Emerald Coast’ s Popular Towns and Cities

Emerald Coast

Pensacola is the westernmost city in the Florida Panhandle and the county seat of Escambia County, Florida, United States of America. Pensacola is a sea port on Pensacola Bay, which connects to the Gulf of Mexico. A large United States Naval Air Station, the first in the United States, is located southwest of Pensacola (near the community of Warrington) and is home to the Blue Angels flight demonstration team and the National Naval Aviation Museum.
The Pensacola Bay Area is an activity-packed destination featuring culture, outdoor adventure, fine museums, attractions and 52 miles of beaches. Whether you’re an art enthusiast, birdwatcher, golfer, foodie or a shopaholic, you’ll find there are so many things to do in the Pensacola Bay Area.

Gulf Breeze is a city on the Fairpoint Peninsula in Santa Rosa County, Florida, United States and is a suburb of Pensacola which lies to the north, across Pensacola Bay. The city benefits from easy access to the nearby cities and towns that it shares the Pensacola metropolitan area with. The name Gulf Breeze was derived from the Gulf Breeze Cottages and Store located in the area. Gulf Breeze is great for snorkeling, hiking or birding at Gulf Islands National Seashore, a nationally protected park. The area also offers terrific seafood and inviting beaches. And don’t miss the 50-acre Gulf Breeze Zoo. It is home to some 1,000 animals, including giraffes, coatimundi, rhinoceroses, zebras, chimpanzees, gorillas, giant tortoises, squirrel monkeys, otters, alligators and hippopotamuses. Visitors are especially smitten by the zoo’s raised boardwalk that provides a vantage point for viewing herds of deer, wildebeest, ostrich, cape hunting dogs – and islands on which chimps and gorillas roam free

Mary Esther is a city in Okaloosa County, Florida, United States. It is located in Northwest Florida, in between Fort Walton Beach and Navarre. They say: “We are lucky enough to have two Air Force Bases on either side of us: Hurlburt Field and Eglin Air Force Base.” The opening of Santa Rosa Mall in 1976 sparked a commercial building boom along Mary Esther Cutoff (later renamed Mary Esther Blvd. within the City limits) that no one had ever envisioned.

Ft. Walton Beach:The charming little town of Ft. Walton Beach is a favorite of families seeking not just to “get away” but to “get to” something truly wonderful. Here you’ll find a quaint seaside downtown area with interesting shops and museums chock-full of fun and local history.  Fort Walton is Destin’s neighbor, sitting on the opposite side of the strait that connects Choctawhatchee Bay with the Gulf of Mexico. Today, it is still not as booming as Destin or Panama City, but it is still a charming beach town. From the sandy, secluded shores, beach-goers can watch the military planes and jets soar overhead from the nearby Elgin Air Force Base. The planes can occasionally cause a bit of noise that can cause some beach junkies to skip this destination, but that keeps the crowds down and allows for those that do make the trip to enjoy the seclusion.

Destin may be “the world’s luckiest fishing village,” but anglers aren’t the only ones who feel lucky here. Just to be able to watch the sun set from our legendary sugar-white beaches makes you feel lucky. In 2012, property owners along the Destin Harbor joined together to create the Destin Boardwalk, offering easy access to more than 150 fishing charter and recreational boats, great restaurants, shopping and a multitude of water activities. Destin is the Emerald Coast’s most popular beachside town. Destin sits on the very end of a little peninsula that protects Choctawhatchee Bay and hosts some of the most pristine gulf beachfront. Destin was once a sleepy little fishing village, but while it may be bustling today with beach tourists, it hasn’t wandered far from its roots. When it comes to sport fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, Destin is the premiere destination for it. More billfish are hauled in at Destin than in all of the other gulf ports combined, earning it the nickname of the World’s Luckiest Fishing Village. While the ports may be lined with pristine charter yachts, there is plenty to do in Destin for those who aren’t fishermen. The beachfront is raked every night, assuring it is perfect every single day and the gulf waters are green and excellent for swimming.

Grayton Beach is perhaps the best beach town on the Emerald Coast due to the different choices of beach experiences. On the coast are the traditional emerald-green gulf waters, but further inland is lush pine forest that hides the area’s secret sand dunes and lakes. Grayton Beach, the oldest community in this area, was founded in 1890. You can still see some of the old weathered-cypress homes scattered along narrow, crushed-gravel streets. The architecture is tasteful, development is carefully regulated—no buildings taller than four stories are allowed—and bicycles and kayaks are the preferred methods of transportation. Stringent building restrictions, designed to protect the pristine beaches and dunes, ensure that Grayton maintains its small-town feel and look.

Seaside Florida is on the Gulf of Mexico about halfway between Panama City and Fort Walton Beach in the Florida Panhandle.  Seaside is one of the most picturesque cities on the coast and that is by no coincidence. Everything from the name of the city to its brick streets were planned by the community that settled there. Seaside hosts beautiful Victorian architecture and an attitude that promotes an old-fashioned community. In fact, the town and its attitude inspired and was the setting for the 1998 film The Truman Show, starring Jim Carrey. Pastel-color homes with white-picket fences, front-porch rockers, and captain’s walks are set along redbrick streets, and all are within walking distance of the town center and its unusual cafés and shops. It is quickly becoming one of the top retirement destinations, but visitors don’t need to be seniors to visit this storybook town and enjoy it. The beaches and crystal clear ocean are perfect for lounging in the sun or going for a swim after enjoying a laid-back, friendly town.

Panama City Beach‘s ample 27-mile coastline still gives you opportunities to avoid the crowds and congestion. Stand on the pier and look in front of and behind you to see the abrupt end of the high-rises and the return of nature as far as the eye can see. Or you travel inland, toward West Bay and find even quieter quarters, including expanses of undeveloped pinelands and a city park with ample biking trails. To get an aerial view, for about $30 you can strap yourself beneath a parachute and go parasailing as you’re towed aloft behind a speedboat a few hundred yards offshore. There are two undeveloped and fully protected state parks and their equally beautiful beaches. St. Andrews State Park, on the southeast end of the beaches, is treasured by locals and visitors alike. Camp Helen State Park, on the northwest end of the beaches, is a popular wedding venue with an incredible beach. When coming here, be sure to set your sights for Panama City Beach. Panama City is its beachless inland cousin.

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