Florida has landed the No. 1 beach in the U.S. seven times, but not in 2012. This year's crown goes to Coronado Beach in San Diego, California, but that doesn't mean Florida still isn't the place to be for the finest stretches of sand.
The Sunshine State nabbed two of the Top 10 spots for 2012 with St. George Island State Park near Apalachicola at No. 4 and Cape Florida State Park in Key Biscayne at No. 8 Both beaches moved up two spots from the 2011 list. Of course, the thing about the list is once you win, you're no longer eligible for the list.
The annual Top 10 list now in its 22nd year, is put out by Dr. Beach, aka Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, Director of Florida International University's Laboratory for Coastal Research, before Memorial Day each year.
Last year's winner was Siesta Beach, a stretch of sand on on Siesta Key along Florida's Gulf Coast near Sarasota. It's a barrier island southwest of Sarasota that had been stuck on the Dr. Beach list at No. 2 for two years, but earned top honors last year.
So out of 22 years, Florida's been No. 1 nearly a third of those years with Siesta Beach in 2011, Caladesi Island State Park north of Tampa in 2008, Fort DeSoto Park in St. Petersburg in 2005, St. Joseph Peninsula in Port St. Joe in 2002, St. Andrews State Park in Panama City in 1995, Grayton Beach State Park in Santa Rosa Beach in 1994 and Bahia Honda State Park on Big Pine Key in 1992.
Other Florida beaches that have made the Top 10 in the past six years, but not on this year's list include Barefoot Beach Park in Bonita Springs and Lighthouse Point Park in Ponce Inlet south of Daytona Beach.
Of the two beaches ranked in 2012, Leatherman had this to say:
No. 4: St. George Island State Park Florida panhandle. The Florida panhandle beaches are back as oil from the BP spill has vanished, and the sand is squeaky clean (just rub your feet on the sand and hear them squeak). The brilliant white sands and clear waters of St. George Island were fortunately not even impacted last summer. Stingrays are sometimes resting in the shallow waters so shuffle your feet when entering. Birding and fishing are very popular activities here.
No. 8: Cape Florida State Park Key Biscayne, Florida. Cape Florida State Park, located at the south tip of Key Biscayne, provides clear, emerald-colored waters and gentle surf. This 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 breath-taking view of this beautiful beach.
Leatherman ranks beaches using 50 different criteria from quality of sand to safety.
The full 2012 list is as follows:
1. Coronado Beach San Diego, California
2. Kahanamoku Beach Waikiki, Oahu, Hawaii
3. Main Beach East Hampton, New York
4. St. George Island State Park Florida panhandle
5. Hamoa Beach, Maui, Hawaii
6. Coast Guard Beach Cape Cod, Massachusetts
7. Waimanalo Bay Beach Park Oahu, Hawaii
8. Cape Florida State Park Key Biscayne, Florida
9. Beachwalker Park Kiawah Island, South Carolina
10. Cape Hatteras, Outer Banks of North Carolina
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