Twenty-four miles of soft, sugar-white sand make Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Florida. While the sunshine state may offer over 1,800 miles of coastline, the shores of Destin-Fort Walton Beach provide access to the clear, emerald green water of the Gulf of Mexico unlike any other.
Why is our sand so white and our water so green? The beautiful quartz sand was delivered here by way of the Appalachian River, courtesy of the mountains of the same name, after the last ice age. Over time, as the deposit built, our coastline was formed. The quartz sand that remains beneath the water reflects the area’s abundant sunlight back through the waves to create the emerald hue of the Gulf of Mexico.
Whether you prefer to ride the waves behind your hotel, enjoy a private swim at your vacation home rental, or splash at one of the popular boardwalks and public beach accesses listed below, one thing is for sure – you won’t find softer sand or more brilliant water than Destin-Fort Walton Beach!
If you will be enjoying a vacation on the east end of Destin, head to James Lee Park and check out the expansive boardwalk. Marked by the Crab Trap restaurant, this access offers plenty of parking, three pavilions, 41 picnic tables, and a playground. Oh, and let’s not forget the ever-important restrooms, complete with changing tables. Enjoy a wonderful day out on the sand and be sure to grab a fantastic drink or lunch from the restaurant!
Henderson Beach State Park in Destin boasts more than 6,000 feet of scenic shoreline, dotted with beautiful dune rosemary and sand pines. In addition to ample access to the beach, the park offers wandering boardwalks ideal for viewing area wildlife, pavilions perfect for picnics, and playgrounds for the kids. Camping, fishing and even geocaching are also available. This beach is perfect for weddings and is even pet-friendly! Be sure to grab some cash before departing for the park, as there is a small entrance fee to this public access point.
Offering the fewest amenities, but one of the best views is the East Pass Beach Access in Destin. Located behind the iconic ‘Welcome to Destin’ sign when traveling east from Fort Walton Beach, the East Pass access affords you a terrific view of the harbor and jetties. Set your beach chair up here during your next Destin vacation to watch the famous harbor in action! Parking is available but not paved, and there are no bathrooms, but trust us, the view is worth it!
In addition to being a fantastic public beach access point, the Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island is also the place to dine, play and shop during your Fort Walton Beach vacation! Soak up the sun or enjoy a pick-up game of volleyball on the public courts. Then, make your way up to the boardwalk to grab lunch, ice cream, beach essentials or dinner before one of the free community events, such as the Wednesday night fireworks, that take place weekly all summer long.
Just west of the boardwalk is another great access point that offers pavilions ideal for a picnic lunch, food and beverage vendors and the all-important restrooms, John Beasley Park! A low-key, family-friendly vibe, ample parking, seasonal lifeguards and an expansive stretch of sand make this a great place to hang out under the sun.
Dotted between the vacation rentals and hotels on Okaloosa Island are seven additional beach access points. All offer parking, although limited, as well as seasonal lifeguards. While picnic areas and restrooms are available, that’s all you will find here at these laid-back, simple boardwalks. Pack your cooler and a bag of snacks. Once you’ve settled into your spot, you won’t want to leave.