Faith Wise dances with a hula hoop at the Drum Circle. Sunday night on Siesta Key Beach. [Herald Tribune photo / Carla Varisco]
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SIESTA KEY — For the second time in seven years, Siesta Beach earned the equivalent of an environmental Oscar: the No. 1 Beach in America.

The beautiful stretch of white sand — known the world over for its glittering white quartz crystals — previously won the award from Stephen “Dr. Beach” Leatherman in 2011, a distinction that likely drew thousands of tourists to the region who otherwise might not have visited Sarasota County and the broader region.

Last year, Siesta wasn’t far from the top, earning second place on Leatherman’s annual list. Dr. Beach reset the clock on his list, allowing beaches that have previously been named No. 1 to receive recognition again.

“People say, ‘Your list should be the same every year,’” Leatherman said. “No, it shouldn’t. Things do change.”

He praised Siesta Key for $21 million in renovations that improved the beach experience. Leatherman specifically complimented the beach for its expanded parking and bus service that brings visitors to the beach for free.

Two other Florida beaches made Dr. Beach’s 2017 Top 10 as well, Grayton Beach State Park (No. 4) and Caladesi State Park (No. 7).

Siesta Beach has also been ranked No. 1 by TripAdvisor in 2015 and 2017.

Despite all the previous attention, tourism promoters were thrilled about the latest accolade.

“It is an honor for Siesta Beach to receive this recognition for a second time,” said Virginia J. Haley, president of Visit Sarasota County, the community’s tourism promotions agency. “The investments by Sarasota County to improve the amenities offered at the beach have paid off with this No. 1 ranking.”

“These investments only add to the pristine beauty Siesta Beach.”

Top 10 U.S. beaches 2017
The 2017 list of Top 10 beaches in the U.S., compiled by Florida International University professor Stephen Leatherman, also known as “Dr. Beach.”
1. Siesta Beach, Siesta Key
2. Kapalua Bay Beach, Maui, Hawaii
3. Ocracoke Beach, Outer Banks, North Carolina
4. Grayton Beach State Park, Florida Panhandle
5. Coopers Beach, Southampton, New York
6. Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
7. Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin/Clearwater
8. Hapuna Beach State Park, Big Island, Hawaii
9. Coronado Beach, San Diego, California
10. Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, South Carolina.

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