Beaches: Gulf Coast vs. East Coast

Which Beach is Best For You?

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It’s hard to imagine, but on occasion we get inquiries from potential guests who have never visited our shores and want to know how it compares to the beaches along the Atlantic. Comparing the sugary white beautiful beach along Destin’s Gulf Coast with the Atlantic Ocean beaches to our east is like comparing apples to oranges. In other words they are both “a beach” but are very different in a multitude of ways.


The Atlantic’s East Coast in the US spans almost 2,000 miles from south Florida all the way to northern Maine. It is all very open water since it is indeed an ocean between the United States and Europe. The East Coast usually has high surf and the water is much colder except along portions that border what is called “The Gulf Stream”. This undercurrent of water streams up past portions of the East Coast from the warmer waters of our own Gulf of Mexico northward and provides a little relief for those who want to swim there. Otherwise the waters can be quite frigid especially in points north. Cape Cod in New England and some of the shoreline of the mid Atlantic states can be numbingly cold when you first get in the water there even during the month of August. Therefore the best time to swim is usually from the hottest months during the summer from Memorial Day until around Labor Day. In addition you may be able to witness an early morning sunrise over the water if you are up but not a sensational sunset later in the day. 

Destin Beach
Destin’s beaches are located along the warmer waters of the Gulf of Mexico itself. There’s no need a “gulf stream” to warm the waters here.  You may comfortably swim in the water from April through early November. The Gulf of Mexico hugs the southern US coast and like the Mediterranean Sea is a semi-enclosed area of water, which is fairly isolated from the open expanse of the ocean. The surf here is not as high as it usually is along the Atlantic except when strong southerly winds occur. Unlike the Atlantic there can even be times here when the gulf becomes so calm it almost looks like glass. These heavenly occurrences can be quite spectacular since it is able to reflect the beautiful sky above it in mirror like fashion. This is particularly relevant to our Gulf Coast location since the beautiful beaches of Destin, Miramar Beach and South Walton are located on a peninsula that runs from east to west. We are sandwiched between the gorgeous gulf waters towards the south and the expansive Choctawhatchee Bay to the north, which is like an island as far as five miles away from the mainland. This allows the heavenly reflection to display itself over the glistening gulf or the beautiful bay depending upon the time of the year. These sunsets are a magnificent sight especially from waterfront restaurants at Harborwalk Village in Destin from autumn through the winter or the long wharf at Baytowne in Miramar Beach at the Sandestin Beach Golf and Tennis Resort at other times of the year.

Brown Atlantic Beach
The Atlantic Ocean beaches are composed mostly of rocks, pebbles and shells. The sand there varies in color from tan to beige due to the consistency of the ground up natural material that composes the texture. It can be difficult to walk on and the darker color makes it too hot for bare feet during the summer months since the sand absorbs heat. Most of the beaches on the Atlantic border some of the most densely populated metropolitan areas in the nation known as “Boswash” which extends from Boston to New York City to Philadelphia to Baltimore and then on to Washington DC. Since the “season” is short lived there and confined basically to summertime, the beaches can be very crowded except during the nine months when it is too cold to swim. At that time of the year these folk flock in droves to the southern Atlantic beaches here in Florida from Melbourne down to Miami. Unlike the beaches here, this part of the nation has been densely developed over a multitude of decades with a mix of old and new before modern zoning laws established more planned developments for the creation of a friendly pristine beautiful environment.

Destin White Beaches

Destin’s dazzling sugar like beach is so white that it can be blindingly bright on a sunny day so sunglasses are not just a fashion statement here, but an absolute necessity. The famous color has been compared to sugar, salt, powder, crystal and summer snow. The consistency of the sand is mostly like powder and since it naturally reflects the heat of the tropical sun it hardly ever burns your feet, even on the hottest days. In fact many leave their sandals or flip flops behind so they can enjoy the powdery soft feel under foot. The sand here is so clean and powdery that it literally squeaks when you brush the bottom of your feet along the surface. The sugary white shore has been shown to have the whitest sand anywhere on the globe. This led to the title received as having “the most beautiful beaches in the world.” Geologists have determined that the sand started out as pure white quartz crystal that was in the Appalachian Mountains in northern Georgia. About 20,000 years ago at the end of the last Ice Age, huge chunks of it were pushed down into the gulf. Over many thousands of years the waves and tidal action ground the quartz crystal into a fine white powder of silica which is like microscopic pieces of crystal glass. This shimmering sand also accounts for the remarkable green jewel toned color of the gulf here. The sun’s rays reflect upward through the crystal clear water from the natural algae near the white sandy bottom providing an enchanting luminescent greenish glow. The reflection of the sunlight through the crystal clear water produces this dazzling effect that ranges in color from turquoise to mostly a vibrant emerald green. That is why this twenty-six mile stretch from Destin to Panama City Beach is known as “The Emerald Coast.” This beautiful, unique coast has only been developed in recent years and is considered to be one of Florida's last true frontiers. The picture perfect pre-planned new towns, villages and resorts have created a wonderful environment. This is especially true along Scenic 30A in South Walton where over 25,000 acres are set aside as state parks and forest preserves. A permanent ban on high rise construction here in 2006 insures that this pastoral paradise complete with precious coastal dune lakes and miles of unspoiled beautiful beaches will remain this way forever.

Destin Beach Houses

Ocean Reef Resorts represents a vast variety of distinctive vacation rentals that include everything from family beachfront mansions to cozy coastal cottages to luxurious gulf front condominiums. For over 34 years it has been our pleasure to provide excellent rental accommodations for families and friends who have flocked here for special vacations on the jewel toned waters of the gorgeous gulf. We have served generations of families over the years and receive excellent reviews from our guests. Although the sugar white beaches and emerald green waters are a mainstay throughout this part of paradise, the neighborhoods vary and offer their own distinct amenities, lifestyles and appeals. Take some time to get to know more about our beautiful beaches on our user friendly website. Each property includes a description, a list of individual amenities, multiple images, a satellite view of each location, a list of seasonal rates throughout the year and calendar availability. We also list freebies for all Ocean Reef Resort guests and complimentary discounts provided on our Reef Rewards program. It is our pleasure to share the essence of life that is found here.