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With beaches beginning to open their arms to visitors again, what better time to know what spots are among the best of the best to visit?

For the third year in a row, an NC beach is making a big splash in national rankings. Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach has been ranked as No. 2, the same spot from 2019.

Ocracoke Island is a combination of a quaint historic unincorporated village and undeveloped Cape Hatteras National Seashore, according to the Outer Banks website.

How to get to Ocracoke:

The island is accessed only by air or water, with two ferries carrying passengers from the mainland to the village, on the south sound side.

Hatteras/Ocaracoke Ferry – If you’re headed to Ocracoke Island from the North, you’ll need to catch the ferry in Hatteras Village for a ride to the North end of Ocracoke Island. This route runs surprisingly early, late, and frequently. Lines can still be long in Summer, so plan to get to the terminal early in season. Schedules and fees are available online

Another North Carolina beach, Lighthouse Beach in Buxton on the Outer Banks checks in at No. 5 on Stephen Leatherman’s list.

Leatherman, a coastal scientist and professor at Florida International University, has been drafting the list under the alias “Dr. Beach” since 1991.

Leatherman uses 50 criteria to evaluate beaches, with the most important categories being water cleanliness, safety and management of the beach environment and its facilities. Leatherman uses data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to grade the beaches on water quality and has been to all the beaches on his list.

For the No. 1 beach in the USA, travelers will need to book a trip to the Florida Panhandle. Grayton Beach State Park is the best US beach for 2020.