Surf’s up! Florida’s St. George Island seashore named nation’s finest in annual rating

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A 9-mile (14-kilometer) stretch of Florida sugar-white sand in an unspoiled pure setting alongside the Gulf of Mexico is the nation’s finest seashore for 2023, in accordance with the annual rating launched Thursday by the college professor often known as “Dr. Seashore.”

The state park on St. George Island simply off the Florida Panhandle drew the highest honor from Stephen Leatherman, professor within the Division of Earth & Atmosphere at Florida Worldwide College. This yr’s prime 10 record marks the thirty third yr Leatherman has rated the perfect of America’s 650 public seashores round Memorial Day, the standard begin of summer time.

St. George Island is regularly on the record. However this yr what set it aside from others is its pure magnificence, lack of improvement, ample actions together with fishing, swimming, kayaking, biking, tenting and an unparalleled view of the night time sky for stargazers, Leatherman stated.

“There’s simply so many issues that seize my creativeness there,” Leatherman stated in an interview. “It is an idyllic place.”

The park covers about 2,000 acres (810 hectares) on the east finish of the island, which is related by a bridge to the mainland throughout Apalachicola Bay, famed for its oysters. The opposite sections of the island include a small village, eating places, rental properties and motels, however not an entire lot else.

And that is the best way Leatherman likes it.

“Folks can have the perfect of each worlds there, simply miles and miles of unspoiled seashores,” he stated.

The island has been battered over the a long time by tropical storms, most not too long ago by Hurricane Michael in October 2018. That lethal Class 5 storm made landfall about 50 miles (80 kilometers) northwest in Mexico Seashore, however packed sufficient punch to stage many St. George Island sand dunes and harm park amenities equivalent to picnic pavilions and restrooms.

“Since that point, workers and volunteers have made nice strides towards getting the park again to regular,” park officers stated on its web site.

In 2005, a 153-year-old lighthouse on close by, uninhabited Little St. George Island collapsed into the Gulf as a consequence of storms and erosion. It was rebuilt on the principle island after volunteers salvaged 22,000 of the unique bricks and located the Nineteenth-century plans on the Nationwide Archives. The brand new location means folks can extra simply trek to the highest for a panoramic view.

Leatherman makes use of 50 standards to guage seashores together with sand sort, wave motion, whether or not lifeguards are current, presence of wildlife, the extent of improvement and crowding, and lots of different components. Further credit score is given to seashores that forbid cigarette smoking, primarily due to the necessity to stop discarded butts. None had been seen throughout a latest go to to St. George Island, he stated.

“I needed to give them extra credit score for that,” Leatherman stated. “I feel individuals are coming round to the perspective that our seashores are a few of our biggest leisure areas. You’ll be able to go to the seashore and you are able to do so many issues.”

A second Florida Gulf coast seashore, Caladesi Island State Park close to Clearwater and Dunedin, ranks fourth on the record this yr. It is reachable primarily by ferry and personal boat, or an individual might stroll a reasonably good way there from Clearwater Seashore relying on the tides. Regardless of the identify, Caladesi is not a real island any longer as a result of an inlet closed off, Leatherman stated.

“The white seashore consists of crystalline quartz sand, which is gentle and soft on the water’s edge, inviting one to take a dip within the glowing clear waters,” he stated.

Caladesi has boardwalk nature trails and kayaking by means of mangroves which might be residence to quite a few species of fish, birds and different animals.

Hawaii positioned three seashores on the record, greater than another state. Florida was subsequent with two.

Right here is Dr. Seashore’s full 2023 prime 10:

1. St. George Island State Park, Florida Panhandle

2. Duke Kahanamoku Seashore, Oahu, Hawaii

3. Coopers Seashore, Southampton, New York

4. Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin/Clearwater, Florida

5. Lighthouse Seashore, Buxton, Outer Banks of North Carolina

6. Coronado Seashore, San Diego

7. Wailea Seashore, Maui, Hawaii

8. Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, South Carolina

9. Poipu Seashore, Kauai, Hawaii

10. Coast Guard Seashore, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

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