The 10 Best Restaurants On Florida’s Emerald Coast

by Leyla Kazim

The 10 Best Restaurants On Florida's Emerald Coast including Destin restaurants Fort Walton Beach

When it comes to beaches and seafood, the Emerald Coast has some of the best in Florida

The Emerald Coast is the thin slice of paradise you’ll find stretching along the Florida Panhandle between Pensacola and Panama City, on the Gulf of Mexico in northwest Florida.

It’s one of the Sunshine State’s best kept secrets, a world away from Miami’s blazing nightlife or Orlando’s hectic theme parks. Here you’ll find quiet stretches of powder white beaches; hidden state parks home to a number of ecosystems; and turquoise waters full of dolphins and the region’s famous seafood.

It’s an area that has always been popular with spring breakers and local tourists, but when it comes to the rest of the world, I don’t think the Emerald Coast is on our radar. And that’s something that needs to change.

Head to the Fort Walton Beach, Okaloosa Island and Destin restaurants for the area’s best eating

If you like the sound of spacious beaches, plenty of nature, tin-roofed picnic shelters and boardwalks stretching across sweeping sand dunes, the Emerald Coast should be at the very top your ‘best in Florida’ list. And very high up on your USA list.

And that’s before we even get on to the year round gorgeous climate, southern charm and fantastic Gulf-to-table eating.

I spent a few days exploring and scouting the best of the Fort Walton Beach, Okaloosa Island and Destin restaurants. I’ve come up with my list of top 10 restaurants on Florida’s Emerald Coast, some of the best in Florida.

1) Seafood spread at nautical-style tavern AJ’s Oyster Shanty, Fort Walton Beach

Destin is a city that also goes by the name of the “world’s the luckiest fishing village”. It’s a hot spot for all things fishing related: jetty fishing, deep sea fishing, charter fishing and of course, eating the tasty catches.

There are a lot of great places to sample all this seafood and AJ’s is a terrific example of one. This is the place to order some cocktails along with your crab claws, pitch up at an outdoor table and tuck into your spread to the backdrop of a live band.

Don’t miss the fried pickles, peel-and-eat boiled shrimp or the smoked tuna dip. And the sweet and tender Snow Crab legs served with melted butter, new potatoes and corn.

Patience is a virtue in the crab-cracking game – persevere with the effort it takes to get the meat out, it’s worth it. And say yes to the bib!
108 Santa Rosa Blvd, Fort Walton Beach

2) Breakfast and brunch favorites at Asiago Skillet, Destin & Fort Walton Beach

Florida and hearty southern breakfasts go hand in hand and the two Asiago Skillet branches are great places to kick-start your day. Locally owned and operated, these guys clearly love what they do and have a lot of loyal customers to prove it.

The menu showcases an array of skillet (like a hefty frying pan) prepared dishes that read like a dream. We went for the Steak Skillet with potatoes, sirloin, peppers, onions, mushrooms, asiago cheese and two eggs.

Expect fluffy frisbee-sized buttermilk pancakes, filling omelets, American staples and plenty of classic southern breakfast options too, including biscuits with gravy, ham, sausage, bacon and eggs.

The service is really lovely with a welcoming atmosphere. And they even have a self serve Bloody Mary bar too.
110 Amberjack Dr, Fort Walton Beach
300 Harbor Blvd, Destin

3) Southern and Asian-inspired sushi & seafood at Jackacuda’s, Destin

Another way to sample the local seafood on the Emerald Coast is through the medium of sushi and one of the best Destin restaurants for this is Jackacuda’s.

Right in the heart of Harborwalk Village, it’s their colorful and vibrant specialty sushi rolls you want to make a beeline for. The Backdown is their signature, with shrimp tempura, spicy lobster, jalapeno cream cheese, avocado, baked spicy crab and eel sauce, and it’s a beauty.

Other seafood featured on their sushi menu include salmon, tuna, snow crab, yellowtail and albacore.

They’ve also got a healthy helping of seafood mains including blackened snapper, mahi mahi and the very southern shrimp and grits.

Take a table outside in the sun or shade overlooking the boardwalk and enjoy your meal with a locally brewed ale.
56 Harbor Blvd, Destin

4) Mexican flavors at seaside bar and grill Rockin’ Tacos, Fort Walton Beach

I bet this place is absolutely bumping during spring break! Situated right on the waterfront of Okaloosa Island, the view over the powder white beach is worth a visit in itself.

This is the place to come for Mexican-inspired flavors and tequila cocktails whilst sitting out on the deck in the sunshine.

From burritos and fajitas to burgers and quesadillas, the flavors at this Fort Walton Beach restaurant are fresh and tasty. To start, don’t miss their avocado fries with chipotle aioli and a coriander dip.

Then head to their specialties section for the best of the seafood offerings.

Think tacos with blackened or grilled fish with spicy pineapple and mango habanero salsa. Shrimp tacos with a sweet and spicy sauce, roasted red peppers and green onions. And Baja fish tacos with beer battered white fish, pico de gallo and guacamole.

In the evening the place keeps on rocking with a late night taco menu and a house DJ. A great place to take you from daytime to evening. 
1450 Miracle Strip Pkwy, Fort Walton Beach

5) Bayside weekend brunching at The Gulf, Okaloosa Island

This vast two-story and mostly al fresco waterfront drinking and dining spot is a bit of a showstopper when you first walk in. Made from recycled and salvaged shipping containers, the space has an expansive and flexible floor plan.

There’s plenty of outdoor furniture dotted across the grass and sand to prevent you from ever wanting to leave. And the dock even allows people to arrive by boat.

Along with ping pong on the lawn, two bars and an eclectic gift shop, their seasonal menu boasts locally sourced ingredients. Don’t be surprised to spot indecisive groups loitering by the full sized menu; everything reads so well it’s hard to make a decision.

The crab cake eggs benedict was totally terrific and the blackened tuna reuben with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut with Russian dressing on rye bread was great too.

Get there early to snag a prime spot if you’re visiting for their weekend brunch; this Okaloosa Island restaurant gets completely full by lunch time.
1284 Marler Ave, Okaloosa Island

6) Southern breakfasts at waterfront hangout Harbor Docks, Destin

Hi y’all, my name’s Leyla and I’m addicted to southern breakfasts. I’m talking cheesy grits, biscuits with gravy, corned beef hash, over easy eggs, too much butter and endless coffee.

But especially the biscuits and gravy. Biscuits being like English scones and gravy being a white meat gravy, made from the drippings of cooked pork sausage which gets poured over everything.

I had such a great spread at Harbor Docks in Destin and started with a similar breakfast to this every day of the trip. These guys are also well known for their sushi, so a place to check out for lunch or dinner too.
538 Harbor Blvd, Destin

7) Daytime dishes at The Local Market, Destin

With a closing time of 3pm, The Local Market in Destin (from the same owners as Harbor Docks above) focuses on fresh and delicious breakfasts and lunches. Expect the likes of avocado toast alongside corned beef hash with eggs if you get there before 11am.

For lunch, you’ll have a hard time making a decision on which gourmet sandwich to go for, all served with chips and a side. To round it off, don’t miss their homemade ice creams and juice bar, made and bottled in house.
950 Gulf Shore Drive, Destin

8) Creole seafood with a sunset at Louisiana Lagniappe, Destin

If you’re after an upmarket venue and a little bit of romance, you won’t go wrong with Lousiana Lagniappe in Destin. Choose a spot out on the terrace and time your visit for sunset – you won’t be disappointed.

With white table linen and impeccable service, these guys have been serving Gulf seafood with Creole flair for over 30 years.

Along with a whole section of the menu devoted to crawfish, expect favourites like lobster rangoons (fried wontons stuffed with lobster and cream cheese) and eggplant Orleans, deep-fried with jumbo lump crabmeat and hollandaise sauce.

For mains try the Gulf grouper with lobster and hollandaise. Or their grouper almondine topped with toasted almonds and lemon butter.

Oh, and most of it comes with homemade hushpuppies, house salad and a twice-baked potato.
775 Gulf Shore Drive, Destin

9) Comfort food & freshly baked donuts at Donut Hole, Destin

Another great place for all your southern breakfast needs, Donut Hole in Destin also specialises in – you guessed it – donuts. One of the longest standing Destin restaurants and a huge part of the community, Donut Hole has been a local hit since 1978.

Try not to forget there’s a full menu on offer when you find yourself slack-jawed by the baked goods. Donuts are made throughout the day in a whole host of flavours, as well as homemade cakes, pastries and breads. And their key lime pie is famed in these parts, although I didn’t get to try it.

They even make the buns for their burgers which feature on the evening menu. That’s right, an evening menu! Which many people are surprised to find out they do.

A homely and bustling spot that hasn’t changed much since the 70s, don’t miss this place when in Destin.

635 Harbor Blvd, Destin

10) Southern-style seafood & ocean views at Boshamps Seafood & Oyster House, Destin

With panoramic views over Destin Harbor, BoShamps is the place to kick back and relax over a great menu. They combine fresh and local catches of the day, Florida Apalachicola Bay oysters any way you like, beautiful sunsets and wonderful southern hospitality.

In the kitchen you’ll find Chef Andi Bell, named by the James Beard Foundation as a Rising Star of American Cuisine.

And on his menu the likes of local baby spinach and artichoke hearts smothered in melted cheese like a fondue. As well as lobster mac ‘n cheese, Gulf coast duck confit cassoulet and plenty of local seafood.

Be sure to glance over the specials of the day too. You might find more temptation like with my pasta dish with shrimp, cured egg yolk and truffle oil.
424 Harbor Blvd, Destin


Eat Like a Local

Eat Like a Local

Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Florida is a foodie paradise and it’s easy to eat – and drink – like a local. From craft brews to grass-fed beef and, of course, the freshest Gulf seafood, our endless options are sure to satisfy even the pickiest of eaters.


The range of culinary options in Destin are truly endless. A quick drive down Harbor Boulevard will reveal many tasty options. But, when you want to truly dine like a local in Destin, where should you go? We’ve got a few ideas.

Dock your boat at Dewey Destin’s Crab Island to sample shrimp, crab and fresh fish, all prepared by Destin’s founding family. You have probably seen the harbor side restaurant, which is also yummy, but the bayside location is the original. Walk past the food truck kitchen to order at the counter before taking your seat on the dock to enjoy an incredible bay view.

Sample the works of our local craft brewers at Props and Destin Brewery, as well as grab a bite to eat. Afterward, head to Cuvee Kitchen if you’re in the mood for a seasonally-inspired menu expertly paired with a glass of wine.

Looking to go a little more casual? Stop by McGuire’s Irish Pub for their delectable pizza or sushi. Yes, we highly recommend the pizza and sushi being served up at the local Irish bar! Don’t forget to sample their beer brewed onsite.

Fort Walton Beach

Fort Walton Beach offers a little something for everyone, quite literally. Fokkers in downtown is known for their German food, but we recommend the pizza. KC’s Sandbar offers a wide range to appeal to kids and adults, but the provided sand and toys will allow the adults to relax while the kids have a blast!

If you’re looking for casual seafood and an incredible view, stop by The Shack. Island-style drinks coupled with a view of the Santa Rosa Sound and local seafood, and an incredible oyster happy hour, will relax you in no time. Props Brewery provides a fun atmosphere, local beer, and plenty of TVs to catch the game.

In Fort Walton Beach, Okaloosa Island provides a mix of new and old favorites to choose from. Tried and true local choices include The High Tide Restaurant and Oyster Bar and Old Bay Steamer. The High Tide serves up traditional seafood fare – don’t skip the hushpuppies – while Old Bay Steamer will have you cracking crab legs and enjoying freshly steamed shrimp, potatoes and corn.

You can’t vacation on Okaloosa Island without a visit to The Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island. While each restaurant is unique and delicious, you’ll find the locals at Rockin’ Tacos for seafood with a Mexican twist and an unbeatable Gulf view. We recommend the shrimp burrito, as well as the gator tacos, which were featured on The Food Network.

View Of fishing Nets On A Pier In Fort Walton Beach

Dining in Destin – Fort Walton Beach with Allergies

Article from

If you don’t eat meat or need to watch out for serious allergens like gluten, shellfish or nuts, don’t worry. Destin and FWB is packed with delicious flavors and tremendous chefs who have created menus with options that offer a little something for everyone.

Salads, burgers, pasta, chicken; most of our favorite local places to eat in Destin – Fort Walton Beach have options that can be easily, and happily, adapted. But, if you’d like to choose from a menu that has been crafted with the vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free or allergy-friendly diner in mind, we have a couple of recommendations.

Pescatarians will rejoice at the Gulf-to-Table seafood options they will find while on vacation in Fort Walton Beach, Destin or on Okaloosa Island. Vegetarians have only slightly fewer options, as most of the signature dishes of our favorite restaurants are just as scrumptious without the seafood. Brotula’s Seafood House & Steamer is rated the number one option for vegetarians in the area on Tripadvisor, known for their adaptations. Try their stuffed portabella mushrooms without the crab meat or let the chef create something totally original for you!

Onsite Dining Henderson Park InnFamily Dining LuLus HR

Beach Walk Café at The Henderson in Destin is a romantic, adults-only dining option that veggie lovers will also enjoy. What’s not to like about smoked tomato soup or fried risotto with goat cheese? And, that’s just a few of our favorite selections from their starters menu. In addition, Brotula’s and Beach Walk Café are highly rated for their gluten-free menus, as is Louisiana Lagniappe and Jackacuda’s Seafood & Sushi.

So, what if you’re not just vegetarian, but vegan? Don’t worry! There are several vegan dining options in Destin, Fort Walton Beach and Okaloosa Island! The aforementioned vegetarian and gluten-friendly locations will also offer vegan adaptations. You can also hit up fun spots like Zoe’s Kitchen (try the hummus!) and Formula Fresh. Both are located in Destin Commons and ideal for a lunch break during a day of Emerald Coast shopping.

While many dining restrictions can be overcome by a willing and creative chef, which Destin and FWB many of, food allergies are harder. But, it doesn’t have to be when you visit LuLu’s! A family-friendly, bay-front dining option, LuLu’s is owned by the sister of Jimmy Buffet, so not only is she cooking up allergy-friendly options, but also incredible cuisine with coastal flare! Ask to see their gluten, egg, shellfish, seafood, dairy, and soy free menus. They even keep their nuts and cookware used with nuts separate from everything else in the kitchen!

Dining with food restrictions doesn’t have to restrict your Destin Florida vacation. While we’ve listed a few of the most popular options here, don’t be shy about asking any of our local restaurants to serve up an alternative. It’s just another opportunity for our chefs to flex their skills and show off!

Allegiant Air launches non-stop flights from Destin-Ft. Walton Beach to Tulsa & Omaha

Allegiant Air just announced the debut of non-stop service from the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport (VPS) to Omaha’s Eppley Airfield (OMA) and Tulsa International Airport (TUL) beginning on June 6, 2019.

“We’re thrilled to welcome passengers from Tulsa and Omaha to our beautiful beaches, and to offer locals two more non-stop flights from the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport, bringing our total to 30 non-stop destinations,” said Tracy Stage, Okaloosa County Airports Director. “Allegiant Air has been a huge partner in our growth not only through an increase in passengers generating significant tourism impact and more destinations, but by contributing 130 new jobs at VPS.”

Okaloosa County Commissioner Carolyn Ketchel stated, “Allegiant has been an outstanding partner to our airport and our county. Each destination offered through Allegiant gives travelers a faster and affordable means to visiting our beautiful coastal communities, and also gives our local population affordable options for family visits, business trips, vacations, and more. In addition, a significant portion of our local residents are active duty, separated or retired military, and Allegiant offers several free services to service members and their families to honor their sacrifice to our country. We couldn’t be more proud of our partnership with Allegiant.”

Tickets are on sale now. Please visit to book your flight.

For more information on all of our destinations here at VPS, please visit

2 local beaches named as little-known winter vacation spots

Two local beaches have been named in online travel booking site Fodor’s Travel’s article, “11 Under-the-radar Florida Beach Towns to Visit this Winter.”

Santa Rosa Beach and Navarre Beach were both noted as under-the-radar vacation spots for the traditional shoulder season winter months.

The article touts Santa Rosa Beach as more “mellow and classy,” than its neighboring Panama City Beach, and mentions WaterColor Inn & Resort, Hibiscus Coffee & Guesthouse and Stinky’s Fish Camp as places to check out while vacationing in the area.

“Watching the sunset is the only thing on most people’s schedule,” the article reads, “along with a seafood feast at one of a handful of atmospheric restaurants.”

As for Navarre Beach, Fodor’s mentions Spring Hill Suites Navarre Beach as an affordable accommodation option and encourages visitors to experience Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center and Adventures Unlimited in Milton.

Image result for navarre beach

“If clear blue waters for swimming and sugar sand beaches with very few crowds are the Florida vacation ingredients most important to you, you won’t be disappointed here,” the article states.

Find the original article here .

United Airlines Announces Non-Stop Flight from Chicago to Destin-Fort Walton Beach


United Airlines has announced their debut of non-stop service from the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport (VPS) to Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), beginning on June 8, 2019.

The weekend air service to Chicago will be operated on the Bombardier CRJ-200 regional jet on Saturdays and Sundays.

“Chicago is a strong originating market for our local area, and with the service beginning during our busy summer travel season, we are confident in its performance,” said Tracy Stage, Okaloosa County Airports Director. “Over 1.4 million passengers are projected to have traveled through our doors in 2018, and every passenger brings visitor spending to energize our local economy. We are thrilled to welcome passengers from Chicago to our beautiful Emerald Coast and connect with United’s largest hub, and are very proud to land our local residents non-stop service to the Windy City.”

Tickets are on sale now. Visit for details. For more information on all VPS destinations, visit


12 Days of Holidays at HarborWalk

‒ Dec. 15 and 16: Breakfast with Santa from 8 a.m. to noon

‒ Dec. 15: Santa-Cause Pub Crawl beginning at 6 p.m., Ugly Sweater Contest at 9 p.m. on the HarborWalk Village main stage, and Visit with Santa

‒ Dec. 16: Santa-Paws Pet Pictures with Santa and Visit with Santa from 1-4 p.m.

‒ Dec. 21: Christmas Concert from 6-8 p.m.

‒ Dec. 22: Movie Night with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman at 5 p.m. on the main stage and Visit with Santa from 1-4 p.m.

‒ Dec. 23: Cookie Decorating and the final Visit with Santa from 1-4 p.m. Bring a toy or present for HarborWalk’s adopted families impacted by Hurricane Michael.

Christmas Light Tours

What better way to celebrate than with the traditional Christmas Light Tour through historic DeFuniak Springs. Sunshine Shuttle has tours going from 5-9 p.m. nightly. Pick-up and drop-off locations can be made at your request. Adults/$30 and children/$15 (minimum of four people). Group discounts are available. Visit or call 650-6333 for more information.

Wednesday Night Concert Series – Holiday Edition

Get in the holiday spirit and listen to holiday classics with Niceville Opus One at 6 p.m. Dec. 12 in the Events Plaza at The Village of Baytowne Wharf. Each concert will feature a choreographed light show and visits with Santa.

Harry Potter Yule Ball

The Destin Library will host a Harry Potter-themed Yule Ball celebration at 6 p.m. Dec. 13. Witches and wizards of all ages are invited to dress in their house colors for this festive day. This family-friendly event will feature a variety of games and activities inspired by the series, including trivia, a library-wide scavenger hunt, and magical holiday crafts. Registration is not required. Call 837-8572.

12 Nights of Lights

A free festive light show every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday leading up to Christmas has shows at 6, 7 and 8 p.m. in the Events Plaza at The Village of Baytowne Wharf.

Holiday Pops

Chris Mann of “The Voice” joins Sinfonia’s full orchestra for an evening of the most cherished and festive holiday medleys from 7:30-9:30 p.m. Dec. 14 at Village Baptist Church, 101 Matthew Blvd. in Destin. Tickets range from $29.50-$55/person and can be purchased at

Horse-Drawn Carriage Rides

The Town Center at Grand Boulevard will be awash with thousands of white lights, bringing a festive and inviting spirit to the boulevard. Enjoy a free, horse-drawn carriage ride from 5-8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Dec. 15 around the Town Center while faux snow falls on the Festival of Trees display in Grand Park. To add to the festivities, Emerald Coast Theatre Company’s Dickensian Carolers will sing popular holiday carols on these evenings between 5 and 7 p.m. Visit Grand Boulevard during the holiday season to enjoy decor and programming through Jan. 1. The Town Center will be awash with thousands of white lights, bringing a festive and inviting spirit to the Boulevard.

Sounds of the Season

The Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation’s 23rd annual Sounds of the Season features The Alleluia Orchestra and special guest artist Buddy Mullins for two performances at 4 and 6 p.m. Dec. 16 in the Destin Life Center at Destin United Methodist Church, 200 Beach Drive. Mattie Kelly Community Chorus welcomes anyone from the community to join in with rehearsals Wednesday evenings at Destin United Methodist Church (Choir Room at 6:30 p.m.) or Village Baptist Church (Choir Room at 7 p.m.). Admission to the concert is a donation of a new unwrapped child’s toy for participating churches outreach ministries.

Santa to visit Library

Santa Claus is coming to the Destin Library at 6 p.m. Dec. 18. Come enjoy a Christmas story read by everyone’s favorite jolly old elf along with holiday treats, crafts, and music. Children will have an opportunity to visit with Santa and have their picture taken. Parents are encouraged to bring their cameras.

Holidays at The Henderson

Santa Tuck-ins: Visions of sugar plum fairies will surely be dancing in their heads after Santa reads the children a favorite Christmas story and says goodnight with warm holiday wishes

Christmas Eve Dinner: The ambiance of a cozy family dinner awaits with a four-course offering at the Primrose

Christmas Day Brunch: After a morning of tearing open presents, guests can head down to Primrose in their PJs for traditional holiday favorites and carving stations

New Year’s Eve Dinner: Guests are invited to closeout 2018 with a culinary experience and enjoy six-courses of Executive Chef Gary Palm’s personal favorites

New Year’s Eve Party: Horizons is throwing a celebration with a complimentary champagne toast and balloon drop at midnight, a DJ to help you dance the night away, and dessert display to indulge in and more.

For more information or to book reservations, visit or call 424-4453.

A Peter White Christmas

It will be a White Christmas on the Emerald Coast with Peter White, Rick Braun and Edge Groove at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 18 at the Mattie Kelly Arts Center at Northwest Florida State College. Tickets are $80/front section and $40/general admission. Order tickets at 729-6000 or

Sinfonia Gala

Sinfonia Gulf Coast’s annual gala, “A Swingin’ Little Christmas,” will be held at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 18 at The Henderson Beach & Spa Resort in Destin and will feature singer/actress Jane Lynch. The evening includes VIP pre-concert reception, dinner and the performance. Tickets range from $275-$500 per person and can be purchased at

Lynch is an Emmy and Golden Globe-winner for her portrayal of Sue Sylvester on “Glee” and is currently the two-time Emmy Award-winning host of NBC’s “Hollywood Game Night.” For “A Swingin’ Little Christmas,” Lynch brings along Kate Flannery (NBC’s “The Office”), Tim Davis (“Glee”), and The Tony Guerrero Quintet for the jazziest musical holiday concert ever.

Merry Little Christmas Concert

Celebrate the season of giving by joining the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Emerald Coast for a holiday-themed concert at 6 p.m. Dec. 20 at the South Walton Club. Local musicians, including Chris Alvarado, Jacob Mohr and others, will take the stage and sing the season’s favorite holiday tunes. General admission tickets are $35 and VIP tickets are $50. All tickets include heavy hors d’oeuvres. Additionally, VIP guests will have reserved seating at the concert and receive a complimentary glass of champagne. A cash bar will also be available. Do some holiday shopping at the silent auction. Purchase tickets at

Holiday Gift Shop Sale

Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast hosts its annual Guild Holiday Gift Shop Sale from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays through Dec. 20. Unique gifts, holiday decorations, nativity sets, angels, jewelry, and much more will be available for purchase at 20 percent off regularly marked prices. All proceeds support new and expanded healthcare services for our community. Call 278-3081 or visit the Guild Gift Shop on Facebook.

New Year’s Eve Street Party

Ring in 2019 at HarborWalk Village’s New Year’s Eve Street Party featuring two live bands, two fireworks shows and a ball drop over the Destin harbor from 7 p.m. to midnight. Supplies and donations for those impacted by Hurricane Michael can be dropped off in the Hurricane Relief tent. Supplies needed include blankets, cleaning supplies, sleeping bags, tents, work gloves, winter jackets and clothes for kids, hygiene products and towels.

Schedule includes music with Flash Flood at 7 p.m., fireworks at 8 p.m., Departure, A journey Tribute Band at 9:30 p.m. and the ball drop and fireworks at midnight.

NYE Viva Las Vegas

A New Years Eve party unlike any other, Viva Las Vegas Casino Night will have seven gaming tables, a live band, performance by Ron Adams, and a DJ dance party. Event begins at 6 p.m. Dec. 31 at The Village Door Music Hall at Seascape, 60 Seascape Drive Suite 101 in Miramar Beach. The tables will be available from 7-10 p.m. feature Black Jack, Craps, Roulette, and Texas Hold’em. Tickets are $50 with 100 percent of sales donated to Special Olympics Florida – Okaloosa County. Tickets include one free drink, heavy hors d’oeuvres all night with a champagne toast at midnight. Visit for tickets.

New Year’s Eve Dinner Cruise

Ring in the New Year with SunQuest Cruises’ annual New Year’s Eve Fireworks, Dinner and Dancing Cruise on the Solaris yacht from 8 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Dec. 31 from Baytowne Marina. Cost of the all-inclusive event is $150/person, including a four and a half hour cruise, five-course meal, live entertainment, fireworks, party favors and a champagne toast. All guests over 21 are welcomed to attend. Reservations are required and can be made at or by calling 650-2519.

TOP Restaurants in Fort Walton Beach according to TripAdvisor

Stewby's Seafood Shanty
#1 of 189 Restaurants in Fort Walton Beach
Blue Collar Cafe
#2 of 189 Restaurants in Fort Walton Beach
Bay Cafe
#3 of 189 Restaurants in Fort Walton Beach
Burrito Del Sol
#4 of 189 Restaurants in Fort Walton Beach
Tijuana Flats
#5 of 189 Restaurants in Fort Walton Beach
The Shack - Original Waterfront Crab Shack
#6 of 189 Restaurants in Fort Walton Beach
Asiago's Skillet
#7 of 189 Restaurants in Fort Walton Beach
Clemenza's at Uptown
#8 of 189 Restaurants in Fort Walton Beach
Angler's Beachside Grill
#9 of 189 Restaurants in Fort Walton Beach
Rockin Tacos
#10 of 189 Restaurants in Fort Walton Beach
Fokker's Pub
#11 of 189 Restaurants in Fort Walton Beach
$$ – $$$ American German Bar Pizza Pub
Props Craft Brewery & Grill
#12 of 189 Restaurants in Fort Walton Beach
$$ – $$$ American Bar Pub
Old Bay Steamer
#13 of 189 Restaurants in Fort Walton Beach
Floyd's Shrimp House
#14 of 189 Restaurants in Fort Walton Beach
Al’s Beach Club and Burger Bar
#15 of 189 Restaurants in Fort Walton Beach
Magnolia Grill Fort Walton Beach
#16 of 189 Restaurants in Fort Walton Beach
Ali's Bistro
#17 of 189 Restaurants in Fort Walton Beach
Hightide Restaurant & Oyster Bar
#18 of 189 Restaurants in Fort Walton Beach
$$ – $$$ American Bar Seafood
Neighborhood Cafe
#19 of 189 Restaurants in Fort Walton Beach
The Crab Trap
#20 of 189 Restaurants in Fort Walton Beach
Soi Bistro
#21 of 189 Restaurants in Fort Walton Beach
The Boardroom Pub & Grub
#22 of 189 Restaurants in Fort Walton Beach
$ Fusion American Bar Gastropub Vegetarian Friendly
Tops Choice Hamburgers
#23 of 189 Restaurants in Fort Walton Beach
Thai Town Restaurant
#24 of 189 Restaurants in Fort Walton Beach
Olive Garden
#25 of 189 Restaurants in Fort Walton Beach
Giovanni's One89
#26 of 189 Restaurants in Fort Walton Beach
Order Online
AJ's Oyster Shanty
#27 of 189 Restaurants in Fort Walton Beach
Mary's Kitchen
#28 of 189 Restaurants in Fort Walton Beach
Red Lobster
#29 of 189 Restaurants in Fort Walton Beach
$$ – $$$ American Seafood
Buffalo's Reef
#30 of 189 Restaurants in Fort Walton Beach
$ American Bar


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There are plenty of articles and check lists offering tips for traveling WITH your kids, but not as many on the topic of traveling WITHOUT your kids.


Jason and I are lucky enough to escape on our own a couple of times a year (big thanks to local grandparents!). Traveling is our absolute favorite thing to do together. Whether it’s exploring American cities, lounging beach side in the Caribbean, or jetting off to Europe, we happily take advantage of any time we can sneak away from the chaos of life at home.

Traveling with our kids is still a bit tough (two-year-old Miles DOES NOT go with the flow). We’ve done a few Disney trips, a couple cruises, and regional road trips, but we’re waiting a few more years to fly with them. There are a million places I want them to see and experience…just not yet. :)

Since we’ve traveled without the kiddos our fair share of times, I’ve come up with some helpful tips:


This seems like a given, but figure out who will be watching your kids in your absence and WHERE! Your house? Grandma’s or babysitter’s house? Our parents often keep the kiddos at their own homes for convenience, but I’ve always thought it would be a good idea for them to all stay at our house since the kids’ beds, clothes, bus stop, etc. are already there. We are just thankful for the childcare, so wherever our parents want to keep the kiddos is just fine by us. :)


Jason gives me a hard time about the laundry list of instructions I leave for the grandparents, but with three kids going in a million different directions, it can get overwhelming. I type out daily schedules, what to pack for lunch, how they get to/from school, after school activities, teacher/school names and phone numbers, medical info including doctor and current medications and allergies, our hotel/airline/contact info, and I’m sure plenty more that is not currently coming to mind. The grandparents may laugh and never even read the instructions, but at least the info is there for reference.


Make sure to let the kids’ school and teachers know you will be out of town and leave caregiver info with them. If one of my kids becomes ill at school and needs to go home, the school needs to know how to get in touch with whoever is keeping them. I also notify the school of any temporary transportation changes that may be in effect while we are gone (this is a huge priority at our school, and understandably so). Also be sure to notify any after school activity personnel, as well (soccer coach, dance teacher, etc), especially if the kids will be dropped off and picked up by someone outside of the normal routine.

I always print a medical POA naming the grandparents as responsible for my kids in case of medical emergency. You can easily find a form online (I keep it on our Dropbox and print each time I need it) and be sure to date it for the duration of your trip, sign it, and have it notarized. The caregiver will need to bring this with them when seeing a doctor with your kids. Takes just a few minutes and saves a lot of headache in your absence! If you do use a form your find online, it’s a good idea to have lawyer look over the document to ensure it is legally sound.


In my experience of traveling many times without kids, the preparation is the most nerve-wracking and stressful part. Believe me, it gives me lots of anxiety getting everything ready and of course it seems like there is never enough time. But once the kiddos are squared away and we start our trip, the stress usually melts away and I can focus on enjoying one-on-one time with my main man. Trust that everything will be just fine on the home front and that the kids are in good hands. I’m a big advocate for spending time away with your spouse. Life with kids is busy and messy and loud and amazing, but taking a break to focus on being husband and wife is SO VERY IMPORTANT and will recharge you once you return to your normal routine. Enjoy!

key west

25 Signs You’re On a Southern Beach

We have our own quirky ways of enjoying sand and sea.


Depending on which shores you love best, you could define the ultimate Southern beach as wide, flat, and hard enough to bike on, or rolling, tumbling, and soft as sugar; cinnamon or gleaming-white sands; big waves or flat water in shades of turquoise, emerald, blue-grey, and what might best be described as “strong tea.”

We asked our Facebook friends to tell us what defines a true Southern beach experience—bet you could add to the list. Ready? Here we go.

You know you’re on a Southern beach when . . .

1. Your beach umbrella, beach totes, and your toddler’s bathing suit bottoms are all monogrammed.

2. Snowbirds do not have feathers—but they do flock to early bird specials.

3. Beach tents are SEC-themed, bearing the logos and mascots of the Crimson Tide, Tigers, Dawgs, Vols, Gators . . .

4. You just got invited to a mullet toss.

5. Couples spontaneously shag dance whenever “Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch” comes on the radio.

6. Someone opens a cooler for lunch, and the bologna sandwiches come out. Or maybe it’s homemade pimiento cheese. Who wants a Mountain Dew and some cheese puffs?

7.  Jimmy Buffett tunes are EVERYWHERE.

8.  We’d sooner miss a Nashville marathon than a sunset.

9. Hey, let’s go buy airbrushed T-shirts from Alvin’s Island!

10. We can’t bring ourselves to go inside, so we walk the beach after it’s too dark to spot the jellyfish—and that’s unfortunate.

11. “Daddy, can you blow up my float?”

12. We always run into a bunch of people we know because everybody from our hometown likes the same beach that we do.

13.  Hitting the beach means locking down those hubs. (We’re talking to you, Outer Banks.)

14. You see a guy wearing a NASCAR swimsuit, with a brew in one hand and a boogie board in the other, running toward the water and shouting to his friends, “Hey, y’all—watch this!!”

15. Beach attire runs the gamut from the bikini-and-tee crowd to Southern girls in designer swimsuits, full makeup, and serious coifs.

16. The aroma of shrimp, oysters, and gumbo can actually overpower the Hawaiian Tropic.

17. You passed boiled peanut stands on the way down.

18. From your beach-chair view, you realize that the water is the perfect color for that bathroom redo you’re planning back home.

19. Surfers interpret hurricane evacuation orders as, “Let’s catch some waves before the water calms down.”

20. You remember the Miracle Strip Amusement Park.

21. You know where to find a water tower shaped like a beach ball.

22. You never saw a lighthouse you couldn’t climb.

23. Women save their “nice flip flops” for dinner.

24. A guy with a parrot on his shoulder just walked up to you and asked, “Are you Conch?”

25. You know you can set up your beach gear early in the morning, go for a long walk, head to the Donut Hole (or Henry’s or the Funky Pelican) for breakfast, return to the beach, spend the day in the water, clean up, go to dinner, come back to the beach—and all your stuff will still be there. Because Southerners respect the sanctity of the beach chair.

Want to know how truly Southern you are? Well, then “Hey, y’all—watch this!”

 We might add that you are likely a native Southerner if you know anyone named Memaw, Papaw, Junior, BoBo, Catfish, Mertis, Aurelia, or Sissy.