The white sugar sand along Grayton Beach State Park along Florida’s panhandle is the best in the nation, according to a ranking by a coastal scientist who has made the list for 30 years.
It is one of two Florida beaches on the 2020 list by Stephen “Dr. Beach” Leatherman. Caladesi Island State Park was No. 6.
“It's some of the finest white sand in the world,” Leatherman said. “The first time I saw it I felt like I had to put on sunglasses it was so bright. Some people thought it was snow. I said, 'No that's not snow!’ The sand is the highest quality in the world. It's pure quartz crystal.”
Beaches in North and South Carolina, California and Massachusetts made the list.
Leatherman looks at 50 criteria for his rankings, including sand softness, water temperature and the size of breaking waves. Wildlife like shorebirds helps. Pesky biting flies, ticks and mosquitoes do not. Beaches with smoking bans and that are staffed with lifeguards also earn extra points, Leatherman said.
Although it does not have a smoking ban, Grayton Beach State Park earned its points on its beauty. It has 4.5 miles of trails through a pine scrub forest. Large dunes dominate the coastline coastline and emerald water laps at the 1.5 miles of sand. There are also freshwater freshwater ponds, a geological rarity. The park typically attracts 500 to 1,000 people during peak summer days.
Ben Faure manages 37 state parks in the Panhandle for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
“Grayton Beach is one of the gems along the Emerald Coast of Florida,” Faure said. “We like to call it a desert oasis. It really is a unique place with the sugar-white sands that are almost 99.9% pure quartz. Your feet squeak as you walk on the beach, it's so pure.”
- Grayton Beach State Park in Florida Panhandle
- Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach in Outer Banks, North Carolina
- Coopers Beach in Southampton, New York
- Duke Kahanamoku Beach in Oahu, Hawaii
- Lighthouse Beach in Buxton, North Carolina
- Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin/Clearwater, Florida
- Hapuna Beach on Big Island, Hawaii
- Coast Guard Beach on Cape Cod, Massachusetts
- Coronado Beach in San Diego, California
- Beachwalker Park on Kiawah Island, South Carolina.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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