Canadians wait all year for the warmth of summer. We wait for the sun to kiss our cities, to thaw the Great White North and to tan our fair complexions. Truly, it’s the best time of the year to stay home. Savvy Canadian Travellers reserve the cooler months for visiting sun washed destinations to the south. Dodging high season prices doesn't hurt either. We're 'in the know', but we're not the only ones in on the secret; Florida’s Emerald Coast is rolling out the autumn welcome mat. Let us count the ways that this stretch of sugar-white sand beach is plain perfection in fall. We warn you, this post contains travel inspiration and incentives.
Emerald Coast Quick Facts
- 3 cities make up Florida's Emerald Coast: Destin, Fort Walton Beach & Okaloosa Island
38 kilometres of pristine beach - a siren song for sun worshippers
- Average fall high/low temperatures: September: 30/21°C, October: 26/15°C & November: 20/9°C
- Destin was rated #1 on U.S. News & World Report's Best Florida Beaches 2014 report.
- Counted among the Top 10 Most Beautiful Places in America list by Good Morning America
- The white sand beaches of the Emerald Coast are actually formed by a different gem altogether: quartz. Sediment is washed down the Apalachicola River and into the Gulf of Mexico where it is then swept back to the coast by currents.
The Catch of Your Life
Fact: on the Emerald Coast fishing poles outnumber people two-to-one. Okay, we may be fictional statisticians, but these waters are fished with fervor. An abundance of gamefish affords year-round fishing in a setting that is simply spectacular. It's also a varied one. Anglers can cruise the depths of Choctawhatchee Bay, explore inland lakes, the Gulf of Mexico or even a bayou. If catching a marlin tops dad's bucket list, the entire family can witness the hard-fought battle from the comfort of a charter boat cabin. With over 20 species of sportfish inhabiting the coastal waters, it's not uncommon for party boats to catch their limit in a matter of mere hours in the height of the summer fishing season. Anglers visiting in autumn shouldn't worry though, the Destin Fishing Rodeo runs the entire month of October. (Read more about it below.)
Location: Destin Harbor
Hop on board a morning charter and cruise for dolphins in their natural environment. (Don't worry, early morning doesn't mean sunrise!) Trips average an hour and a half, and start in Destin Harbor, wind through the East Pass and into the Gulf of Mexico. Air conditioned cabins and breezy passenger decks afford unobstructed coastal views of the Emerald Coast. Each trip is narrated, offering informational tidbits about the locale, as well as helping you spy those playful dolphins. Kids and teens will love peeking through glass bottom viewing panes to catch an underwater view. (Okay, adults will too!) Canadians are accustom to paying well over $80 per person for multi-hour whale watching excursions at home. Not the case in Florida; your wallet will be delighted by the affordability of a dolphin cruise. Further, while concession items are available on board, we love that guests are permitted to bring a small picnic. Corona and a charcuterie plate, anyone?
Air Force Armament Museum (free)
Location: 100 Museum Dr, Eglin Air Force Base, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32542
It's not just war buffs and patriots interested in visiting the Air Force Armament Museum. Vintage aircraft, weapons and war relics will fascinate those with an interest in planes, the evolution of air travel technology and world affairs. Educational and at times entertaining, this museum illustrates an era of World War and Cold War conflict that millennials have only read about in textbooks. Museum entry is free and tours are self-guided. Climb into a training cockpit and experience a flight simulator. Photography is welcome and encouraged - so go ahead - get that cockpit selfie.
Website: Click here
Hit the Beach
Driving directions: drive west from Destin, crossing the bridge that spans the East Past
Families especially love the sugar-white sand of Okaloosa Island because it doesn't heat too uncomfortably under foot. (No more funny dancing your way from the beach blanket to the water!) Plus, with miles of beach to lay out on you won't be dodging the umbrellas of other beach-goers. We like day tripping to Okaloosa Island's beaches for their relative proximity to creature comforts and amenities. When you're ready for a bite and a chilled beer, just stroll the island's boardwalk for restaurants serving up an ocean view. Round out the afternoon at the pier to see if you can spy a sea turtle, dolphin or pelican, or perhaps a fisherman hooking a tarpon.
Warm fall weather means plenty of events to get you in a festive mood. What's more, festivals often mean hotel savings for you (click for promotional codes). Here are just some of the many events we're looking forward to:
Destin Beer Week & Festival - 300 beers will be represented by 60 breweries. Between sampling the brews, eat your way through culinary stations and get into the rhythm of live music. 9/22-9/26. Click here for tickets and schedule of events.
ARTWalk on the Harbor - an open air gallery and vibrant marketplace situated on the Destin Harbor Boardwalk. Peruse artisan goods, jewelry and hand crafted furniture while snacking and admiring street performers and live music. 9/20, 10/18 and 11/15, 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. Click here for details.
37th Annual Destin Seafood Festival - this immensely popular festival is set to welcome 70,000 guests over three days. It hosts three stages for rock, reggae and country performances, and features both local and coastal talent. Sample the flavours and fresh bounty of the Emerald Coast, prepared by local food vendors. 10/2-10/4, varied hours. Click here for details.
Destin Fishing Rodeo - have you ever seen a marlin the size of a full grown man? We can't make promises but the odds are very, very high that you will at the Destin Fishing Rodeo. Consider it the ultimate fishing tournament. For the entire month of October, saltwater anglers of all ages are encouraged to participate. Get out on the water and set your line. It doesn't matter which type of fish you catch, nearly all gamefish qualify. Weigh-in at the docks by A.J.'s Seafood & Oyster Bar to enter your catch in the competition. The Rodeo sees 30,000 participants vying for over $100,000 in cash and prizes. 10/1 -10/31, weigh-ins occur 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.
8th Annual Blues, Brews, & BBQ - fundraiser meets BBQ, who can resist? Plus, by November. Canadian barbecues will be well into their winter hibernation. Sample craft beer and the unique plates borne of the creative BBQ competition. 11/7, 11 a.m. -4 p.m.
Are you ready to plan a trip to the Emerald Coast?
Click here to see a visitor's guide