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The Emerald Coast

Travel Stage: After the Forgotten Coast, just before leaving Florida and heading into Alabama.
Date: March 4 – 5, 2016
Summary: Overnight at the Cracker Barrel in Destin, just blocks from the beach! From here we also visit Santa Rosa Island.

Destin was quite a drive from the Forgotten Coast, especially since we had to go through Panama City. If you’re thinking of driving through Panama City…just don’t. Find another way!

We, in our infinite wisdom, decided that we wanted to drive along the coastline the whole way from Eastpoint to Destin. ​By the time we got to the other side of Panama City, which was stop and go traffic for almost an hour, Tom was turning to me and asking, “So WHY are we going to Destin, again?”

…I don’t know… because it had been recommended? The reasons seemed foggy after being wholly frustrated about bumper-to-bumper cars.

See, Tom had been there before way back in the day. I had never been, so I just thought, well, we should probably go again and see what the big deal was.  ​Regardless, we were close to pulling the plug and turning north as soon as possible to start heading to Alabama, our next planned stop. We are so thankful we didn’t.


Since it was the off-season, the Destin Cracker Barrel let us park behind their building for the night (no designated RV parking at this one!) We totally lucked out – it was just a few blocks from the beach! ​Although it was just one night parked behind a Cracker Barrel, we loved it. Destin is known for its Gulf of Mexico beaches and many golf courses, as well as the Destin Harbor Boardwalk.

Nature trails pass through the dunes of Henderson Beach State Park in the south, where the coastline is dotted with pine and oak trees sheltering wildlife. ​In Destin, it’s hard to be far from a beach. So we packed a day bag and jumped on our bikes to see the ocean. We went to the Shirah Street Public Access, then walked to the beach on Hendersen Beach State Park where we were surrounded by dunes instead of hotels. 

​THE WATER WAS INCREDIBLE. This was what ultimately made us fall in love with Destin.  

  ​In the morning we rose early to do some drone flying, but after checking the map and seeing all the airports and Air Force Bases around, we decided it was best not to fly. Exploring Destin in the early morning was still pretty cool.  

  ​We wandered down to the Destin Harbor Boardwalk, a waterside shopping district that borders on theme park. With plenty of restaurants, bars, games, vendors, clothes and gift shops, and water activities like jetski rentals, fishing tours, and snorkel dives, you’d be hard-pressed to be lacking in anything for your vacation. In the early morning, hardly anything was open, but we saw the groups gathering to head out on their day-long excursions on the turquoise water.  

Santa Rosa Island

​Santa Rosa Island is a 30 mile long barrier island that stretches from Destin all the way to Pensacola. We visited the couple mile stretch near Destin that is controlled by the Eglin Air Force Base across the bay to the north. This area is protected as part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore to preserve the natural sand dune habitat and wildlife. ​The sands out here are amazing. They are white as snow, and the rolling hills have a desolate beauty to them.

  ​Note about this beach: pets and alcohol are prohibited, and all trash must be carried out with you. No restroom facilities are provided in most of the areas. Overall, we LOVED the Emerald Coast and can’t wait to go back!

Find out more about why these beaches made the top of our list compared to the rest of Florida’s Beaches here!
>>> Beaches of Florida

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About Tom and Caitlin Morton

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of “Go North” on Amazon Prime Video, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for and an Arizona travel guide.

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Jimbo Holloway

Saturday 19th of May 2018

Come see us on 30A!

Jimbo Holloway

Saturday 19th of May 2018

We LOVE it here on the Emerald Coast!