Sitting on the sugar white sands on the beaches of Destin and Fort Walton Beach, Fla., certainly can be classified as favorite things to do for visitors in Northwest Florida. After all, the beaches of Florida’s panhandle are unparalleled for their beauty.
But a new branding initiative led by Jennifer Adams, Destin-Fort Walton Beach Director, aims at letting people know there is a lot more to the area’s great outdoors other than sit on the beach – from fishing to water sports to golf and dining.
A brief geography lesson: For years, the Destin-Fort Walton Beach area was part of what was marketed as the ‘Emerald Coast,’ which spanned from Orange Beach, Alabama to approximately to the east. Follow Interstate 95 along the Florida Panhandle and you get the idea. It seemed like a good marketing approach, but Destin-Fort Walton Beach got lost in that 200 miles.
“We started doing research 18 months ago and realized ‘Emerald Coast’ didn’t mean anything,’’ Adams said. “We decided to go back to what people know us as – and that’s Destin.’’
The re-branding initiative, Adams said, goes far beyond simply a new logo and website.
“It’s inspired and informed by the people who visit, live and work here,’’ Adams said. “In fact, we’ve engaged hundreds of stakeholders to date, creating authentic adventures based on their expertise. This is our collective way of extending an invitation to families to join us in experiencing activities that foster self-confidence, self-reliance, and nurture the imaginations of children and parents alike.”
The children’s component is key to the re-branding. For example, the destination has launched an interactive adventure builder titled “Little Adventures,’’ whereby families can explore a collection of activities – curated by local residents – and build an itinerary that best suits their children’s ages, skill sets and interests.
“Studies show that 56 percent of children spend less time outdoors than maximum security prison inmates,’’ Adams said. “Our water-based activities (including the nation’s largest charter fishing fleet) and natural resources are our biggest assets.
“Maybe you don’t know how to fish, but let us show you. Come out and enjoy the outdoors and create some adventures . Take a walk through a state park. Come out and enjoy the outdoors and create some adventures. Get the kids off their devices.”
Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Adams said, has more than 13,000 accommodations, including hotel rooms, villas, condo and homes rentals. The Henderson opened three years ago as Destin’s signature resort property. On Oskaloosa Island, Blu has emerged as one of the area’s more popular properties for condo ownership and rental.
Looking for golf? Try Regatta Bay Golf & Yacht Club in Destin, a Robert C. Walker design that recently underwent a $2.25 million renovation. Indian Bayou Golf & Country Club, also in Destin, has pair of good nine-hole layouts – Choctaw and Seminole. In Fort Walton Beach, the city operates Fort Walton Beach Golf Club, which has two good 18-hole courses – Oaks and Pines.
On the culinary side, Destin-Fort Walton Beach offers terrific Gulf to Table restaurants, including Old Bay Steamer and Dock on the Island, each in Fort Walton Beach. Don’t pass on the gumbo at Dock on the Island. Many restaurants will cook your catch from that day’s charter fishing adventures.
“We’re incredibly lucky to live and work in a destination that has welcomed so many wonderful visitors for decades, but recognized it was time to do something more with the platform we’ve been given,” Adams said. “While many may think they know our destination, we see (the re-branding) as an opportunity to help enhance a stay, introducing all to experiences that are transformational and go far beyond a check list of where to go and what to do.”
Feature Photo Credit: Destin-Fort Walton Beach