By Lauren Tjaden

The Emerald Coast beaches in the Destin and Fort Walton area offer toes-in-the-sand perfection.

The DestinFort Walton Beach and Okaloosa Island area is cheerful and family-friendly. It's famed for its fishing, but its beaches are among the most beautiful in the world.

The area features five beachfront parks and 12 beach access ways. Some boast pavilions, picnic tables, and restrooms with changing areas, while others offer playgrounds and volleyball nets.

But all of them feature the signature sugar-white sand and emerald-green waters of Florida’s Emerald Coast. Read on to discover which one is right for you.

Beaches and parks are listed from west to east.

Wayside Park

(1030 Miracle Strip Parkway Southeast, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548, phone: 850- 244-1023)

This 40-acre park is home to fishing pier, a favorite with locals, as well as a generous beach laden with soft sand. You can enjoy people-watching, try to catch a fish, or watch a spirited game of beach volleyball. Amenities include a playground.

John C. Beasley Park

(1550 Miracle Strip Parkway, Fort Walton Beach, Florida 32548, phone: 850- 689-5772)

Located just a few feet off of the boardwalk on the Gulf of Mexico, just a splash east of Wayside Park, John Beasley Park features showers, pavilions, facilities and picnic tables, as well as a restaurant, beach club, playground, and beach volleyball court. Activities include snorkeling, fishing, and even a little surfing.

- Lauren Tjaden

- Lauren Tjaden

- Lauren Tjaden

- Lauren Tjaden

Henderson Beach State Park

(17000 Emerald Coast Pkwy, Destin, FL 32541, phone: 850-837-7550)

Gleaming white sand characterizes this popular Park, which offers a natural 6,000-foot beach.

You can swim, fish in the surf, go biking, camp, walk the nature trail, or just kick back by the waves.

In autumn, the beach is even more stunning than usual, when beach morning glories and other wildflowers carpet the sand.

Shores at Crystal Beach Public Access and Park

(2966 Scenic Hwy 98, Destin, FL 32541, phone: 850-837-4242)   

Snuggled against the Gulf of Mexico, this Park is open from dawn to dusk. It features a pavilion, restrooms, showers, picnic tables and limited parking. 

James Lee Park

(3510 Scenic Hwy 98, Destin, FL 32541, phone: 850-689-5772)

Open from dawn to dusk, James Lee County Park is a family favorite. The water is shallow and clear, making it inviting for your whole gang, and there are lots of picnic tables and parking spaces, as well as pavilions, a playground and restrooms with changing rooms. After you work up an appetite playing in the surf, dust off the sand and recharge your batteries at the Crab Trap restaurant in the parking lot.

Check out more information from Emerald Coast’s visitors’ services, including beach access points.

Photos by Lauren Tjaden for VISIT FLORIDA

- Lauren Tjaden

- Lauren Tjaden