Rocking and Reeling on the Emerald Coast

After the last Ice Age, Appalachian quartz crystals washed down from the mountains, traveling southward via rivers and creeks. Along the way, the 99 percent pure quartz finely ground.

Eventually, layer upon layer was deposited on the coast of northwest Florida. Fast forward to today. Families flock to perfect playgrounds along the shores of Destin, Fort Walton Beach and Okaloosa Island. No wonder these pristine, sugar-white beaches consistently top “Best Beach” lists.

Splish Splash

Take your pick of beachside relaxation, action or both.

  • Recharge beneath a beach umbrella, soothed by the sounds of gentle waves and laughing gulls, far away from big city clamor.
  • Snorkel from the beach or go below with a dive trip on a natural reef like Timber Hole, a submerged petrified forest.
  • Get soaked on 40 water slides and attractions for all ages at Big Kahuna’s Water Park.
  • Swim with the dolphins, play with otters and catch lively aquatic shows at the newly-renovated Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park.

Reel `Em In

Internationally recognized as the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village” and the “Billfish Capital of the Gulf,” a great catch is almost guaranteed along the Emerald Coast.

Destin’s East Pass is only 10 miles from the fertile fishing grounds of the 100 Fathom Curve. Boasting the largest charter boat fleet in Florida, Destin Charter Boat Association offers deep-sea, in-shore and bottom-fishing trips.

Landlubbers also have prime places to cast a line. Fish from the beach, the jetties or the Destin Bridge Catwalk. Extending more than 1,200 feet into the Gulf of Mexico, the Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier is open 24 hours every day during the summer. It’s a popular spot for reeling in dinner, panoramic coastline photos and sunset strolls.

Twenty edible fish are always in seasonal runs. Typical catches include red snapper, grouper, triggerfish, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, redfish and flounder. Much awaited by avid anglers, gag grouper (an odd nickname for a very tasty fish) season occurs July 1 through Oct. 31.

Why cook on vacation? Harbor-side restaurants cook catches with all the trimmings for a nominal amount.

Party On

There’s almost always a party-in-progress at the beach. Here’s a short sample of summer celebrations and hot party spots along the coast:

  • Join the Red, White and Blue Celebration with fireworks every Thursday night and Rock the Docks with free concerts every Saturday and Sunday night at HarborWalk Village at Emerald Grande.
  • Enjoy the show at Howl at the Moon, or boogie the night away at The Swamp at the Okaloosa Island Boardwalk.
  • Compete for prizes at one of the country’s largest charitable boating events, the Emerald Coast Poker Run Aug. 11, 2012.
  • And, it’s all about food and fun at the annual Greek Festival on Labor Day Weekend at the Emerald Coast Convention Center.

Score Summer Savings

Emerald Coast vacations are accessible and affordable. The beaches are less than a day’s drive from most of the southeast. Northwest Florida Regional Airport (VPS) offers daily flights from major markets like Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Charlotte and Washington D.C.

Compare lodging options and cash in on Emerald Specials at the Emerald Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau. Stop by the Visitor’s Center on Okaloosa Island for a warm welcome and a stash of discount coupons for eats, activities and shopping.

This article was brought to you by the Emerald Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau. To start planning your trip to Northwest Florida’s Emerald Coast, go to

Sponsored listings by VISIT FLORIDA Partners


You are signed in as:null