<p><strong>A <a href="http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/great-blue-heron/">great blue heron</a> searches for fish on the incoming tide at Siesta Beach in Sarasota, <a href="http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/united-states/florida-guide/">Florida</a>, in 2009.</strong></p><p>Siesta Beach topped the list of ten best U.S. beaches of 2011 as chosen by <a href="http://www.drbeach.org/">Stephen Leatherman</a>, a coastal scientist at Florida International University who is better known as "Dr. Beach."</p><p>Siesta's crescent-shaped beach boasts some of the finest, whitest sand in the world and has clear, warm waters that are perfect for swimming, Leatherman said.</p><p>(<a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/05/photogalleries/best-green-beaches-2009/">See pictures of the best beaches of 2009</a>.)</p><p>It's also one of the few beaches around the country where smoking is not allowed, which is one reason it's so pristine.</p><p>"You can smoke in the parking lot but when you walk over the boardwalk, it's no smoking," Leatherman said.</p><p><em>—Ker Than</em></p>

Siesta Beach, Florida

A great blue heron searches for fish on the incoming tide at Siesta Beach in Sarasota, Florida, in 2009.

Siesta Beach topped the list of ten best U.S. beaches of 2011 as chosen by Stephen Leatherman, a coastal scientist at Florida International University who is better known as "Dr. Beach."

Siesta's crescent-shaped beach boasts some of the finest, whitest sand in the world and has clear, warm waters that are perfect for swimming, Leatherman said.

(See pictures of the best beaches of 2009.)

It's also one of the few beaches around the country where smoking is not allowed, which is one reason it's so pristine.

"You can smoke in the parking lot but when you walk over the boardwalk, it's no smoking," Leatherman said.

—Ker Than

Photograph by Richard Peters, Alamy

Pictures: Ten Best U.S. Beaches of 2011 Named

From a bird lover's paradise to the whitest sands in the world—see the best shores of 2011 as chosen by a coastal scientist.

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