#Emeraldcoasting is vacationing on the best beaches in the world.
The Sunshine State has about 1,800 miles of coastline and 1,100 miles of beach – more than any state in the union. Twenty-four miles of this sandy shoreline – some would say the best of the best – are right here at the Heart of Florida's Emerald Coast. The sand here has been described as "shockingly fine" and so clean that it squeaks underfoot. The brilliant emerald-green water of the Gulf of Mexico provides such a contrast with the blue sky above and the white sand below, it's no wonder artists have been painting this stretch of paradise since it was discovered by the Spanish centuries ago. But perhaps one of the most amazing things about our beaches is that the very best belong to you, the beach-loving public.
Find your spot in the sand in the heart of Florida’s Emerald Coast
Twenty-four miles of powder soft, sugar white sand make up the heart of Florida’s Emerald Coast. While the sunshine state may offer over 1,800 miles of coastline, the shores of Destin, Fort Walton Beach and Okaloosa Island provide access to the clear, emerald green water of the Gulf of Mexico unlike any other.
Why is our sand so white and our water so green? The beautiful quartz sand was delivered here by way of the Appalachian River, courtesy of the mountains of the same name, after the last ice age. Over time, as the deposit built, our coastline was formed. The quartz sand that remains beneath the water reflects the area’s abundant sunlight back through the waves to create the emerald hue of the Gulf of Mexico.
Whether you prefer to ride the waves behind your hotel, enjoy a private swim at your vacation home rental, or splash at one of the popular boardwalks and public beach accesses listed below, one thing is for sure – you won’t find softer sand or more brilliant water than on the Emerald Coast.
James Lee Park
If you will be enjoying a vacation on the east end of Destin, head to James Lee Park and check out the expansive boardwalk. Marked by the Crab Trap restaurant, this access offers plenty of parking, three pavilions, 41 picnic tables and a playground. Oh, and let’s not forget the ever-important restrooms, complete with changing tables. Enjoy a wonderful day out on the sand and be sure to grab a fantastic drink or lunch from the restaurant!
Henderson Beach State Park
Henderson Beach State Park in Destin boasts more than 6,000 feet of scenic shoreline, dotted with beautiful dune rosemary and sand pines. In addition to ample access to the beach, the park offers wandering boardwalks ideal for viewing area wildlife, pavilions perfect for picnics, and playgrounds for the kids. Camping, fishing and even geocaching are also available. This beach is perfect for weddings and is even pet-friendly! Be sure to grab some cash before departing for the park, as there is a small entrance fee to this public access point.
East Pass Beach Access
Offering the fewest amenities, but one of the best views, is the East Pass Beach Access in Destin. Located behind the iconic ‘Welcome to Destin’ sign when traveling east from Fort Walton Beach, the East Pass access affords you a terrific view of the harbor and jetties. Set your beach chair up here during your next Destin vacation to watch the famous harbor in action! Parking is available but not paved, and there are no bathrooms, but trust us, the view is worth it!
Fort Walton Beach & Okaloosa Island
The Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island
In addition to being a fantastic public beach access point, the Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island is also the place to dine, play and shop during your Fort Walton Beach vacation! Soak up the sun or enjoy a pick-up game of volleyball on the public courts. Then, make your way up to the boardwalk to grab lunch, ice cream, beach essentials or dinner before one of the free community events, such as the Wednesday night fireworks, that take place weekly all summer long.
John Beasley Park
Just west of the boardwalk is another great access point that offers pavilions ideal for a picnic lunch, food and beverage vendors and the all-important restrooms, John Beasley Park! A low-key, family-friendly vibe, ample parking, seasonal lifeguards and an expansive stretch of sand make this a great place to hang out under the sun.
Okaloosa Island Numbered Accesses
Dotted between the condo and hotels on Okaloosa Island are seven additional beach access points. All offer parking, although limited, as well seasonal lifeguards. While picnic areas and restrooms are available, that’s all you will find here at these laidback, simple boardwalks. Pack your cooler and a bag of snacks. Once you’ve settled into your spot, you won’t want to leave!
Use the map below to find your place in the sun.