Dunes at Florida's Grayton Beach State Park
Sand dunes at Grayton Beach State Park. (Florida State Parks photo)

Grayton Beach State Park in Florida’s Panhandle has been named the No. 1 beach in America by Dr. Stephen “Dr. Beach” Letterman, who selected another Florida beach for his annual Top Ten list.

Caladesi Island State Park was ranked No. 6 for 2020.

The Florida-based beach expert has reviewed and rated beaches and coastal areas throughout the world for 25 years, releasing his annual Top 10 report each spring. 

Here are the Top 10 for 2020:

  1. Grayton Beach State Park, Florida’s Panhandle
  2. Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach, Outer Banks of North Carolina
  3. Coopers Beach, Southampton, New York
  4. Duke Kahanamoku Beach, Oahu, Hawaii
  5. Lighthouse Beach, Buxton, Outer Banks of North Carolina,
  6. Caledesi Island State Park, Dunedin, FL
  7. Hapuna Beach State Park, Big Island, Hawaii
  8. Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
  9. Coronado Beach, San Diego, California
  10. Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Grayton Beach State Park

Paddling the dune lakes at Grayton Beach State Park.
Paddling the chain of dune lakes at Grayton Beach State Park. (Photo by Bob Rountree)

Grayton Beach has long ranked well in Dr. Beach’s annual list, and it is one of Florida Rambler’s favorites, as well. We camped there in 2017, when it ranked No. 4 on Dr. Beach’s list.

“This beach boasts of its sugar-white sand and emerald green water where development has been restrained so big sand dunes still dominate the landscape,” he wrote then.

The majestic dunes along the mile-long beach harbor a unique collection of brackish lakes, and you can paddle from one to the other, as we did.

Sandwiched in the middle of the 2000-acre state park is the town of Grayton Beach, a tiny beachside enclave that pops out of the sand, a real throwback to yesteryear.

The campground features 50 sites in two loops, and at the western side of the park are 30 two-bedroom cabins.  

Read more about our experience at Grayton Beach State Park

Caladesi Island State Park

Caladesi Island State Park
Beautiful Caladesi Island State Park is a fabulous beach in Clearwater. (Photo by Bonnie Gross)

Isolated Caladesi Island beach, located offshore from Clearwater Beach and Dunedin, was named the No. 1 beach in America by Dr. Beach in 2008. Once named to the top slot, a beach is not eligible for that distinction again.

The island is reachable only by boat, and you can take the park ferry or rent kayaks on the causeway leading to adjacent Honeymoon Island. Best bet is to bring your own kayak.

The northern tip of Caladesi Island, where Honeymoon Island is just across Hurricane Pass, is a magical spot, with white sand, shallow tide pools full of tiny fish and natural vegetation that is off-limits in spring when shorebirds nest here.

Boat camping with hookups is permitted in the 118-slip marina. 

Read more about our experience at Caladesi Island State Park

About Dr. Beach

Dr. Beach

Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman is professor and director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University.

He received his Ph.D. in Environmental (Coastal) Sciences from the University of Virginia, and completed his undergraduate degree in Geosciences at North Carolina State University.

Prior to joining FIU, Stephen was professor and director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at the University of Maryland; director of the National Park Research Unit at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; and assistant professor in the Department of Geology at Boston University.

Stephen has authored or edited 16 books, including Sea Level Rise: Causes and Consequences; Barrier Island Handbook; Overwash Processes; Cape Cod: From Glaciers to Beaches; and America’s Best Beaches.

He has also authored over 200 journal articles and technical reports, including articles in both Science and Nature.

Stephen has provided expert testimony multiple times for the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives. He was also the on-screen host and co-producer of the 1992 film “Vanishing Lands”, winner of three international film awards, including the Golden Eagle.






One Comment

  1. Kim Wroblewski

    I wonder why Anna Maria Island beaches aren’t mentioned as the best. The water there is so crystal blue and miles of sandy white beaches. Also it’s always clean and plenty of beach. Just beautiful.

Comments Welcome

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.