After carefully evaluating 650 public beaches throughout the U.S., Stephen P. Leatherman (better known as "Dr. Beach") has kicked off the Memorial Day weekend 2002 by choosing America's Top 10 beaches.
St. Joseph Peninsula State Park comes in as #1 this year, the first time in six years that Florida has topped the popular list.
Hawaii's Hanalei Beach and Kaanapali were named second and third, respectively. Rounding off the list, in order 4-10: Fort DeSoto Park (Florida), Caladesi Island State Park (Florida), Ocracoke Island (North Carolina), Hamoa Beach (Hawaii), East Hampton Beach (New York), Cape Florida State Park (Florida), and Hanauma Bay (Hawaii).
"Nothing restores the body and soul like a stay at the beach," he explained. "We are naturally drawn to the rhythmic pounding of the waves as if returning to our primordial beginnings."
The good doctor, who has picked the best beaches since 1991, calls what he does "one of the best jobs in America." With a stringent 50-point system, he rates water color, waves, sand, wind speeds, and more.
"I have received thousands of letters and phone calls from people wanting more information about beaches," explained Leatherman, a world-renowned coastal scientist and director of Miami's Florida International University International Hurricane Center.
In an effort to celebrate "Clean Water, Clean Sand," Dr. Beach has also promoted the Healthy Beaches Campaign for conservation and environmental responsibility. It's a way to protect the beauty of the ocean for future generations of frolicking.
"The sea," wrote poet T.S. Eliot, "has many voices."
And thanks to Dr. Beach, we can listen to their nuances ever closer.
The ocean is a constant miracle.