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Destin, Sandestin and Fort Walton Beach - All You Need to Know

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About Golf in Destin, Sandestin & Fort Walton Beach: Here's All You Need to Know
The 18th at Regatta Bay Golf Club

The 18th at Regatta Bay Golf Club

Copyright © 2009 Blair Howard
Destin, Sandestin and Fort Walton Beach are the ultimate golf destinations on Florida's Emerald Coast. I've been visiting and writing about the amenities, dining, accommodations and golf courses in Destin, Sandestin and Fort Walton Beach for more than 35 years. During that time I've seen Florida's Northwest "Emerald" Gulf Coast grow from a sleepy little fishing community into the premier vacation and golf destination on Florida's Panhandle. Back in the day, when I first entered Destin's city limits, it was no more than a tiny collection of clapboard homes, boat docks, a couple of nice seafood restaurants, a half-dozen beach-front oyster bars and one chain hotel. Yep, Destin was Florida's version of Amity (of Jaws fame). In fact, I'm told some scenes from the movie were filmed there (My wife met Robert Shaw in the old Hog's Breath Saloon). Ok, enough reminiscing… Destin's beaches, inordinately beautiful in 1978, are even today ranked among the best in the world. Destin… well, it's grown beyond all bounds. Today, Destin is home to several resorts and more than 1,100 holes of golf (there are more than 1250 in the area) and has become a major family and Golf destination.

As a family destination, Destin and Fort Walton Beach have no rivals; it's THE place to go for fun in the sun. Why? Well, the most compelling reason is that geographically Destin is the first hot/warm stop on the way south for most of the snowbirds. There's plenty to see, do and enjoy for one and all, from tiny tots to seniors - all the attractions and amenities one would associate with a major resort including Seaworld and many miles of pristine beaches, yes and golf too.

The options for great golf in Destin, Sandestin, and Fort Walton Beach seem almost limitless: more than 1,250 golf holes all within a short drive of the Coast. But why drive even a short distance when there are more than a dozen great, public access golf courses close at hand? You could, for instance, play Regatta Bay, a public, 18-hole championship course designed by Robert Walker; or the Fred Couples Signature course at the Kelly Plantation; then there's the two nice public courses at the Fort Waltom Beach Golf Club; or you can choose from a whole host more, including:

The Top 10 Golf Courses in Destin and Fort Walton Beach

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Golf Courses in Destin:

All five of these semi-public courses are in Destin and within a mile of each other.

p>Golf in Sandestin:

In Sandestin, just a few short hops southward down Highway 98, there are four more championship golf courses at the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort:

The Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort

Golf Courses In Fort Walton Beach:

The options for great golf in Fort Walton Beach are just as plentiful. Here are just a few of them:

Where to Eat in Destin and Fort Walton Beach:

The two fine seafood restaurants I once knew and loved are, unfortunately, long gone, and so are most of the oyster bars. The old Hog's Breath Saloon that was featured in the original Jaws movie is no more either. It has, in fact, relocated to a new, more high-profile location on the Strip. It's a still a nice restaurant, and the food is good, but the atmosphere is… good enough, I suppose, but if you knew the old Hog's Breath you might tend to get a little nostalgic for what once was.

Perhaps one of the best restaurants in Destin is The Beach Walk Cafe. Internationally famous chef, Tim Creehan, runs it in the tradition of the great chefs of New Orleans. Ruth's Chris Steak House has a reputation that speaks for itself. Then, of course, there's the Lucky Snapper, although one might wonder how any fish, snapper or otherwise, that ends its days gazing up from a plate can be deemed "lucky." For breakfast I'd like to recommend The Donut Hole and The Broken Egg Café. I've eaten at both and can only speak highly of them, although both can be a bit crowded at peak hour. Here are a few of my favorites spots:

Where to Stay in Destin and Fort Walton Beach:

You'll be surprised to learn that beachfront hotel rooms on the Emerald Coast are a bit limited, the good old Holiday Inn being perhaps the best of what's available - there's one in Destin and another in Fort Walton. These two hotel guides will give you an idea of what's available:

But let's not get hung up on hotel rooms: the Emerald Coast is the land of the rental condo, and there are thousands to choose from.

I never had experienced one of these cover-all opportunities until I stayed at Silver Beach Towers. Today, I am a convert. The sheer convenience of a condo-style vacation is something I'll not easily give up. So, I say, "to heck with the hotel room, I'll take a condo any day." Here are a few options to tempt you:

Condos are Ideal for Groups:

Condominiums on the Emerald Coast, and in Destin in particular, are almost always large and inevitably luxurious. You can choose from one, two or three bedroom units complete with lounge, full kitchen, a balcony overlooking the ocean, and even a Jacuzzi. Some will sleep as many as 16 people. True, you have to cater for yourself, but so what? You can rent for just a few days or for as long as several months - and the longer you stay, the better the price. The rates are basically the same as you would expect to pay for a hotel room, maybe even a little less, but what you get for your dollars beats the hotel room hands down.

Finally, there are the resorts to consider:

How to get There:

The closest regional airport is the Fort Walton Beach Airport. The airport is served by Delta, Continental, US Air, AirTran, American, Northwest, and several others.

Look for the best airline and car rental deals with these two aggregators, which provide travelers with an up-to-date search tool to compare prices on airfares and car rentals of all ratings:

  • Airlines - Compare Prices
  • Rental Cars - Compare Prices

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