May 27, 2011 / 2:21 PM / 6 years ago

Florida's Siesta Beach best in U.S. in 2011

<p>Florida's Siesta Beach. REUTERS/Courtesy Sarasota County</p>

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla, May 27 (Reuters Life) - Dr. Beach has spoken: Siesta Beach on Florida’s Gulf Coast ranks No. 1 among U.S. beaches for 2011.

Coastal scientist Stephen Leatherman, otherwise known as Dr. Beach, said the clean, clear water and hundreds of yards (meters) of fine, white sand lifted it to top billing on the 21st annual roundup of best beaches released on Friday.

“It’s an idyllic place,” said Leatherman, director of Florida International University’s Laboratory for Coastal Research in Miami.

His Top 10 list arrives just in time for, Memorial Day, the traditional kickoff of the summer beach season in the U.S.

Three Florida beaches made the cut this year, as did vacation destinations in California, Hawaii, New York, Massachusetts and the Carolinas.

Leatherman has selected the best public beaches since 1991 using 50 criteria to evaluate water and sand quality and safety and environmental management.

He doesn’t get paid for his ratings and doesn’t alert communities before he checks them out.

No beach has ever received a perfect score, he said.

“I‘m still searching” for a perfect beach, he said. “But I’ve found a lot of great beaches.”

Leatherman liked plenty at Siesta Beach, which moved up from second place on last year’s list. He gave it high marks for its beauty, wide beach, safe water, cleanliness and amenities.

Coronado Beach in San Diego earned the No. 2 spot, described by Leatherman as “the toast of Southern California” and “a veritable oasis by the sea.”

Filling out the top five were Kahanamoku Beach in Waikiki, Oahu, Hawaii; Main Beach in East Hampton, New York; and Cape Hatteras in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Rounding out the rest of the list, in ranking order: St. George Island State Park in the Florida panhandle; Beachwalker Park on Kiawah Island, South Carolina; Coast Guard Beach in Cape Cod, Massachusetts; Waimanalo Bay Beach Park in Oahu, Hawaii; and Cape Florida State Park in Key Biscayne, Florida.

Following his standard practice, Leatherman retired last year’s winner, Coopers Beach in Southampton, New York, from the list.

“You can’t be Miss America twice,” he said.

Editing by Jerry Norton and Patricia Reaney

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