If you are an ecotourist that loves the beach, South Walton in Northwest Florida is a vacation destination you need to visit! This unique area along the Gulf Coast is paradise dream and a green place to travel. And we are not just talking about the jewel-toned waves that inspire locals and tourists alike to fondly refer to this stretch of beach as the “Emerald Coast”! From its pristine beaches and untouched white sand dunes, unique marine life and wildlife, walkable coastal villages, and a focus on environmental education, South Walton beckons minimal-impact travelers from around the world.
South Walton, which includes well-known Destin and communities along Scenic Highway 30A, is home not only to some of the most pure and beautiful beaches, but also protected sand dunes. Here you will find the largest sand dunes in Florida, a key feature of this area’s geography, providing a habitat for local plant and wildlife, as well as a buffer that guards the mainland against storm surges and erosion. Visitors enjoy viewing the dune flora, such as sea oats and blue lupine, and may even catch a glimpse of the endangered beach mouse residing in the dunes. Because the sand dunes are susceptible to erosion, it is important that travelers remember to play their part in protecting the natural habitat by not walking or driving on the dunes.
In addition to its unique dunes, this area also boasts a number of state and local parks for visitors to connect with the environment. Parks include Grayton Beach State Park, Henderson Beach State Park, Gulf Islands National Seashore, and more. Spend the day walking the scrub and salt marsh habitats or searching for sea turtles and shorebirds.
Just off its coast, South Walton also features an extensive artificial reef system, which is a must-visit for eco-minded travelers. These artificial reefs are intended as a habitat for the area’s rich marine life. They also provide both recreation and research opportunities, allowing everyone from visitors to researchers to explore the ecosystem. Adventure experiences at the reefs are available for ecotourists of all ages!
Environmental education is an important aspect of the South Walton area. The Sea Life Discovery Center, EO Wilson Biophilia Center, and other centers offer opportunities for locals, visitors, and children to learn more about the natural environment. Education activities include learning about conservation and sustainability, as well as empowering individuals to be more involved in protecting the environment.
Besides attending actual learning centers, tourists are encouraged to explore and educate themselves about the area. Paddleboarding and kayaking are great ways to explore the sea life, as well as the dune lake habitats. Charter boats are available to explore the reefs, while some tour companies offer additional learning opportunities. Walking or biking along the 18-mile path on 30A gives visitors a chance to enjoy the outdoors with minimal impact on the ecosystem.
As a naturalist or adventurer who just wants to travel a little greener, this oasis should be at the top of your list. Reserve your South Walton vacation with Ocean Reef Resorts, and allow their team of reservation specialists to help you find eco-friendly activities that will make your trip an unforgettable one!