Stephen P. Leatherman, professor and director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University, earned his nickname. Since developing no less than 50 criteria for evaluating beach quality 20 years ago, "Dr. Beach" has been rating shorelines all over the world. What factors does he consider when determining a beach's worthiness? Water temperature, safety, and weather are all incredibly important, but he maintains that the most important single factor is water quality. "That’s the first thing people really ask for," he says, adding that Americans are fortunate because "most of our beaches in the United States are in very good shape."
We asked Leatherman were to go to get wet and he picked out the best beaches for swimmers in the country. Just remember to bring your floaties with you.
Beachwalker Park, SC
According to Leatherman, visitors to Beachwalker Park sometimes get upset about the murky water. "This is just the nature of the South Carolina coast," he explains. "The water's clean, but it's not clear because of all the marshes and the big tides they have there." Dark as it may be, the water stays in the low- and mid-80s year round, making it perfect for swimming.
Beachwalker Park is Kiawah Island's only public beach, and lifeguards are on duty in the summer. When you're done swimming, explore the island’s wildlife on canoe or kayak.
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