The Local Connection
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The South Walton Artificial Reef Association develops and maintains an extensive artificial reef system offering divers, snorkelers, fishermen, and researchers near-shore access to a thriving marine ecosystem. We invite you to join us and discover South Walton's newest and best-kept secret.
Since July 2015, SWARA has deployed approximately 700 artificial reef structures at 16 different evenly-distributed sites along the coast of Walton County, Florida. All reef sites are conveniently located near public beach accesses with parking and restrooms. Each reef structure is made of a combination of steel, concrete, and Florida limestone. The Snorkel Reef towers are anchored by fiberglass pilings driven into the sand. SWARA reef structures are specially designed to provide shelter and, with healthy marine growth, a sustainable food source for a wide range of species.
All SWARA reef sites are intended to be reachable from shore. However, SWARA fish/dive reef sites are best reached by boat with use of a GPS device while SWARA Snorkel Reefs are best reached using a kayak, paddleboard, or other personal flotation device. Click Here for more information on this unique local attraction!
Beach bums, take note: the beaches along the Emerald Coast are some of the best in the world. Our Gulf waters are crystal clear. Our sugar-white sand is powder-soft to the touch. And here in the Sunshine State, you can count on blue skies most days of the year (can you see why we live here?!). James Lee Park boasts a lively boardwalk and lots of family amenities. Henderson Beach State Park is a scenic oasis with sand dunes and an abundance of wildlife. And Choctawhatchee Bay is the perfect place for fishing, boating, water sports, and marine life viewing.
For generations, fishing has been a way of life in Destin. What better way to experience the local trade than with a fishing charter of your own? Embark on an inshore or offshore deep sea fishing expedition, and discover why Destin earned its reputation as the World’s Luckiest Fishing Village. Home to the largest fleet of fishing charters in North America, our harbor offers the quickest access to the deepest waters on the Florida Panhandle. Choose from a variety of charter boats that cater to every group and budget.
If you’re looking to soothe the soul with a bit of retail therapy, you’ve come to the right place. Shop locally owned boutiques, open-air markets, and one of the largest designer outlet centers in the country.For quirky, one-of-a-kind gifts and nautical items, visit Banana Bart’s, one of Destin’s oldest and most eclectic shops. Or hunt for unique treasures at Smith's Antique Mall, a sprawling warehouse filled with housewares and vintage finds. Peruse big-name brands at Destin Commons, a traditional outdoor mall in the heart of the Emerald Coast. Find discounted designer goods at the Silver Sands Premium Outlets. Or scour for souvenirs at HarborWalk Village, a near-legendary waterfront complex with surf shops and fashion boutiques. Whichever shopping scene you choose, be sure to make room in your suitcase!
Destin’s restaurant scene offers something for every palate, from casual breakfasts at Another Broken Egg Café to exquisite Gulf-to-table cuisine at Louisiana Lagniappe. Sunset views of the Destin Harbor are on full display at Boshamps Seafood and Oyster House, a local favorite for seafood and southern-inspired dishes. Enjoy relaxed harborside dining at The Big Red Grill and Café, or indulge in the fresh catch of the day at Dewey Destin’s, a laid-back seafood joint with two waterfront locations. Looking for a unique dining experience in the World’s Luckiest Fishing Village? You catch it; they’ll cook it. Bring your own freshly caught fish to AJ’s Seafood & Oyster Bar, and have it cooked to perfection.
Treat yourself to a night on the town, and toast to the beginning of a well-deserved vacation! Enjoy cocktails and live music on Tailfins’ rooftop deck, or sip cold beer at Boathouse Oyster Bar and Grill, a laid-back locale with live entertainment. Local bands perform almost every night of the week at Graffiti & The Funky Blues Shack, a family-friendly restaurant and music venue with great happy hour specials. For late-night drinks and live music in a Tiki-style atmosphere, choose AJ’s Club Bimini, a prominent harborside hotspot and the most vibrant party in Destin.
Looking for a break from sugar-white sand beaches? The Emerald Coast is a golfer’s paradise with award-winning golf courses in stunning tropical locations. Tee off where the pros play at Kelly Plantation Golf Club, or hit the green at the esteemed Sandestin, home to four championship golf courses. For picturesque views of Choctawhatchee Bay, the Emerald Bay Golf Club is not to be missed. With manicured fairways, cool coastal breezes, and spectacular water vistas, you’re in for a relaxing afternoon on the green. Whether you’re an experienced golfer seeking a challenge, or a beginner looking to elevate your game, Destin’s golf courses are sure to please.
Refresh your mind and body while on vacation with a blissful day of pampering. Whether you’re looking for a quick spa visit or a full-day retreat, experience total tranquility at Serenity by the Sea or The Spa at Emerald Grande. State-of-the-art spa facilities include saunas, steam rooms, fitness centers, and relaxation lounges. Relieve stress and muscle tension with a relaxing massage, or rejuvenate your complexion with a purifying facial. Combine luxury spa treatments and services with your favorite salon offerings for the ultimate day of indulgence.
Reeled in the catch of a lifetime? Tie the knot along the Emerald Coast, where crystal clear waters and breathtaking sunsets create a magical backdrop for your special day. Plan the destination wedding of your dreams at one of the many coveted venues, from enchanting resorts overlooking the Gulf to beachfront villas nestled in the dunes. Whether you’re seeking lavish or simple, beachfront or bayside, leave it to The Eventful Planner or Destin to Wed Event Planning to coordinate every step of the wedding process. Celebrate an occasion you’ll cherish forever in a setting you’ll never forget.
With a full calendar of events year-round, there’s always something fun to do in Destin. Compete for the big prize in the annual Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic, or try your luck in the Destin Fishing Rodeo, a tournament that draws thousands of saltwater anglers from near and far. Visiting us in the summer months? Catch a spectacular fireworks show every Thursday over the Destin Harbor. Enjoy foot-stomping fun every Saturday at the Rock the Docks Live Concert Series. And watch weekly parades every Tuesday featuring imaginative floats, vibrant costumes, impressive street performances, and lots of free giveaways! Here for the food and drinks? Attend the South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival, a fundraising event for local children’s charities showcasing talented winemakers, celebrity chefs, and a fine selection of wines. Or dazzle your taste buds at the Destin Seafood Festival, featuring craft vendors, live music, great food, and freshly caught fish prepared by local culinary legends.