By Marnie Hunter, CNN, Updated 25th May 2022
(CNN) — A wild expanse on North Carolina’s Outer Banks has earned the top spot on an annual list of America’s best beaches.
Ocracoke Island’s Lifeguarded Beach is the No. 1 stretch of sand for 2022, according to coastal scientist Stephen Leatherman, also known as “Dr. Beach.”
Leatherman, a professor and director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University, has been ranking America’s best beaches since 1991.
He uses 50 criteria to evaluate 650 public beaches in the US. The criteria include beach width, sand softness, water temperature and color, wildlife and more.
The Lifeguarded Beach on Ocracoke Island rose to No. 1 this year from its No. 3 ranking in 2021. The beach is part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and is operated by the National Park Service.
“I like this area because it has the three things that you must have to make a great beach: clean sand, clean water and beach safety,” Leatherman told CNN Travel Wednesday morning from the shores of Ocracoke, where it was windy with a small surf.