Located in Northwest Florida, Destin, Fort Walton Beach, Okaloosa Island is one of America’s most favored coastal destinations. Collectively known as the Heart of Florida’s Emerald Coast, the area offers some of the world’s finest beaches and beach experiences along with legendary fishing and boating, fresh Gulf-to-Table seafood, abundant watersport activities, championship golf, lively nightlife and numerous attractions for all to enjoy.
Destin has a rich historical heritage. The city was named after fisherman Captain Leonard Destin who moved to this region from New London, Connecticut around 1845. Captain Destin pioneered the fishing industry, which continues to be an important part of present-day Destin. In 1984, the City of Destin was born, chartered as a municipality under the laws of the state of Florida.
A flourishing fishing enterprise created Destin, which is known today as the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village.” Besides harboring the nation’s largest private fishing charter fleet with gulf angling adventures, Destin has a multitude of restaurants, bars, specialty shops, golf, snorkeling, scuba diving, dolphin cruises, and sunset excursions.
FORT WALTON BEACH/OKALOOSA ISLAND
Fort Walton Beach and Okaloosa Island offer a slightly slower pace than Destin while still allowing you to enjoy the emerald-green waters and white-sand beaches of the Emerald Coast. Downtown Fort Walton Beach is a quaint seaside area with interesting shops and museums chock-full of fun and local history. Minutes away from the beaches of Okaloosa Island, this community is home to an antique district, a number of unique owner-operated boutique-style stores, restaurants (many of which are Gulf-to-Table) and bars. Brew masters – of both coffee and beer – exist here, and are local favorites.
Fort Walton Beach is connected to Okaloosa Island via the Destin William T. Marler Bridge and Brooks Bridge, providing access to the area from the east and west, respectively. Okaloosa Island is actually the “beach” of Fort Walton Beach, which is on the other side of the intercoastal canal. Enjoy long days on the sand, splash in your Okaloosa Island condominium or hotel pool, and then head out to the boardwalk for a pickup game of volleyball. The Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier, Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, iconic sand dunes, birding hot spots and the awe-inspiring Gulf Islands National Seashore call the island home.
HISTORY OF THE BEACHES
Sugar-White Sand & Emerald-Green Waters
Yes, the sand in Destin, Fort Walton Beach, Okaloosa Island really is sugar-white and powder-soft! This is because the sand contains finely ground, perfectly round quartz crystal.
At the end of the last Ice Age, the world’s temperatures rose, ice caps melted, and large volumes of water carried by rivers flooded the world’s oceans. The rising Apalachicola River, originating in the Appalachian Mountains, carried quartz particles down into the Gulf of Mexico and deposited them along our coast. Over time, the sea level rose, and the quartz sand formed the shoreline.
This beautiful white sand remains cool even in the heat of summer and gives the water its trademark emerald color by reflecting sunlight back up through the surf.