Winter in the Emerald Coast Florida
Packed with deals and discounts, late winter in Destin, Fort Walton Beach and Okaloosa Island lures those in the know.
Every destination has a shoulder season, and along Florida’s Emerald Coast – the Northwest coastline featuring City of Destin Destin, Okaloosa Island and Fort Walton Beach – the season just before Spring Break hits might just be the ideal time for a visit.
Temperatures are warm during the day and cool at night, and there’s virtually no humidity. The fish are running, and the savings are everywhere you look.
Whenever you visit, accommodations range from lush, family-sized condominiums to quaint retreats for couples. The dining scene rocks with fresh flavors from the Gulf, and there’s plenty to do, no matter what interests you.
Florida’s Emerald Coast was named one of Frommer’s top 10 destinations for 2010 – part of an exclusive list of undiscovered vacation spots and the only continental U.S. destination included on the list. So maybe it’s time to see for yourself what all the fuss is about: Beautiful sugar-white sand beaches on Okaloosa Island, Fort Walton Beach and throughout Destin, 60 percent of which will be preserved for eternity; more than 1,000 holes of championship golf, charming restaurants and shops, and, of course, the World’s Luckiest Fishing Village – Destin.
Late February and early March may just be the best time to discover the Emerald Coast, as the pre-Spring Break season promises both warm temperatures and hot values for travelers.
Through February and into March, the Holiday Surf & Racquet Club and the condominiums represented by Brooks & Shorey are offering a fourth night free with the purchase of a three-night stay. Pelican Beach Resort & Conference Center has deals of up to 25 percent when booking multiple rooms.
There are deals to be had at some of the Emerald Coast’s most popular attractions as well, including Olin Marler’s Charters, which reduces its dolphin cruise process by as much as 20 percent during the shoulder season over the summer season pricing. Free family fun, Florida-style, can be had at Gator Beach, where more than 100 alligators are on display.
Tee It Up
As if the excellent pre-season pricing weren’t enticement enough, the availability of tee times at the championship golf course is another reason shoulder season is a great time to visit.
Regatta Bay’s 18 championship holes are nestled along Choctawatchee Bay, and have been named one of Golf Digest’s top courses to play in North America. The course is both scenic and challenging for all skill levels. The semi-private Emerald Bay winds through one of the area’s most prestigious neighborhoods and features a stunning backdrop of the bay, while Elgin Air Force Base offers 36 holes of championship golf on two courses, plus a lighted driving range and chipping and putting greens.
Most Emerald Coast courses offer discounted rates for shoulder season, depending on the day and time.
Don’t Let Sleeping Fish Lie
The waters are warming up – and that means some sport fish are ready to elude anglers. The short and much-awaited Florida Cobia season starts in early to mid-March, dependant on the water temperature close to shore. When the water’s warm enough – 65 degrees – the Cobia leave the relative safety of the reefs, and anglers follow with lines at the ready. Staples like grouper, amberjack and redfish are caught all year long, with the captains of the fleet in the World’s Luckiest Fishing Village always ready to give chase.
Not all fish tales are told on the water, however. The Destin History and Fishing Museum tells the story of life in Destin before it became known as the spot for fishing, and exhibits include antique rods and reels, historic photos of ambitious anglers, and a huge display of the types of fishing that lure anglers from across the world.