Miami, FL—Embargoed for release at 1 AM EST on Thursday, May 21, 2020.  Grayton Beach State Park is number one in the 30th annual Top 10 Beach List, produced by coastal expert Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, professor at Florida International University.

 Grayton Beach is known for its super-white, fine sand and clean, clear turquoise water; the water is shallow and warm, making for good swimming.  Waves are generally measured in inches so the water is safe unless an onshore wind has kicked up the surf in which case it is best to stay out of the water and explore the rest of this nearly 2,000-acre nature park.  The mile of sugar sand is also great for surf fishing and beachcombing.  This state park on the Florida panhandle coast features a mile-long hiking trail that passes through big sand dunes and along salt marshes.  There are three coastal dune lakes at Grayton Beach State Park, which are quite rare, being found only here and in Oregon.  The lakes provide additional recreational opportunities, including fishing and water sports.    

As “Dr. Beach” (, Leatherman has selected the annual Top 10 Beaches since 1991.  Fifty criteria are used to evaluate beaches, which include water and sand quality as well as safety and management. Dr. Leatherman is an internationally known coastal scientist who has published 20 books and hundreds of scientific articles and reports about storm impacts, coastal erosion and ways to improve beach health and safety. 

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.  Previous National Winners are retired and listed on his web site.        


  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

Additional Online Resources:
Biography for Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman:


Dr. Beach’s 50 Criteria:

Department of Earth & Environment
Florida International University, Miami, FL

Phone:  305-238-5888