Enjoy a Free Day at Grayton Beach & Topsail Hill Preserve this Summer

For the 7th Straight year the Walton County Tourist Development Council is picking up the tab for day-use visitors of Grayton Beach State Park and Topsail Hill Preserve State Park now through Labor Day.

The goal is to help increase available parking for beachgoers and to promote the availability of eco-tourism activities in South Walton.

This is a fantastic opportunity to explore our local parks and see nature at its finest.  Bring your lunch and enjoy a picnic.  Restroom facilities are available as well.

The Free Day-Use admission is available to visitors during the normal operating hours from 8:00 am to Sunset.

For additional information on Topsail Hill Preserve State Park click here.
For additional information on Grayton Beach State Park click here.


The PURPLE Flags are Flying in Walton County! Find out More!

For Locals and Tourists alike, BEWARE of a large presence of Jellyfish that have been spotted along an over 25 mile stretch in the Gulf waters in South Walton County!

The lifeguards overseeing the waters don't want you to panic and if the purple flags are out it shouldn't mean that you can't continue enjoying your day.  With the current along the beach we don't know from one day to the next if there will be jellyfish where you're planning on visiting.  Depending on the wind speed and the amount of marine algae determines the amount of jellyfish and where they go.

Upon arriving to the area that you want to stake your claim for the day, take note on what kind of flags are flying and take appropriate measures.  If you do get in the water and there are purple flags flying make sure to move if you see jellyfish around.  While most jellyfish stings aren't dangerous, some are and some affect people in different ways.

IF you do get stung and it's your first time, seek out a lifeguard in the area to find out how you can treat your sting as soon as possible.  If the reaction is too painful don't hesitate to call 911 immediately to get the care that you require.


Expect Delays on Hwy 98 in Walton County during Road Widening

It seems that EVERYWHERE you go they're working on the roads!  It's something you can't get away from but once it's over the traffic SHOULD flow better!  It's just the wait that takes so long!

Right now the 3.4 mile stretch between Emerald Bay Drive and Tang-O-Mar Drive is scheduled to be complete sometime this Fall.  Unfortunately, another project is preparing to ramp up sometime this month on Hwy 98 between Mack Bayou Road and Scenic Hwy 30A.  Both of these projects are ROAD WIDENING from 4 to 6 lanes and will include construction of new 5-6 Foot Sidewalks on the North side of the road, updated Pedestrian crossings where Traffic Signals are present and more.

While there will be some relief after the Fall, you can expect delays to last into late 2023 for the completion of the 1.8 mile section on Hwy 98.

So don't forget to PACK YOUR PATIENCE and leave a little early if you're travelling in that area.


Be Aware! Black Skimmers are back on Navarre Beach!

You can almost set your watch to it, the Black Skimmers return to the white sandy areas along the Navarre Beach Causeway.  Arriving in April and then moving on in early September, they choose Navarre Beach because of its location where there are fewer predators that could raid their nests.

If you're traveling along the Navarre Beach Causeway for the next couple of months you'll notice a lower speed limit to keep from disturbing these beautiful visitors.  If you'd like to get a better look we recommend you slowly park on the side of the road and stay in your car and roll your windows down to get a good look.  If you hear them squawking or moving away, then they're very uncomfortable and have more of a chance of running out into the road and getting ran over by a car.

Please take time to respect the wildlife that surrounds us so we can enjoy them for years to come.


Solutions Sought to Handle Overflow Parking Problems on Navarre Beach

As Spring turns into Summer and everyone begins wandering outside from the long year we've experienced from COVID-19, the few Parking Lots with Beach Access along Gulf Blvd. on Navarre Beach have been constantly FULL on the weekends.

2 lots specifically were addressed in June's Tourist Development Council meeting due to Handicapped parking problems.  Because these lots are not paved or marked, beach goers are taking up every inch they can find.  They're unaware there are Handicapped Parking spaces or they're supposed to be parking on the sides of the lots and leaving the middle of the lots open for cars to Enter and Exit.

Now the Tourist Development Council is taking action to find a "fix" for this problem.  Right now they're placing barricades in the middle of the parking lots from Friday nights through Sunday nights and removing them during the week.  We're not sure what will happen when Summer arrives.....

The most sensible solution would be to pave the lots and mark the handicap and parking spots so it can clearly be seen where people are supposed to park.  But with that, it means it will cost money.  The Tourist Development Director has approached the county's risk management department about the possibility of paving but haven't received a quote yet for the project.  If there hasn't been a solution by the August meeting they will revisit the subject again.

But for now.... PLEASE follow the rules of these parking lots so that everyone can enjoy their visit to Navarre Beach.  Make sure you don't...

Northwest Florida Boasts Some of the Lowest Unemployment Numbers in the State!

The April Unemployment numbers for April were released in mid-May.  Not surprisingly, the Panhandle is enjoying some of the lowest rates of the entire state.  The Unemployment Rate for the entire state is 4.8%.

The highest Unemployment rates is in Osceola County at 6.7% with the Lowest rate in Monroe County at 3.2%

Here's how our area counties stack up:

Okaloosa:  3.7%
Santa Rosa:  3.8%
Walton:  4%
Bay:  4.4%
Escambia: 4.9%


Ready to Explore? Check out this NEW Reef that was just placed in Destin!

For those Diving enthusiasts, we're happy to announce a NEW REEF in Destin to explore!

Months in the making, this 93 ft. Air Force steel training vessel was recently sunk to the bottom of the sea in 104' of water, just 14 miles southwest of Destin Pass.

Click here to find out more about the entire process in creating this exciting new reef!


New Park in Destin Finally Opens!

Earlier this month, Miss Destin 2021, Kaylie Sparks, cut the ribbon at the long-awaited NEW park in Destin, Captain Leonard Destin Park!

Hampered by the Pandemic, completion took much longer that planned, but now this beautiful 3+ acre park that overlooks the Choctawhatchee Bay has been transformed into the perfect destination for the family to spend some quality time.

Some features of the park include over 30 fountains with a center post shower, a Splash pad and Playground, Kayak and Paddle board launch, a pier, large picnic pavilion and restrooms with outdoor showers.

The park is built on the site that was part of the homestead of Captain Leonard Destin, the first person to settle in Destin in the mid-nineteenth century.  He also pioneered the local fishing industry.

Pack your lunch and load up the kids to see everything this beautiful park has to offer!


Navarre Beach is the Perfect Vacation Spot....and here's why

When planning this year's Vacation consider the quiet and pristine beach community of Navarre Beach.  There's so much to do in such a small area!

Click here to read the article featured in the Flamingo Magazine online and then you'll wonder why you never found this Gulf Coast gem before!


Walton Commissioners approve conservation of nearly 7,000 acres

Steps were taken at the last meeting of the Walton County Board of Commissioners for the conservation of almost 7,000 acres.

Unanimously approved, this will change the county's comprehensive land use plan map, which includes estate residential, general agriculture, large scale agriculture, public facilities and town center to the county's conservation classification.

The Commissioners have been working with the conservation non-profit organization, Nokuse Education, Inc., who recently purchased the 6,948 acres through a Florida Forever grant award.

Florida Forever is a Trust Fund program of the Department of Environmental Protection funded with real estate taxes.  Since 2001, the state has purchased more than 869,000 acres.

To find out where these parcels are located, click here to read the entire article.


Destin Wine Auction Raises OVER $2 million for children

*The Destin Log | Published 2:49 pm ET May 3, 2021

The 16th Annual Destin Charity Wine Auction was definitely a success as they raised OVER $2 million to help children all over the area.  This money will help provide essential services from food, housing, medical care and much more.

To read the entire article click here.


Navarre and Navarre Beach News!

The next time you're visiting, look for changes in Navarre and Navarre Beach!

For those heading over the Causeway to Navarre Beach, once it's installed, the first thing you'll see is a BRAND NEW, "Intelligent Traffic System" at the Gulf Boulevard intersection. This new system allows for the light to be managed in real-time depending on traffic flow.  For those who love Navarre Beach they've hated the slow, often-times standstill traffic that backs up as the day progresses.  This light will help alleviate the stop and go issues we all have experienced.  One day we hope there will be a better solution, but for now it's a start! 

Navarre, in the past several years, has been a fast growing community and below are just a few of the new businesses coming to the area:  

1.  Aldi Grocery - This 20,000+ Sq. Ft. buiding will be located at the intersection of Hwy 98 & Ortega St.  Plans have been submitted to the County as of April 1st, once plans are approved permits will be issued. 

2.  Also located in the complex where the Aldi will be constructed, will be a Dunkin' Donuts, where a Certificate of Occupance has been issued.  No opening date has been announced.

3.  Wynnehaven Plaza - Located at the former site of the First National Bank of Navarre near the Okaloosa-Santa Rosa County line.  This complex will include a Publix Grocery Store, Liquor...

Santa Rosa County takes 1st Step Towards a New Navarre Beach Bridge

*Pensacola News Journal - Annie Blanks
Published 4:44 am CT, April 23, 2021

Santa Rosa County takes 1st step in decade-long, $120 million Navarre Beach bridge project

Santa Rosa County Commissioners took the first step Thursday in what likely will be a decade-long, multimillion dollar process to build a new Navarre Beach Bridge, connecting the barrier island to the mainland and replacing the current bridge that has been declared "functionally obsolete." 

District 4 County Commissioner Dave Piech, who represents the Navarre area, has had the new Navarre bridge on his radar for the better part of the past year, but put off starting any official discussions about the project in the wake of the Pensacola Bay Bridge debacle.

Now, Piech said, it's time to start the process and get the ball rolling on a new Navarre Beach Bridge, "because, as you know, you can't just have a problem with a bridge and replace it overnight. We're living with that right now (with the Pensacola Bay Bridge)." 

The Pensacola Bay Bridge was struck by multiple Skanska construction barges during Hurricane Sally on Sept. 16 and has been out of commission ever since due to several missing spans and other structural issues. Officials have said it should reopen to motorists the week of Memorial Day.

The commissioners directed county staff Thursday...

2 Local Destinations announced as some of the Best Getaways in Florida

Conde Nast Traveler traveled Florida from East to West and North to South to end up with the 16 Best Weekend Getaways in Florida including 2 of our local gems.

Panama City

Leave the spring break mayhem to Panama City Beach. Neighboring Panama City proper is a Panhandle revelation home to an Oyster Trail with a dozen restaurants proffering the fruits of the local Gulf and a burgeoning Mural Trail, too. Less than a five-hour drive from cities like Atlanta, Birmingham, New Orleans, and Jacksonville, Panama City—with its historic downtown and easy access to the nearby sugar sand beaches of Panama City Beach—might surprise you. Right downtown, the History Class Brewing Company is a brand new gastropub that nods to the city’s history with old time artifacts in its design, and mango and guava infused wheat beer on tap. Don’t miss a visit to nearby Historic St. Andrews, ten minutes away, a funky fishing...

Walton County Winter Tourism Numbers are in!

*Jim Thompson | Northwest Florida Daily News | Published 7:02 a.m. ET April 14, 2021

Gulf Coast Winter Tourism is alive and well despite the Restrictions for COVID-19!

The recent release of last winter's Tourism and Economic Impact in Walton County shows an increase of over 20% for a whopping amount of $1 Billion, according to the Report by a Tallahassee-based Research company.

Between December 2020 and February 2021 there were 494,500 visitors to the beaches, which is a 105,000 person increase from the previous year.

Times have changed from past years, where the beaches were like ghost towns during the winter months, employees laid off due to lack of activity.

The Walton County Tourist Development Council says their focus has changed from targeting the younger families, but also to older couples and couples without children.  From just selling our beautiful Gulf beaches to offering alternative outdoor activities, such as biking and hiking and on hospitality services, such as Dining and shopping.

To read the entire article click here.


New Medical Campus coming to Panama City Beach

The St. Joe Company recenlty announced that it is teaming up with the Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare and FSU's College of Medicine to bring a NEW Health Care Campus to Panama City Beach.

This Healthcare facility will be located along the St. Joe's Bay-Walton Sector, over 110,000 acres, along the Intracoastal Waterway and situated near the new Latitude Margaritaville Watersound community currently under construction.  Groundbreaking is anticipated to be in 2022.

The Latitude Margaritaville community, built with Seniors 55 and older in mind who have an Active Lifestyle, will include 3,500 homes from Panama City Beach to South Walton County.

This will be a valuable health care option for Latitude Margaritaville and Panama City Beach residents alike.  The location site will be near State Hwy 79 and Phillip Griffitts Sr. Parkway on an 87 acre parcel.

This new facility will include an Emergency Center, 100 beds for inpatients and will include services for those needing Gastroenterology, urology, gynecology, cardiology services and general surgery.


New 'Must Have' Guidebook for Snorkelers and Divers Highlights Emerald Coast Areas

This in-depth guide to what you can find UNDER the beautiful Gulf waters along the Emerald Coast.

Over 137 sites are revealed in this book, from shipwrecks, to artificial reef sites. This guide is the perfect companion for locals or visitors to our area, creating just another reason to not only enjoy the beauty above but to explore the unseen beauty below.  Sites in Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton and Bay County are covered.

This guide has gone into publication and is scheduled to be available for purchase in May.

To find this MUST HAVE Guide in the May/June time period visit your local dive shops, bookstores as well as Amazon.