Siesta Key Beach has been ranked the #1 beach in the U.S. May 27, 2011: Siesta Key Beach Named the Nation’s Best! As the AP put it, “After years as a head-turning bridesmaid in the best-beach rankings, Sarasota’s Siesta Beach is finally the bride.” The wide slice of brilliant white sand and warm, emerald water on Florida’s southwest Gulf coast was named the best beach in the United States today in an annual survey by Florida International University professor Stephen P. Leatherman, aka “Dr. Beach.”
Siesta Key Beach, 40 acres of almost pure quartz sand on the Siesta Key barrier island, was runner-up in Leatherman’s rankings the past two years (2010 & 2009) and was third in 2008.
“The sand is like sugar,” said Leatherman, director of FIU’s Laboratory for Coastal Research. “Some people can’t believe it. You have to have sunglasses because it’s so bright. It’s super soft, super fine. I use 50 criteria to rate every beach, and in terms of sand alone Siesta Key is definitely the best in the world,” Dr. Leatherman said. Science backs up the hyperbole: Siesta Key’s beach is 99 percent limestone quartz, which stays consistently cool and silky. Why the other archipelagic islands nearby didn’t get the same sacred sand is harder to explain. Hop over to Lido Key to the north, or Casey Key to the south, and you’ll find the more typical crushed-shell beaches that are beautiful but make bare footing a painful proposition when the sun is searing. Leatherman’s 50 criteria include the look and feel of the sand, water quality, weather, facilities and crowds. The highest possible score is 250. Siesta Key Beach scored in the 230s.
Now that Siesta Beach has reached the pinnacle of Dr. Beach’s list, it has been retired from consideration for future rankings.
Travel Channel named Siesta Key Beach as the “Best Sand Beach in America” for 2003. Siesta Beach was chosen to the “Elite” list by a panel of beach experts using various criteria including cleanliness, sand quality and surrounding areas. The panel experts praised the sand’s color, powder-soft touch and cool temperature.