Move over, Florida and Hawaii. Your beaches are no longer the best.
The nation's best place to get a tan and enjoy the ocean's waves in 2007 is North Carolina's Ocracoke Island, a place so remote that even people in the offices of "Dr. Beach" -- Florida International University professor Stephen Leatherman -- didn't know where to find it on the map.
"It's not the end of the world, but you can see it from here," Leatherman said from Ocracoke, the first beach not in Florida or Hawaii to earn the top spot in his annual ranking of the nation's top 10 spots on the shore.
Technically, it's Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach that is the nation's best. But Leatherman said there's little that separates those 300 yards of postcard-perfect sand from the rest of the island, almost all of which is protected from development as part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
Ocracoke is accessible only by boat or private plane and there are only about 800 full-time residents of the island where the pirate Blackbeard met his untimely death at the hands of the Royal Navy in 1718.
"Here, you have 14 miles of unspoiled, undisturbed barrier beach," said Leatherman, director of Florida International's laboratory for coastal research. "Where do you find that in the world?"
The best beaches for 2007, according to rankings compiled by Dr. Stephen Leatherman, a coastal expert and university professor known as "Dr. Beach."
1. OCRACOKE LIFEGUARDED BEACH Outer Banks, N.C.
2. CALADESI ISLAND STATE PARK Clearwater, Fla.
3. COOPERS BEACH Southampton, N.Y.
4. HANALEI BEACH Kauai, Hawaii
5. COAST GUARD BEACH Cape Cod, Mass.
6. HAMOA BEACH Maui, Hawaii
7. MAIN BEACH East Hampton, N.Y.
8. CORONADO BEACH San Diego, Calif.
9. LIGHTHOUSE POINT PARK Daytona Beach, Fla.
10. SIESTA BEACH Sarasota, Fla.
PAINT THE TOWN
Get your artistic fix while catching some rays at Paint Out 2007 in Rehoboth Beach, Del., Friday through June 24. About 30 artists will be scattered outdoors throughout the beach town practicing their craft, each producing several paintings during the weekend. Visitors can watch the artists paint, then bid on the results at an auction and reception June 24 at the Bellmoor Inn, 6 Christian St., Rehoboth Beach.
Paint Out 2007 takes place in downtown Rehoboth Beach from 9 a.m. to dark Friday and Saturday. June 24, the artists will paint from 9 a.m. until the event concludes with the art auction at 4 p.m. Admission is free. Information: 302-227-8408 or rehobothartleague.org.
WHAT YOU THINK
OUR WEEKLY POLL
This week's question: What's your favorite beach activity? To vote, go to baltimoresun.com / baybeach. Results from last week's poll. What is the main attraction for visitors to Ocean City?
50 percent, Boardwalk; 46 percent, beach; 4 percent, golfing
THE SMART TRAVELER
10 FOR THE ROAD
The highest-rated large (100-plus rooms) hotels in the world, from Zagat Survey's 2007 / 2008 World's Top Hotels, Resorts and Spas guide:
1. Four Seasons George V, Paris 2. Peninsula, Chicago 3. Peninsula, Bangkok, Thailand 4. Peninsula, Hong Kong 5. Oriental, Bangkok 6. Four Seasons, Chicago 7. Four Seasons, Budapest, Hungary 8. Mandarin Oriental, Miami 9. Peninsula, Los Angeles 10. Four Seasons, Las Vegas
Rules eased in wake of backlog
If you have applied for a passport so you can fly to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean, but you haven't received it, here's a bit of good news. Through the end of September, you can fly to those destinations without a passport as long as you can present a State Department receipt at the airport showing you already applied for one. You must also show government-issued identification, such as a driver's license. (Go to the State Department Web site -- travel.state.gov -- to print a receipt that confirms that your application is being processed.)
The easing of the passport rule only affects those who have already applied for passports -- not those who apply in coming days for travel later this summer. The change was announced because of a backlog in processing passport applications in response to new rules implemented in January.
Spirit of Freedom garden blooms
The first Florida resort designed to meet the standards of the U.S. Green Building Council's rating system is set to open in August. The Sandpearl Resort in Clearwater Beach will have a geothermal system to heat the pool and spas by capturing solar energy stored in the soil, and an energy management system that regulates room temperatures based on occupancy (occupied rooms are kept cooler). It will also have a salt bromine pool-filtration system, eliminating chlorine waste; a cool-water air-conditioning system that allows for higher quality air; and an ozone laundry system that reduces water consumption. Standard double rates start at $250. More details at sandpearl.com.
[NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE]