Destination -- Destin, Florida
As you arrive in Destin, Florida, from the west, a sign welcomes you to the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village.” If Destin is your final destination, you will find out, while the fishing is great, that there is much more to do here than fish.
The Panhandle of Florida is a growing area for many reasons. The major reason is the convenience and accessibility of the Panhandle to the rest of the country. The guidebooks say that Destin is nearer to parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, than Destin is to Key West. This area of Florida is commonly known as the Emerald Coast because of the white sandy beaches appearing green as seen through the shallow blue waters of the Gulf. Traveling to points beyond the Emerald Coast adds hours to a trip -- valuable hours of soaking up the sun’s rays. Destin’s white sandy beaches are the major single attraction of the Emerald Coast.
Along with the beach and fishing, Destin’s attractions include restaurants of every variety, an almost endless choice of condominiums, waterparks, golfing, camping, and shopping. The leading rental agency’s catalogs of available units get thicker by the year. That is one reason camping is so appealing. Destin and the other communities along the Emerald Coast are constantly building high-rise condos, adding restaurants of different fare and other attractions for the visitor.
“World’s Luckiest Fishing Village”
The Destin marina is lined with fishing and sightseeing charter boats. Early each morning there is a parade of boats leaving Destin Harbor loaded with anxious fishermen hoping to be one of the luckiest. Their destination is the open Gulf from ten to twenty miles off shore. Charters last from a half a day of about six hours to all day of eight to ten hours to overnight. The most economical way to go fishing is by party boat. Party boats are large boats that can accommodate thirty to forty fishermen. The smaller charter boats that carry six to eight people are very popular and fairly reasonable. On these smaller boats, service is more personalized. The crew is made up of the captain who pilots the boat and one or two deck hands, or mates, who prepare bait, help with the day’s catch, and even clean your fish at the end of the trip. Deep-sea fishing is the second, or perhaps third, most popular activity of the Emerald Coast. Eating seafood is the other activity that gives fishing a run for second place.
Sightseeing excursions for dolphin watches, snorkeling, and evening dinner cruises add to the excitement and the boat traffic in Destin’s harbor throughout the day. In addition the privately owned yachts, fishing boats and the wave runners increase the size of the parade in and out of the harbor.
Food and Fun
The beautiful white sand beaches and all the related activities -- sunbathing, wave running, parasailing, and just strolling on the beach -- combine to attract thousands of sun-worshippers to Destin. The white sand of the Emerald Coast is like no other. The sun is the same, but the crowds seem to think it is better here.
There are almost as many restaurants in Destin as there are condominiums. All those visitors have to eat somewhere. Of course, seafood is the most popular fare, but there are cuisines of every variety -- All-American steak, Italian, Oriental, Brazilian, Creole, Caribbean, and Mexican. Good restaurants usually require a long wait during the summer months. However, if the restaurant happens to located on the beach, the wait does not seem so long since there is always easy access to the waterfront. Most restaurants along the beach provide decks to enjoy the sight and sounds of the surf.
Within twenty-five miles of Destin there are at least 360 holes on eighteen golf courses. The Emerald Coast is a true golfer’s haven. Some courses are associated with resorts and packages can be arranged that include accommodations and golf. For the golfing traveler, there is no shortage of excellent courses on which to play.
A Tour of the Area
US Highway 98 runs eastward through Destin and continues as the Emerald Coast Parkway to Panama City. Inside the city limits of Destin Old Highway 98 takes a turn toward the south and follows the coast. More restaurants, condominiums, and other attractions are located in this area. Outside the Destin city limits Scenic State Route 30 heads south from US 98 and also follows the coast. Smaller communities are springing up with rental units and restaurants and things for the traveler. As you leave the city limits of Destin, the landscape changes from one of urban development to the more scenic natural vistas of sand dunes, sea oats, and scrub pine trees.
Notable stops along Highway 30 are Grayton Beach State Recreation Area and Seaside. The recreation area is just east of the community of Grayton Beach and has a campground, fishing, boating, swimming and, of course, beach access. Seaside is a community worth a visit. Its structure incorporates a town center with organized residential and rental units around the center. There are shopping areas with centralized parking.
To the west US 98 passes through Fort Walton Beach, a city of similar size to Destin with similar attractions. Further to the west US 98 joins Interstate Highway 10 in Pensacola. Interstate 10 is the major east-west highway across Florida’s Panhandle. US 98 is the scenic route.
Because of Destin’s proximity to the rest of the country, the Emerald Coast on Florida’s Panhandle is a choice destination for lovers of sand and surf. Destin’s white sandy beaches, deep-sea fishing opportunities, and excellent accommodations and campgrounds make the Emerald Coast a favorite for thousands of visitors annually.
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