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.
Don Pedro Island State Park, FL
Accessible only by boat, Don Pedro is worth it for the "miles and miles of beaches," Leatherman says. This Gulf Coast island in Charlotte County, Florida, is a great place to collect shells. The water is warm and clean, and crowds are never an issue. "Most people don't know about it," Leatherman says. "It's a very underutilized beach."
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