There is no question that sinking your tired toes into the famous beaches along the Northwest Florida Gulf Coast is what most visitors head there to do. Though, that’s not the only reason to venture to nature’s paradise. After enjoying the sugar-white sands and emerald waters, here are eight delightful non-beach activities in Northwest Florida to discover, loved by the locals themselves:
Destin History & Fishing Museum
The remarkable tale of a sleepy fishing village founded by a shipwrecked man is long and salty – just like Destin, the city that now bears his name. The best way to learn about a town is to talk to the locals.
Head inland from Destin Harbor to the Destin History & Fishing Museum where the museum director, Kathy Marler, is a descendent of one of Destin’s founding families. She is thrilled to share her personal insight into the exhibits that present the history of Destin and its journey from a small fishing village to a major tourist attraction.
Emerald Coast Blues Society Jam
Come to the Northwest Florida coast to jam. Every Monday night at 7:00 p.m. at the Funky Blues Shack in Destin, musicians join EdMo Lanier and Gwen D’vyne on stage in an improvised blues jam session. The show is family-friendly, so bring the kids along for a fun evening.
Without question, HarborWalk Village is the hub for year-round happenings in Destin. Certainly the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village” would not be worth its sea salt if it didn’t have a vibrant fishing harbor. Luckily, the impressive fishing and leisure boats that line the Destin harbor waterfront are not just for your viewing pleasure, though they are a sight to see. This working harbor is a second home to fascinating fisherman and salty charter captains who will surely make your boat outing or fishing trip one you’ll treasure for years to come.
Eden State Gardens
Skip the beach and channel your inner gardener at this lovely estate. Stroll through the beautiful grounds of the 161-acre park filled with moss-draped Live Oak trees, and set your mind free from cares and worries. This historic site is the perfect place for history buffs, too. Named after a wealthy Florida timber family, the park is part of the family’s estate that was purchased and renovated in the early 1960s. Inside, you’ll find one of the largest collections of Louis XVI furniture, heirlooms and antiques in all of America. Bring a picnic lunch and make a day of it with the family.
Bayou Arts Center
Nestled on the north end of Highway 393 in Santa Rosa Beach is a hidden gem all art lovers should explore. The Bayou Arts Center is situated on pristine marsh and wetlands of Hogtown Bayou bay. The tranquil spot is worth a visit alone, but inside are studios and galleries of local art exhibits. Call in advance and ask about the schedule of art classes and workshops, so you can bring home a souvenir you hand-crafted yourself!
Shops of Grayton
Shopping at Grayton beach is simply heaven. Visiting this collection of charming boutique shops off of County Road 283 in Grayton Beach is a must do. Add to your art collection with a visit to Mary Hong’s Studio Gallery, where you can say you met a South Walton Artist of the Year. Just across the way is Andy Saczynski’s studio gallery. He was voted Best Local Artist on the Emerald Coast by Emerald Coast Magazine readers two years in a row. When you work up an appetite, there is a yummy Oyster house and a bakery tucked in between the shops.
The Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island in Fort Walton Beach is a great night out for all ages. Perched directly on the Gulf of Mexico, the Boardwalk is a mix of shops, restaurants, and live entertainment venues all within a large beachside complex. You can head to the Boardwalk in your bathing suit for a relaxed picnic on the beach and watch the sunset while playing a game of volleyball with friends. Or visit on Wednesdays at 9:00 p.m. to catch the fantastic fireworks display. There are so many things to do that each time you come to The Boardwalk, you can make it a totally different experience.
Historic Pensacola Village
Fantasize about escaping modern day life and slipping back into the olden days and ways? Dozens do it every day at Historic Pensacola Village — a quaint collection of historic homes, sites, churches and museums clustered in the town’s historic district. The Village unabashedly celebrates the 450-year history and culture of the “City of Five Flags” with exhibits, demonstrations, tours and an interpretive living history experience brought alive by costumed characters re-enacting early 19th century Colonial life. If you visit the Village on Friday or Saturday, you are likely to come upon a 19th century woman knitting, weaving or shelling beans or perhaps a working craftsman carefully carving a flint rifle.
Add these local gems to the itinerary for your next Northwest Florida vacation. Start planning now by browsing these vacation rental homes from ResortQuest by Wyndham Vacation Rentals.