WENDY VICTORA | Special to Destin.com
The snow white sand, turquoise waters and spectacular dunes have once again earned Grayton Beach State Park a top spot on a prestigious beach ranking.
“Dr. Beach,” also known as Dr. Stephen Leatherman, released his list in May, placing the state park in Walton County in the No. 6 spot.
“You’ve got to let your feet feel that sand. It’s almost sacrilegious to walk around with shoes on that.”
He said the only thing that could make it better would be if it was a “no-smoking” beach, meaning signs were posted prohibiting lighting up on the beach.
“I’m giving extra credit to no-smoking beaches,” said Leatherman, who is an environmental scientist and coastal expert.
This is the 26th year he’s compiled his top beaches rankings. Once a beach was No. 1 on the national list, he “retired” it from future competition, which meant many of the Panhandle beaches have been passed over in recent years.
Grayton Beach won in 1991, the first year of competition.
This year, he’s starting all over and national winners are back on the table for consideration, he said.
Leatherman said water temperature, a long beach season and the large dunes in the park all contributed to its favored spot.
He also loves the “crystal quartz” sand on Panhandle beaches.
“You’ve got to let your feet feel that sand,” he said Thursday. “It’s almost sacrilegious to walk around with shoes on that.
“The first time I saw it, I thought it was snow.”
Park Manager Matthew Allen said he was pleased but not surprised that his park’s beaches were getting national attention.
“I think we’ve got the best beach in the state, probably the best in the world,” he said. “But we can’t be No. 1 all the time.”
Top 10 Beaches 2016
10. Beachwalker Park, Kiaweh Island, South Carolina
9. Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin/Clearwater, Florida
8. Coopers Beach, Southampton, New York
7. Coronado Beach, San Diego, California
6. Grayton Beach State Park
5. Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
4. Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach, Outer Banks of North Carolina
3. Kapalua Bay Beach, Maui, Hawaii
2. Siesta Beach, Sarasota, Florida
1. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, Oaho, Hawaii