Skip to Content

America’s best beaches: Several in Florida make annual list

Last updated on October 10th, 2019 at 12:55 pm

Apparently, we love to see items ranked in top 10 lists.

Every year Dr. Beach (aka Florida International University professor Stephen Leatherman) issues a list of top beaches, which gets extensive media coverage.

He has done this long enough that he sort of ran out of beaches, so he started over. Now, some beaches are winning this honor for the second time.

Caladesi Island State Park

Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin/Clearwater.

The 2019 list of best beaches includes two from Florida:

Grayton Beach State Park, Florida Panhandle. This beach was ranked No. 3 in 2019, but won the No. 1 spot way back in 1994. Dr. Beach can only write about this beach in extreme superlatives: “The sugar-white sand is pure as the driven snow, the emerald green water is perfectly clean and clear and beach development has been restrained so big sand dunes still dominate the landscape.”

Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin/Clearwater.  Ranked No. 7 in 2019, Caladesi was Dr. Beach’s No. 1 in 2008. We love to kayak to Caladesi. 

Past Florida winners with a No.1 rank include:

Fort De Soto Park, North Beach, St. Petersburg. This is one of our favorite places to camp. Here’s our guide to Fort De Soto, which is a Pinellas County park spread over five islands and 900 acres. It was named No. 1 in 2005.

Siesta Key Beach, Sarasota. The sand at this county beach is special – it’s made of quartz, not coral. Readers of TripAdvisor named it the No. 1 beach in America in 2015. Dr. Beach crowned it in 2011.

St. Andrews State Park, Florida Panhandle. Not only does St. Andrews have the sugar white sand that makes Panhandle beaches so special, it also has good snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking and fishing off two piers. It made the No. 1 spot in 1995.

St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, Florida Panhandle. This pure-white-sand  beach goes on and on — for 9.5 miles – and has some of the largest sand dunes in Florida. It was named top beach is 2002.

Fort DeSoto Park, 3500 Pinellas Bayway S., Tierra Verde, near Tampa Bay. This was the No. 1 beach in 2005. Dr. Beach said: “Just north of the entrance to Tampa Bay is Fort Desoto Park. This beach is set in a natural wilderness, but still close to all the amenities of nearby St. Petersburg Beach. Residents of the metropolis of Tampa and St. Petersburg often go here to escape the hustle and bustle of urban living. This Pinellas County park is spread over five islands and encompasses about 900 acres. There is a range of beaches from which to choose, but avoid inlets and channels because of the danger of strong currents and deep holes. The park is known for its birding, but it is also a great area for camping, biking, and fishing. It is fun to explore the park relics, including gun emplacements and ammunition rooms, of old Fort Desoto on Mullet Key; this fortification was declared obsolete before any shots were fired in combat. This area also affords you an awesome view of the Skyway Bridge over Tampa Bay.”

Several beaches make the top 10 list time and again, but never made it to the No. 1 spot. These include:

Barefoot Beach in Bonita Springs

Barefoot Beach in Bonita Springs

Barefoot Beach Preserve County Park in Bonita Springs. We love Barefoot Beach, a great place to beachcomb, see dolphins in the water and gopher tortoises in the dunes. Here’s our story on Barefoot Beach.

St. George State Park, Florida Panhandle. What makes St. George special? Clear water and powdery, super-white sands. “The sand here is squeaky clean,” Dr. Beach writes. “Just rub your feet on the sand and hear it squeak.”

Cape Florida Lighthouse at Cape Florida State Park, Key Biscayne

Cape Florida Lighthouse at Cape Florida State Park, Key Biscayne

Cape Florida State Park, Key Biscayne. It seems Cape Florida makes the list almost every year. One thing that makes Cape Florida State Park so great is the historic lighthouse, which you can climb for postcard views and to learn its fascinating history. The park also has two good restaurants. More about Cape Florida State Park.

Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, Naples.  Delnor-Wiggins is right across Wiggins Pass from Barefoot Beach. It’s an unspoiled beach good for shell collecting and even good snorkeling, which is rare for Gulf beaches.


Discover more Florida beaches in this Florida Rambler section.


From the Editor:

The information in this article was accurate when published but can change without notice. Please confirm rates and details when planning your trip by following the links in this article.

If you find out-of-date or inaccurate information, we’d love to hear about it so we can update the article. Use the comments section below.

Legendary road food in the Florida Keys
Best Camping near Tampa Bay: 9 choice campgrounds

Comments Welcome

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

Comments Welcome

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