There Is Never a Wrong Time to Have a Beach Vow Renewal

It’s time for I do, part two
As published in Emerald Coast Magazine


Marie Di Giovine officiated as the Goodes exchanged vows reaffirming their love and commitment. The couple wrote their own renewal vows, declaring their ongoing devotion to each other after a decade of marriage and to their children.

It’s no secret that Emerald Coast beaches are coveted destinations for tying the knot, with lovely brides barefoot in the sand, joining with their betrotheds beneath an arch made of driftwood.

For many, the timeless beauty of the shore and the immensity of the Gulf of Mexico also are ideal settings for formally telling your spouse you would do it all over again.

Whether you’re celebrating your wooden anniversary or your golden, vow renewal ceremonies are a way to strengthen the love you share with your spouse and reaffirm the promises you made, with sea and sun as your witness.

Marie Di Giovine has been officiating vow renewals, along with traditional weddings, for more than eight years. She has presided over everything from a surprise vow renewal on a beach condo balcony to a shorefront service planned a year in advance.

“When a couple comes to me wanting to renew their vows, the first thing I do is make sure I’m the right fit for them,” Di Giovine explains. “Whether it’s their first official wedding or they’re renewing vows, it’s still a very important day in their lives.”

Di Giovine determines if it’s a match by interviewing the couple to understand what they’re looking for. Personalization is a must when Di Giovine writes her scripts, so she must have a deep understanding of your marriage to formulate the most meaningful exchange.

“A lot of my vow renewal couples never got to have a real wedding,” Di Giovine says. “A lot of them are military and did it before deployment, or finances restricted a big ceremony so they just went to a Justice of the Peace back home. Now they want to come to our beautiful beaches and finally have that extravagant blowout.”

Those couples are referred to a vetted wedding planner and vendors by Di Giovine to craft a memorable reception. Other couples want events in the category of sweet and simple, electing a small ceremony with only the closest friends and family, or no guests at all.

Di Giovine says Henderson Beach State Park, Grayton Beach State Park, Eden Gardens State Park and John Beasley Park are her go-to suggestions for a picturesque, exclusive experience that also makes for fantastic photos.

Meanwhile, Navarre Marine Park and lettered inlets along Pensacola Beach (particularly lot H and G near the Portofino Resort) are the preferred venues of Cheri Pope, officiant and co-owner of Forever I Do Weddings.

“You don’t have commercial buildings or other people on the beach in the background, so the white sand acts as a blank canvas for us to customize our vow renewal ceremonies,” says Pope. “Brides who show up from out of state or different countries are overwhelmed with what’s available to them, and for us it can’t get any better.”


Thirty years of being in the wedding business have taught Pope that people have various motives for renewing their vows.

“There’s only one reason to have a wedding, but there’s a hundred to renew your vows,” Pope states. “I’ll have some couples that say, OK, it’s been 10 years, let’s renew our vows. Or, they’re celebrating other anniversary milestones. But then others seek us out while they’re going through tough times. When life gets in the way, vow renewals are a perfect way to put the focus back on each other, rekindle your bond and remember your love.”

On the other hand, some of Di Giovine’s clients make the decision that because their lives have changed so much since their wedding day, it’s time to take on new roles of commitment. They know they’re here for better or for worse, but the things in between matter, too.

“Personally, my vow renewals follow the same format as a wedding, only when it’s time to say the vows, they’re written and expressed in such a way that they reflect the couple’s continued promise of love to each other,” she describes. “You would think that those kinds of ceremonies would make the petite, dainty wife break down and cry, but nope … it’s always the big, burly husband!”

It’s not just older couples who renew their vows. Marilyn and Cody Poindexter from Springfield, Missouri, had only been married for less than three years when they enlisted Pope and Forever I Do Weddings to create their second union.

“Originally, we eloped to Costa Rica for a quick getaway,” Marilyn Poindexter recalls. “We knew that one day we wanted to have a proper ceremony and have always loved vacationing in Florida, so we decided to take the trip down to the Destin/Navarre area to do it.”

After getting to know the couple, Pope decided the private atmosphere of Navarre Beach would best suit their exchange. As the sun began to set, the Poindexters recited their fresh, handwritten vows and Cody slipped a new ring on to Marilyn’s finger. According to the bride, the promises cemented in the sand that day brought them even closer.

Both Pope and Di Giovine find that children are one of the biggest inspirations behind other young couples that come to them. It’s not uncommon for the betrothed to pledge oaths to always support their kids and parent to the best of their abilities.

Family, after all, is what it’s all about. “We like to say that people call as clients, but they leave as friends and family,” Pope says. “To take someone’s idea or dream for a wedding or vow renewal and make it a reality is very satisfying. It’s special. They’re letting me into a private part of their life.”

It’s an honor and a learning experience for Di Giovine.

“I knew I wanted to do something where I could create happiness for somebody, but I didn’t know what that would be,” Di Giovine laughs. “Unbeknownst to me, not only would I go on to do that, but I would also get something in return. Every day, I’m learning about love and what it looks like at different stages of life. It’s helped me in my relationships, my friendships and has taught me to be a better person.”

Thanksgiving Dinner in Your Vacation Condo

Thanksgiving in Myrtle Beach

Just thinking about planning a holiday gathering away from home is enough to make my blood pressure rise. The stress and anxiety is so common that entire movies are based upon this premise (we left Kevin at home, again!?).

However, it is possible to plan and execute Thanksgiving on foreign turf and avoid many of the last minute nightmares that often occur. This is most easily done by following my primary rule: accept that fact that things rarely go as planned, and that the real reason is to spend time with each other and not obsess about the lack of a table cloth. You may think it is about the things, but it is always about the people. Give thanks for that.

That said, here is a rundown of some early planning that can make your Thanksgiving away from home problem-free (well, at least without a major problem, like forgetting Kevin. Again.)

The Rental

Make sure you choose a rental unit large enough for your entire group. Sometimes guest counts grow and shrink, but it is better to have an extra bed than the opposite.  Legacy Vacations offers wide variety of beachfront condo rentals, that are perfect for holiday gatherings.  That said, you can plan ahead by printing out your rental confirmation and highlighting key information about check-in, cleaning rules and services, and contact information at the rental agency.

The Kitchen

You need to decide right now what you’d rather do. Pack more kitchen items than you might need, or brave Thanksgiving week crowds at Wal-Mart picking up a bottle-opener and 2 extra serving spoons? I don’t know about you, but I choose the former. Your rental kitchen will have basic kitchen items like plates, flatware, glasses and perhaps a couple pots or pans. Will it have enough to make your traditional Thanksgiving meal with all the sides? Maybe not. Consider packing a disposable roasting pan, some extra serving utensils, a corkscrew and can-opener, and perhaps an extra baking dish or two. Be prepared.

The Food

Thanksgiving grocery list Are you bringing a turkey or buying one here? I guess that depends on your distance and method of travel, but if you plan on buying a turkey here, call local markets to order one in advance so you don’t show up to find out none are left. Additionally, if you’d like to cut down on the time spent in the grocery store, consider bringing some of the non-perishable things that you will need should you be travelling by car. Flour, sugar, canned goods and breads can be packed in the trunk or backseat and unloaded upon arrival.  To simplify your grocery shopping, you can even order your turkey, ham and side dishes from the Honey Baked Ham website, and pick it up when you arrive in town.

The Decor

Thanksgiving napkin ringsIf grandma’s table cloth is a family tradition, be sure that is packed early. Sometimes the small table pieces and decorations are the most meaningful aspects of the dinner because they are tied to memories and events with family and friends. Don’t let the quest for the bird take up so much mental space that you forget your child’s handprint turkey that has always been displayed each November.

If this brief list has started stressing you out about everything you need to do, remember, things rarely go as planned, and the real reason for this trip is to spend quality time with family and friends. Or you can always go out to eat.  Check this link for a list of local restaurants serving Thanksgiving Dinner.

Fair Winds and Following Seas: October Events on the Emerald Coast

Fall is one of the most brilliant times to vacation in the heart of Florida’s Emerald Coast. October is an especially wonderful time to visit the shores of Destin, Fort Walton Beach and Okaloosa Island. The temperatures are milder than you find in the summer, but still warm enough to warrant long days on the sugar white sand. And, when you aren’t splashing in the emerald waves, you will find plenty going on around town, too.

October kicks off with two of the most highly anticipated Emerald Coast events of the year; the Destin Seafood Festival and the month-long fishing rodeo. Destin boasts the state’s largest charter fishing fleet and October is their Super Bowl. And, it can be yours, too.

Now in its 69th year, the Destin Fishing Rodeo embodies everything the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village” was founded on and starts on October 1. It’s easy to get in on the action, too. No entrance fees, no fancy boat of your own required. To participate in this tournament all you need to do is contact a local captain and charter a boat for a day of fun on the water. Once you’ve got your catch, head in to AJ’s and Bruce Cheves, official weighmaster since 1991, where he will string up your fish and “make you famous”, as he says, if you’ve brought in ‘the big one’.

Speaking of the weigh station, we recommend putting in an afternoon on the docks, even if you have no plans to fish while here. Every afternoon of the month the charter boats make their way in to meet up with Bruce and Miss Destin, who greets the fisherman as they disembark. The air is electric as they hoist up each fish competing for a spot on the board. The atmosphere is one of excitement and fun! The cold beverages and scrumptious seafood from the restaurant doesn’t hurt either.

To enjoy an extra delicious addition to your trip, make sure you plan your October vacation for the first weekend of the month. Not only will you be able to take in the start of the rodeo, but also delight in three days of culinary offerings at the Destin Seafood Festival! The event takes place at HarborWalk Village, just steps from the rodeo weigh station. Sample the Gulf to Table creations of local chefs here as you enjoy live music from three stages, which feature everything from rock to reggae, before heading off to the weigh-ins.

Planning to travel later in the month? Good idea! While the entire month is a budget-friendly time to hit the beach, later in October can be especially easy on the wallet. And, don’t worry; the rodeo will still be in full swing and you can capitalize on even more events.

One such event is the Mattie Kelly Arts Festival, which takes place October 28and 29th. Ideal for those traveling with kids, friends or on a couple’s vacation in Destin, this festival showcases the works of over 100 juried artists. You will also find delicious eats, continuous live music and plenty for kids to do at their designated art station!

While there is no bad time to hit the beach in the fall – or, ever really – we especially recommend visiting the heart of Florida’s Emerald Coast in October. Fantastic weather, great rates on places to stay and hot events will be waiting for you. Book your trip to Destin, Fort Walton Beach and Okaloosa Island now!

Are There Sharks in Destin, Fort Walton Beach & Okaloosa Island?

Posted by Emerald Coast CVB  on 

Swimming in the emerald waters of Destin, Fort Walton Beach and Okaloosa Island is without a doubt one of the top things to do on the Emerald Coast when on vacation. But, you may also have some concerns about interacting with our marine life, namely sharks.

Scrolling through your newsfeed on Facebook or Instagram you may have seen videos of sharks swimming along the edge of the beach. And, they do. They are a natural occurrence in our waters and this is their home. But, contrary to what the internet would have you believe, their interactions with humans are very rare.

When we say rare, we mean it. There have only ever been three shark attacks in Destin, Fort Walton Beach and Okaloosa Island since 1882, according to the University of Florida. And, there has never been a fatally resulting from a shark attack in the heart of Florida’s Emerald Coast.

So, will you see a shark? Maybe. But, there is no reason to panic. In fact, remaining calm and exiting the water without a lot of splashing will make you less likely to attract the shark’s attention. Simply leave the water as quickly as you can and never attempt to touch a shark. Want to capture the encounter on video to tweet to us later? Great! Keep your distance and let your camera’s zoom do all the work.

While it is unlikely you will encounter a shark on your vacation in Destin, Fort Walton Beach or Okaloosa Island, that doesn’t mean you won’t see some fantastic sea life during your stay. Be on the lookout for playful dolphins, hermit crabs, protected sea turtles and numerous fish.

Pack plenty of sunscreen and don’t forget the sand toys, but leave your concerns at home. Sharks might add an element of excitement to your vacation, but with vigilance and our safety tips, a scary encounter won’t be anything you need to worry about here on the Emerald Coast!

July 4th Fireworks on the Emerald Coast


Smoke on the Coast – July 3, 2017 – 9:00 pm – Start your Independence Day early at Destin Commons with great BBQ, live music, street performers, and kids activities. This 6th annual event benefits local charities. There will be 16 area restaurants and BBQ teams competing in the BBQ competition fighting for the People’s choice award of best BBQ on the Emerald Coast. BBQ tastings and live music starts at 5:00 pm and samples are $1 each. Fireworks are at 9:00 pm.

Red, White, and Baytowne – July 4, 2017 – 9:15 pm – The fireworks show at Baytowne Wharf starts at 9:15 pm, but the fun and celebration begins at 6:00 pm with kids activities, live music, and more!

4th of July Fireworks over the Harbor – July 4, 2017 – 9:00 PM – Enjoy a patriotic fireworks display at HarborWalk Village on Independence Day. Enjoy live music starting at 7PM.

Fort Walton Beach

4th of July at the Fort Walton Beach Landing – July 4, 2017 – 8:45 – Beginning at 4pm, there will be live music, entertainment, food, merchandise vendors, kids activities, and more. Fireworks launch at 8:15PM, followed by live music by Continuum!

Navarre Beach

4th of July Fireworks on Navarre Beach – July 4, 2017 – 9:00 PM (or dark) – Fireworks will launch from Navarre Beach Marine Park and will be visible from both the beach and the sound side east and west of the Navarre Beach Causeway bridge.

Niceville – Valparaiso

Twin Cities Fireworks Show over Boggy Bayou – July 4, 2017 – DUSK – The fireworks will be launched over Boggy Bayou at Dusk. There will be plenty of kids activities such a train ride, bounce house, and a water slide. Bring the whole family and spend the day celebrating Independence Day! The most popular places for public viewing of the annual fireworks show are Lincoln Park, Lions Park, and the Turkey Creek area in Niceville. Parking is limited.

Rosemary Beach

Fourth of July Celebration – Start bright and early with our Bike Decorating Contest & Breakfast. (7:30 AM) followed by the Bike Parade throughout the Town Center (8:30 AM). Enjoy an old-fashioned family field day on Western Green with sack races, water balloon toss, games prizes and more (9:00 AM). Rock to the sounds of the different decades with our band the “Like Totally” Hep Cats on Western Green (6:00 PM). Enjoy a star spangled fireworks display from the beach courtesy of the Rosemary Beach Property Owners Association (8:45 PM). Blankets and Lawn Chairs are welcome.


Seaside 4th of July Celebration – July 4, 2017 – 8:30 PM – The annual Seaside Independence Day parade starts at 8:00 AM and goes from Seagrove to the Seaside Amphitheater. Kick back and enjoy live music by the Victory Belles at 7PM, followed by the fireworks show at 8:30 PM.

Alys Beach

4th of July Concert & Fireworks – July 4, 2017 – 9:00 PM – Starting at 6:00 PM, there will be live music by The Bucktown All-Stars with the fireworks show around 9PM. Food and beverages will be available for purchase.

Can’t Make July 4th Fireworks?

July 5 – Fireworks From Okaloosa Fishing Pier – Fort Walton Beach, FL
July 6 – Red, White, and Baytowne – Baytowne Wharf

Memorial Day is your chance to honor people who died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Don’t do alone. Join the community as it honors those who died and celebrate the safety and freedoms for which they fought.

Kick off the unofficial first day of summer with these events:

Emerald Grande at HarborWalk Village

What: Memorial Day Concert Celebration

When: 7-9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Where: 10 Harbor Boulevard, Destin

Cost: Free admission


Celebrate Memorial Day with live music and fireworks on the Destin Harbor. The Good Lookings will perform 7-9 p.m. Saturday. On Sunday, Flash Flood will perform 4:30-6:30 p.m., Departure: The Journey Tribute Band will perform 7-9 p.m. and Just Add Fire, a fire-spinning group, will perform at 9 p.m.

Gulf Cemetery

What: Memorial Day ceremony

When: 10 a.m. Monday

Where: 1466 S. County Highway 393, Santa Rosa Beach


Gulf Cemetery will host its annual Memorial Day ceremony, in which it will honor the 125 veterans interred in the cemetery with a service that will include a keynote speech by Major Scott C. Willis, a Special Operations officer on active duty with the United States Air Force. The Girl Scouts of South Walton will post the colors for the event. Cloud 9 Orchestra, a local big band, will play music during the ceremony. The Destin Warbirds will perform a “missing man” flyover formation with a World War II aircraft. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the children present will be provided American flags to place on each of the veterans’ grave sites.

Hunter Amphitheater Pensacola

What: Memorial Day Concert

When: 5-7:30 p.m. Monday

Where: S. Devilliers St., Pensacola

Cost: Free admission


The 2nd annual Pensacola Memorial Day Concert features uplifting musical performances from the Pensacola Civic Band, guest appearances and dramatic readings that honor the military service of all men and women in uniform, their families at home and especially those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Several Pearl Harbor survivors will join in this event. In addition, MANNA will be on-site to collect any canned food donations. These donations go to help support the mission of MANNA. To learn more, visit

Mattie Kelly Arts Center

What: Concert Under the Stars

When: 6 p.m. gates open, 7 p.m starts Saturday

Where: Northwest Florida State College amphitheater, 100 College Boulevard, Niceville

Cost: $15 tickets


The Cornell Gunter Coasters will bring its mix of comedy, Doo Wop and blues to the Mattie Kelly Arts Center outdoor amphitheater for a concert under the stars. Food and beverage vendors will be on-site. Seating is available in fixed seats at the amphitheater or guests can bring lawn chairs or blankets to set up on the lawn. Coolers are permitted. Free parking is available in the Mattie Kelly Arts Center main parking lot.

The Village of Baytowne Wharf

What: Memorial Day Celebration

When: Saturday-Monday

Where: 9100 Baytowne Boulevard, Miramar Beach

Cost: Free admission


Start your summer with a Memorial Day weekend celebration at the Village of Baytowne Wharf. It features live music from 3HG from 7-9 p.m. Saturday. Sunday will featuring a variety of events such as face-painting, balloon animals, a stilt walker and lawn games 6-9 p.m.; live music 7-9 p.m.; and a patriotic fireworks show at 9:15 p.m. At 7 p.m. Monday, Sandestin veterans will present a Memorial Day program in honor of the people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces.

The Henderson

What: Memorial Day Seafood Boil, Poolside BBQ

When: 5:30-7:30 p.m. Saturday Seafood Boil, 5:30-7:30 p.m. Sunday Poolside BBQ.

Where: 200 Henderson Resort Way, Destin

Cost: $35 adults, $15 children


Bring your family for a poolside seafood boil with sides on Saturday and a traditional poolside barbecue Sunday.

Unity Park, Eglin Air Force Base

What: Gate to Gate Memorial Run

When: 6:30 a.m. in place, 7 a.m. race starts Saturday

Where: Unity Park, 188-312 Chinquapin Drive, Eglin Air Force Base

Cost: $40


Run or walk in the 32nd annual Gate to Gate Run, a 4.4-mile race at Eglin Air Force Base. The event is open to the public. It includes a free children’s run at 9 a.m., free food, free massages, live music and an awards presentation.

Spring Festivals in Northwest Florida

Here are some of the can’t-miss events, festivals and activities taking place along the Emerald Coast in North Florida this spring.

If you’re thinking about hitting the beach for spring break, you might just have the chance to make it a seasonal fete. As you plan which attractions and restaurants to check out during your next stay along Northwest Florida, take a look at some of the best spring festivals and events in Northwest Florida Beaches:

Emerald Coast Cruizin Festival

Thousands of classic cars, hot rods, custom cars and trucks make way to Panama City Beach for this week-long festival from March 8-11, 2017.

Florida Festivals

Pensacola Blue Wahoos

The Blue Wahoos, a Minor League baseball team in Pensacola, have its season opener on April 6, 2017.

World War II 75th Anniversary Remembrance Banquet

This military appreciation banquet to observe the 75th anniversary of the start of World War II takes place on April 7, 2017 at the Emerald Coast Convention Center.

34th Annual Helen Drake Invitational

Recognized as one of the largest United States Tennis Association (USTA) adult tennis events across the country, this tournament returns to TOPS’L Beach & Racquet Resort in Miramar Beach from April 12-16, 2017.

Florida Events

Seabreeze Jazz Festival

A week of smooth jazz on the Emerald Coast takes place April 19-23, 2017, next to Pier Park in Panama City Beach.

Billy Bowlegs Charity Golf Tournament

Kicking off “Pirate Season” on the Emerald Coast with activities such as golfing and boating, one of the best pirate festivals in the area takes place April 20-22, 2017.

North Florida Festivals

Emerald Coast Volleyball Week

Volleyball teams throughout the country compete in this tournament taking place at The Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island in Fort Walton Beach from April 26-30, 2017.

South Walton Wine Festival

Dozens of celebrity winemakers, distillers, chefs, brew masters and entertainers come together to wine, dine, educate and entertain guests at Grand Boulevard in Miramar Beach from April 27-30, 2017.

Emerald Coast Bike Fest

A motorcycle rally featuring free concerts, charity poker runs and bike shows takes place at Emerald Coast Harley Davidson in Fort Walton Beach from May 4-7, 2017.

Florida Activities

Jeep Beach Jam

Thousands of Jeep owners, enthusiasts and club members will gather in Panama City Beach from May 17 – 21, 2017 for the second annual Jeep Beach Jam.

Interested in one of these festivals? Find a rental home nearby.

Fort Walton Beach On List of Most Affordable Beach Towns

“The beaches here and on nearby Okaloosa Island are every bit as breathtaking as the ones in Destin and Panama City, with a fraction of the people,” the Thrillist article said.

FORT WALTON BEACH — Living in paradise isn’t just for the rich and famous.

According to a recent article on Thrillist, there are 13 beach towns that are not only beautiful, but relatively cheap to live in. With a median house price at $159,600, Fort Walton Beach ranked No. 7 on the most affordable beach towns in the U.S.

“The beaches here and on nearby Okaloosa Island are every bit as breathtaking as the ones in Destin and Panama City, with a fraction of the people,” the article reads.

Other nearby beach towns named in the article were Pensacola at No. 2 and Gulf Shores, Alabama, at No. 13.

Realtor Dawn David of Team Dawn David with Coldwell Banker has been selling properties in the Fort Walton Beach area for about 20 years. Working primarily with investment properties, David said the lower price points for homes are attractive to potential buyers.

“The views sure don’t hurt either,” she said. “We see numerous articles ranking Fort Walton Beach in the top among the most beautiful beaches.”

David said the area is also not crowded compared to beach towns in South Florida, which the Thrillest article also points out.

“It makes for a more laid-back vacation experience,” she said. “Not to mention the golf courses, shopping, restaurants — it’s the whole package.”

Ted Corcoran, president of the Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce, said he’s never surprised to see the city receive accolades.

“Others are beginning to evaluate the Happiest City in Florida,” he said referring to a different list that the city ranked in. “This is the beginning of the spring break season when people spend a year’s worth of savings to vacation for one week. How lucky we are to live here. It’s like we’re on vacation everyday.”

To see the complete story and list by, click HERE.

Top 5 places to people watch on the Emerald Coast


The next time you are relaxing on the beach and surrounding towns of the Emerald Coast, have a seat, grab a beverage and give a nod to your fellow neighbor as they pass.

People watching is nothing new, but if you find yourself in this paradise, glued to your smart phone, it might never have occurred to you to look up and observe your surroundings. lists some of the benefits to people watching

  • It’s relaxing and enjoyable – Seeing other people have fun, dressed up, going about daily activities is enjoyable and even soothing as you sit somewhere comfortable in a cafe or park bench under the sun. People are fascinating, so this reason really needs no more explanation!
  • It passes time while you’re waiting for someone or while you’re sitting with people who don’t interest you much but you’re obliged to stay with them.
  • It restores a sense of wonder. Children are renowned for people watching and just by trying it again, you can regain this sense of wonder for a brief moment of time.
  • It’s informative. If you’re writing a book or developing characters for a play, observing people can be an excellent way to find traits and styles for your characters.
  • It’s inspiring. Watching people can lead to writing a symphony, movie script, or a blog post.
  • It’s a healthy and much more interesting alternative to Facebook or Instagram stalking.

We have gathered a list of some of the popular spots to people watch in Destin and the rest of Emerald Coast.

  1. The Whale’s Tail Beach Bar & Grill – Here is an obvious choice for people watching. This beachside bar is literally a step away from the beach and is a nice people watching spot due to the constant flow of passers-by walking along the shore or coming in for an adult beverage at the bar.
A group of people talk while hanging out at the Whale's Tail Beachside Bar & Grill in South Walton County. NICK TOMECEK/DAILY NEWS
A group of people talk while hanging out at the Whale’s Tail Beachside Bar & Grill in South Walton County. NICK TOMECEK/DAILY NEWS

2. Crab Island – This oasis in the middle of the Choctawhatchee Bay has an abundance of people watching opportunities. From the party goer to the family of four, you can observe how different people enjoy their time there.  See boaters float their dogs on paddle boards or watch a group of people cheer over a game of beer pong while submerged in three feet of water. Watching how people get to Crab Island is also an interesting observational moment.

Crab Island has grown in popularity for locals and people on vacation. This is a prime spot to relax on a boat and people watch. NICK TOMECEK/DAILY NEWS
Crab Island has grown in popularity for locals and people on vacation. This is a prime spot to relax on a boat and people watch. NICK TOMECEK/DAILY NEWS


3. Seaside – The town of Seaside is located on the ever-popular stretch of road call Scenic Highway 30A. The best spot to observe people is in front of the shiny metal food trucks that are centrally located in the town where you can watch pedestrians, bicyclists and cars, bustle to their intended relaxation points.

Outdoor seating in front of the food trucks in Seaside is a perfect place to relax and watch the bustle of vacationers and locals along Scenic Highway 30A. NICK TOMECEK/DAILY NEWS
Outdoor seating in front of the food trucks in Seaside is a perfect place to relax and watch the bustle of vacationers and locals along Scenic Highway 30A. NICK TOMECEK/DAILY NEWS

4. HarborWalk Village – We suggest an actual walk to do your people watching here. The HaborWalk is an excellent stretch of pathway with a combination of people, fishing boats, harbor traffic and restaurants that you can only appreciate from a healthy walk.

The HaborWalk strteches over a quarter-mile along the Destin Harbor, home to the largest fishing fleet Florida. Restaurants, fish, shops and people will satisfy any of your desires to people watch. NICK TOMECEK/DAILY NEWS
The HaborWalk stretches over a quarter-mile along the Destin Harbor, home to the largest fishing fleet Florida. Restaurants, fish, shops and people will satisfy any of your desires to people watch. NICK TOMECEK/DAILY NEWS

5. The fishing piers – The Okaloosa Island and Navarre fishing piers are primed for a much saltier experience for people watching. Walk to the end of the pier and you will find a great view of the Gulf of Mexico as well as a view of avid anglers that frequent the pier in the hopes of landing the ‘big one.’

Bill Arnold of Pensacola, carries his king mackerel in front of a crowd the Navarre Fishing Pier. NICK TOMECEK/DAILY NEWS
Bill Arnold of Pensacola, carries his king mackerel in front of a crowd at the Navarre Fishing Pier. NICK TOMECEK/DAILY NEWS

Free for all … in December

Nothing in life is free … except for these events, food and more!

Each month, we gather and list some of the free events, food dishes and outdoor activities available on the Emerald Coast.

Here are some free things available in December:


Movie afternoon: The Friends Guild of the Destin Library Inc. will sponsor a free monthly movie afternoon featuring independent films and documentaries. The library will show “Shine” at 3 p.m. today at the Destin Library, 150 Sibert Ave., Destin. Films are unrated and directed toward mature audiences. “Shine” is based on the true story of Australian pianist David Helfgott.

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Christmas Miracle Children’s Fiesta: United for a Good Cause Inc. will host the 12th annual Emerald Coast Christmas Miracle Children’s Fiesta from 1 to 7 p.m. Saturday at the Emerald Coast Convention Center, 1250 Miracle Strip Parkway, Fort Walton Beach. The Latin-flavored party is open to all needy children and families. The event will feature free toys, food, games, music and activities. From 1 to 2 p.m. only families with special needs children will be allowed in. The general public may enter starting at 2 p.m.

“Animation in Motion”: The Christmas Lady’s annual show is open in the old K-Mart building, 1140 E John Sims Pkwy, Niceville, (next to Ollie’s). The show is open 6-9 every night until Dec. 27. The 30,000 square-foot display features some new theater sets and backdrops, live performances by local talent, Christmas karaoke, character actors, storytellers and Santa. The collections of animated figures and the miniature Christmas Village all have new additions. And don’t forget the model trains. Admission is free. Catch updates on the Facebook page: TheNicevilleChristmasLady.


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Bethlehem Christmas Village: Capt. Anderson’s Marina in Panama City Beach will host a Bethlehem Christmas Village from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. The free event will feature live music, live nativity, a toy and food drive, food and gift merchants and a stable with petting animals. For more information, visit

A Lionel Christmas: The West Florida Railroad Museum will present “A Lionel Christmas” from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 16, 23 and 30 and Dec. 17, 24 and 31 at the 109-year-old Milton Railroad Depot, 5003 Henry St., Milton. In addition to normal historic displays, the depot will feature multiple model railroads running indoors and out, train rides for children, holiday lights and hot chocolate. Admission and parking are free. Donations are accepted. Email or visit the website at



Free refreshments: Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Emerald Coast will host a Toy Drive for Toys for Tots noon-2 p.m. Wednesday at the 4636 Gulfstarr Drive, Destin. Drop off “unwrapped” toys and enjoy free food and drinks.