Florida, the Sunshine State, has around 1,770 kilometres of beautiful sand beaches lining the coast. It hosts some of the best beachfront in the United States, but few places along the Florida's shores are better than the Emerald Coast.

This stretch of beachfront on the Florida panhandle has sand so fine, powder-soft and clean that it squeaks underfoot. The sand is actually mixed with crushed Appalachian quartz left by a glacier thousands of years ago, lending to its striking appearance. This unique sand paired with the brilliant emerald green-coloured waters creates a wondrous stretch of paradise. The gorgeous natural scenery also boasts some of the Florida's finest beach towns to accommodate visitors who can't fail to fall in love with the area.

Destin

destincreativecommons.org/Keoni Cabral

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.

Panama City

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Located on the very eastern edge of the Emerald Coast is Panama City, the perfect place for those who want to lounge on some excellent beachfront, but also don't mind some fantastic shopping as well. During the spring, the beaches are lined with students and beach parties, however, the city has 23 kilometres of beach front, so visitors will be able to find their own stretch of sand. The Miracle Strip is easily the best area to visit with the largest mixture of crushed Appalachian quartz in the sand, the mineral that gives the Emerald Coast its appearance.

Fort Walton

fort waltoncreativecommons.org/ Robert S. Donovan

Fort Walton is Destin's neighbour, sitting on the opposite side of the strait that connects Choctawhatchee Bay with the Gulf of Mexico. Although the town dates back to the Civil War, it kept a decidedly low population until the 1940s when the post-World War II New Deal brought roads into the area. 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.

Grayton

greytoncreativecommons.org/Jo Jakeman

Grayton 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. The sand on both sort of beaches keep true with the Appalachian quartz content that makes the Emerald Coast so special, but each provides different opportunities. Visitors to Grayson can try surfing or water skiing in the Gulf of Mexico or swim in the calm dune lakes. The pine forest and surrounding dunes host excellent scenic hiking and also hold more unique ways to see the area via horseback or ATV.

Seaside

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 neighbourly community. In fact, the town and its attitude inspired and was the setting for the 1998 film The Truman Show, starring Jim Carrey. 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.

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