Four Florida beaches are listed among the best in the nation in the annual Top 10 Beach List for 2015: Barefoot Beach in Bonita Springs ranked #2, St. George Island State Park in the Panhandle ranked #3, Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park in Key Biscayne ranked #6 and Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park in Naples was ranked #9.
Florida State Parks include more than 100 miles of beaches and are a tremendous driver for the state’s tourism industry, creating jobs and economic opportunities.
“I am excited that four of our beautiful beaches have been named to the Top 10 Beach List for 2015, three of which are located in Florida State Parks,” said Gov. Rick Scott in a statement. “With increasing numbers of visitors to Florida, these beaches help drive the tourism industry by creating economic opportunities and jobs throughout the Sunshine State.”
Last year, Florida boasted 98.9 million visitors and more than 27 million people visited Florida’s state parks and trails from July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2014, generating nearly $2.1 billion in direct economic impact from parks and trails.
“Florida Beaches are a fantastic draw for residents and visitors,” said Florida Park Service Director Donald Forgione. “Last year we enjoyed a record-breaking number of visitors and having three state parks on Dr. Beach’s list again this year is an honor that will provide excellent exposure for our award-winning state park system.”
The list comes from coastal expert Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, also known as “Dr. Beach,” a professor at Florida International University.
Every year, since 1991, Dr. Beach has released the top 10 beaches using 50 criteria he created to rate the nation’s best beaches. Criteria to decide the ranking of the nation’s top beaches include beach material, water temperature, sand softness, smell, trash and litter, safety record and algae in the water.
Three of the four nationally ranked beaches are found within Florida State Parks. While all three offer sandy beaches and places to sunbathe, each also offers unique experiences.
St. George Island State Park is known for its miles of undeveloped beach – the perfect landscape for enjoying a day in the sun. Visitors can swim, canoe, boat, fish, hike, camp and study nature at this highly acclaimed state park. Two natural boat ramps provide access to the bay for small boats. Anglers can catch flounder, redfish, sea-trout and other fish off the beach or in the bay. Few parks offer better opportunities for shelling, which is a major draw for tourists.
Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park offers a beautiful setting for sunbathing, but also has other amenities that draw visitors year round. It is home to the oldest standing structure in Miami-Dade County; a historic lighthouse built in 1825 and reconstructed in 1846. Visitors come to the park to swim, bike and kayak. Anglers can throw in their lines from the seawall along Biscayne Bay for some of the region’s best shoreline fishing. The park offers two restaurants, or picnickers can reserve pavilions and use their own grills.
Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park is home to many shorebirds and wildlife. Visitors enjoy many activities like snorkeling the reef, hiking, bird-watching, fishing, picnicking and shelling. Boaters can experience the delicate natural estuaries of the Cocohatchee River, leading to the Gulf of Mexico. Experienced rangers and volunteers provide guided tours of the beach and surrounding area.
Florida State Park beaches have consistently scored high in Dr. Beach’s surveys with five parks previously ranked number one.
- Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin, 2008
- St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, Port St. Joe, 2002
- St. Andrews State Park, Panama City, 1995
- Grayton Beach State Park in Northwest Florida, Santa Rosa Beach, 1994
- Bahia Honda State Park, Florida Keys, 1992
More information on Florida State Parks is at www.floridastateparks.org.