It’s Not … But It Is …
We’re whiling away the afternoon at
Henderson Beach State Park
Destin, part of a week exploring
Florida’s Emerald Coast, which
includes nearby
Fort Walton Beach
Okaloosa Island
In case you’re unfamiliar with
the area, Destin sits on the Florida
Panhandle, halfway between Panama
City and Pensacola. Of course, geog-
raphy alone doesn’t explain the kind
of vacation experience you can
expect here. Perhaps it’s best to tell
you what
to expect while visiting:
You’re unlikely to sip flavored mar-
tinis at a swanky nightclub. You won’t
run into a boisterous spring break
crowd or a bustling theme park mob.
And you won’t drop $300 on dinner
and leave hungry.
The region might not be as fash-
ionable or popular as South Beach or
Orlando, but its good looks and
Southern charm have caught the
attention of savvy travelers and an
impressive collection of notable media,
Good Morning America
(“Most Beautiful Places in America”),
Southern Living
(Destin’s been ranked
a top family-vacation destination 14
years and counting), and
azine (“Best Places to Live and Boat”).
And while Kat and I have no imme-
diate plans to relocate —
named it one of the U.S.’ most
Recession-Resistant Cities For Real
Estate — we’re certainly smitten.
Let’s Meet for Drinks
We ’ve a l r eady f a l l en ha rd f o r
Henderson Beach. With more than a
mile of undeveloped coastline, it’s both
a stroll-at-sunset retreat for couples
and a bodysurf-and-build-a-sandcastle
destination for families.
Later that afternoon, at the
HarborWalk Marina
, we discover
Destin’s sporting side. Every time
another charter fishing boat returns to
harbor with customers beaming over
impressive catches of wahoos, amber-
jacks, and marlins, the town earns its
nickname —“World’s Luckiest Fishing
Village” — that much more. Destin’s
fortunate. It is, after all,
the closest spot in Florida to the
100-fathom curve, where the Gulf of
Mexico reaches 600 feet and teems
with almost every type of sport fish.
If you
lucky enough to reel in a
big one, you can either prepare it your-
self (for tips on in-unit cooking,
or leave
it to a pro. Several area restaurants will
cook your catch to taste, for a small fee.
At night, we head to
AJ’s Seafood
& Oyster Bar
, a local favorite near
HarborWalk Village. The vibe is
friendly and laid-back, and soon T.L.
Lewis is expertly shucking a dozen
Apalachicola Bay oysters in front of us
to go with our Sunset Lagers — a brew
exclusive to AJ’s launched in 2012 —
as we savor the sunset over the inner
harbor. Originally from Australia,
Lewis tells us he found himself in
Destin 30 years ago after a sailing job
Spring 2013
The Emerald Coast has more in common — culturally
and geographically —with the Deep South than it does
with South Florida. If you live in the region, you might
want to consider a road trip. Atlanta is a little more than
300 miles from Destin, New Orleans is 250 miles away,
and Mobile to Destin is just 100 miles.
Several major air carriers serve the area’s airports,
which include Northwest Florida Regional Airport (16miles
fromDestin), Pensacola International Airport (51miles from
Destin), and Northwest Florida Beaches International
Airport (near Panama City and 52 miles away).
“... it’s both a stroll-at-sunset retreat for
couples and a bodysurf-and-build-a-
sandcastle destination for families.”
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