Why Fall Is the Best Time to Visit Florida’s Emerald Coast

When you’re planning a fall vacation in Florida, the Emerald Coast area is the perfect spot to relax and recharge. In fact, Good Morning America has called this one of the "Top 10 Most Beautiful Places in America." And there’s no better time for Emerald Coasting than in the fall, when crowds have dissipated and temperatures have moderated. From beach strolls to fishing, restaurant hopping to shopping, there are plenty of activities in the fall to appeal to families, couples or retirees looking for a Florida getaway. Here are some top reasons to visit Destin, Ft. Walton Beach or Okaloosa Island in Emerald Coast, Florida, this fall.

Reason No. 1: It’s value season.

You’ll find numerous special deals along the Emerald Coast during the fall, including water sports and football fan discounts as well as restaurant specials. Area hotels and lodging options provide seasonal offers that coordinate with Halloween, Thanksgiving and the holiday season, too. And there are lots of deals available for a fall beach wedding each year.

Reason No. 2: The weather is perfect.

Believe us. The weather is perfect in the fall along Florida’s Emerald Coast. During the day, temperatures reach up into the 70s through November and December, and the nights are cool enough to warrant a cozy sweater. If you’re traveling with kids, the water is still warm enough to play in at the beach. And if you’ve headed south for a romantic weekend getaway, you can enjoy a glass of wine while sitting around a fire pit in the evening.

fall beach sunset on the emerald coast

Reason No. 3: The beaches are open.

Just because summer has ended doesn’t mean the Emerald Coast’s five beaches have closed. You’ll still find 24 miles of powder-fine white sand and emerald green Gulf water. A narrow chain of barrier islands protects this area from storm waves, while sand dunes help to create protective coastal forests. In the fall, morning glory and other colorful wildflowers blanket Henderson Beach State Park, one of several popular outdoor spots. The Emerald Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau hosts Nighttime Educational Beach Walks through October, too.

Reason No. 4: Fall is great for fishing.

If you love to fish, secure a state fishing license and then cast your line for abundant catches from the breathtaking Gulf of Mexico to the pristine waters of the Choctawhatchee Bay. Throughout October, the Destin Fishing Rodeo shows why this destination is considered the World’s Luckiest Fishing Village. Free to anglers who fish from boats that have registered in the rodeo, the month-long event features daily weigh-ins of catches. In addition, learn more about fishing (and other popular local sports) during the Gulf Coast Sportsman Seminar Series, held on Tuesday evenings through November.

Reason No. 5: You can dine on delicious Gulf-to-table seafood.

Serving premium Gulf seafood is a way of life at Emerald Coast restaurants, and more than a dozen area restaurants are happy to cook your day’s catch. Dine on your own Gulf fish served alongside succulent oysters, or enjoy a seafood omelet for Sunday brunch. Many restaurants feature waterfront views, including Harbor Docks, an Emerald Coast landmark for almost four decades.

Although seafood rules at Crab Island Cantina, you’ll find Latin-inspired dishes and terrific steaks too, accompanied by a large tequila, margarita and Latin beer selection. The Emerald Coast even serves authentic Louisiana-inspired cuisine. Seafood stars in annual fall events as well, including the Destin Seafood Festival and the Boggy Bayou Mullet Festival.

gulf to table seafood in destin

Reason No. 6: The Emerald Coast has every type of lodging option you could want.

Fall is an excellent time to relax along the Emerald Coast, where you’ll find a variety of accommodations options depending on your needs. For families traveling with young kids or older children during fall break, you can choose between hotels with lots of amenities or private beachside rentals. If you’re planning a holiday stay during Thanksgiving with extended family, condominiums and beach houses are probably the best options where everyone can spread out but also be together.

If you’re leaving your kids at home for a fall getaway to the Emerald Coast, a cozy bed-and-breakfast or upscale hotel might be the best option for you. And finally, retirees looking for a place to park their RVs and stay awhile can find a few different options along the Emerald Coast.

On Okaloosa Island, the Ramada Plaza Beach Resort combines a lush tropical courtyard and gorgeous beaches with amenity-rich accommodations. Families love the nearby public fishing pier and the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, where kids can snorkel with stingrays, or feed the penguins. Traveling without children? Enjoy a cocktail poolside, or shop along the adjacent boardwalk before savoring dinner on the patio with sunset views.

For homey comfort and privacy, rent a condominium or a private vacation property. When you book with Destin Realty Beachfront Vacation Rentals, you’ll have easy access to sugar white sand and crystal clear water as well as 1-, 2- or 3-bedroom units featuring either a beachfront balcony or a walk-out patio. Families can socialize in the fully furnished rentals while preparing the day’s catch in a fully equipped kitchen.

Destin West Vacations rents beachfront condos with Gulf of Mexico views as well as bayfront condos with beautiful Choctawhatchee Bay and tropical pool vistas. An elevated walkway crossing Highway 98 safely links different areas of the property. For a romantic fall getaway, reserve a penthouse suite, with a private hot tub located on the rooftop terrace.

Reason No. 7: Fall is synonymous with fun festivals and events.

If your fall travel dates are flexible, you might want to plan the trip to coincide with one of the Emerald Coast’s fun fall events. Love Southern BBQ and great blues? Then order a craft beer and enjoy both at the Blues, Brews and BBQ Festival in early November at HarborWalk Village in Destin. Ticketholders choose People’s Choice award winners in several categories, while the Selwyn Birchwood Band plays jam to blues. And in true Florida fashion, there’s a ‘Best Seafood BBQ’ category.

You can plan your fall Emerald Coast vacation around a sporting event, too. A two-day basketball extravaganza held in late November, the Emerald Coast Classic in the Destin area brings together top teams that played in the 2016 NCAA Tournament. Sponsored by Destin Realty, it’s held at Northwest Florida State College.

Monthly and weekly entertainment includes live music as well as wine tastings and independent film showings. On Third Fridays through November, check out original art, and purchase fresh produce on the second Saturday of each month.

Though fall is the perfect time to visit the Emerald Coast, winter isn’t a bad time either. You still get good weather and special rates, and the holidays are a fun time to visit, especially with the range of fun events planned throughout the season. Held in early December, Destin’s 30-year-old Holiday on the Harbor Lighted Boat Parade is a local favorite. After the kids visit Santa, you can view commercial, charter and private boats from nearby docks and restaurants, as they light up the night with holiday cheer. Live music and hot chocolate are available, too.

There’s no shortage of New Year’s Eve celebrations either, whether you dine and dance at a street party, or enjoy a fireworks cruise with your sweetheart. During the holiday season, kids love Christmas lights and fantasy snow at the zoo, while many restaurants feature seasonal specials.


Emerald Coast fall vacations combine all the benefits of a beach vacation with the seasonal perks of smaller crowds and more comfortable weather. To plan your trip, visit http://www.emeraldcoastfl.com/.