Life Can Be Beachy

Life Can Be Beachy

For many parts of the country, this has been a brutal winter. Here in North Florida, this winter has been no better or worse than it usually is, which means we’ve had some bitter cold days and a lot of rain in between the days that it was warm and sunny. I think everybody is ready for a change of seasons right about now, no matter where they live.

That’s why I’m looking ahead to summer days and dreaming about the beach. Every year, it’s a tradition for the news agencies to publish a list of the top ten beaches in the U.S. In preparation for this story, I looked it up and discovered that there are actually 3 different popular lists to choose from.

The one I remember from previous years is published by a professor from Florida International University, Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman. Dr. Leatherman—or Dr. Beach, as he likes to be called—has a Ph.D. in Environmental (Coastal) Sciences and has been rating beaches in a serious way since 1991. His role as de facto beach rater came about when a travel writer asked him to cite his favorite beaches in 1989, and his offhand answer caused such a reaction that he spent the next two years devising a 50-point checklist and scoring beaches so that the next time he gave his opinion, he could defend his choices with cold, hard facts.

Dr. Beach’s Top picks for 2014 were Duke Kahanamoku Beach (Oahu, HI), Barefoot Beach (Bonita Springs, FL), and St. George Island State Park (Apalachicola, FL).

Another list, published by, lists their top 3 as follows: Bahia Honda State Park (Bahia Honda Key, FL), Hapuna Beach (Kamuela, HI), and Fort De Soto Park (Pinellas Co., FL).

The recently published TripAdvisor list puts Siesta Beach (Siesta Key, FL) at the top of their list for 2015, followed by Saint Pete Beach (St. Petersburg, FL), and Ka’anapali beach (Lahaina, HI).

I find it interesting that Florida and Hawaii are consistently at the top of every list. I also find it interesting that all of the Florida beaches on the top of these lists are on the Gulf of Mexico side of our fair state. Daytona Beach? Fort Lauderdale? Miami Beach? These evidently don’t score as highly as their reputation would suggest. And where is California on any of these lists? For all the songs the Beach Boys sang glorifying the California coast, you’d think there’d be some better representation on these lists.

I asked our team members for an informal vote, and the area that got the most votes was the “Emerald Coast” beaches around Destin in the panhandle. This is an area that is a 4-to-5-hour drive from Lake City. The sand is sugary soft and white and the water is often a beautiful azure blue.

The closest ocean beaches are near Jacksonville, 90-minutes from here. They were also popular choices in my survey.

I would agree that the prettiest beaches I’ve been to are on the Gulf side of Florida. Naples was very beautiful the time I went there. It’s hard to pick a favorite because beaches can have good days and bad days depending on the weather and other things like seaweed blooms or even jellyfish infestations. But when it’s sunny and the water’s clear, there’s no better way to spend time with friends and family than at the beach.

What’s your favorite beach destination? I’d love to know your list!

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