Everything you need to know about the beaches of Northwest Florida
Also known as Florida’s Panhandle, the North West region of the Sunshine State overlooking the Gulf of Mexico features miles of sugar white beaches and emerald green waters, quaint towns and a wide variety of recreational opportunities.
Destin / Fort Walton Beach
Encompassing the southern sea towns of Destin and Fort Walton Beach, the Emerald Coast features 24 miles of sugar white sands and sparkling emerald green waters. Sprawling shores provide the perfect setting for seating for dolphins and sandpipers, and postcard perfect sunrises and sunsets over the Gulf. The reflection of the white sands makes sunglasses and substantial sunscreen a must.
The 1,133-acre Grayton Beach State Recreation Area is an ecotourist’s delight. Outdoor enthusiasts can take the self-guided nature trail and get an up-close look at the ecological diversity found in the area including sand dunes, the coastal dune lake, pine flatwoods, marsh area and the beach. Facilities available include a pavilion, camping area, picnic areas and a boat ramp to Western Lake, Grayton’s 200-acre coastal dune lake.
Gulf Islands National Seashore
Gulf Islands National Seashore offers nature lovers eight miles of federally protected, undeveloped shoreline Ð the longest continuous stretch of protected beach in Northwest Florida, perfect for sun seekers, bird watchers and outdoor enthusiasts. Run by the National Park Service, the seashore encompasses several beaches, picnic areas, campsites, historic areas, and diverse wildlife along the Santa Rosa Island and part of Perdido Key.
Among Florida’s treasured barrier islands, Navarre Beach is a natural retreat for tourists. Nestled between Gulf Islands National Seashore and Navarre Beach State Park, this beach community offers solitude and simplicity. Its pristine beaches boast sand so clean and powdery white it literally squeaks under traveler’s toes. Its emerald clear waters evoke fun in the sun, attracting swimmers, snorkelers, and sailors alike. The warm Gulf waters also attract a plethora of fish, making the region famous for the beloved pastime of fishing.
Panama City Beach
Panama City Beach boasts 27 miles of silky white-sand beaches bordering the clear, emerald-green waters of the Gulf of Mexico and St. Andrews Bay. The destination, known as “The Beach Lovers Beach”, also enjoys recognition as a top US beach from The Travel Channel, USA Today, Southern Living, Dr. Beach and the Clean Beaches Council. Family attractions, championship golf courses, sporting events, delectable dining, predictably sunny weather and a vast number of recreational activities draw visitors to this Northwest Florida destination annually.
Pensacola Beach occupies nearly eight miles of the 40-mile-long Santa Rosa barrier island, much of which is protected from development and preserved by a determination to maintain the natural environment for generations to come. Beaches include Casino Beach, the geographic core of Pensacola Beach, where many gather for swimming and fun, Quietwater Beach near the commercial core of the beach, and many uncrowded areas where only a few congregate to unwind.
One of the newest attractions on Pensacola Beach is the Pensacola Beach Fishing Pier, the longest on the Gulf of Mexico, stretching across emerald-green waters and beyond two sand bars, providing breathtaking views of the shoreline.
Meaning “Lost Island” in Spanish, Perdido Key offers a refreshing escape with its bays, estuaries, wetlands, and abundant native sea life and wildlife. The key, located 30 minutes west of Pensacola, combines slow-paced life with its award-winning beaches, plenty of lodging and quaint shops, and its fair share of popular events and festivals. Accessible by boat or bridge, Perdido Key is flanked by the Gulf of Mexico on one side and by the tranquil Old River on the other. The variety of water settings makes it ideal for family water sports, including fishing, skiing, snorkelling, surfing and swimming.
Best known as the film locale of the Truman Show, starring Jim Carey, Seaside, one of the award-winning South Walton beach communities, oozes with charm, from the Gulf-front, Victorian-style cottages, to the unspoiled half-mile of fine white sand. With pedestrians rather than motor cars in mind, Seaside’s innovative layout makes sure that all the galleries, boutiques and restaurants are within walking distance of each other. Ideal for the unhurried, unfettered vacation, this is the perfect romantic getaway for couples.
South Walton Beaches
The beaches of South Walton are a collection of 14 eclectic beach communities, characterized by dazzling sugar-white sands, sea oats, sand dunes, and the brilliant emerald-green waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The communities of Inlet, Rosemary Beach, Seacrest, WaterSound, Seagrove, Seaside, WaterColor, Grayton, Blue Mountain, Santa Rosa, Dune Allen, Sandestin, Seascape, and Miramar offer a variety of outdoor activities.
The beaches of South Walton hold the designation as the only destination in the country to have all 26 miles of coastline certified as “Blue Wave Beaches”, an environmental seal of approval from the Clean Beaches Council. Program criteria include water quality, beach and inter tidal conditions, safety, services, habitat conservation, erosion management, public information and education.
St Andrews State Park
Located at the east end of Panama City, St. Andrews State Park is one of the most popular outdoor recreation spots in Florida. The 1,260-acre park has thick forests, sand dunes covered with sea oats, fresh and saltwater marshes, a lagoon swimming area, fishing jetties, hiking trails, 1.5 miles of beach and two campgrounds.
Topsail Hill State Preserve
One of the award-winning South Walton beach communities, Topsail Hill State Preserve, is a three-mile span of undeveloped beach front property that was identified as the most pristine and environmentally protected piece of coastal property in Florida. Attach magazine named Topsail Hill State Preserve one of the “Great Wilderness Beaches, and the Travel Channel named this prestigious preserve as one of the “Nation’s Top Secret Beaches”.