Destin and Fort Walton Beach are becoming a snorkeling and scuba destination thanks to the deployment of artificial reefs. Okaloosa County placed 115 reef sites last year that are already teeming with fish and marine life, while an additional 40 reef sites will be placed offshore for scuba enthusiasts.
Four of those 115 reef sites deployed last year were inshore artificial reefs. Snorkeling doesn’t require much equipment, just a mask and a snorkel, and is easy for every level of swimmer. Depending on the time of year (and your luck) you might see dolphins, sea turtles, redfish, grouper, sheepshead fish, nurse sharks, crabs, and maybe even an octopus or a manatee. That’s what’s so exciting about our new reef systems, each day is different as the sea life begins to make these reefs their feeding grounds and home.
Here are our top five snorkeling spots in Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Florida.
Henderson Beach State Park’s Reef
Henderson Beach State Park is one of Destin’s most highly-rated stretches of beach. Endless dunes, a quiet, undisturbed shoreline and now, a reef teeming with fish. Snorkelers have reported seeing sea turtles and dolphins here.
Look for directional signs to the reef.
The park is open from 8 a.m. to sundown. Entry is $6 per car, $4 for single-occupant car, $2 for cyclists/pedestrians.
John Beasley Park’s Reef
John C. Beasley Park in Fort Walton Beach is a wonderful place to spend the day. This park borders the protected stretch of beach that leads to Destin’s East Pass. There are two dune walkovers, and a huge beach pavilion houses picnic tables as well as restrooms with changing rooms. The artificial reef is located close to shore, east of the pavilion. Parking is ample and there is no fee to enter.
Okaloosa Island Beach Access Four
On Okaloosa Island, located between Water’s Edge and The Nautilus on Santa Rosa Beach Blvd is Beach Access 4. It might not have the catchiest name, but the reef is located closer to shore (15 feet) and this beach access has a beach walkover with restrooms.
Destin’s Crab Trap Reef
South of The Crab Trap in Destin is another popular artificial reef for snorkeling. After an afternoon of exploring, The Crab Trap is also a great place to grab something to eat and compare notes on the different types of fish that you saw. We’ve heard it’s not uncommon to see large schools of fish here.
The Destin Jetties are located in the heart of Destin next to HarborWalk Village. They are Destin’s most well-known and popular snorkeling spot. You can see the huge rocks that compose the jetties when crossing the East Pass. They were built using rocks barged from Kentucky to stabilize the East Pass. The jetties are a wonderful place for beginners to snorkel. The water is extremely shallow close to the rocks, which makes it popular with families.
Pay attention to the tide level when snorkeling here. Visibility is best during high tide. At low tide, the murkier Choctawhatchee Bay water makes it more difficult to see fish and other sea life.
The waters of Destin-Fort Walton Beach are renowned for the sheer number of fish found here. The artificial reefs make them easy to find and enjoy. So no matter how many times you snorkel or dive, you’re guaranteed to see something new.