If you’re planning your Florida getaway, put these beaches and resorts on your list.
Wide, dune-bordered and wind-swept, the beach at WaterColor Inn & Resort draws you in. Located along Florida’s Emerald Coast, a nickname that derives from the region’s shimmering green waters, WaterColor Inn & Resort is a resort and residential community that sprawls on 499 acres.
At WaterColor, you can walk for miles. Head west and cross onto the soft white sands of Grayton Beach State Park whose nature trails loop past sea oats and scrub oak and wind around dunes blossoming with white morning glory, purple lupine, and golden aster flowers. Head east along the shore and you come to Seaside, a gingerbread-trimmed beach cottage community personifying “cute.”
WaterColor offers a hotel, condominiums and homes. Most of the upmarket accommodations feature a tasteful country décor that includes pine armoires, plank tables, and porch rockers. WaterColor is the kind of place where families bicycle past lawns edged with palmettos and where mornings begin with early beach walks to spot blue herons and sandpipers.
You can take your kids canoeing and kayaking on Western Lake or sign-on for a coastal paddle to search for dolphins and sea turtles with Blue Sky Kayaking. The resort also offers fishing as well as golf and tennis. Camp WaterColor keeps kids ages 3 to 12 kids busy with arts and crafts and beach walks although there are more options in summer when attendance is greater. High-season here coincides with summer’s warm temperatures.
Each year “Dr. Beach,” a.k.a. Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, a professor and director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University, chooses 10 top US beaches based on 50 criteria. These include the size of breaking waves from high (dangerous) to low (safe); the underwater slope; the softness of the sand; the bathing area bottom condition; and the amount of algae in the water.
Three Florida beaches made the 2016 list.
Siesta Beach, Sarasota, FL, comes in at number two. Dr. Leatherman praises the area’s wide, white sands and clear warm waters that make for ideal swimming conditions.
Grayton Beach State Park, Florida Panhandle
This beach, rated number six, is adjacent to WaterColor Inn & Resort’s beach. Dr. Leatherman likes the beach’s combination of emerald green waters and sand dunes as well as the state park’s proximity to nearby restaurants and lodging.
Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin/Clearwater, FL
Rated at number nine, Dr. Leatherman points out the soft sands, boardwalk trails and especially the kayak and canoe trails that wind you through the mangroves where you are likely to spot blue herons and other birds.