Four Florida beaches are listed as among the best in the nation in the 24th annual Top 10 Beach List for 2014.
Barefoot Beach in Bonita Springs ranked No. 2, St. George Island State Park in the Panhandle ranked No. 3, Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park in Key Biscayne ranked No. 7 and Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park in Naples was ranked No. 10.
“It is no surprise Florida’s beaches top the charts as some of the most beautiful in the nation,” said Governor Rick Scott said. “I remain committed to ensuring these treasured, natural resources remain pristine for future generations to enjoy for years to come. They attract thousands of visitors to Florida each year and are local treasures our residents enjoy year-round.”
The list is produced by coastal expert Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, also known as “Dr. Beach,” a professor at Florida International University. Every year, beginning in 1991, Dr. Beach has released the top 10 beaches that best meet the 50 criteria he created to rate the nation’s best beaches. Criteria to determine the ranking of the nation’s top beaches include beach material, water temperature, sand softness, smell, trash and litter, safety record, and algae in the water.
“This year’s list highlights the versatility of our Florida State Parks, which include nearly 100 miles of sandy beaches,” said Florida State Parks Director Donald Forgione. “St. George Island, Delnor-Wiggins Pass and Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Parks all provide scenic beaches and outstanding recreational opportunities.”
Three of the four nationally ranked beaches are found within Florida State Parks. While all three offer sandy beaches and places to sunbathe, each also offers unique opportunities to appeal to visitors of all kinds.
St. George Island State Park is known for its miles of undeveloped beach — the perfect landscape for enjoying a day in the sun. The park provides ample opportunities for swimming, canoeing, boating, hiking, camping and nature study. Two natural boat ramps provide access to the bay for small boats. Anglers can fish for flounder, redfish, sea trout and other fish off the beach or in the bay. Few parks offer better opportunities for shelling, which is a major draw for tourists.
Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park offers a beautiful setting for sunbathing, but also has other amenities that draw visitors year round. It is home to a historic lighthouse that was built in 1825 and reconstructed in 1846 and is the oldest standing structure in Miami-Dade County. Visitors come to the park to swim, bike and kayak. Anglers can throw in their lines from the seawall along Biscayne Bay for some of the best shoreline fishing in the region. The park also offers two restaurants, or picnickers can reserve a pavilion and fire up their own grill.
Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park is home to many shorebirds and wildlife. Visitors enjoy many activities like snorkeling the reef, hiking, bird-watching, fishing, picnicking, and searching for seashells. Boaters also have the opportunity to experience the delicate natural estuaries of the Cocohatchee River, leading out to the Gulf of Mexico. Guided tours of the beach and surrounding area are also available on a regular basis by experienced rangers and volunteers.
Florida state park beaches have consistently scored high in Dr. Beach’s surveys, with five parks previously ranked number one.
♦ Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin, 2008
♦ St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, Port St. Joe, 2002
♦ St. Andrews State Park, Panama City, 1995
♦ Grayton Beach State Park in Northwest Florida, Santa Rosa Beach, 1994
♦ Bahia Honda State Park, Florida Keys, 1992