1. Information
  2. The Emerald Coast

The Emerald Coast

Last Updated :

The Emerald Coast

Emerald Coast beached boats, Hurlburt Field


The Emerald Coast is a beautiful expanse of white sand beaches and emerald colored seas stretching both east and west to the south of Hurlburt Field. Barrier islands, the Intracoastal Waterway and the Gulf of Mexico are all part of the Emerald Coast, which boasts beautiful beaches, warm waters, fabulous fishing and superb sunsets.

When the first nomadic Paleo-Indians arrived in the area after crossing the Bering Land Bridge into Alaska from Asia and making their way to Florida, the shoreline was actually 100 miles west of where it is today. Sea levels during that time period were much lower and the Florida climate much drier than today. Florida archaeologists have evidence of people being in the area 3,000 years ago. By 1500 A.D. people started making permanent settlements on the Emerald Coast and established temple mounds in what is now downtown Fort Walton Beach. This culture is said to have flourished for about 150 years until Europeans arrived and people were annihilated with warfare and disease. Later, Native Americans from Georgia and Alabama settled in the area until they were sent to Oklahoma during the Trail of Tears.

Through the years the Emerald Coast has been claimed by Spain, France, England, the Confederacy and finally, the United States of America. Pensacola on the far western side of the Emerald Coast holds a flag festival each year to celebrate this rich heritage.

Hurricanes have also visited the area, but with modern meteorological advances there is plenty of warning time to evacuate to higher ground and safety. Also visiting the Emerald Coast are sharks (look for a blue flag on the beach) and dangerous rip tides (red flag warns of worst conditions and yellow flag is for caution). The Emerald Coast has grown to become a destination for tourists, military personnel, high-tech industry and a multitude of people enjoying the climate, cost of living and lifestyle available.

Community Profiles

Miles from Hurlburt Field Postal Service Center
6 miles
Elected Official
Mayor Mike Anderson
School System
Okaloosa County School District
(850) 833-3100
Chamber of Commerce
(850) 244-8191

In 1915, a legislative act created Okaloosa County from the two counties of Walton and Santa Rosa, placing Camp Walton in Okaloosa County. In 1932, the town was renamed Fort Walton. "Beach" was finally added in 1953 to assure visitors they were visiting a beach when they vacationed in Fort Walton Beach.
Undiscovered for many years, the area abounds with many opportunities for outdoor sports and activities. A civic auditorium, council chambers, library complex and attractive parks give the city its core of activity. A top-rated educational system provides students with the opportunity for a kindergarten through graduate school education. The city has many churches of every denomination as well as numerous clubs and civic organizations. It is situated on the beautiful white sands of the Emerald Coast on the Gulf of Mexico.

Miles from Hurlburt Field Postal Service Center
14 miles
Elected Official
Mayor Craig Barker
School System
Okaloosa County School District
(850) 833-3100
Chamber of Commerce
(850) 837-6241

Destin traces its immediate history to a fisherman, Captain Leonard Destin, who came from New London, Conn., and settled in Northwest Florida in 1845. Captain Destin pioneered the fishing industry and Destin has maintained this heritage to the present. Destin is known as the "World's Luckiest Fishing Village."

The largest, most elaborately equipped fishing fleet in the state of Florida docks at the Destin Harbor. In addition to fishing, recreational opportunities include golf, tennis and water sports such as diving and snorkeling. The 100 Fathom curve draws closer to Destin than any other spot in Florida, providing the speediest deep-water access on the Gulf.

Miles from Hurlburt Field Postal Service Center
11 miles
Elected Officials
Commissioner Gordon Goodin
Commissioner John Broxson
School System
Santa Rosa County School District
(850) 983-5000
Chamber of Commerce
(850) 939-3267

The Navarre area boasts about 320 sunny days every year. Those who enjoy the outdoors will have plenty of year round opportunities to do so. At a glance, Navarre may appear to be sparsely populated, due to the vast stretches of open space and room to grow.

Actually, there are currently about 30,699 residents in Navarre alone, with almost 118,000 total in Santa Rosa County. In fact, the area population has increased by 44 percent in the last ten years. As a result, many new businesses have opened up, providing the area with more substance and less need to venture out of the county. The tourism industry remains strong, with many visitors coming from neighboring states and new accommodations being built.

Miles from Hurlburt Field Postal Service Center
20 miles
Elected Official
Mayor Randall Wise
School System
Okaloosa County School District
(850) 833-3100
Chamber of Commerce
(850) 678-2323

The earliest visitors to Boggy Bayou used water transportation and included Indians, pirates, explorers and military excursionists. The combination of waterways and lush woodlands still attracts people to the area and influences the long-term stay of many.

The current citizens of the Bay Area, like those of bygone days, look to the future and invest their fortunes and energies in the community. Niceville's schools from K-12 are all A+ recipients from the Florida Department of Education and the Niceville high school is a national Blue Ribbon School of Excellence. Simply being proud of past achievement is insufficient; the preservation of the natural environment and an enhanced quality of life for business and all residents is the continuing goal of the community.

Miles from Hurlburt Field Postal Service Center
34 miles
Elected Official
Mayor George Whitehurst
School System
Okaloosa County School District
(850) 833-3100
Chamber of Commerce
(850) 682-3212

Crestview claims the name of "Hub City" because of the three major highways that intersect at its center. State Road 85 and Interstate Highway 10 cross on the south side of town, while State Road 85 and Highway 90 cross on the north side.

Located roughly halfway between Pensacola and Panama City, Crestview borders Eglin Air Force Base on the north and is situated less than an hour drive to Fort Walton Beach, Destin and the Gulf of Mexico. The Crestview location has access to military bases, shopping, beaches, golf courses, fishing, camping and canoeing. With balmy weather and temperatures ranging from an average in the summer of 80 degrees to an average of 51 degrees in winter, there are plenty of days to work and play in the sun.



The museum boasts an impressive collection of historical artifacts and memorabilia that traces the heritage of the Air Commandos and Special Operations forces from WWII to the present. An Airborne Battlefield Command Control Center capsule has been restored for visitors to walk through. There is also a vast collection of military aircraft and missile exhibits. The museum is located on State Road 85 outside the Eglin Air Force Base west gate, Fort Walton Beach. For information, call (850) 882-4062.

The park has one of the nation's purest spring-fed, sandbottom rivers. Beginning 45 miles upstream in Alabama, the river continues downstream for 13 miles before emptying into Blackwater Bay. Wildlife is plentiful in this beautiful park, which includes 590 acres to picnic, swim, fish, boat, canoe and camp. Open year round from 8 a.m. to sunset. The park is located off U.S. Highway 90 at 7720 Deaton Bridge Road in Holt. For information, call (850) 983-5363.

The original one-room schoolhouse was used from 1912 to 1936. It has been restored and moved to its present location where it is maintained by the city. The museum is located at 107 First Street in Fort Walton Beach. For information, call (850) 833-9595.

The legacy and heritage of generations of Destin fishermen come alive through numerous displays. Features include dry aquarium, workshop room, memorabilia room, rodeo fishing room and gift shop. The museum is located in Destin at 108 Stahlman Avenue. For information, call (850) 837-6611.

An 1895 Greek revival estate, surrounded by a Southern spread of immense moss-draped oaks and resplendent gardens of camellias and azaleas, overlooks the picturesque Choctawhatchee Bay with the charming character of days gone by. The gardens are located near the bayou in Point Washington, off U.S. Highway 98 on County Road 395. For information, call (850) 231-4214.

This 464,000-acre reservation is available for hunting, fishing, camping and other recreational activities.

Dripping with stalagmites and stalactites, Florida's only limestone caverns wind through underground depths for fascinating public tours. The park is located at 3345 Caverns Road in Marianna. For information, call (850) 482-9598.

Get a chance to feed juvenile alligators at this local attraction with plenty to offer. In addition to free shows with their juvenile alligators, Fudpucker's has a playground, game room and fabulous dining. Fudpuckers is located in Destin at 20001 Emerald Coast Parkway. For information, call (850) 654-4200.

America's second oldest marine park, established in 1955, hosts Atlantic bottle-nose dolphins, California sea lions, Peruvian penguins, Ridley turtles and more in 14 fascinating gulf-edged exhibits including huge underwater viewing panels that showcase eels, sharks and other sea life. The Gulfarium is located at 1010 Miracle Strip Parkway, S.E., Fort Walton Beach; take Highway 98 to Okaloosa Island. For information, call (850) 244-5169.

The museum focuses on the local area during the period of the 1800s to the 1930s. Exhibits include an old cotton gin, farm tools, furnishings, kitchen equipment and a 1920s stove. The museum is located at 115 Westview Avenue in Valparaiso. For information, call (850) 678-2615.

The 6,000-piece exhibit, showcasing America's largest collection of Southeastern Indian ceramic artifacts, journeys through 10,000 years of four prehistoric tribes. The largest Indian mound discovered along saltwater (1400 A.D.) stands guard beside the museum. The mound and museum is located at 139 S.E. Miracle Strip Parkway in Fort Walton Beach. For information, call (850) 833-9595.

This museum features the IMAX Theater and it is one of the largest air and space museums in the world. Over 140 unique, beautifully restored aircraft represent Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard aviation. The museum houses the IMAX Theater, which has a seven-story tall screen and a 15,000-watt sound system. There is also a gift shop and café. Admission to the museum is free. There is a $6 charge for admission to the IMAX Theater. The museum is open daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and is located at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola. For information, call (850) 452-3604.

A giant fishing pier with 1,261 feet lighted for nighttime fishing. Rod holders and benches are built onto the pier, which also includes a fish cleaning area. The pier is located on Okaloosa Island at Fort Walton Beach.

A beautiful sight to behold is that of hundreds of brightly colored plants, flowers and butterflies that inhabit the Panhandle Butterfly House each year from May 1 through Labor Day. Located on the Navarre Nature Walk, the Butterfly House is seasonally open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, including holidays. Admission is free, although donations are accepted to help support the large number and variety of butterflies. The butterfly house is located in Navarre.

Wolves, lions, tigers, bears and a barrel of monkeys! The zoo provides an educational and enjoyable visit with exotic animals from many parts of the world. It has more than 250 animals representing 50 different species from more than 30 different countries. Many animals may be hand fed and petted. The zoo is located just minutes east of Crestview on Highway 90 at 5262 Deer Springs Drive. For information, call (850) 682-3949.

The action-packed recreation center features everything from the ultimate in go-cart tracks to big fun for little tykes at Kids Country, including miniature golf, bumper boats and a bungee jumping tower. The center is located at 1125 U.S. Highway 98 East in Destin. For information, call (850) 654-4668

First opened in 1887, it is believed to be a historically significant structure and it is the oldest public library in the state still in its original building. Many rare books dating back to the library's beginning are on display. For information, call (850) 892-3624.

This 50-acre preserve with more than 700 animals is surrounded by botanical gardens. There's the boardwalk, which allows for a close look at Gorilla Island and a free-range habitat that features gorillas and chimpanzees. Visitors can ride the Safari Line Train. There is also a petting zoo. The zoo is located at 5701 Gulf Breeze Parkway, 10 miles east of Gulf Breeze and 19 miles west of Fort Walton Beach. For information, call (850) 932-2229.


Destin • (850) 337-8250
Hosted by Harbor Walk Marina in Destin, the Cobia Fishing Tournament kicks off when the first cobia of the season is caught, usually sometime in early March and ends on the last day of April.

Crestview • (850) 689-1618
Celebration saluting the area's rich heritage, held at the Old Spanish Trail site in Crestview once used by European settlers as a trade route. This 10-day festival includes a rodeo, parade, arts and crafts bazaar, food vendors, an authentic trail ride, carnival rides and entertainment by nationally recognized musicians.

Eglin Air Force Base • (850) 882-3931
Premier event is open to the public and attracts thousands of visitors. Daytime event provides static displays, amusements for all ages, entertainment, food and souvenirs, a variety of aerial acts and performances by Air Force Thunderbirds every other year.

Fort Walton Beach • (850) 244-8191
Festival starts the first Friday in June at the Fort Walton Beach Landing with food, arts and crafts, music and entertainment and an 8:30 p.m. fireworks display. The festival continues Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., featuring an armada landing beginning at 3 p.m.

Most communities host Independence Day fireworks displays on the 4th of July. Area beaches and parks will be the scene of many picnics celebrating independence.

Crestview • (850) 682-9543
Hosted annually by the Crestview Chamber of Commerce at the Old Spanish Trail Park & Pavilion, the festival features major live entertainment acceptable to all families, with music ranges to fit all tastes. Beginning on Friday afternoon and lasting into the night, then continuing Saturday all day and evening, it is held on the third weekend of September each year. Food vendors, carnival rides and arts and crafts round out this fun festival.

Destin • (850) 654-0885
The first weekend of October shop at 100 arts and crafts vendors and visit the Destin Fishing Museum tent that is full of memorabilia of years past. Tadpole Town for the kids and the young at heart features a NASCAR racetrack, live animals, balloon animals, rock wall, obstacle course, puppet and magic shows, face painting, fly-fishing casting contests and much, much more. Enjoy the car and motorcycle displays, plus free concerts. Admission to the festival is free.

Niceville • (850) 729-4008
Niceville hosts the Boggy Bayou Mullet Festival the third weekend in October. Three days of live entertainment, mullet and fried gator tail, Southern arts and handicrafts and all kinds of family fun are found at Highway 85 and College Boulevard in Niceville.

Crestview & Mary Ester
Parades to honor veterans who served America in peacetime and in wartime are held on Main Street in the downtown areas on Veterans Day. Organizations, civic clubs, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, school children, parents and especially veterans are special dignitaries.

Destin Harbor
Starring the largest charter fleet in Florida, a sparkling procession of festive boats parade through Destin harbor on the second Sunday of December for all to see from beaches, harbors, bridges, decks and docks.


© 2020 - MARCOA Media