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 OUR 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.
Overview & Accolades
- Southern Living Magazine named Destin’s beach the third best in the South for 2018’s “South’s Best” awards.
- America’s fastest growing airport is located here: Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport (VPS).
- The sand in Destin, Fort Walton Beach and Okaloosa Island really is sugar white – because it contains finely ground quartz crystal!
- The 100-Fathom Curve draws closer to Destin than any other spot in Florida, providing the speediest deep-water access on the Gulf of Mexico.
- Destin is “The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village”.
- Destin Harbor boasts the nation’s largest and most elaborately equipped charter fishing fleet.
- Emerald Coast restaurants serve fresh, Gulf-to-Table seafood year-round. Many nationally acclaimed chefs and restaurants are located here.
- Eglin Air Force Base’s free Air Force Armament Museum houses military aircraft from the World War II era to the present day. It is also the only facility in the U.S. dedicated to the display of Air Force armament.
- The Emerald Coast features educational activities and interesting sites: Destin History & Fishing Museum, Indian Temple Mound Museum and Emerald Coast Science Center.
Activities & Attractions
- Okaloosa County is home to 8 championship golf courses.
- In addition to great fishing, the Emerald Coast also offers breathtaking diving.
- Various snorkel reef clusters can be discovered throughout our waters.
- The Emerald Coast offers numerous cruises, sailing charters, water tours and boating excursions, perfect for exploring our waterways and embarking on water adventures.
Eco-Tourism / Nature & Parks
- Nearly 60 percent of the beach in this area is preserved in perpetuity.
- During sea turtle nesting season, The Emerald Coast CVB offers Nighttime Educational Beach Walks!
- Twelve birding hot spots in the area will show visitors shorebirds, seabirds, songbirds, raptors and more.
- The Emerald Coast is known for spectacular sunrises and sunsets and both can be enjoyed rising and falling over the Gulf of Mexico.
More than 300 festivals and events take place along our coast each year. Below is a sampling of what to expect each season. Visit our full Events Calendar to learn more of what’s happening year-round.
- Emerald Coast Volleyball Week
- Kitty Hawk Kites “Fly Into Spring” Festival
- Blessing of the Fleet
- Destin Cobia Tournament
- Smoke on the Coast
- Rock the Docks Destin Harbor Free Concerts
- Emerald Coast Boat Week/Poker Run
- Paddle at the Porch
- Destin Seafood Festival
- Destin Fishing Rodeo
- Mattie Kelly Arts Festival
- Emerald Coast Classic
- Holiday on the Harbor/Christmas Boat Parade
- Noon Years Eve at LuLu’s
- Pelican Plunge
- Harborwalk Chili Cookoff
For decades, Destin, Fort Walton Beach, Okaloosa Island has been home to North America’s largest charter fishing fleet. At any given time, there are more than 20 kinds of edible fish to be caught in these waters. The charter fleet, comprised of more than 140 vessels, brings in thousands of pounds of fish daily. Their catch has inspired the chefs behind the area’s unique Gulf-to-Table cuisine – and it inspires thousands of visitors to Destin, Fort Walton Beach, Okaloosa Island every year.
Fried, grilled, blackened or steamed, nothing beats the taste of fresh fish caught off the Destin, Fort Walton Beach, Okaloosa Island coast. Here, there isn’t just one catch of the day, there are several. On any given day, you can have your choice of fleet-fresh sea trout, grouper, swordfish, red snapper, flounder, wahoo, scamp, triggerfish and cobia. And, of course, shrimp, oysters, and crab are readily available also. For more information and a complete list of our Gulf-to-Table restaurants, download a copy of our Gulf to Table: A Fishing-and-Eating Guide.
U.S. Highway 98 travels along the Emerald Coast, edging along the Gulf of Mexico through Destin, Fort Walton Beach and Okaloosa Island. From exit I-10, exit onto Highway 85 south at the Crestview/Fort Walton beach exit and head straight to the beach.
The Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport (VPS) is serviced by, Allegiant, Delta, United and American Airlines. Direct flights are available from a number of cities. Flight Service Overview:
Allegiant – Non-Stop
- Austin, TX
- Belleville, IL/St. Louis, MO
- Cincinnati, OH
- Cleveland, OH
- Columbus (Rickenbacker), OH
- Concord, NC
- Evansville, IN
- Indianapolis, IN
- Kansas City, MO
- Nashville, TN
- Knoxville, TN
- Lexington, KY
- Louisville, KY
- Memphis, TN
- New York City/Newark, NJ
- Oklahoma City, OK
- Peoria, IL
- Pittsburg, PA
- Raleigh/Durham, NC
- Springfield/Branson, MO
- Washington, DC/Baltimore, MD
American Airlines – Non-Stop
- Dallas, TX
- Charlotte, NC
- Washington, DC
Delta Airlines – Non-Stop
- Atlanta, GA
United – Non-Stop
- Houston, TX
OFFICIAL TOURISM BUREAU
Emerald Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau
1540 Miracle Strip Pkwy
Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548
Community & Media Relations Strategist