No trip to Destin is complete without spending at least one day on the sand under the warm Florida sun. Keep reading to discover the best Emerald Coast beaches for swimming, relaxing, and sightseeing! Trust us; you won’t want to miss out on these gorgeous shorelines.
For more ways to make the most of your trip to the Emerald Coast, be sure to request access to our complimentary Vacation Guide!
The Best Best Emerald Coast Beaches
Henderson Beach State Park
If you’re searching for the best Emerald Coast beaches, look no further than Henderson Beach State Park. This incredible stretch of sand is one of the largest public beaches in the area and has plenty of restrooms, picnic tables, and a nature trail. It’s also minutes away from all of the top attractions along Highway 98. Its central location allows for easy access regardless of where you’re staying in Destin. Trust us; you’ll want to check out this beautiful stretch of coastline.
Jetty East Beach
Scenic views and crystal-clear waters are the highlights of Jetty East Beach. You’ll find this stretch of sugar-white sand at the base of the inlet connecting the Gulf of Mexico to the Choctawhatchee Bay. Building sandcastles, playing in the ocean, and sunbathing are the most popular activities here. You can also head further down the beach to Norriego Point. This secluded area is a great place for watching boats pass by, snorkeling, and soaking in the views.
Tip: While you should always exercise caution when swimming in the ocean, be extra careful here as the current fluctuates since it’s near an inlet.
Sitting across the East Pass inlet from the Jetty East Beach is Okaloosa Island. This Emerald Coast beach stretches from John Beasley Park to Eglin Beach Park, offering miles of pristine beach shoreline. Beasley Park has public restrooms, showers, and a snack bar, making it the perfect place to take the kids if they want to try a different beach. Eglin Beach Park also has restrooms and a few shaded pavilions (parking is $5 per car). You can walk around the tip of the peninsula over to the small Santa Rose Island Beach for a fun adventure.
James Lee Beach
James Lee Beach is one of the best Emerald Coast beaches for the family to enjoy. This vast stretch of sand between Henderson Beach State Park and the Crab Trap and provides an excellent spot to play in the ocean, read your favorite book, body surf, and kick the soccer ball. Harmony Beach Vacations has several properties within a five-minute walking distance to James Lee Beach. There is also parking available at a few locations, most notably the lot off of Highway 98 near the Crap Trap (which is a great place to stop and grab some seafood for lunch).
Topsail Hill Reserve State Park
Top Hill Reserve State Park is a fantastic place to spend the day if you want to enjoy the beach and do some exploring. You can choose from a variety of activities here, including but not limited to saltwater fishing, birding, biking, hiking, kayaking, canoeing, swimming, and wildlife viewing. This beautiful oceanfront reserve offers an escape from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the Destin strip while allowing you to experience the stunning and diverse nature that calls the Emerald Coast home. There is a $6 fee for parking per vehicle.
Head further down past Miramar Beach and Topsail Hill Reserve State Park to discover Grayton Beach. This tiny town and state park offer some of the best beach shorelines along the Emerald Coast. You can enjoy a variety of activities here (similar to Top Hill Reserve State Park), and there is plenty of room for you to kick back and relax on the sand without worrying about crowds of people. It’s definitely worth spending a day here, especially if you’re staying in the 30A area. There is a $5 fee for parking per vehicle.
Plan Your Emerald Coast Beach Vacation
Discover your dream coastal getaway when you choose one of our Harmony Beach Vacations rentals! Our selection of homes and condos in Destin and 30A offer fantastic locations and amenities at rates that won’t burn a hole in your wallet. Don’t forget to check out our Things to Do page for more information on how to make the most of your vacation to our gorgeous beach paradise.
Start planning your Destin vacation today by booking one of our properties! We look forward to welcoming you to the Emerald Coast.