In spite of its laid-back history, the Emerald Coast is one of Florida’s best-kept secrets for a vacation any time of the year. Located in the northwest panhandle of Florida along the Gulf of Mexico, the Emerald Coast includes Ft. Walton Beach, Destin and Okaloosa Island. Its miles of sugary white sand beaches and emerald green waters make it an inviting vacation spot. It’s a laid-back, friendlier kind of place.
This area traces its roots to the 7th century, when American Indians fished here. Hundreds of years later, the Spanish settled in the area. Around 1845, Captain Leonard Destin of Connecticut sailed to the area and established a small fishing village. The area’s pioneers began to thrive on fishing, ship-building and lumbering. As access to this isolated area increased, so did a flood of new explorers of the tourist kind, which eventually led to the largest fishing fleet in Florida. World War II saw the buildup of a huge military base called Eglin Field, famous for Captain Jimmy Doolitte’s Raiders. Along with neighboring Ft. Walton Beach and Okaloosa Island, the once quiet fishing village of Destin now hosts more than 4.5 million visitors each year.