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Fort Walton Beach, Okaloosa Island and Destin: Florida’s Emerald Coast Boasts Beauty, Golf, Fishing and More

Bridge over Destin Pass

By Myscha Theriault – Independent Travelers Resources at

Visitors to Florida’s Panhandle find a multitude of entertainment options at their fingertips. From championship fishing and world-class golf to significant number of options suitable for the shopping and spa crowd, Choctawatchee Bay certainly caters to a fun-loving clientele. Here are just a few of the fun things to do in the greater Destin and Fort Walton Beach area.

Water Activities

Sportfishing in Fort Walton Beach

Aquatic activity fans will find lots to love along the Emerald Coast. From beach bumming in the Okaloosa Island Day Use Area of Gulf Islands National Seashore to spending the day at Big Kahuna’s water park, a wide range of water activities is available. Parasailing, water skiing, snorkeling and diving are all possible, along with dolphin spotting, kayaking and more.

Cultural Attractions

White Sand Dunes west of Destin Pass

Florida’s Emerald Coast has a number of cultural attractions worth your tourist time. Techies will want to check out the local science center and Air Force Armament Museum, particularly if you find yourself having to deal with a rain day on your vacation itinerary. Ecology fans on the other hand, should check out the nature reservation known as Eglin Air Force Base Wildlife Management Area. Home to the largest continuous acreage of old-growth longleaf pine in the world, and an important site on the Great Florida Birding Trail with its large population of red cockaded woodpeckers, the Eglin Reservation is a must-see stop for hikers experiencing Florida’s National Scenic Trail and eco-tourism fans visiting the area. History fans will have no reason to feel left out with the Heritage Museum of Northwest Florida and the Fort Walton Beach Heritage Park and Cultural Center. Both offer an inside peek to the history of the area, along with some fun photo opportunities.


Ft. Walton Beach Pier

Known as the world’s luckiest fishing village, Destin offers a smorgasbord of Florida fishing opportunities for seafood fans who like to catch their own. Beginners looking to start small should check out the opportunities on the Okaloosa Island Pier and take a peek at the tiny but quaint Destin History and Fishing Museum. Veterans in sports fishing on the other hand might enjoy participating in the Emerald Coast’s annual Destin Fishing Rodeo, which offers a multitude of cash and physical prizes for lucky participants. Charter trips are available for those who prefer a more private deep-water fishing experience, while the Blackwater River State Park offers budget travelers the opportunity to fish in specific designated areas.


Savvy shoppers with discriminating tastes will find a number of high-end shops and souvenir-purchasing options during their stay in the greater Destin and Fort Walton Beach area. For starters, the Harborwalk Village near the Emerald Grande offers outdoor entertainment and fine dining along with a superior shopping experience. Similarly, Destin Commons offers a variety of shops and restaurants in an open-air atmosphere, along with a movie theater for Hollywood flick fans. Shoppers can also stroll for souvenirs along Downtown Fort Walton Beach’s Miracle Strip or discover designer deals at the outlet retail center of Silver Sands.


Grant Seafood FestivalThe world-famous Sandestin resort also plays host to a number of fun festivals, which draw tourist crowds looking for additional fun and excitement to round out their luxury travel experience. Recent and upcoming events include beer and wine festivals, an area gumbo cook off and the Sandestin Music Festival. In addition to the activities hosted by the resort itself, the Destin Chamber of Commerce throws and annual seafood festival with live music, food booths and more.


If you’re more comfortable with a golf club than a fishing pole, you’ll still find a fair amount of entertainment options in the Destin – Fort Walton Beach area. For example, at the Watercolor Inn and Resort in nearby Santa Rosa Beach, you can grab a tee time at the Camp Creek and Shark’s Tooth golf clubs as well the new Origins course. Additionally, the Sandestin resort offers access to four notable golf courses, including Raven, Burnt Pine, Baytowne and The Links.

Clearly, Florida’s Emerald Coast is worth more than a quick drive-through peek on your tour of the Sunshine State. Golf lovers, fisherman, shopping enthusiasts and nature lovers are just some of the Florida vacationers who’ll enjoy a getaway to this virtual riviera.

Myscha Theriault Myscha Theriault is a syndicated columnist for McClatchy-Tribune, best-selling author, and professional blogger whose work has been featured by Forbes, MSN, the Los Angeles Times, Boston Herald, AOL, and others. Print interviews include Better Homes and Gardens, Women’s World, and All You Magazines. She is the founder of, a web site for independent travelers. You can also catch up with her on Twitter.

Originally Published on February 16th, 2012

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