07/03/2015 03:13PM ● Published by Paul Hunter
By Paul Hunter
It’s HOT out there! Halfway through summer and shortly, the kids (and parents) will return to the strict school schedule. It is hot and you’re looking for cool places to escape the heat, right? Where do you go? You could stay inside but, really? Get outside! We are surrounded by water and some of the most beautiful beaches in the world!
Living On the Coast affords us some great opportunities to get outside to experience all the area has to offer. Whether it is laid-back or highly active, close by or a short drive, there are a variety of spots to explore.
Some variables to consider are what, how and where?
What kind of experience do you want to have? Active, high-energy, and risky or calm, relaxing and laid-back? Something new and exciting or familiar? Keep reading to make this happen…
How would you like to experience the world around you? Let’s begin with you. Yes, you. No props, gimmicks or gizmos. Swimming, body surfing, treading water… simply you and the elements. Add some gear and partake in some snorkeling or SCUBA to explore underneath the surface.
Would you rather stay on top of the water? Kayaking is easy and popular and readily available via many beach rental and local companies that will even deliver them to you. One of the most recent additions to enjoying the water environment is stand-up paddle-boarding (SUP). A little more balance is required but is easily learned and obtained. The angle from standing on the board and looking down into the water provides a view otherwise commonly missed because of the glare and light reflection off the water. Many options are available for the types of boards from different companies. Local favorites include BOTE Paddle Boards, GUSU (Get Up Stand Up) and the local company that brought the sport to the area, YOLO (You Only Live Once) - not just a board but a brand that began here.
Like to ride the top of the water and move faster?
There are a few setups on the beach that rent catamarans, boats with parallel twin hulls. They are relatively easy to operate, and a great beach-breeze configuration means you can travel up and down the beach without having to travel too far away from shore.
Waverunners, pontoon boats and even open-bow and center console boats are available for rent along the coast. Consider the size of the group you are with and the experience. From simply riding along to towing a tube or wakeboard, power boating is quite popular.
Where would you like to be? On the busy beach or a secluded beach? In a quiet, secluded bayou, river or lake? Something man-made or something natural surrounded by trees and possibly wildlife? Close to home or a short journey to something you would not normally see?
The Gulf of Mexico
Yes, it looms large in the distance and the activities are endless. All of the previously mentioned ways to be on the water are available. You’ll see snorkelers, SCUBA divers, body surfers, surfers, boogie boarders, kayaks, paddle boards, waverunners, power boats, catamarans and if you look up, you’ll find people parasailing over the water with some pretty grand views of the area.
The only thing you probably won’t find too much of is SCUBA. However, the level of boating is remarkable and very popular because of the ability to access some of the shallow waters and of course, Crab Island which has its own appeal. Very popular for locals and visitors alike, Crab Island offers the ability to hang out next to your boat and friends whilst wading and relaxing.
One of the Many Dune Lakes
Travel along Scenic 30-A and you’ll eventually come across some rare lakes that are present in only a few places on earth. You read that right. just a few places on earth and some are right here. Brackish as they are, they offer predominantly non-motorized fun and besides, who would want to interrupt the peaceful sounds of the natural environment? Each has its own characteristic and charm. Explore!
Turkey Creek in Niceville
Just over the bridge, Turkey Creek offers about a mile walk in the woods on a very nicely built boardwalk along the creek. This recreational area offers the ability to stroll along or access the water from one of the many water access points. You’ll find walkers, swimmers, waders, paddle boards, kayaks and canoes.
Local Freshwater Springs
About an hour north of the beach reside a couple of naturally occurring freshwater springs. Partaker beware…these are cold water springs. Expect temperatures ranging from about 55-70 degrees depending on the season. They are a GREAT way to cool off in the Florida heat.
This Florida State Park is slightly hidden off Hwy 331 and offers a very natural environment to play in. Picnic areas are present as are the ability to swim, snorkel, SCUBA, paddle board, kayak. There is even a boat launch to access the local river.
Privately owned, Vortex springs is very popular for families, teenagers, campers and SCUBA divers as it offers a camp and SCUBA store on-site.
Big Kahuna’s in Destin
Destin is home to Big Kahuna’s. For some, a pleasant change to salt water and the natural environment. No sharks, jellyfish, seaweed or gators. Many parents find they are able to relax because of the presence of staffed lifeguards. There is also a restaurant on-site.
No matter what you decide, remember, with the exception of the water park, you are in a natural environment with unpredictable waters, weather and critters with teeth. You are in their environment. Heed and respect the lifeguards and locals who share some guidance and wisdom. Stay safe, have loads of fun and enjoy the local environment while staying cool.