Beachwalker Park named a top beach in country

Isabella Rodarte, 3, stops to look at a shell as she enjoys a day at the beach with her mother, Kelly McKinnon, in 2013 at Beachwalker Park on Kiawah Island. McKinnon, who works at Seabrook, said she prefers Kiawah over other area beaches because it is peaceful, uncrowded and more kid-friendly.

Kiawah Island’s Beachwalker Park has been named a Top 10 beach in a ranking released by Florida International University.

The list of the best beaches for the summer of 2015 puts the local park at No. 8.

Stephen Leatherman, an FIU professor known as “Dr. Beach,” issues the list annually using criteria including safety and cleanlinesss. He specializes in environment and coastal studies.

Beachwalker is located on the west end of Kiawah and has ocean frontage, a river view and the only public beach access on Kiawah. The park offers 11 miles of unspoiled beach and a wide boardwalk that weaves through live oaks, pines and palmettos. Amenities include a picnic area, snack bar, restrooms, dressing areas, showers and various beach rentals.

The park is operated through a cooperative agreement between Kiawah Development Partners, Charleston County Council and the county Park and Recreation Commission. Lifeguards are on duty seasonally along a beachfront designated swimming area. The top-ranked beach park on the list was Waimanalo Bay in Hawaii, where beaches have won the honor 14 of the 25 years Leatherman has published the ranking.

After Waimanalo, the other beaches on this year’s list are Barefoot Beach in Bonita Springs, Florida, in the No. 2 spot followed by St. George Island State Park on the Florida Panhandle. Hamoa Beach on Maui, Hawaii; Cape Hatteras, North Carolina; Cape Florida State Park in Key Biscayne; Coast Guard Beach on Cape Cod, Massachusetts; Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park in Naples, Florida; and East Beach in Santa Barbara, California.