Travelers seeking to freshen up the familiar needn’t look any further than Florida’s Emerald Coast. The southern state is always a sure bet for domestic fun in the sun, and in the northwestern part of the state, you’ll find sweeping natural vistas and sandy beaches. Outdoor activities, charming waterfront accommodations, high-quality dining, and of course, glorious sunsets, also make for a postcard-perfect trip. Here’s a quick look at the best the Emerald Coast has to offer.
Pensacola marks the west end of Florida’s Emerald Coast while the city of Destin lies in the east. Both locales are easily accessible by regional flights, and Cottage Rental Agency in Seaside offers up beautifully quaint accommodations to call home during your stay. Nightly rates include bike rentals and concierge services, plus access to a business center.
Henderson Beach Resorts recalls the heydey of turn-of-the-century beachfront vacations with striking architecture and charming leisurely pleasures like lawn games, while still offering modern luxuries such as a spa and fine dining on-site. Meanwhile Perido Key’s Purple Parrot Resort‘s gated condos offer kitchen and laundry facilities, an on-site pool, and hot tub, plus a year-round heated indoor pool.
Locally sourced and seasonal ingredients are a hallmark of Emerald Coast restaurants, bars, and cafes. Havana Beach Bar & Grill echoes one of American legend Ernest Hemingway’s favorite Cuban haunts; if you’re lucky, get a table in the rooftop lounge overlooking the water. Cafe Thirty-A is an upscale restaurant featuring popular seafood dishes served with a warm welcome in Seagrove Beach. Looking for something more casual? Chanticleer Eatery in Santa Rosa Beach serves lunch, dinner, and a special children’s menu: enjoy the art (which is for sale) and save room for the freshly baked cookies.
Amavida Coffee Roasters’ Seaside cafe brews organic, fair trade coffee and also sells coffee to take home. Try clean eating at Destin’s Formula Fresh with acai bowls, salads, wraps, pressed juices and smoothies, or at Everkrisp, where the menu showcases farm-fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats. George Artisan Bakery & Bistro serves “new American” breakfasts with open air seating. Or graze at the Seaside Farmers Market. Vendors sell fruits and vegetables, breads, cheeses, baked goods, and more at the Seaside Amphitheater.
The Wine Bar on Palafox in historic Pensacola has an extensive wine list and a menu of starters, sandwiches, and small plates. Grab a meal without ever leaving the beach at the Casino Beach Bar & Grille. Live it up with live music, beach bar, and local events at The Flora Bama Yacht Club.
No Emerald Coast vacation would be complete without waterfront dining: Jayco’s Bayfront Bar & Grille and The Perdido Key Oyster Bar restaurants prepare Gulf seafood dishes while you get amazing views and casual ambiance.
Things to See and Do
The natural beauty and recreation opportunities of Grayton Beach State Park, Big Lagoon State Park, Pensacola Beach, and Perdido Key are calling. Go swimming, fishing, canoeing, paddle boarding, hiking, and more. Build sand castles with the pros through Beach Sand Sculptures at Blue Mountain Beach.
Spend an afternoon on the water. Sitting on the Catamaran Aurora, you might see the famous U.S. Blue Angels practice. See the Emerald Coast by helicopter. Take a walking or Segway tour of historic Pensacola, called the City of Five Flags to reflect area’s unique and exciting history. Get an up-close view of flora and fauna, landmarks and monuments, historic neighborhoods and city parks.
The Emerald Coast shows just how much more Florida has to offer in addition to amusement parks and big city attractions. Whether it’s the beaches and state parks noted for their natural beauty, spa days where you can feel your troubles melt away, or eclectic dining options that feature fresh-caught seafood dishes and locally harvested fruits and vegetables, you’ll find yourself thinking about this other side to Florida long after you return home.