A Guide to Emerald Coast Beaches | Florida Vacation Ideas

By Kitty Bean Yancey

Who doesn’t love spreading a towel on powder-soft, sugar-white sand? Dr. Beach, known as Florida International University professor Stephen B. Leatherman, anointed the nearly continuous stretches of sand on Florida’s Panhandle, “the greatest strand of white sand on the earth.”

The Emerald Coast nickname comes from its green-hued waters. Its home to many Florida vacation ideas in front of a gorgeous ocean background. Vacationers are spoiled with options when selecting a beach to visit. Below is a guide to the Emerald Coast, including some of the top northern Gulf Coast options:

Unlock Perdido Key’s Attractions

Perdido Bay Rentals

“Perdido” means “lost” in Spanish. This reflects in the secluded, quartz-crystal sands of Perdido Key State Park near the Alabama border. They’re part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, stretching from the Mississippi south to Pensacola, Florida. You can fish in the surf or try to spy a sea turtle nest. When you’re ready to join the crowds, the Flora-Bama Lounge & Oyster Bar hosts is considered one of the nation’s top beach bars.

Vacation rentals near Perdido Key: Palacio Condominiums

Swim along the Seaside sand

Emerald Coast Vacation Rentals

Seaside is worth the drive, if only to view its Victorian-style cottages with white picket fences. Film buffs will remember it as the filming site for the 1998 movie The Truman Show, starring Jim Carrey. The eateries—from food trucks to sit-downs—are some of the best restaurants in Peridido and the beach is divine.

Vacation rentals near Seaside: Sanctuary by the Sea

Get Your Feet Wet at Pensacola Beach

Portofino Pensacola Rental

Located on Santa Rosa Island off Pensacola and reached by a causeway, this spot is notable for a 1,471-foot fishing pier. It also has a boardwalk packed with bars and restaurants. Summer in Pensacola bring free concerts played live by the sand. Rent bikes and ride out to the remains of 19th-century Fort Pickens.

Vacation rentals near Pensacola Beach: Portofino Island Resort

Visit the Destin Boardwalk

Emerald Coast Beach Destination

Boasting beautiful sounds, Destin beaches are south of Fort Walton Beach and bills itself as “the world’s luckiest fishing village.” Aside from deep-sea-fishing charters, you’ll find miles of beach, water sports, water parks, dining and shopping opportunities galore along Destin’s boardwalk.

Vacation rentals near Destin: TOPS’L Beach & Racquet Resort

Stop by Grayton Beach State Park

Seacrest Beach Florida Rentals

This area is home of the state’s more pristine beaches. Grayton Beach State Park has four miles of hiking trails and bike paths. A sturdy boat ramp lures visitors to this spot south of Destin. After a day at the Emerald Coast beach, stop for a bite or sip at the funky Red Bar in Grayton Beach.

Vacation rentals near Grayton Beach State Park: Villas at Seacrest Beach

Dive into the Panama City Beach Attractions

Calpyso Resorts

Shops and restaurants are plentiful in Panama City Beach. Its Emerald Coast vacation rentals offer birds’ eye views of the stretching shore. Plus, the beach is lively with 27 miles of sand and scuba diving to boot. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also parasail and ride jet skis.

Where to stay in Panama City Beach: Calypso

Kitty Bean Yancey is a Washington, D.C.-based award-winning former USA TODAY travel writer. She freelances for publications including AARP Magazine and AAA publications.