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Cape Hatteras National Seashore Beaches Among Country's Best


Some of America's best beaches -- no matter what time of day -- can be found at Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Cape Hatteras sunset photo by Jim Dollar via flickr.

Perhaps you’ve noticed that Cape Hatteras National Seashore has made the top ten in Dr. Beach’s 2008 list of America’s Best Beaches. To put a finer point on it, Cape Hatteras Beach is ranked number eight.

This lofty ranking comes hard on the heels of the No. 1 ranking earned by another Cape Hatteras locale, Ocracoke Island’s Lifeguard Beach, in 2007. (Ocracoke would be in the top ten again, too, were it not for the no-repeat rule.)

There’s no doubt about it. You can look long and hard, but you’ll be very hard pressed to find better beaches than those at Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

The guy that media types call “Dr. Beach” is actually Dr. Stephen Leatherman, a professor at Florida International University. Although Dr. Leatherman has been releasing his best beaches list on Memorial Day weekend since 1991, he’s not just some gadabout beach booster. Dr. Leatherman has loads of professional experience, a basket full of accolades, and tremendous street 'cred' with the coastal beaches and storms crowd. (I’m keenly aware of these things because he once interviewed for a position we offered at the University of South Carolina.)

Dr. Leatherman’s Ph.D. in Environmental (Coastal) Sciences dates to 1976. He’s forgotten more things about coastal storm impacts than most people have ever learned. For many years he served on the National Academy of Science Post-Storm Disaster Field Team. These are the experts that inside-the-Beltway number crunchers dispatch to hurricane-impacted areas to survey the damage.

Since 1997 Dr. Beach has been director of the International Hurricane Research Center as well as the director of IHRC’s Laboratory of Coastal Research. In addition to making hundreds of conference, workshop, and media presentations, giving numerous invited talks all over the world, granting scads of television, radio, and newspaper interviews, and giving expert testimony before congressional committees ten times, Dr. Leatherman has authored or edited 16 books (another hurricane book will soon be out) and published over 200 refereed journal articles and technical reports. That’s about three career’s worth.
If this guy says that Cape Hatteras has a top ten quality beach, you can take it to the banks. The Outer Banks, that is.


No doubt that Cape Hatteras has some great beaches - but if "Dr. Beach" has a "no repeat" rule - doesn't that meant that there are about 180 beachs out there now that can claim to be one of the Nation's "Top 10 Beaches'?

Sabattis, it seems like every time I turn around I find you yanking my chain. :o) OK, here's the deal with that "no-repeat" rule. A beach that attains the number one ranking is retired from the list. Ocracoke Island's Lifeguard Beach was ranked number one in 2007, so the no-repeat rule rendered it ineligible for consideration this year. If Cape Hatteras Beach is ever ranked number one, it too will be retired from the list. Meanwhile, it is eligible to be be listed every year, and so is every other beach that has never been ranked number one.

Add this to my list of "must do before too much longer." I feel so deprived. ;-)

I'm no expert, but my only argument here is that CHNS deserves to be higher up on the list! Where else can you find such an unspoiled, fragile ecosystem? Perfect vacation spot. Dreaming of the day I retire to a quiet cottage in the shadows of Cape Hatteras Lighthouse... I'm open to offers to take a B&B off a frazzled innkeeper's hands as well! :)

I cannot understand why he includes beaches in the Hamptons. Beaches open only to residents and not to the general public. At least all NPS areas are open the whole pblic. Hard to beat the beaches of Cumberland Island and Fire Island that are free from roads and parking lots.

Hi Bob - I do hope that you don't take it personally. I'm obviously only here because I enjoy the blog, but my personality does often trend towards being the resident gadfly. Thanks for explaining the "retirement rule" on this List - so I guess that means that there are only 28 beaches that can claim to be on the "Top 10 Beaches in America" list... Not so bad, I guess...

No offense taken, Sabattis. (And anyway, I've been married 44 years and am quite used to punishment.) How did you derive that total of 28 beaches that can claim to be top-tenners?

Well, I believe it should actually only be 27. 17 winners from previous years can all claim a permanent "top beach" ranking, along with the 10 beaches on this year's list.

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