National Park Service (NPS)

Ocracoke Beach is No. 4 in nation, new boardwalk ramp opens

The newly renovated boardwalk to the Lifeguard Beach, which also received the No. 4 honor in Dr. Beach's annual "Top 10 Beaches in the United States."

The newly renovated boardwalk to the Lifeguard Beach allows wheelchair access. The beach also received the No. 4 honor in Dr. Beach’s annual “Top 10 Beaches in the United States.”

The Ocracoke Day Use Beach here, also known as the Lifeguard Beach, has been named the No. 4 beach in the 26th annual Top 10 Beach List, produced by coastal expert Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, professor at Florida International University.

This is the second time Ocracoke has made “Dr. Beach’s” top 10 beaches in the United States. It received the No. 1 honor in 2007.

The No. 1 beach this year is Hanauma Bay Beach Park is located on the eastern end of Oahu, Hawaii.

Starting this year, extra credit is being awarded to beaches that prohibit smoking, and the list of best beaches is beginning anew.  So all beaches have a chance again of making the list.

As “Dr.Beach,” Leatherman has selected the annual Top 10 Beaches since 1991.

Fifty criteria are used to evaluate beaches, which include water and sand quality as well as safety and management.

More emphasis is being placed on environmental management and beach safety.

Bonus points are awarded for prohibition of smoking on beaches. Oahu is leading the way as smoking at all beaches on this Hawaiian island is now banned.

Leatherman’s annual ranking of beaches uses “50 Criteria” to provide a useful scorecard for anyone deciding on a beach destination.

One of Leatherman’s criteria is “trash and litter (paper, plastics, nets, ropes, planks)” found on the beach during the vacation season.  Other obvious and potential detractors include floating waste, oil and tar balls, glass and rubble.

The vast Lifeguard Beach on Ocracoke.

The vast Lifeguard Beach on Ocracoke.

“Cigarette butts are the number one form of litter on beaches,” he said in a story about last year’s winners in the Tallahassee Democrat. “Plastics–in terms of volume, but in terms of numbers it’s cigarette butts. So I’m giving extra credit for no smoking.”

In addition, the newly renovated ramp for the Lifeguard Beach opened this weekend.

The new boardwalk provides accessibility to a new viewing platform as well as direct, American Barriers Act-compliant wheelchair access to the beach.

The new boardwalk to the Lifeguard Beach is accessible for wheelchairs.

The new boardwalk to the Lifeguard Beach is accessible for wheelchairs.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony is being planned for early June to celebrate the opening of this new viewing platform and boardwalk, as well as the new off road vehicle route Ramp 63 which is nearing completion.

Leatherman is an internationally known coastal scientist who has published 20 books and hundreds of scientific articles and reports about storm impacts, coastal erosion and ways to improve beach health and safety.

For Dr. Beach’s website about the top 10 beaches, click here.

To read the Observer’s story last year about Ocracoke’s beaches, click here.

Dr. Beach’s 2016 top 10 beaches:

  1. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, Oahu, Hawaii
  2. Siesta Beach Sarasota, Florida
  3. Kapalua Bay Beach, Maui, Hawaii
  4. Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach, Outer Banks of North Carolina
  5. Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
  6. Grayton Beach State Park Florida panhandle
  7. Coronado Beach, San Diego, California
  8. Coopers Beach, Southampton, New York
  9. Caladesi Island State Park Dunedin/Clearwater, Florida
  10. Beachwalker Park Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Observer staff photos
Posted May 28, 2016; 11:15 a.m.