Welcome to Emerald Coast
Located in the Florida Panhandle, Destin on the Emerald Coast is a postcard-perfect setting thanks to its white, sandy beaches and glistening emerald waters. Originally a small fishing village, visitors now flock to the Destin to experience its natural beauty and enjoy the many things there are to see and do in the city. From adrenaline-pumped watersports and beautiful golf courses to the restaurants and shopping scene, there’s something for everyone in this beautiful part of the world.
Highlights of Emerald Coast
- Great for: Its gorgeous stretch of white beaches that stretch for miles.
- Famous for: The amazingly clear blue-green waters, hence the 'Emerald' Coast.
- Closest airport with direct flights: Atlanta International Airport is 300 miles to the north
- Why we like it: Outside Spring Break, the masses have yet to discover this area.
- Itineraries featuring Emerald Coast:
Emerald Coast Location
Weather in Emerald Coast
Average temperature (°C) and average rainfall (days).
Hotels in Emerald Coast
The Henderson Beach Resort & Spa provides quick access to the white, sandy beaches of the Gulf of Mexico. The hotel has a retro vibe with relaxed rooms, a number of dining options and a bar.
The Hilton Sandestin Beach Resort and Spa provides everything you could want. Enjoy a relaxing holiday and take part in a number of activities. With a beach on its door step, exhilarating water adventures wait for you.
Things to do in Emerald Coast
Emerald Coast History
Learn more about the history of the Emerald Coast at one of the area’s many museums. With artefacts dating back to 8800 BC, there’s so much history to explore.
Air Force Armament Museum
The only museum of its kind in the whole US, the Air Force Armament Museum boasts over 1,500 artefacts which showcase the air force’s history from World War I to the present day. There’s also a fighter cockpit simulator for intrepid visitors looking to experience the action. Outside of the museum, 25 retired reconnaissance, bomber and fighter planes stand guard.
Destin History & Fishing Museum
Touted as the ‘world’s luckiest fishing village’, visitors can pop along to the Destin History and Fishing Museum to see some of the award-winning fish that have been caught in the area.
Heritage Museum of Northwest Florida
Track Destin’s history at the Heritage Museum. With artefacts from over 10,000 years ago and exhibits from the arrival of the train depot in 1883, there’s plenty of history for visitors to explore.
Emerald Coast Culture, Arts & Crafts
Full Circle Gallery
Come and see the work of local artists in this contemporary space. If you’d prefer to get your hands a little dirty, the gallery also hosts a range of workshops.
Mattie Kelly Arts Center & Gallery
If you’re in the mood for some world-class entertainment then Mattie Kelly’s is the place for you. The indoor and outdoor stages play host to a number of productions, from touring Broadway shows and symphony orchestras to local musicians and performance art.
Paint the Coast
What better way to immortalise your visit to Destin than by taking home your very own masterpiece. The class starts at 6.30pm – the perfect time of day to capture the area’s natural beauty. All art supplies are provided.
Sinfonia Gulf Coast
Awe-inspiring music abounds at Sinfonia – home to the Emerald Coast’s only fully professional symphony orchestra. Regional musicians and international guests also make frequent appearances on the bill.
Southern Hands Market
Find a bespoke souvenir at the market, where everything is crafted with love and care by local artists.
Beaches, Surfing, Parks & River Cruises On The Emerald Coast
Turkey Creek Park
The trail through Turkey Creek Park takes walkers on a short journey past native plants and markers, which highlight the best places to witness the park’s inhabitants. The path follows the creek, so hikers can take a dip to cool off as they explore the park.
Oak Tree Nature Park
Head to Oak Tree Nature Park for a picnic in the pavilion, to spot some of the local wildlife or simply to stretch your legs as you meander along the park’s mile-long trail. The tall forest, a medley of oaks and pine trees, creates a canopy for the park, providing plenty of comfortable shade. Along the trail, expect to find palmettos, wax myrtle and sparkleberries, while minnows, frogs and dragonflies can be seen along the banks of the creek. In the middle of the park, a wide lawn provides ample space for a picnic and a game of frisbee.
John C. Beasley Park
Lined by its very own shore, Beasley Park is the perfect place to while away an afternoon. Within the park, wildflowers bloom and picnic spots cry out to be used. Meanwhile, the beach invites visitors to take a dip in the iconic emerald green waters, or stay on land and spot clams, fish and even ghost crabs if the time is right.
Take a tour of the bay and get a different view of the ocean on this glass-bottomed boat. You might even spot a dolphin. Meanwhile, above deck, there’s bird feeding and a great view of the sunset, and the kids can become captain for a day, or for at least for a couple minutes, thanks to the junior captain training.
Buccaneer Pirate Cruise
Join the crew aboard the Buccaneer and experience sword fighting, water gun battles and great pirate tales. Set sail for Choctawhatchee on this 100-foot pirate ship replica and prepare for singing and dancing, with a couple of pirate-themed adult jokes thrown in for good measure. Ooh-arr!
Salt Water Pedal Pubs
If you’re feeling thirsty, hop aboard a pedal pub. Armed with your favourite beverage, you’ll spend an hour and a half touring the harbour while seated on a specially adapted bar stool that puts you in charge of powering the boat.
Destin Water Taxi
If you’re looking to explore the nearby Holiday Isle, Norriego Point and Harborwalk Village, shun the highway and instead take to the waters on a water taxi. If your hotel is on the waterfront, they’ll even pick you up and drop you off at your door.
Spend the day in style aboard a 31-foot sailing yacht. There’s a whole host of trips to choose from, including Crab Island cruises, dolphin-spotting and early morning or sunset trips. No matter which you choose, you’ll get private hire of the yacht, making this a luxurious way to see the sights.
Health, Wellness & Spa Tourism, Emerald Coast
Float Brothers Float Spa
Let your worries melt away at the Emerald Coast’s first float therapy spa. The experience is created using Epsom salt in body temperature water which allows gravity, sight, sound and touch to be forgotten. Sounds peaceful, doesn’t it?
Ecotourism, Wildlife & The Great Outdoors Emerald Coast
There’s certainly no shortage of wildlife on the Emerald Coast. Anglers can expect to be joined by a pelican also seeking a catch, while jet skiers are often accompanied by bottlenose dolphins as they play in the waves.
Night-time educational beach walks
Run by the local council, these night-time walks invite one and all to discover the importance of the local ecosystem and learn more about how it supports the area’s wildlife.
Longleaf Pine Forests
Despite only being 1.4 percent of its original size due to logging in the early 18th century, the remaining forest is a great spot for bird watching, hiking and camping. There are numerous plants and animals in the forest which are considered rare, threatened or endangered, so keep your eyes peeled.
Fed by swamps, the Blackwater Rivers and streams of Florida are characterised by their dark water. The three Blackwater stream systems of Okaloosa County once served as the prime method of transporting goods inland. Today, they’re a great place to swim and canoe and perhaps even catch a glimpse of one of the river’s oldest inhabitants, the prehistoric gulf sturgeon, which uses the area as a spawning ground.
The ravines of Okaloosa County are unique to this part of the world. They’re characterised by their amphitheatre-like shape, which allows for plants and animals more typically associated with the Appalachian Mountains to flourish. The temperature within the ravines is consistent year-round, while the water is crystal clear and perfect for swimming.
With Florida home to the world’s largest concentration of freshwater springs, a visit to Destin’s aquifer (an underground spring source) is a must. Make the most of the picturesque setting and join the fun with some kayaking, tubing, snorkelling or scuba diving.
Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier
Extending over 1,200 feet into the gulf, the pier is a perfect spot for anglers and those looking to spot some of Destin’s marine wildlife. Away from the sugar sand beaches, dolphins and sea turtles enjoy the pristine waters, making the pier the ideal lookout.
West Destin Jetty
Bring your binoculars to the jetty and you’re sure to see an egret or heron amid the wildflowers of the grassy wetlands. The area is popular with wildlife but less so with tourists, especially during the evening, making this an idyllic spot to witness the sunset in all its splendour.
Sport On The Emerald Coast
Emerald Coast Scuba
Known locally as the ‘coolest company to go down under with’, this scuba company offers swimming lessons, PADI certifications and snorkel and dive charters. If you catch the scuba bug, there’s also an award-winning dive shop where you can buy all the kit you’ll need.
Explore the water with one of Destin Snorkel’s many adventures. There’s two-stop snorkelling, scuba diving, shelling and dolphin watching to choose from, along with the romantic sunset and dolphin watching tour which finishes with fireworks.
Bay Paddle Sports
Hop into a kayak or find your sea legs on a paddleboard and head out on an eco-tour to spot the local wildlife. The company will even deliver the rented equipment to you on the beach or at one of their numerous drop-off points if you’d prefer to create a trip of your own.
Blackwater Canoe Rental
Blackwater Canoe Rental River has canoes, tubes and kayaks for hire and also offers tours.
Fly High Parasail
Get your adrenaline fix on the state-of-the-art parasail boats. This amazing experience will see you flying up to 800 feet about the Emerald Coast, providing unparalleled views of the area. Fly High Parasail has over 13 years of experience, during which time they’ve been responsible for more than 100,000 flights. This aerial adventure is available to those aged 6 and above
RideOn Surf School
Everyone is welcome to ride the waves at the RideOn Surf School. The experienced instructors are enthusiastic and encouraging and will not rest until you catch your very own wave, no matter how long that may be.
Blackstone Golf Course
This course, just a few minutes away from the Emerald Coast, carves through rolling terrain, with many elevation changes and slanted fairways which are unique characteristics of courses in this area. The diverse layout of Blackstone will provide an unparalleled golfing experience, with plenty to challenge your game while you enjoy a relaxing and serene day.
Eglin Air Force Base Golf Course
With 36 holes that are open to visitors all year round, this course has earned itself numerous accolades. It’s ranked 1st in the AFMC, 3rd for military bases and a respectable 61st from the thousands of great courses in Florida. There are two courses to choose from, as well as golf carts and rental equipment to make your trip around the 250 acres a pleasant one.
Regatta Bay Golf and Country Club
Nestled among the idyllic surrounds of Choctawhatchee Bay, this course was named one of Golf Digest’s ‘top places to play in North America’. The course is certainly deserving of such critical acclaim, with its par-72 course enhanced by circulating beverage carts, chilled apples and mango-scented towels.
Emerald Coast Dining
Thanks to the bountiful catch of the Emerald Coast’s many fishermen, fresh seafood is this area’s undoubted speciality. The day’s catch means flounder, swordfish, sea trout and trigger fish (plus much more) can be freshly cooked to order for each and every meal. There’s something to suit every palate and appetite, ranging from rustic oyster bars and open-air cafes, to modern or candlelit restaurants. If you’ve had your fill of fish, the restaurant scene also encompasses wood-fired pizza, steak, sushi and many other types of cuisine.
Shopping On The Emerald Coast
Crystal Beach Plaza
Find all your favourites at the Crystal Beach Plaza. Browse for a book to read at the beach in Barnes & Noble’s, before sating your appetite in one of the numerous eateries.
This open-air lifestyle centre has the feel of a small-town shopping district and comprises 95 speciality stores as well as plenty of entertainment attractions and restaurants, so you’re bound to find something to enjoy. Kids are kept entertained thanks to the mini train, Pirate Cove play area and the interactive water fountain.
Harbour Walk Village
Along the shorefront, you’ll find a medley of nightclubs, boutiques and more than 20 boats from the local fishing fleet. Weekly fireworks, seasonal festivals and live entertainment are all held here.