Paddleboarding, including stand-up paddleboarding or SUP, is a popular pastime along the shores of Destin and Fort Walton Beach, Florida. In fact, much of the newest and best in paddleboard design and gear are created locally at BOTE Board.
Calm, clear waters in our bays and along our stretch of Gulf of Mexico shoreline make for gorgeous views into the underwater world as you skim across the surface on your paddleboard. Even if you are a paddleboarding beginner, you’ll find plenty of places to try out this new water adventure for yourself or with your family.
We’ve compiled a list of the five best places to paddleboard in Destin-Fort Walton Beach. Find the paddleboarding spot that matches your skill and comfort levels and enjoy a leisurely day paddling on our Gulf Coast waters!
1. Gulf Islands National Seashore
Located on Okaloosa Island and part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore the Okaloosa Day Use Area is a National Park beloved by water sports enthusiasts of all types including paddleboarders. Get a day pass, bring your gear, and explore the clear water shores from 8 a.m. until sunset, testing your balance and perfecting your skills. Plus, enjoy nice amenities — a boat/paddleboard launch, bathroom facilities, and a picnic area, so you won’t have to leave until the sun goes down.
2. Choctawhatchee Bay & Lulu’s
The waters of Choctawhatchee Bay have calm, brackish water where salty Gulf waters flow in and mix with freshwater from the bayous. Choctawhatchee Bay is busy with boat traffic through East Pass, the outlet to the Gulf of Mexico, but if you stay closer to the wading waters near the shore or the bayous, you’ll find calm paddleboarding spots for kids and beginners. You may even spot fascinating sea life like a herd of the Bay’s treasured seahorses. More experienced paddleboarders who like to fish can find a mix of fresh and saltwater fish in Choctawhatchee Bay.
For an entertaining launch point into Choctawhatchee Bay from Destin, go to Lulu’s and rent paddleboarding gear from Paddle Tribe Co. Book ahead to rent by the hour, or sign up for special sunrise/sunset or yoga paddleboarding outings. Plus, when you’re understandably hungry from your water adventures, you can come back to shore to eat Lulu’s delicious food and enjoy daily live music.
3. Henderson Beach State Park
For crystal clear waters perfect for enjoying marine life, go paddleboarding at Henderson Beach State Park. Bring the whole crew, and pay by the carload to enter the park. There you’ll enjoy views of native flora such as sand pine and dune rosemary along 6000 feet of shoreline and sweeping sand dunes, some as high as 30 feet.
Take the sandy steps down to the beach for a paddleboarding adventure! Before you jump in, be aware of the colored beach flags noting the water conditions. There is no lifeguard on duty, so use good judgement while paddleboarding here.
The waters are warm and clear, perfect for seeing schools of tropical fish or perhaps dolphins and sea turtles with a bit of luck. For a truly immersive experience, perhaps setup a beachy home away from home at one of the campsites for more than one day of paddleboarding fun.
4. Okaloosa Island Beach Access Points
For paddleboarding spots that aren’t often busy or crowded, try one of the numbered Okaloosa Island Beach Access Points. Located between vacation rentals and other private areas, these public beach access points have lifeguards and are comfortably outfitted with simple boardwalks, restrooms, and picnic areas. Choose one of these less-frequented access points, and you’ll have the room to test the waters — literally — and get back on the paddleboard after a loss of balance and a few playful plunges into the sparkling emerald waters.
5. Norriego Point and Destin Harbor
Finally, we come to Norriego Point, a sandy peninsula on Holiday Isle across Destin Harbor. It’s a public access point and well-loved among paddleboarders as a good spot for beginners and enthusiasts alike. Rent a paddleboard from one of the many rental shops in HarborWalk Village and paddle out across the Harbor to Norriego Point. It’s a pretty stretch with wooden fences and dunes against the blue sky making a striking backdrop for photos. Stay close to the shore if you’re new to the sport, or venture on a stand-up paddleboarding tour of the lovely homes along the Destin Harbor Canals.
These are five top spots to learn to paddleboard and work on your skills in Destin and Fort Walton Beach. Plan your outing by renting gear or taking a guided paddleboarding tour or lesson. We’d love to see your water adventures when you visit our shores. Post your pics to social with #DestinFWB.
Here’s to new adventures!