The Forgotten Coast: The Best Beach In America
June 16, 2023
St. George Island State Park: The Best Beach In America
Its name, The Forgotten Coast, sounds like something straight out of an adventure novel.
The name, The Forgotten Coast, takes you to a place filled with excitement, exploration, and daring escapades. Well, the Forgotten Coast is real, and very, very beautiful. So beautiful indeed it was named the best beach in America by Dr. Beach, a guy who got his doctorate in beaches. Just kidding, but he really does have his Ph.D. in Environmental Coastal Sciences from the University of Virginia along with his undergrad in Geosciences from North Carolina State University. If anyone knows beaches, it’s this guy, Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman.
Dr. Leathermona is the Professor and Director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University. He’s authored or edited 16 books, over 200 journal articles and technical reports, was the on-screen host and co-producer of the 1992 film “Vanishing Lands; and provided expert testimony for the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives. As one of the world’s foremost beach experts, he runs the website Drbeach.org.
So, when he ranks beaches, people notice. And his best beaches list for 2023 has one of the premier Florida beaches on St. George Island in the top spot.
In Florida’s panhandle, Franklin County is known as the Forgotten Coast due to its natural, unspoiled, white sandy beaches of the Gulf Coast that haven’t been overridden by commercial properties such as strip malls, high-rise condos, and other pavement. The Forgotten Coast, what it's affectionately called by locals, is a 130 mile long stretch of coastline running through four counties, Bay, Gulf, Franklin and Wakulla; from Mexico Beach to St. Marks, including the areas of Port St.
The crown beach jewel of the Forgotten Coast is the 1.962 acre park found in St. George Island State Park. Located on St. George Island, the state park has nine miles of some of the softest, finest and whitest sandy beaches in the world, along with turquoise water and family-owned beach bars, once you see this place in person, you won’t want to leave. And some people don’t.
With about 1,000 locals and no large real estate or commercial developments, visitors don’t come to St. George Island State Park to be entertained, but to peacefully and completely relax. “The park has nine miles of unobstructed pristine beach with crystal clear and clean turquoise water,” Dr. Leatherman told Travel & Leisure, “St. George State Park boasts some of the finest, whitest sand in the world.” And he should know. After all, a lot of what he does is researching beaches as a scientist, then ranking them on his website.
There are no better beaches for looking for and collecting shells, and beachcombing.
The shoreline is active during the summer months as sea turtles, shore birds such as the willet, black skimmer, least tern, and snowy plover lay their nests within the park. Gaze at the water long enough and you’re sure to see a dolphin, a common sight in the Gulf and the bayside.
When you’re done at the beach, the park has six large picnic shelters that have grills, tables, and restrooms close by. Some pavilions can be reserved for a small fee, but not on summer holidays of Memorial Day or 4th of July. Campgrounds are about four miles away from the ranger station and have 60 campsites with water, electricity, and a central dumping station, along with two bathhouses. Two rough-neck, primitive campsites can only be accessed by a 2.5 mile trail or by canoe or kayak. This campsite is popular with boy and girl scout groups, or other groups.
Annual events and festivals include Coffee in the Campground from November - February, Coastal Cleanups in September, and weekly programs in the fall and winter. There’s also other events and ranger programs to participate in as you explore the park’s natural resources, rich vegetation, and spectacular shorelines.
Home to celebrities like Jimmy Buffett and Hank Williams, Jr, St. George Island also attracts famous visitors such as Angelina Jolie and Kid Rock, among others.
Whether you want to sunbathe, play on the beach, eat good food, hang with friends, visit one of the family-friendly amenities, or check out the natural vegetation and spectacular wildlife, St. George State Park has you covered.
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