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 thrillist.com, 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.

Wikihow.com 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 CaptAndersonsMarina.com/events.

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 conductor@wfrm.org or visit the website at www.wfrm.org.



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.

Free for all … in November


Nothing in life is free … except for these events, meals 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 November:


Camellia show: The Greater Fort Walton Beach Camellia Society will present the 52nd Annual Camellia Show and Plant Sale from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday in the atrium of the Meridian (formerly Westwood) Retirement Resort, 1001 Mar Walt Dr., Fort Walton Beach. The show is open and free to the public. A variety of camellia plants will be available for purchase. Awards will be given in several divisions and categories.

Author discussion: The Friends of the Niceville Public Library will host local author Mary C. Brown as she discusses her new book, “Waiting for the Daffodils,” a memoir detailing a tragic loss. This free program will be held at the Niceville Public Library at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 15. Call 279-4863, ext. 1504 or email lglass@okaloosa.lib.fl.us to reserve a seat.

Free student recitals: The Humanities, Fine and Performing Arts Division at Northwest Florida State College offers a series of free afternoon Student Recitals twice a month on Fridays at 3 p.m. in the college’s Tyler Recital Hall at the Mattie Kelly Arts Center on the Niceville campus, 100 College Boulevard. Fall recitals are scheduled Nov. 18 with an Honors Recital on Dec. 2. Seating is open on a first-come basis.


Blue Angels: It’s homecoming for the Blue Angels. The Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron will close the 2016 season at its annual Homecoming Air Show aboard Naval Air Station Pensacola on Saturday and Sunday. Gates open both days at 8 a.m., and admission and parking for all shows are free. The Blues’ C-130 Hercules transport known as “Fat Albert” will thrill the crowd with its short field take-off and low-level passes. There will also be other aerial performers. Dozens of military and civilian aircraft will be on display. There will be a special night show 4:30-7 p.m. Saturday only that will end with one of the largest fireworks shows in the Pensacola area. Pets and coolers are not permitted. For more information, visit naspensacolaairshow.com.

Pioneer Day: Embrace the outdoors with no park admission fees. The Friends of Emerald Coast State Parks will host Pioneer Day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park, 4821 S. Highway 20, Niceville. It’s a free event for families with activities to learn pioneer survival skills, demonstrations and live flute music and storytelling. Call the park at 833-9144 for more information or in case of weather concerns.


Free coffee for veterans and active military: Starbucks will offer a free tall coffee to veterans, active military and their spouses Friday for Veterans Day.

Free entrée for active-duty military and military veterans: Olive Garden will celebrate Veterans Day on Friday, offering a free entrée from a special menu to active-duty military and military veterans. The special menu features some of the restaurant’s most popular items. Unlimited soup or house salad and garlic breadsticks come with the meals.

Free appetizer or dessert for military: LongHorn Steakhouse will honor Veterans Day with a free appetizer or dessert Friday for those who have proof of military service. The restaurant will also offer a 10 percent discount to guests who dine with veterans on Friday.

Free meal for veterans and active military members: Veterans and active military members can visit Tijuana Flats for a free meal on Friday.

What to Do in Fort Walton Beach

Sure we’ve got AMAZING beaches – but we have SO MUCH MORE!

If you’re wondering what else Fort Walton Beach has to offer, here are just a few suggestions:

Fish on! Destin Fishing Rodeo gearing up for 68th year

Destin Rodeo Logo
loresdestinr27_011 During last year’s rodeo, anglers from 38 different states came to Destin for the storied month-long fishing tournament, and spent approximately $1.4 million on hotels, food and recreation while they were here. Rodeo Executive Director Helen Donaldson expects this year to be no different.



The 68th annual Destin Fishing Rodeo is gearing up for another exciting year.

Helen Donaldson, executive director of the rodeo, said the board has been working tirelessly for the past 11 months to prepare for this year’s tournament.

“We work year long to get this going,” she said. “We form committees, determine the awards, decide what fish we can catch, go over any rules changes.”

During last year’s rodeo, anglers from 38 different states came to Destin for the storied month-long fishing tournament, and spent approximately $1.4 million on hotels, food and recreation while they were here. Donaldson expects this year to be no different.

“Charter boat registration is actually up compared to this time last year,” she said.

Trey Winds, captain of the charter boat Outta Line and chairman of this year’s fishing rodeo, agreed that this year is shaping up to be one of the best yet.

“Personally, my charter boat is booked up for October and I’m sure a lot of the other ones are too,” he said. “It’ll be a good year for the rodeo. And the fishing is good too, so as long as the weather holds out it will be awesome.”


The rodeo has 19 different divisions, including party boat, ladies and juniors. Over 200 awards are being offered for various fish and categories, all of them sponsored by area businesses.

Donaldson said she expects around 5,000 fish to be caught this year, and around 1,000 to be weighed.

“There’s anywhere from 300 to 1000 people down on the docks on any given day (during the tournament) to watch the weigh-ins,” she said.

She added that the weigh-ins will be displayed on the Jumbo Tron at AJs so more people can view the excitement.

There are several new T-shirt designs this year, in addition to the classic design that includes each fish that will be caught during the tournament. There are five different designs and about a dozen different color options to choose from.

“Everybody loves rodeo T-shirts,” Donaldson said.

The rodeo was originally held in 1947 during the month of June to encourage fishermen to come to Destin, and was eventually moved to the month of October so as to help the fishermen who were already here extend their season. Today, the tournament draws thousands of people from all over the country who both participate in the fishing and just watch from the docks.

“We call it a spectator sport,” Donaldson said. “People come for the rodeo but they don’t even fish. There’s always something happening down on the docks.”

Labor Day 2016

labor-day-at-the-beach-2 It’s been a long great summer full of splashing around, soaking up the sun, and spending time with family and friends. Can you believe it’s almost over? If you’re anything like us here at Legacy Vacations, you wish summer could last forever.

Since we can’t adjust the calendar to include less work and more play, we are just taking advantage of our last chance to soak up those summer rays and have a few extra days added on to our weekend.  Obviously, we’re talking about Labor Day!

For those who don’t already know, Labor Day is a holiday that was created just for the sole purpose of giving the working class a break. For once we were actually recognized for hard work and continous (ahem) labor, that the goverment decided we deserved a break. How thoughtful, right?

It would be crazy to take this special gift for granted, so we need to make the most of it. There are still a couple weeks left to plan something your loved ones will never forget. If you’re looking for something fun, check out these three things we suggest for your Labor Day Weekend.

1. Plan a mini vacation –

You know by now that we always suggest a beach trip, but that’s just because we are in love with living so close to crashing waves. We know of some wonderful places to stay right on the water.

2. Hang out by the pool –

If you can’t make it to the beach, kick back by the pool with a glass of lemonade and some big sunglasses. There are playlists you can find of nothing but ocean waves. If you close your eyes, it’s like your really here! If you don’t have a pool, we know one that just might work.

3. Throw a party  –

Tip your hat to the end of the season with a Farewell Summer Shindig. Call up some friends, fire up the grill, and spend time together on your last holiday before the real holiday season begins. Don’t forget to tune in to some SEC football!

How do you plan on spending your last weekend of summer? Let us know on our Facebook page!

Florida’s Emerald Coast: A Shoreline Itinerary

Explore, swim, and play in the Heart of Florida’s Emerald Coast.

Picture of an aerial view of the beach in Destin, Florida
An aerial view of the Emerald Coast

There is no shortage of ways to get out and play in Destin, Fort Walton Beach, and Okaloosa Island, collectively known as the Heart of Florida’s Emerald Coast. The area’s 24 miles of shoreline include powder-white beaches, emerald green water, and a portion of the pristine Gulf Islands National Seashore, plus protected bays and bayous, five beachfront parks, and 12 beach access ways.

Beyond the sand and surf, this section of the Emerald Coast is home to eight championship golf courses and country clubs, as well as outdoor retail and entertainment centers like Destin’s HarborWalk Village. Family-friendly attractions include Big Kahuna’s Water & Adventure Park,Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, and Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge Zoological Park, a nonprofit sanctuary housing native wildlife and abandoned and abused exotic animals.

GETTING THERE: Fort Walton Beach, Okaloosa Island, and Destin are situated near the center of the northwest Florida coast, an area stretching from Pensacola east about 140 miles (225 kilometers) to Port St. Joe. The closest airport is Destin-Fort Walton Beach, located 16 miles northwest of Destin. From the airport, rent a car or take a taxi or private shuttle (call for reservations) to Destin, Fort Walton Beach, or Okaloosa Island.

STAY: With more than 13,000 lodging options—including Gulf-view condos, high-rise hotels, private vacation homes, bed-and-breakfasts, and campgrounds—there are accommodations available to fit any budget. Family-friendly resorts such as Seascape typically include beach access, multiple pools, kids’ programs, and full kitchens. For a quieter, adults-only property, choose the Henderson Park Inn in Destin. The luxurious 35-suite bed-and-breakfast is styled after a classic Victorian New England seaside inn with a spacious porch overlooking the Gulf. In addition to daily gourmet breakfasts and boxed picnic lunches, guest amenities include free use of bikes, beach chairs, and beach umbrellas. Beginning in September 2016, families can enjoy a similar level of pampering at The Henderson, a hotel with 170 rooms and suites opening across the street from the inn. Both properties are near 208-acre Henderson Beach State Park, home to one of the Emerald Coast’s top campgrounds. Reserve a site several months in advance of your visit. Insider tip: It’s easier to find a campsite on short notice at Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Parkcampground, located on the north shore of Choctawhatchee Bay in Niceville.

EAT: Try grilled yellowfin tuna, steamed shrimp, fried oysters, hot crabmeat dip, and other Gulf-to-table dishes at either Dewey Destin’s location—the Harborside Restaurant on Destin Harbor or the Seafood & Restaurant overlooking Crab Island. Owner Dewey Destin’s family has been selling fresh seafood since the early 1800s (great-great-grandfather Leonard founded Destin, then called East Pass, in 1835). If you fish, bring your fresh flounder, grouper, red snapper, wahoo, or other daily catch to Dewey Destin’s and they’ll cook it for you. (Price varies depending on the fish, preparation, and side dishes.)

Picture of pelicans in Destin, Florida
Pelicans in the harbor of Destin, Florida

HIT THE BEACH: Destin, Fort Walton Beach, and Okaloosa Island regularly rank among the best on national and regional media lists of family vacation and beach destinations. Okaloosa Day Use Area east of Fort Walton Beach is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, named “Best East Coast Beach” in the USA Today 10Best 2016 Readers’ Choice Awards. The Okaloosa location offers an unspoiled beach, calm waters (ideal for family swimming), picnic tables, restrooms, and a boat launch. Other public-access beaches are located at Henderson Beach State Park,James Lee ParkJohn Beasley Park, and Newman C. Brackin Wayside Park. Many vacation properties also have private beaches or beach access.

PLAY: Get out on the water to sail, paddle, go on a Buccaneer pirate cruise, or zip around an airboat. Kayak and canoe rentals are available atFred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park, home to an aquatic preserve where you might spot dolphins, otters, and waterfowl. Several outfitters such asCattywampus catamaran ecotours and Destin Snorkel offer dolphin-viewing cruises and snorkeling excursions. Destin also has the nation’s largest for-hire fishing fleet, according to the Emerald Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau. Charter a boat with Gulf Angler or another local captain to try deep-sea or bay fishing. Before your trip, purchase a Florida fishing license online.

DISCOVER: See military aircraft from the World War II era to the present at the Eglin Air Force Base’s free Air Force Armament Museum (closed Sunday). Learn about local culture and history at theHeritage Museum of Northwest Florida (closed Sunday and Monday) and at the free Baker Block Museum (closed Saturday to Monday, except the third Saturday of each month). See a 1925 fishing boat, a collection of antique rods and reels, and vintage photographs of boat captains and their boats at the Destin History & Fishing Museum (closed Sunday and Monday). Visit the Indian Temple Mound Museum, Camp Walton Schoolhouse Museum, Garnier Post Office Museum, Fort Walton Temple Mound, and the Civil War Exhibit Building at the Heritage Park & Cultural Center (closed Sunday) in Fort Walton Beach.

FUN FACT: A 3.8-acre mural of a United States flag is painted on the roof of the Legendary Marine boat storage facility in Destin. The rooftop original (thought to be the world’s largest flag mural) is the work of marine life artist Wyland, whose Wyland Wall #88 (“Marine Life of the Gulf”) mural can be seen on the facility’s exterior walls. Seeing the flag requires taking a scenic flight.

Sun, Sand and Beach Cams.

Wondering what’s happening on the Emerald Coast? Now you don’t have to. We’ve set up seven beach cams at strategic locations up and down our sugar-white coastline so you can see what you’re missing. It’s the most fun you can have on the beach without sunscreen.

  • Aj’s Dockside

    Experience the AJs Jumbotron, dockside entertainment, tounament weigh-in pavilion and the docks to the west.

  • Aj’s Harbor

    180 degree view of the Destin Harbor, home of Florida’s largest fishing fleet. View sunrises and sunsets.

  • Margaritaville

    Explore the docks of Harborwalk Village, Destin Harbor, Noreago Point, Marler Bridge and the Destin Pass. Breathtaking sunset.

  • The Back Porch

    Nestled in the heart of Destin with views of para-sailers, paddle boarders and incredible sunrises and sunsets.

  • The Crab Trap – Fort Walton Beach

    On the Boardwalk, a great view of the Beach Volleyball Courts and the Okaloosa Island Pier.

  • The Crab Trap – Destin

    Located at James Lee Park,offering views of one of Destin’s most popular beach spots. Spectacular sunrise and sunsets.

  • Henderson Park Inn

    Sugar sand beaches & more than 6,000 feet of natural scenic shoreline border the emerald green waters of the Gulf of Mexico.