While the beaches of Destin, Ft. Walton Beach, and Okaloosa Island seem to be the most desired during the sultry summer months, here is what the locals know – the sugar-white sand and emerald-green water are just as captivating in the winter. Here, destination expert Deborah lists 10 reasons to spend winter on the Emerald Coast.
1. Come on in, the Water’s Fine! It really is a matter of perspective but many of our Northern visitors repeatedly tell us the water here is warmer in the winter than it is back home in the summer. Our visitors find it hard to believe that our average water temperature from December to March is 65 degrees.
2. Sunshine on Your Shoulders. There are days of “sweater weather” and there are days with a slight breeze coming off the Gulf. Either way, it is almost always sunnier here than it is back at home.
3. A Very Emerald Christmas. If you are dreaming of a White Christmas, head south, where our sugar-white sands offer a 100% chance of one. “A Very Emerald Christmas” is a monthlong celebration with special events, festive menus and unique shopping.
4. For a Shore Thing. Make a friend with a famous sea turtle at the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park on Okaloosa Island or grab a GPS-enabled device for geocaching along one of many Okaloosa County parks. The kids will love exploring the diverse ecosystems along the shore.
5. We Love to Party. Just four hours from New Orleans, the “Laissez les bon temps rouler” attitude is alive and well along the Emerald Coast with numerous Mardi Gras celebrations! Check out Mardi Gras on the Island hosted by the Greater Ft. Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce. This parade is the first Mardi Gras parade on the Gulf Coast and has all the floats, fun characters and beads you would expect from a New Orleans-style celebration.
6. Choose Your Adventure. Walk or run along the beach, ride bikes, scout out nature walks, take in a historic fishing museum, visit historic sites or just doze in a beach chair.
7. Join the Flock. Make new friends or keep the old! Two of the area’s largest “snowbird “(senior) clubs are in Ft. Walton Beach and Destin.
8. Is It Tee Time? Swing into action on the emerald greens of the many stunning golf courses located throughout the area. Upon your arrival stop by the Visitors Center for discount flyers. Choose from any one of our eight championship golf courses.
9. Shop the Coast. You’re sure to find that “beachy” holiday gift or a one-of-a-kind travel keepsake in one of the Emerald Coast’s outlets, pedestrian villages, open air malls, boardwalks or traditional retail stores. Check out the newly expandedDestin Commons or browse the offerings at HarborWalk Village, but be sure to bring an extra suitcase; you’re going to need it.
10. Art & Soul. The arts are at the Heart of Florida’s Emerald Coast. Ballet performances, symphonies, Broadway productions, touring musicians and shows are just a few of the sensational winter cultural happenings. In March you can catch the quintessential fairy tale of finding true love when the Mattie Kelly Arts Center presents Cinderella.