, Fla.: 4.8 million
10. Ocean City, Md.: 4.5 million
Now all we need is a ranking of the rankings to help us figure out which No. 1 beach is truly tops.
Image: The beach in front of the Hotel de Coronado in California