When it comes to beaches, Hawaii has nothing on the Hamptons - so says "Dr. Beach" Stephen P. Leatherman, who just named Southampton's Coopers Beach the best stretch of sand in the country.
"It's one of those special places," Leatherman said Thursday, praising Coopers' clean sand, refreshing water and "great salty air" over other top beach contenders in Florida, California and yes - even Hawaii. What also helps, Leatherman said, is the village beach's lush setting. "It's so beautiful with big grass-covered sand dunes, great people-watching and beautiful mansions."
Leatherman, director of Florida International University's Coastal Research Laboratory, makes his annual picks after weighing beaches by 50 criteria ranging from the caliber of changing facilities to the presence of offending odors. Among his deal-breakers: polluted waters or too-frequent closures. Leatherman's lone criticism at Coopers Beach: the "pricey" $40 parking fee for nonresidents.
While Coopers Beach and East Hampton's Main Beach have appeared in previous "Dr. Beach" rankings, this is the first time a New York beach has taken the top slot.
"It's pretty exciting," Southampton Mayor Mark Epley said. "Especially considering the competition."
Main Beach ranked No. 5 this year for what Leatherman attributes to its "classy" amenities and quaint village setting.
Dr. Beach's Top 10 Beaches 2010
1. Coopers Beach, Southampton
2. Siesta Beach, Sarasota, Fla.
4. Cape Hatteras, Outer Banks of North Carolina
5. Main Beach, East Hampton, New York
6. Kahanamoku Beach, Waikiki, Hawaii
7. Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Mass.
8. Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, South Carolina