Florida’s beaches topped the list of the 10 Best Beaches in the United States, as compiled by Dr. Beach, also known as Stephen P. Leatherman.
Based on nearly 50 criteria—including water and sand quality, safety, green management and access to local activities—Florida had the largest number on the list with three.
Hawaii claimed two spots. Five states were represented by one beach each.
Leatherman is director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University in Miami.
Perhaps surprisingly, his list recognizes beaches not in that area, but in other parts of the Sunshine State.
Leatherman has ranked beaches in the United States for more than 26 years. His list attracts national attention.
Siesta Beach near Sarasota on Siesta Key (www.siestakeychamber.com) earned the top spot for its soft sand, which is 99 percent pure crushed quartz.
Grayton Beach State Park (www.graytonbeach.com), in the Panhandle between Panama City Beach and Destin, ranked No. 4 because of its turquoise waters and smooth white sand. People can camp and hike in the park, and visit the tidal lakes and freshwater ponds.
You have to take a ferry, private boat or long walk from Clearwater Beach to visit Caladesi Island State Park in Dunedin/Clearwater (www.floridastateparks.org). It came in at No. 7 for its super-soft crystalline quartz sandy beaches that are caressed by emerald waters.
Florida’s many springs offer some great—and very cool, temperature-wise—opportunities for swimming, tubing and snorkeling this summer.
Among those offering water-based adventures are Ginnie Springs in Northwest Florida’s High Springs (www.ginniespringsoutdoors.com), Ichetucknee Springs in Fort White (www.floridastateparks.org) and Silver Glen Springs in the Ocala National Forest (www.floridasprings.org).
Recently, MSN listed its best hidden swimming holes in the nation. Florida’s Devil’s Den (www.devilsden.com)—a privately owned facility billed as a scuba diving training center—does not allow general swimming. However, it is open to snorkelers and certified scuba divers. The spring’s pool, which is 120 feet in diameter, is located below ground in an open cavern.
If you are planning a trip that costs more than $5,000—especially if it involves international travel—consider buying trip and travel insurance. Unfortunately, that is not straightforward.
Are you looking for flight coverage, other trip costs or medical coverage while away?
Some tour companies and cruise lines offer their own insurance, but check out insurance websites to compare coverages offered and costs.
Read the fine print to make sure the items you are interested in are included.
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Florida native Pamela A. Keene is a freelance journalist who specializes in travel, gardening, personality and feature writing. The avid traveler also is a photographer and accomplished sailor. Her website is www.pamelakeene.com.