Four of Florida’s best beaches seem to have bridesmaid syndrome – they’re close, but never in the top spot.

Every Memorial Day weekend, Dr. Beach, Florida International University professor Stephen Leatherman, dominates the Internet with his annual list of the 10 best beaches in the United States.

For 2015, the No.1 beach is in Hawaii, as it often is. (The winner: Waimanalo Bay Beach Park, Oahu.)

On the top 10 list for 2015 are the same four Florida beaches that were also-rans last year:

Barefoot Beach in Bonita Springs
Barefoot Beach in Bonita Springs

No. 2. Same rank as last year, 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. Will 2016 be the year Barefoot Beach gets to be No. 1? We hope not: We don’t want to share it with the world.

No. 3. Same rank as last year, 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

No. 6. Cape Florida State Park, Key Biscayne. Up from No. 7 in both 2014 and 2013. It seems Cape Florida makes the list 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: visiting Key Biscayne.

No. 9 Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, Naples. Up from No. 10 in 2014. 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.


Here is the complete 2015 list:

  1. Waimanalo Bay Beach Park, Oahu, Hawaii
  2. Barefoot Beach Preserve County Park, Bonita Springs, Florida

  3. St. George Island State Park, Florida

  4. Hamoa Beach, Maui, Hawaii

  5. Cape Hatteras, Outer Banks, North Carolina

  6. Cape Florida State Park, Key Biscayne, Florida

  7. Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

  8. Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, South Carolina

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

  10. East Beach, Santa Barbara, California

Past No. 1 beaches in Florida

Once a beach makes No. 1, it no longer is considered for the annual list. So the very best beaches in America just might be the ones that made the top slot years ago.

Past winners:

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

Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin/Clearwater.  We love to kayak to Caladesi, which was the No. 1 beach in 2008.

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.

Grayton Beach State Park, Florida Panhandle. This beach made 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.”

Siesta 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.

Calusa Beach at Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys.
Calusa Beach at Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys.

One past winner, Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys, is no longer listed by Dr. Beach as a previous No. 1 beach. His website says to stay listed, a beach must “maintain quality.” By the doctor’s criteria, apparently, Bahia Honda has slipped.  (We think it’s still the best beach in the Florida Keys.)

Discover more Florida beaches in this Florida Rambler section.

More about the best beaches list: