Fort Walton Beach, Destin and Seaside
Incredible deep-sea fishing is just one highlight of this driving tour through Fort Walton Beach, Destin, and Seaside.
The Indian Temple Mound Museum, 139 Miracle Strip Pkwy., adjacent to the Temple Mound in the historic downtown area of Fort Walton Beach, was the first city-owned museum in Florida. The Temple Mound, a National Historic Landmark, is an Indian earthwork used as a ceremonial and burial site more than 1,000 years ago, and the museum is recognized for having one of the finest collection of prehistoric ceramics in the Southeast United States. Hours: September to May: Monday to Friday, 12-4:30 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; other months: Monday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., closed on holidays and Sundays. Call (850) 833-9595.
This trek starts with a sail into the wild blue yonder. Destin, where anglers fall hook, line, and sinker for deep sea fishing, offers the quickest deepwater access along the Gulf - so close that you can fish and still see the shore. It's the "World's Luckiest Fishing Village" and home to Florida's largest and best-equipped charter boat fleet. If you want to catch some of those fish instead of just watching them, try A Silver Lining Fishing Charter Service, east of the Destin Bridge behind AJ's Seafood & Oyster Bar. Capt. Ed Shields offers four- to 12-hour fishing charters for king mackerel, red snapper, grouper and more from March until November. Call (850) 259-4295.
The stretch of Highway 98 between Pensacola and Fort Walton is known as "Antiques Alley" because of the many antique shops dotting the roadside. Stop at your leisure to browse through linens, architectural garden gates, restored mantels and a slew of porcelain knick knacks. Who knows - you might get lucky and stumble across a concealed copy of the Declaration of Independence or one of Geronimo's buttons that he sold from his prison cell in Fort Pickens.
In the mood for a splurge? Cruise the parking lot of the Silver Sands Factory Stores, 10562 Emerald Coast Parkway, and plan your attack on this mega-designer outlet mall. Hours: 10 a.m. - 9 p.m., Mon. - Sat.; 10 a.m. - 6 p.m., Sun.; Hours Jan. 1 - Feb. 28: 10 a.m. - 7 p.m., Mon. - Sat.; Noon - 6 p.m., Sun.; call (850) 654-9771 for holiday hours; closed Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day..
For culture and heritage of a modern sort, head to Seaside, on County Road 30-A. A planned community patterned after quintessential American towns, it is brimming with cracker-style houses in Easter-egg colors. So postcard-perfect is this trendy beach village that it set the stage for Jim Carrey's movie, The Truman Show. A drive-by will give you an overview of the area, but if you want a taste of the town, rent a bike and pedal about the brick-paved roads, stopping to shop in the open-air market or to catch a concert under the stars in the town's grassy amphitheatre. Call 866-966-0545.