By LAURA BLY, USA Today — After almost 30,000 online votes and several hundred tweets, voting for the best beach town in Florida is over. Thanks for participating, and please stay tuned to this space as we tally the votes and announce a winner.
ORIGINAL POST: With thousands of snowbirds pointing their convertibles south to the Sunshine State for a dose of winter warmth, we asked “Dr. Beach”— aka Florida International University professor and coastal expert Stephen P. Leatherman — for 10 Florida destinations that combine sand, surf and a welcoming sense of community. His favorites, in alphabetical order:
Clearwater Beach: Meet “volleyball heaven” on the Gulf Coast, with “some of the best girl- and boy-watching I’ve ever seen” near Pier 60.
Cocoa Beach: This onetime astronaut hangout near the Kennedy Space Center is famous for the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, along with “a great pier and surf shop,” Ron Jon’s, whose flagship store will be celebrating its 50th anniversary next year.