Kiawah Island's Beachwalker Park has again been named one of the nation's top 10 beaches on an annual list compiled by "Dr. Beach" Stephen P. Leatherman.
The beach made the list in 2009, 2008 and 2002, although South Carolina's beaches rarely make Leatherman's annual top 10 because of the coast's murky ocean water. Three years ago, the Kiawah resort and development paid $3 million to renourish a beach on its eastern tip. Since the project, the island has naturally expanded by an additional dune line.
Leatherman selects beaches using 50 criteria, including water quality and temperature, cleanliness, weather, sand, safety and facilities. Kiawah, with its miles of hard-packed sand beach, is a great place to ride a bicycle or go bird-watching. The island is home to the endangered piping plover and the more-common gulls, pelicans, ospreys and eagles.
Apparently, the $7 vehicle admission fee, the limited hours or four-month winter closures at Beachwalker didn't figure into the ranking either, although Dr. Beach does factor competition for other uses in his beach ratings. The beach is a Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission facility on the gated resort island.
Leatherman's No. 1 beach this year was Coopers Beach in Southhampton, N.Y., where $30-plus parking fees are the norm.