This time of year, the dazzling white sands of South Walton become their most peaceful. Gem-toned waves sweep a gently sloping sand bottom – nice and calm for little ones. Every now and then, like magic, swarms of monarch butterflies color the land like delicate, winged stained-glass windows.
In the fall, the South Walton area on northwest Florida's Emerald Coast comes to life, bringing with it a flurry of activities that go beyond the beach. From fall through the winter holidays, its 15 coastal neighborhoods celebrate the cool, peace and quiet with Autumn Tides seasons.
During Autumn Tides the temperatures are cooler, the sunsets are spectacular and accommodations offer great seasonal rates. The season is additionally complemented with unforgettable events that celebrate the region's natural attributes and penchant for the artistic.
Featuring the arts, culture, nature and culinary talents of the region, many of the fall events are ideal for couples getaways while others cater to families. In October, the Back to Nature Festival celebrates the region's opportunity for adventure in the great outdoors, including everything from kayaking to sandcastle-building.
In November, the Cultural Arts Alliance builds on the monarch migration to artistically engage youngsters during the Flutterby Children's Art Festival in Rosemary Beach. The festival gives kids a chance to dress up like butterflies and take wing in a colorful parade. Live entertainment, hands-on crafts, butterfly education booths, a butterfly garden, a rock climbing wall and inflatable party toys fill the weekend with flights of fancy.
Every fall day erupts with the spirit of family celebration in South Walton. Its coastline features 16 beach neighborhoods and is immeasurably wide in activities that kids crave.
A number of the coast's newer resort towns were planned with the safety and entertainment of families in mind. Along with a deep sense of community, these neighborhoods offer diverse vacation accommodations, beachfront kids' programs, shops and restaurants. The 2,400-acre Sandestin encompasses a marina, golf courses and two villages for shopping and dining.
Seaside set architectural standards with its new urban design, and pedestrian streets make it feel entirely hometown. Rosemary Beach, Alys Beach, WaterColor and WaterSound also offer self-contained amenities, a wholesome atmosphere and architecturally winsome vacation homes and cottages.
Natural and Cultural Attractions
Classic communities line the beach with pristine parks, mom-and-pop motels, condos, beach homes and funky seafood restaurants. The oldest, Grayton Beach, is home to much of the area’s history, as well as iconic restaurants such as The Red Bar and the Hibiscus Coffee and Guesthouse Bed and Breakfast. The litany of beaches continues with Seascape, Miramar, Dune Allen, Santa Rosa Beach, Blue Mountain, Seagrove, Seacrest and Inlet Beach.
Grayton Beach is also known for its award-winning sands at Grayton Beach State Park. With its soft, towering dunes and forested tidal lakes, the park wins favor with families who come to sun, swim and camp. For a beach with even more wilderness, try Deer Lake State Park, where you hike between dunes to reach secluded sugar sands. The beach at Seaside is especially family-friendly, given its close proximity to affordable restaurants and its marketplace.
Seaside's shops range from a collection of open-air booths to fine art galleries and the popular Modica Market for food. Ice cream stands, a beachside grill and other casual eateries satisfy family hunger pangs.
Go ahead, indulge in pizza and gelato. South Walton gives you plenty of choices for exercise that are more fun than strenuous. Rent bikes and head to the looped Eastern Lake Trail System of Point Washington State Forest. The three loops range in length from 3.5 to 11 miles.
Sandestin is a good place to headquarter on-the-water adventures. Complimentary canoe, kayak and boogie board rentals are a few of the beach services offered.
For more information on fun family forays to South Walton, call 800-822-6877 or visit www.visitsouthwalton.com.