As the weather warms up, folks start heading to the water to spend a day cooling off and recreating. A director and professor at the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University, Stephen Leatherman, is an authority on the erosion of beaches and the impact of storms on coastal regions. Since 1991, Leatherman has been giving ranks to beaches, using 50 points of importance on variables such as, safety, environmental factors and the quality of the water. Leatherman is also known as Dr. Beach. The following beaches are recommended by Dr. Beach, and they represent his best bet beaches for summer 2014.
Duke Kahanamoku Beach, Oahu, Hawaii was named to honor Duke Paoa Kahanamoku. The winner of two silver and three gold Olympic medals for various freestyle races between the years of 1912 and 1924, he is also recognized as being responsible for bringing the sport of surfing to the world. This beach is bordered by a harbor for small boats and a catamaran pier. It is protected from big waves by an offshore shallow reef which creates a terrific area for swimming with children.
Barefoot Beach Preserve County Park, Bonita Springs, Florida is part of a 342 acre park. The 8,200 foot beach has gentle inches-tall waves with shallow water. This is a great place to bring children and a multitude of tiny shells can be found in the fine sand.
St. George Island State Park, Florida is in the panhandle, which is popular for its ultra white, powdery sand. The sand at this beach is very clean. The State Beach can be found on the eastern side of the island. There are paths that can be traversed across the dunes of the island to the bayside. A proper foot shuffle upon entering the water will alert any resting stingrays, who will kindly move along. Popular activities at St. George Island are fishing and bird watching.
Waimanalo Bay State Park, Oahu, Hawaii offers useful amenities such as, restrooms, rinsing showers and plenty of parking. This is a very safe beach for swimming as dangerous currents and big waves are quite rare. They also have lifeguards on duty and it is a popular beach with the locals.
Hamoa Beach, Maui, Hawaii is a crescent-shaped, pocket beach. It is rimmed by cliffs that are covered in flowering vegetation and palm trees. The beach is a mixture of lava and coral sand and is inside a volcanic crater that is now breached. The perilous road to this beach has 1,000 foot drop-offs and more than 50 bridges that are only one-way.
Cape Hatteras, Outer Banks, North Carolina bulges a long distance offshore from the mainland and serves as a barrier island. It was the very first National Seashore and is home to the most recognizable lighthouse in the country. This is an excellent spot for board surfing. Beachgoers love the fishing villages with historical significance and nature lovers go for the fishing and beachcombing.
Cape Florida State Park, Key Biscayne, Florida offers gorgeous emerald green water with gentle surf. Located at the southern end of Key Biscayne, its coral sand is fine and white and the swimming is divine. The waves are obliterated by a big offshore sand shoal. The Cape Florida Lighthouse provides a splendid view of the beach.
Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts is only accessible by shuttle bus, with passengers being picked up at the Salt Pond Visitor’s Center, or by bicycle. The beach was formed where a spit of sand attached itself to the glacial cliffs. The beach slopes at a steep angle into the water and the sand is rather coarse. The old Coast Guard station offers impressive views of the bay and barrier system of Nauset spit. The water in the summertime only gets as warm as 70 degrees.
Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, South Carolina is a public beach at the south end of the island. Tours, golf and tennis are offered. The tidal inlets provide a day of kayaking or canoeing. Bird watchers enjoy biking or walking down to St. Sam’s Inlet where thousands of the winged creatures can be seen. Though opaque, the water is clean and makes for great fishing.
Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, Naples, Florida has 166 acres to explore. Sea oats grow on the sand dunes as well as cabbage palms. There are wooded areas for shady picnicking. Seashells by the millions hide in the fine white sand. The observation tower provides visitors with a view that emphasizes this natural enclave in an urban area. Rinse showers, restrooms and private changing stalls are also available. Early morning and late afternoon visits help to avoid the crowds.
Getting recreation advice from an expert like Dr. Beach is always helpful, however, every family has their favorite beaches, whether it makes a top list or not. Other honorable mentions go to: Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys and Clam Beach in Arcata, California. Ultimately, the best bet beach for any beach lover this summer is the place where they have a ton of fun and no one gets hurt.
By Stacy Lamy