(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.

Ocracoke is only accessible via private plane or boat and ferry service, which accommodates cars and RVs.

Some of the country’s wildest beaches are found here, according to Leatherman. He cautions that families with children might want to visit earlier in the summer as late summer brings big surf.

“Don’t expect to play golf or stay at the Ritz; the main pursuits are swimming and beachcombing as well as exploring the historical village,” Leatherman said in the beach’s description on his annual list.

What NOT to pack? Golf clubs and high heels, Visit Ocracoke says. “This is an island, but it’s not a resort,” its website says. Walking to dinner in casual attire — even for Ocracoke’s most upscale eateries — is encouraged.

Beachfront accommodation is limited to one National Park Service campground, so most visitors stay in the village a couple miles from the beach.

More of the top US beaches

A second Outer Banks beach, Lighthouse Beach in Buxton on Hatteras Island is No. 6 this year. This beach was the site of the old spiral-striped Cape Hatteras Lighthouse until erosion prompted its move about 3,000 feet inland in 1999.

The No. 2 beach for 2022 is Caladesi Island State Park in Dunedin/Clearwater, Florida, with its crystalline quartz sand and clear waters.
Coopers Beach, backed by sand dunes and extravagant mansions in Southampton, New York, takes the No. 3 spot.

Beaches in California, South Carolina and Massachusetts appear in the second half of the rankings.

Here’s the full Top 10 list:

Top 10 beaches list for 2022

1. Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach, Outer Banks of North Carolina

2. Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin/Clearwater, Florida

3. Coopers Beach, Southampton, New York

4. St. George Island State Park, Florida Panhandle

5. Duke Kahanamoku Beach, Oahu, Hawaii

6. Lighthouse Beach, Buxton, Outer Banks of North Carolina

7. Coronado Beach, San Diego, California

8. Wailea Beach, Maui, Hawaii

9. Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, South Carolina

10. Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Quoted from Various Sources
Published for: Valentino Pattaya