The Outer Banks is the only place in the United States to have two of the top five best beaches according to renowned coastal expert Dr. Beach.

Stephen Leatherman, professor at Florida International University, released his annual ratings of the ten best beaches in the United States on Thursday.

The Charlotte-native has been releasing his top 10 list since 1991 and uses 50 criteria in the evaluation process of swimable beaches. Factors include beach width at low tide, sand softness and color, wildlife, pests including mosquitoes, available amenities and public safety.

Dr. Beach Top 10 list for 2020
1. Grayton Beach State Park, Florida Panhandle
2. Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach, Outer Banks of North Carolina
3. Coopers Beach, Southampton, New York
4. Duke Kahanamoku Beach, Oahu, Hawaii
5. Lighthouse Beach, Buxton, Outer Banks of North Carolina
6. Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin/Clearwater, Florida
7. Hapuna Beach State Park, Big Island, Hawaii
8. Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
9. Coronado Beach, San Diego, California
10. Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, South Carolina

“Bonus points are awarded for prohibition of smoking on beaches, and Cape Hatteras National Seashore is leading the way by keeping their beaches clear of cigarette butts — putting two beaches in North Carolina in the top five,” Leatherman said.

Ocracoke held on to the second spot for a second straight year, after topping Dr. Beach’s list in 2007, but can’t be rated number one again under Leatherman’s rules to give others a chance, and is the only North Carolina beach to ever top his list.

“Ocracoke, once the home of Blackbeard the pirate, is still a special place — it is my favorite getaway beach. Here you will find some of the wildest beaches in the country. Big surf dominates in late summer so families with children may want to come earlier in the year. Don’t expect to play golf or stay at the Ritz; the main pursuits are swimming and beachcombing.”

After dropping out of the top 10 last year, Buxton jumped back to number five in 2020. Buxton’s highest ever ranking was fourth back in 2010.

“Lighthouse Beach is where the old spiral-striped Cape Hatteras Lighthouse once stood until it was moved landward in 1999 because of beach erosion. This lifeguarded beach is the number one surfing spot on the U. S. Atlantic Coast as the large offshore sand banks, known as Diamond Shoals, cause wave refraction focusing wave energy on this beach. I enjoy strolling down to the Cape Point where a long sand spit often exists, making me feel somewhat like Moses because the waves are coming from both directions as you walk along this narrow string of sand in the ocean.”



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Sam Walker is news director for OBXToday.com, Beach 104, 99.1 The Sound, Big 94.5 and Classic Rock 92.3. Reach him at sam@www.obxtoday.com