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.

Well, Sabattis, I think it might take some more research on our part to get the exact answer. Unless we know for sure that the no-repeat rule has been in play since the first list was generated, we can't be sure that there weren't at least a few repeat winners of the #1 ranking. It's possible that Dr. Beach got sick and tired of giving the #1 spot to the same beach year after year and installed the no-repeat rule somewhere along the way in order to give other beaches a fighting chance. I think we should assemble a team of crack scientists to investigate this situation. The process will, of course, require on-site inspection of all the eligible beaches. Seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars (plus 36% overhead) should just about do it. I will be happy to serve as co-principle investigator.

Or, you could just rely on the magic of Google: ;-)

OK, OK. Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars and 25% overhead, but that's my final offer.

These beaches, along with last year's winner, Ocracoke, are always listed amongst the top ten. Even with ORV access. Imagine that!

However, the majority of the beaches within the CHNSRA are now closed, even to pedestrians due to the lawsuit filed by the Audobon Society, DOW, and the SELC agsinst the NPS. The lawsuit was intended to restrict/ban ORV usage in the area, but has now extended to even foot traffic in the "bird useage areas". You cannot even boat to these areas and walk the shore. A $5,000.00 fine and six months in jail are the penalty for doing do.

NPS Rangers are even culling other native predatory species, through either trapping/relocating or outright killing through gunfire, in the name of protecting migratory shorebird/turtle nesting sites. (Particularly Piping Plovers). The "relocated" species include, but are not limited to:

-Red Foxes
-Grey Foxes
-Feral Cats
-et al

Can we abide these transgressions against other indigenous species, who do not have the luck to be on the "Threatened" list? Do we dare interfere with natural selection? Some species removal numbers are in the hundreds within a several-month period. Without normal natural predation, other species such as snakes, rabbits, rats and mice will multiply inumerably. How will this affect the environment?

Who are we, but mere kindred to these creatures? We all share the right to life. How dare we "Play God" by attempting to recitfy what we believe to be man's folly in conservation of species. The laws of nature will always prevail, lest we forget.

Please pay close attention to what is going on in the CHNSRA. It is truly madness. Vist the area for yourself, and make your own decision.

Richmond, VA/Frisco, NC

The ground-nesting birds at Cape Hatteras will not tolerate any more pressure, indigenous or imported. Having the mere dozen nesting Piping Plovers getting their eggs predated or crushed demands extraordinary measures. Restrictions will be reversed in time if we all cooperate.

There has never been a nest crushed by an ORV. The only chick ever run over was by a Park Service vehicle. As of now the famous Cape Point is closed to everyone not just the ORVs. The only people allowed on the beach is Park Service personnel who monitor the birds. One of the best fishing spots on the East Coast is closed for THE BIRDS. Some of which are only on a watch list, not endangered.