Nothing says summer like a day to soak up the sun and splash around on the beach. And if your definition of a perfect beach includes powdery white sand, calm waters, family-friendly amenities, and abundant wildlife, then it’s time to start planning a trip to Florida’s St. George Island State Park. The 1,962-acre park, part of the barrier island of St. George off the coast of the Sunshine State, was just named the best in the US by coastal expert Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, aka as Dr. Beach, in its annual ranking of America’s Best Beaches.
“St. George State Park has some of the finest whitest sand in the world,” Leatherman said. Travel + Leisure. “The park has nine miles of pristine, unobstructed beach with crystal clear, clean turquoise water.”
Part of Florida’s so-called “Forgotten Coast” that comprises beautiful and relatively hidden coastal destinations southwest of Tallahassee, St. George Island feels like a different world with around 1,000 permanent residents and no major real estate or commercial developments. .
The island is home to many family-owned bars and restaurants offering the freshest catch of the day, including Blue Parrot Oceanfront Café, a local favorite, offering patrons idyllic views of the ocean and lighthouse. Various independent grocery stores and boutiques make up a large part of the island’s business. While St. George was badly damaged by Hurricane Michael in 2018, the area’s beaches have since rebounded.
Tourists can get here by car via the Brian Patton Memorial Bridge. The closest airports are Tallahassee International Airport, about 80 miles away, and Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport in Panama City, about 100 miles northwest of St. George Island.
Since this area is so underdeveloped and devoid of light pollution, many visitors stay here long after sunset to enjoy some of the best stargazing conditions in the region. And during the day, its shores are teeming with vacationers who walk the beach, fish, swim, kayak, bird watch, and sunbathe. Nature enthusiasts can also book one of 60 campsites at their family campsites with a playground, electricity, and shared showers and toilets. A 2.5-mile nature trail takes visitors through picturesque pine forests and native coastal scrub.
The park can be enjoyed year-round and is open daily from 8 am. Entrance fees start at $2 for pedestrians and go up to $6 for vehicles. Another important thing to remember is that there are no lifeguards on duty.
This is Dr. Beach’s 33rd annual ranking of the best beaches in the country, for which it considers more than 50 criteria, including water and sand quality, safety and beach management.
Second and third place this year go to Duke Kahanamoku Beach in Oahu, Hawaii, and Coopers Beach in Southampton, New York.
You can read the full list of Dr. Beach’s Best Beaches of 2023 at drbeach.org.