Wildlife

An abundance of wildlife calls Destin, Fort Walton Beach, and Okaloosa Island its home.  While you’re visiting our beautiful beaches and natural areas you’ll spot an array of wildlife including sea turtles, birds, and dolphins.  Strolling on our beaches, trails, or enjoying one of a natural park areas you will spot plenty of wildlife living within its natural habitat.

The Heart of Florida’s Emerald Coast beaches are home to the remarkable sea turtle. Sea turtle season occurs between April and November and during this time the female sea turtle comes ashore at night to lay her eggs in the sand and head back out to sea.  Typical nests have 80-120 eggs, with only 1 out 1,000 babies surviving to adulthood. Due to human exploitation and habitat destruction, sea turtles are threatened with extinction.  Never disturb a turtle that is crawling to or from the water or crowd around a nesting turtle. Any disturbances can cause a sea turtle adult or hatchling to become disoriented, get hurt, and possibly injured.  Watch our informational video about protecting sea turtle populations along the Emerald Coast

Please help us protect the endangered sea turtle by following these simple guidelines:

  • Keep the beach dark at night: use red lights or no lights 
  • Do not shine lights in a turtle’s eyes or take flash photos
  • Shut off balcony lights and close blinds at night
  • Fill in holes and take beach gear off the beach each evening 
  • Never disturb a sea turtle as they make their journey

All sea turtles are protected by the U.S. Endangered Species Act and Florida state law. Following these simple guidelines will help protect these endangered creatures who call the beaches of the Emearld Coast home.

The Heart of Florida’s Emerald Coast offers many birding opportunities along our beautiful coastline. Bird-watchers will get a chance to spy terns, gulls, black skimmers, brown pelicans, several species of shorebirds, great blue and little blue herons, snowy egrets, reddish egrets (in the fall) and occasionally black-necked stilts. Watchers will also view loons, northern gannets and various sea ducks paddling offshore and all visible with a good spotting scope. From May through August, rare least terns and snowy plovers nest in the sand.

A favorite marine animal to see on the Heart of Florida’s Emerald Coast is the dolphin.  One of the joys of vacationing on the Emerald Coast is watching the bottlenose dolphins at play. Enjoy a dolphin-watching cruise or visit the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park for private dolphin encounters.  In the Gulfarium’s unforgettable experience, alongside a trainer, you will see a bottlenose dolphin an up-close and personal.  Snorkeling or diving is another great way to experience fish and other sea creatures first hand.  The Heart of Florida’s Emerald Coast is a nature-based destination where you can experience and enjoy the abundance of wildlife in Destin, Fort Walton Beach, Okaloosa Island.