The Emerald Coast, located on the Florida Panhandle, is one of the most beautiful destinations in the country. With its white sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters, and abundant sunshine, it’s no wonder that so many people flock to the area every year. In fact, did you know that the name “Emerald Coast” comes from the emerald green color of the waters in the Gulf of Mexico?
Whether you’re looking to relax on the beach, explore nature, or enjoy some family fun, the Emerald Coast has something for everyone. In this article, we’ll provide a comprehensive guide to the top things to do in the area, along with some helpful tips for where to stay while you’re visiting—we consider ourselves experts in that area.
Beaches and Water Activities
Let’s start with what the Emerald Coast is best known for: its stunning beaches and endless water activities. Whether you want to relax on the sand, swim in the Gulf of Mexico, or try your hand at some water sports, there’s something for everyone. Here are the top three beaches you should visit:
1. Destin Beach
Known as the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village,” Destin Beach is a must-visit destination for beach lovers. With its sugar-white sand and emerald-green waters, it’s the perfect place to relax and soak up the sun. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also try your hand at some water sports, like parasailing or jet skiing!
2. Okaloosa Island
Just a few miles west of Destin Beach, Okaloosa Island is another hot spot for beachgoers. With its soft sand and clear waters, it’s the perfect place to take a dip or go snorkeling. If you’re looking for a break from the sun, you can also explore the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, a popular family-friendly attraction (more on that later in this article).
3. Grayton Beach State Park
If you’re looking for a more secluded beach experience, Grayton Beach State Park is the perfect destination. With its rolling sand dunes and emerald waters, it’s a beautiful spot for a quiet picnic or a romantic walk on the beach.
When it comes to water activities, the options are endless. Additionally, the Emerald Coast is a popular destination for sea turtle nesting. In fact, the area has the highest concentration of nesting sea turtles in the continental United States, so you might get lucky and catch a sighting!
Some other popular water activities include snorkeling, scuba diving, paddleboarding, kayaking, and fishing. No matter what you choose, you’re sure to have a great time on the water.
Parks and Nature Preserves
If you’re looking to explore the natural beauty of the Emerald Coast, there are plenty of parks and nature preserves to choose from. Here are the top three you should visit:
4. Henderson Beach State Park
Located in Destin, Henderson Beach State Park is a beautiful spot for hiking, picnicking, and birdwatching. With its natural sand dunes and lush vegetation, it’s a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the beach.
5. Point Washington State Forest
Just a short drive from the beach, Point Washington State Forest is a hidden gem for nature lovers. With its miles of hiking and biking trails, it’s the perfect place to explore the local flora and fauna.
6. Gulf Islands National Seashore
Stretching from Pensacola to the Mississippi border, Gulf Islands National Seashore is a vast expanse of natural beauty. With its pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and diverse wildlife, it’s the perfect place to experience the best of the Emerald Coast.
If you’re traveling with kids, there are plenty of family-friendly attractions to choose from on the Emerald Coast. Here are the top three you should visit:
7. Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park
Located on Okaloosa Island, the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park is a popular destination for families. With its dolphin shows, sea lion performances, and interactive exhibits, it’s a great way to learn about marine life.
8. Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park
If you’re looking for some thrills and spills, Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park is the place to be. With its water slides, lazy river, and go-kart tracks, it’s a fun way to spend a day with the family.
9. The Track
Located in Destin, The Track is another popular destination for families. With its go-karts, mini-golf, and bumper boats, it’s a great way to spend an afternoon or evening together and get some quality bonding time!
Shopping and Dining
If you’re looking to do some shopping or dining on the Emerald Coast, there are plenty of options to choose from. Here are the top three places you should visit:
10. The Village of Baytowne Wharf
Located in Sandestin, the Village of Baytowne Wharf is a charming destination for shopping, dining, and entertainment. With its boutiques, restaurants, and live music, it’s a great place to spend an evening with friends or family.
11. Destin Commons
If you’re looking for a more traditional shopping experience, Destin Commons is the place to be. With its big-name retailers, restaurants, and movie theater, it’s a great place to spend a day with the family.
12. HarborWalk Village
Located in Destin, HarborWalk Village is a popular destination for dining, shopping, and nightlife. With its waterfront restaurants, live music, and outdoor events, it’s a great place to experience the local culture.
When it comes to lodging on the Emerald Coast, vacation rentals are the way to go. They offer more space, privacy, and amenities than traditional hotels, and are often located right on the beach.
AvantStay is proud to be one of the best vacation rental companies in the area, which offers a wide range of luxurious rentals all along the coast. From spacious homes with private pools and hot tubs to cozy condos with stunning views, AvantStay has something for everyone.
Whether you’re looking to relax on the beach, explore nature, or enjoy some family fun, the Emerald Coast has something for everyone. With its beautiful beaches, natural parks, family-friendly attractions, and great shopping and dining, it’s no wonder that so many people flock to the area every year. And with vacation rentals from AvantStay, you can enjoy all the Emerald Coast has to offer in style and comfort.
So what are you waiting for? Start planning your trip to the Emerald Coast today!