Best Beaches in Florida … just a short drive from Orlando!

Filed under: Orlando Vacation Tips,Vacation Tips |

Florida Beaches (Photographer: Nigel Worrall)

The annual list of best beaches in the U.S. has been announced and Florida beaches have taken four of the top 10 spots.

Dr. Beach, aka Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, is the Director of Florida International University’s Laboratory for Coastal Research. The 2014 list is his 24th and is based on some 50 points of criteria. Some of the tools he uses to evaluate a beach in the field include: dye ball water tracer for measuring currents such as longshore and especially dangerous rip and tidal currents, Secchi disk for measuring water clarity and visibility, a Brunton compass/clinometer to determine beach slope, field sieve set to determine sand grain size, and a hand lens for mineralogical identification. He takes a dip in the water to identify any holes or rocks on the beach face because his rankings are for swimming beaches and prior to visiting a beach, he checks EPA water quality data and safety records, especially regarding drowning.

Once a beach is awarded the top ranking, Leatherman “retires” it from any further consideration as a National Winner.

The overall winner this year is Kahanamoku Beach Waikiki, Oahu, Hawaii, which placed No. 2 in 2013. Jumping up to No. 2 though from No. 6 is the Sunshine State’s Barefoot Beach in Bonita Springs on the southwest coast north of Naples. The beach is about a three hour drive from Orlando and that makes it a perfection destination for an overnight stop or for an extended stay if you are visiting the attractions area.

“The surf is gentle with waves generally being measured in inches, and the water is very shallow, making this a great beach for bathing and swimming for families,” Leatherman said. “The sand is fine and contains many small shells.”

Florida Beaches (Photographer: Nigel Worrall)

Coming in at No. 3 is St. George Island State Park in the Florida panhandle, holding the same spot it did in last year’s list.

“The Florida panhandle beaches are known for their powdery, super white sands,” Leatherman said. “The sand here is squeaky clean … just rub your feet on the sand and hear it squeak!”

Also holding the same spot as last year is No. 7, Cape Florida State Park in Key Biscayne.

Leatherman said the beach “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.”

New to the list from Florida this year is another southwest Florida beach, Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park in Naples.

Florida had the most beaches in the list with four while Hawaii landed three beaches including the top selection  Other states on the top 10 list included North Carolina, Massachusetts and South Carolina.

Here is the complete 2014 list:

1. Duke Kahanamoku Beach, Waikiki, Oahu, Hawaii

2. Barefoot Beach Bonita Springs, Florida

3. St. George Island State Park Florida panhandle

4. Waimanalo Bay Beach Park Oahu, Hawaii

5. Hamoa Beach, Maui, Hawaii

6. Cape Hatteras, Outer Banks of North Carolina

7. Cape Florida State Park Key Biscayne, Florida

8. Coast Guard Beach Cape Cod, Massachusetts

9. Beachwalker Park Kiawah Island, South Carolina

10. Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, Naples, Florida

Florida Beaches (Photographer: Nigel Worrall)

Florida beaches had previously taken home the best beach crown seven times:

2011: Siesta Beach on Siesta Key near Sarasota

2008: Caladesi Island State Park north of Tampa

2005: Fort DeSoto Park in St. Petersburg

2002: St. Joseph Peninsula in Port St. Joe

1995: St. Andrews State Park in Panama City

1994: Grayton Beach State Park in Santa Rosa Beach

1992: Bahia Honda State Park on Big Pine Key

Many of the above beaches are within a couple of hours drive of Orlando and Florida Leisure’s vacation homes. Central Florida isn’t just about the theme parks and attractions, sometimes it’s nice to take a day or two off at the beach… and we have some of the best available. Why not take advantage the next time you visit us? You’ll be glad you did!

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