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Magazine selects Sanibel as top family beach on Gulf Coast

By Staff | Jun 30, 2009

The current issue of Men’s Journal magazine boasts something that locals and visitors alike have known for quite some time: the beaches of Sanibel Island are among the best anywhere in the United States.

Men’s Journal ranked the 20 best beaches in America by their location and best uses of what they have to offer.

For example, the beaches are separated by region – Hawaii and California, Gulf Coast, Northeast, Northwest and Southeast – and then categorized as best sports beach, secluded beach, family beach and party beach.

Sanibel’s Lighthouse Beach is featured as the best family beach that the Gulf Coast – and, in fact, all of Florida – has to offer.

On Monday, beachgoers were in full agreement with that analysis.

“It’s nice and clean here,” said Gabby DeRocher, a visitor from Hesperia, Calif. “There is enough room so that everyone can enjoy themselves without feeling like they’re on top of one another.”

DeRocher’s friend, Rose Riley of Lowell, Mass., concurred.

“We were told that this beach was beautiful, and it is,” she said. “The shelling is terrific, but we’ve got to come back during low tide.”

According to the magazine, Sanibel was chosen because, “The water here is warm, calm and shallow, making it ideal for the kids; the beach is perfect for sandcastles and is loaded with shells, especially when low tide exposes its offshore sandbars.”

The only other Florida beach to be listed in the magazine is Key West, cited for its party atmosphere at Mallory Square.

The Larson family – Erik, Rosie and Anabelle – chose to come to Lighthouse Beach this week because his mother had been here before and remarked about what a beautiful spot it was.

“This place is great for shelling, we saw some dolphins swimming by and tried to do some snorkeling, too,” said Erik Larson, who lives in Boynton Beach, Fla. “We’re definitely going to come back again. This beach is gorgeous.”

Other Gulf Coast beaches lauded by Men’s Journal include Grand Isle, La. (sports beach), Padre Island National Seashore, Texas (secluded beach) and South Padre Island, Texas (party beach).

The four other top family beaches cited include Hunting Island, S.C., Coronado, Calif., Cannon Beach, Ore. and Crescent Beach on Block Island, R.I.

Bridgit Stone-Budd, of the Sanibel Island & Captiva Island Chamber of Commerce, said the organization was not aware of being mentioned in the magazine.

She added that despite the doom and gloom that some publications cite as the current state of tourism, it is good to be mentioned in a positive light.

“We are delighted to have been recognized by Men’s Journal for our beautiful beaches,” Stone-Budd said. “Our visitors tell us time and time again we have a paradise here on Sanibel and Captiva.”

She said the chamber’s membership numbers have remained steady throughout the tough economic times.

Tourist traffic on the island has also remained steady throughout the season, though Stone-Budd admits that the demographic of the visitors has changed a bit. Instead of heavy spending in restaurants, visitors have doing more shopping in grocery stores and eating casually.

“Our traffic in the visitor center is higher than normal this time of the year. Our beaches are full, traffic is heavier than normal, but it seems to me we’re having more day-trippers,” Stone-Budd said. “They’re not shopping as we’d like or eating in the restaurants as much as we’d like, but it’s different and we’re rolling with it.”

The July/August issue of Men’s Journal, featuring Lance Armstrong on the cover, is currently available on newsstands.

(Breeze Newspapers reporter Drew Winchester contributed to this story.)