Our new Ocean Reef Resorts guests who visit for the first time often marvel at the glistening bright white sugary sands of Destin while wondering if this peninsula is really an island. After all most of our visitors drive here from other parts of the southeast and they almost always have to cross a bridge to get here. In addition many have also heard about the existence of Crab Island but have never seen it. And what’s the story on the origins of these blindingly white sand beaches in Destin? Well, these are very good questions and it’s time to set things straight. Ocean Reef Resorts has been providing fine distinctive vacation rental properties along the beautiful beaches of Destin for over thirty years so we are “in the know” so to speak.
Aerial satellite views shows Destin and adjoining South Walton County to be a long peninsula that runs from east to west. However it is located three to five miles off the mainland and many must cross over a wide body of shimmering water on Choctawhatchee Bay to get here. Besides the huge expanse of this bay, a closer look shows a vast almost impenetrable marshland towards the northeast and the Intracoastal Canal Waterway which further separates Destin and South Walton from the interior mainland. The communities that comprise the Walton County portion of this land include Miramar Beach, Santa Rosa Beach and a number of charming picture perfect towns along Scenic 30A which runs beside the wide open gulf towards the south. Four bridges that connect to this “peninsula” are located to the north, east and west. The long original causeway and bridge is connected to the tiny town of Freeport on the other side via Route 331. The Mid-Bay Toll Bridge crosses over more than three and one half miles of water connecting Destin to Niceville via Route 293. The main Marler Bridge connects Destin via Highway 98 to adjoining Okaloosa Island and the five mile long National Seashore that runs west to Ft. Walton Beach. Approaching Destin it crosses over East Pass which allows an opening in between the bay and gulf. This is a dazzling sight because of the amazing emerald green color of the waters that can be seen there as well as the bustling Destin Marina and picturesque Harborwalk Village. Approaching on Highway 98 from the east it connects to Walton County via The Emerald Coast Parkway shortly after you cross over the West Bay Bridge in Panama City. So as you see many do not consider Destin or adjoining South Walton to be on a peninsula and some have even dubbed it to be located on “Fantasy Island!”
Legendary Crab Island can be seen on the bay side of Destin from the top of the Marler Bridge at East Pass. However don’t try too hard to find it because, (guess what?), it’s really NOT an island at all! Crab Island used to be an island of sorts but was actually a large raised sand bar where locals liked to go to catch crabs. Over the years it slowly submerged but the name stuck and now it is a friendly floating playground for the boating crowd who go there to party when the water is warm. During this time on any given day you will see a huge fleet of boats anchored there that range in size from Jet Skis to full sized yachts. The translucent water at Crab Island remains as clear as a swimming pool while the tide is coming in so it is a fun place to snorkel, however you would be missing out on the party if you do. It is a very social place since most gather there to enjoy eating, drinking, listening to music and all forms of merriment. Very social partygoers wade from boat to boat in the refreshing water that runs anywhere from knee high to just past your shoulders in depth. This wonderful watery playground is the perfect spot to splash around and play. Many visitors join in the fun by renting out pontoon boats from LDV Water Sports at nearby Harborwalk Village where Ocean Reef Resorts guests receive special discounts. There is nothing more relaxing than joining friends on a boat while having fun floating around with an ice chest full of cold beer or soda and a picnic basket stuffed with tasty treats. The increase in popularity over the years has led to some live musical broadcasts there by popular local radio stations, the availability of floating trampolines, big bubble balls, and portable slides. Many food vendors now deliver sandwiches, beer and favorite frozen beverages to everyone by boat for those who haven’t brought their own provisions.
Now about the secret behind Destin’s dazzling sugar white beach that extends up and down the entire Emerald Coast. The sparkling sand here is so white that it can almost blind you on a bright sunny day so sunglasses are an absolute necessity. The famous color has been compared to sugar, salt, white powder and 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 literally “squeaky clean” feel beneath their feet. The sugary white shore here 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.” So where did it come from? Geologists have determined that it 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 carried down into the gulf by the Apalachicola River. Over many thousands of years the waves and tidal action ground the quartz crystal into a fine white powder of silica which is like tiny crystals. 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 glow.
Well now you know that Destin is actually an island and Crab Island is not! However both places provide a wonderful tropical paradise for family fun due to the shimmering white quartz crystal shore and the emerald hued waters of the gulf. Ocean Reef Resorts provides fine private Destin rental accommodations in a variety of beach homes, cottages and luxurious gulf front condominiums so you may have fun beginning to plan your trip now. Check out our multitude of photos, videos and images of all of our properties along the spectacular scenery and you’ll see what we mean.