Over the weekend, I traveled to Florida, not far from Panama City and Pensacola, with my older sister Pam while she visited some beachfront condo properties geared for the baby boomer set.
We spent the weekend along the beautiful stretch of beach called "the Emerald Coast" and stayed in the berg called Destin, which still carries the tag: "the World's Luckiest Fishing Village."
Our nearest town, right next door and down the road was Valparaiso, Fla. I'll share more about this sister city to our own region counterpart in Porter County, tomorrow.
As for Destin, as my sister was enjoying the beach and condo views from the 15th floor unit where we stayed, we did a bike ride tour early Saturday morning as a way to learn more about our surroundings. Mike Shoults, who owns Destin Bike Tours and The Destin Bay House (destinbiketours.com), the latter being a converted beach cottage now rented for weddings and events, led us on our bike tour and included a stop at The Destin History and Fishing Museum, which is run by his mother Jean Melvin.
Inside the museum, not only did we see the world's largest Red Snapper mounted on the wall, we also discovered a number of noted names made Destin a favorite fishing destination, a tradition that started decades ago. Not only did comedian Bob Hope like to enjoy relaxing time in this area, but Chicago's Al Capone also held a pole in the water in this perfect resort hideway.
Destin, which used to be island real estate, is now part of a peninsula after years of changing tides and hurricane forces moving sand and water. The reason this area is called "the Emerald Coast" is because of the green tint that reflects off the beach and bay waters, created from the contrast of white sands and green seaweed particles.
My favorite part of our visit, besides the delicious fresh seafood caught and cooked up daily, is the crystal white sand on Destin's beaches, which I'm told is some of the whitest in the world. I discovered this sand comes from the Appalachian Mountains, and is made of finely ground quartz crystal giving the appearance of sugar, a result of the residue grains that flow down the Apalachicola River and deposited along this stretch into the Gulf of Mexico.
We had some very famous weekend neighbors during our quick visit, all folks who already call Destin home. Or at least, they call Destin, ONE of their homes. Chef Emeril Lagasse has a home here, as does author John Grisham, singer Jeff Cook of the band Alabama, former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, singer Sheryl Crow and actor Wayne Rogers.
As for some of the celebrated personalities recently spotted in the area, making Destin their playground, include Brian Littrell of The Backstreet Boys, Jessica Simpson and football former beau Tony Romo, Michael Jordan, Reese Witherspoon with husband Jim Toth and their brood and Katie Holmes and daughter Suri Cruise, the last pair having spent their Memorial Day here in the area.
For more information, visit emeraldcoastFL.com.