Hidden in plain sight is a place like no other in Destin-Fort Walton Beach – a peninsula called Norriego Point.
The slash of white sand dunes rises between Destin Harbor and the East Pass, a channel that leads out to the Gulf of Mexico. The landmark is front and center when you’re driving over Marler Bridge or enjoying a meal and cocktail at one of Harborwalk Village's restaurants.
How to get there, though, is a little bit of a mystery to visitors – one that’s easy and worth being solved to experience the shallow waters, sea life, and unique vantage point.
By water, you can arrive by boat, kayak, paddleboard, jet ski or take a water taxi, all available for rent nearby. On wheels, you take Gulf Shore Drive until it ends at a parking lot. For GPS, the address is 1 Gulf Shore Drive, Destin. You’ll need to download the Passport app to pay for parking and get there early because parking can be limited.
Exploring the Peninsula
Once you step into this special world – distinct among other local beaches – you’ll understand why it’s worth the experience.
Because Norriego Point is protected from the Gulf of Mexico’s strong tides and currents by jetties on one side and the harbor on the other, the calm water is perfect for swimming and one of the best spots in Florida for snorkeling.
Shallow tide pools surrounded by rock formations on the jetties’ side make for a relaxing splash in the water for children and adults who don’t want to battle crashing waves. Little crabs – including hermit crabs – love those rocks, and the absence of big fish attracts smaller fish, which in turn brings in seagulls, herons, and pelicans looking for saltwater snacks.
Destin snorkeling excursions make Norriego Point one of their prime stops, or you can bring your own mask and gear, available at myriad shops. Clearwater with white sand underneath makes marine life a cinch to see – from seahorses and stingrays to urchins and turtles. High tide is the best underwater viewing time.
Charter boats, sailboats, catamarans, a glass-bottom boat, and even a pirate ship will cruise by on the horizon.
The opposite side facing the harbor also is prime vessel viewing as a parade of watercraft glide along. Another party is directly across the harbor at Harborwalk Village, which has live music, entertainers, and weekly Fat Tuesday parades and fireworks.
In between is soft sand to explore, dotted by sea oats and wood fences used to protect Norriego Point from erosion. It’s a perfect backdrop for stunning family photos if you don’t have hundreds of them all ready to share with friends and neighbors back home.