Even though Destin-Fort Walton Beach is among the most popular tourist destinations in the country, there are still some “secret” places off the beaten path to explore.
Here are the best for paddleboarders and eFoilers:
No, not the one from James Bond films but our Spectre Island is just as interesting. Decades ago, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredged Santa Rosa Sound, leaving behind tiny “islands” now refinished beautifully by nature. The largest – near Hurlburt Field – was named to honor crews of two crashed Spectre aircrafts.
Boats can’t come near the island because the water is too shallow which makes for a perfect, no-wake environment for paddleboarders and e-foilers. Here you can enjoy the aquamarine waves, white sand, and wildlife, ranging from crabs and sand dollars to birds of prey and dolphins.
Gulf Islands National Seashore
Gulf Islands National Seashore’s bayside is another lesser-known treasure. It’s not too deep, not too shallow. It’s just right to paddle along, stopping at spots along Okaloosa Island to relax, watch the color sails of windsurfers.
For more things to do in Destin, there is nothing more iconic than the Destin Harbor, and you can look at it from a different point of view than most.
Paddle or ride to Norriego Point to watch a constant nautical parade, including the Destin Fishing Fleet returning with their catches mid-afternoon and the Buccaneer Pirate Cruise ship throwing thrilling history into the mix. For superb people-watching, look no further than Harborwalk Village and Destin Boardwalk across the way. For some seriously fresh seafood or a drink, the tropics or a pirate would envy, tie up at any number of restaurants along the shore.
Please note, while the water is calmer than the Gulf of Mexico and it’s a no-wake zone, you still need to be careful and steer clear of boat traffic that can throw you off balance in the busy harbor.
Now take it to a deeper level, one that the locals know. Head toward the residential canals of old Destin. These are like “streets,” and they’re lined with beautiful homes and cool boats as unique as their owners.
No time constraints? Then keep going into where the harbor ends in “Sandpiper Cove.” This also is a great spot to see dolphins and offers a small sandbar to stand up and stretch.
Norriego Point Tide Pools
If you’re a very experienced paddleboard or eFoiler, you also can check out the tide pools on the Gulf side of the Norriego Point. It’s a long walk from the parking area, but full of hermit crabs, starfish, octopus, and lesser-seen fish. The currents can change on a dime, so check the forecasts before heading out.
Being one with the water on your paddleboard or eFoil is an adventure unto itself. From these out-of-the-way spots, you’ll also have memories as unique as you are.