Destin's main attraction is its powder white beaches. Over the last few years, more and more homes, condos, and businesses have been built along the water, leaving few public beach accesses. The most popular public beaches are Henderson Beach State Park off of Highway 98 on the east side of Destin and James Lee Park on Old Highway 98. Map
The sand dunes are an integral part of the beach ecosystem, and should not be tampered with. Help us protect our beaches by not walking on the dunes or picking the sea oats, which help hold the dunes together.
Beach rules vary somewhat, but most beaches prohibit glass, littering, very loud music, vehicles, fires, and pets.
Destin is a barrier island, surrounded by water on three sides and connected to land by only a small strip. To the north of Destin is Choctawhatchee Bay, to the south is the Gulf of Mexico, and to the east is the East Pass, which connects the Gulf and the Bay. One unique characteristic to the Gulf waters off of Destin is the presence of two sandbars, located approximately 15 yards and 130 yards from the beach. These sandbars are responsible for the beautiful variation in blue and green colors along the coast.
The waters around Destin are usually calm and safe to swim in. However, you should take note of the beach warning flags. A blue flag indicates calm, safe waters, a yellow flag warns extreme caution, and a red flag prohibits swimming.
When snorkeling, scuba diving, or boating in Destin waters, be sure to follow all guidelines and use extreme caution.
Destin's waters have an abundance of sea life. Don't expect to find any whales or sea lions, but you might see sharks, dolphins, sting rays, starfish, sandollars and jellyfish in addition to a wide variety of fish. Shark attacks are extremely rare, and when they do occur it is usually because the shark mistakes a person for something else. You should never swim at night or at dusk, which is shark feeding time. If you see a shark, do not make wild gestures or splash a lot. Never go into the water with a bleeding wound. Sting rays are usually harmless creatures. They will only harm a person if they are provoked or stepped on. Seek medical attention if stung by a sting ray. Apply heat or immerse the affected area in hot water to thin the venom. Keep an eye out for jellyfish--they have a nasty sting, but it is unlikely that any of the varieties in this area will cause serious damage. If you are stung by a jellyfish, it is wise to seek medical attention. Use a topical agent for relief from pain and itching. A mixture of 50% vinegar and 50% rubbing alcohol may be applied to disinfect the wound. Sea turtles also reside in our waters. They come onto the beaches to lay their eggs. If you see a sea turtle, do not disturb it, and do not expose the animal to any bright lights. Harming a sea turtle or its nest is punishable by law.
Whenever you are going to spend time outside, be sure to wear sunscreen. It is advisable to wear at least SPF 15, or higher if you have fair skin. Most sunscreens require reapplication after a few hours, especially if you are sweaty or have been in the water. Please note that even when you are under an umbrella, you are still getting sun because the rays reflect off of the sand. Even when you are using sunscreen, most experts warn to stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the sun's rays are the strongest.