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Dr. Beach’s Top 10 Beaches

Memorial Day weekend is here, and it’s time again for Stephen Leatherman, aka “Dr. Beach,” to announce his annual list of Top 10 Beaches.

This year’s winner may surprise you.

Leatherman, the director of Florida International University’s Laboratory for Coastal Research, has chosen Siesta Beach in Sarasota, Fla., as his No. 1 pick based on 50 measurable criteria. It’s ironic, given that this strip of sand, along with many other Gulf Coast beaches, saw tourism plummet after the BP/Deep Horizon oil spill dumped 5 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico last year.

As Leatherman notes, however, that visitation drop was unwarranted. He predicted that a Gulf of Mexico phenomenon known as the Loop Current would prevent oil from washing ashore on Siesta Beach, and he predicted correctly. Yet, visitors stayed away.

We’ve seen this tourism fallout before. When the Exxon Valdez oil spill happened in 1989, people stopped going to Alaska. TV ads at the time provided a powerful visual: An extreme close-up of Marilyn Monroe’s face that made her beauty mark fill the entire TV screen. Just as one could not fault the Hollywood icon for a blemish, the ad stated, one could not fault the enormous state of Alaska for the oil spill in Prince William Sound.

Just so, beach goers should feel confident reveling in Siesta Beach’s powdery white sand and clear blue waters. It was not soiled by the BP oil spill, nor was St. Petersburg, also a victim of tourist misperceptions. You’ll even find St. George Island State Park on this year’s Top 10 list. It’s another delightful Gulf Coast beach on the Florida panhandle, undeveloped and filled with soft white sands.

When it comes to the Gulf, “the coast is clear.” As freelancer John Rosenthal reported for Bing Travel in May, it’s safe to go back in the water. Need the full scoop? Read his article, Gulf Coast Beaches: Swim, Dine, Fish. And Thank the Loop Current.

What do you think of this year’s Top 10 list? Have you been to a Gulf Coast beach since the oil spill and wish to share a review? Post a comment for other beachgoers below.


  • Who can even afford to go to HI  Maybe FL but what about all those great beaches along Lake MI, Lake Superior and the other  Great Lakes??  People can afford those too.

  • Your article is a delightful diversion from all the news filled Web Sites out there, which tend to get you depressed. Going to the beach, and walking along the beach is a great diversion for me.

    Unfortunately your article left out some pretty nice beaches in the Pacific Northwest, where I am originally from. One of my favorite beaches is Cannon Beach OR, which is great for long beach walks and flying your kite. Unfortunately, the ocean water is very cold (in the 50's), so if you decide to venture in the water, you will need a thick wetsuit.

    Given now that Gasoline is at, or near $ 4.00 a gallon, if people go on beach vacation at all, they are going to stay close to home, so it might not be a bad idea to extend the article to the 25 best beaches in the USA, so people will have a better selection closer to home. Just a thought.

  • The title should be: "Dr. Beach’s Top 10 American Beaches".

    There are so many beautiful beaches in Australia and other countries ;)

  • For everyone in the Mid-Atlantic the Delaware beaches rule. Close to DC, Baltimore and Int. 95 They offer great surf, lot's of family friendly activities and are affordable. And no sales tax on anything- what a deal! Our favorite is Fenwick Island with it's wide beaches, small town feel and great food choices. You can walk or bike the town's one mile length, so park the car and enjoy.

  • Why not visit Greece and especially the Greek Islands? It may cost cheaper that visiting American places. As to the beaches and the azure crystal clear waters, you will judge for yourself.

  • I am VERY fond of All the Outer Bank beaches in North Carolina.  I have visited parts of the world, and even saw the sun shining on the beaches of the Mediterrian Sea in Spain, which was gorgeous, but  I hold a magical fondess of my Outer Bank North Carolina beaches with all my heart: one reason, it is my home State, and another reason is, that is where my heart is.

  • I can't agree anymore with your pick of Siesta Beach. If you haven't visited you must and with the economy as it is no one needs to go international help the economy spend your money in the US

  • I guess you dont spend much time on the West Coast? You seem to be missing a lot of the most spectacular beaches on the planet.  However I thank you very much.  Tourism hopefully will be way down this season.  Send all of those clowns back east.

  • THere are great beaches on the great lakes.  Lots of them!

  • I am a new owner of a condo in Sarasoat FL. We are leaving Massachusetts and heading there all because of the awesome beach. Siesta Key beach is beautiful, calming, relaxing and inviting to all. We can't wait to live there for the winter.

  • US Virgin Island Megen's Bay is the top Beach in the world????Not even mentioned here????

  • Obviously this man has never been to Michigan.

  • Having traveled to many places with many beaches,  I have seen the best, and it is always Siesta.  I have moved away from the sarasota area twice but always move back.  The entire area is nothing like the rest of Florida, having both culture and peace.  I would recomend it to anyone to vacation here or to live here.  40 years and still counting Sarasota home.

  • Totally agree with Mia Feng, The title should be: "Dr. Beach’s Top 10 American Beaches".   No mentions of the beautiful Caribbean beaches.

  • Funny......according to The Weather Channel....PANAMA CITY BEACH, FL is the top beach of the people they polled.  Maybe this should be labeled "Dr. Beach's" favorite beaches. All the beaches listed are on the "high" end of the $$$$ scale. Why? Not a clue...other than that's where the "beautiful, rich and snotty" folks stay.  

    Folks....come to the Gulf coast.. we have Destin, Penescola and Ft.Walton for the snooty folks. Panama City Beach for us hard working ...want to have a good time...but not pay a fortune to do have that good time.  

    Water is fine...beaches are beautiful..people are friendly. Plus you don't have to walk around like you have a nose bleed..and you can enjoy the scenery!

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