Flying to Destin and the Emerald Coast

Your Ticket to Paradise

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Ocean Reef Resorts always has your accommodations ready when you arrive to enjoy a memorable, relaxing and fun filled beach vacation. Traditionally, most families have always traveled here by car since many are within a day’s drive to our Emerald Coast paradise and airline connections in the past have been somewhat cumbersome. Locals used to say that even when you went to Heaven, you had to change planes in Atlanta!  Now with brand new air services in Panama City Beach and Fort Walton Beach you can get here nonstop from a host of other cities. In addition, increased competition has made flying to Destin much more affordable. There are now four airports serving as gateways to The Emerald Coast, allowing you to travel long distances in just a couple of hours and making the beach that much closer to home.

Private Plane

Northwest Florida Regional Airport

For regular commercial travel, the closest airport to Ft. Walton Beach, Destin, and Miramar Beach is the Northwest Florida Regional Airport. Located off Eglin Parkway, you may travel to any of these locations in less than thirty minutes.  In fact, thanks to the Mid Bay Bridge, you can make it to Miramar Beach and Sandestin from this airport in exactly thirty minutes, door to door!

This award winning, expansive 110,000 square foot terminal opened in November 2004 and serves almost one million travelers each year. The sugar sand white walls and green steel roof are accentuated by an adjoining landscaped park providing a perfect welcome to The Emerald Coast.  It has most of the amenities of a big city airport with the wonderful convenience and laid back ambiance of a smaller facility. A free shuttle service to and from the parking area as well as complimentary, curbside assistance is available. Rental car services are on the premises as well, for ease of transport.  Indoors, the vaulted ceilings with multiple skylights provide a spacious look and feel. Be sure to check out the huge multicolored, terrazzo map which is inlaid onto the floor of the main foyer. It shows all of Choctawhatchee Bay, Ft. Walton Beach, Destin and the Gulf of Mexico! Restaurants are available for munchies as well as gift shops for souvenirs and WI FI is available throughout the terminal. Refreshments are provided at the “Tropical Landing Bar”, complete with plasma HD flat screen TVs. Over fifty daily nonstop flights go to and from Atlanta, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Dallas, Houston, Memphis and Tampa. Carriers include American Eagle, Continental, Delta and US Airways.


Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport

Known as Beaches International for short, this state of the art $330,000,000 airport opened with much fanfare on May 23, 2010. Since this is the only international airport to have been completed since 1995, it is also the first green airport in the nation, receiving numerous accolades for land conservation and preservation. The 1,400 acres of airport includes 10,000 linear foot runways that can land even the largest airbus from Europe. Surrounded by over 41,000 acres of nature preserve, it includes thirty-three miles of protected bay front, all of which was donated by the St. Joe Company who are noted for their upscale, planned communities. It is located just north of Highway 98 in Panama City Beach taking Highway 79 to Highway 388 near West Bay. The long boulevard entrance meanders through the dense forest preserve, providing a surprising sight to behold as it opens onto the giant clearing containing the airport. When you fly over this huge expanse of gorgeous undeveloped land, you think you are arriving in South America rather than in Florida! This is the closest airport to all of our rental properties from Panama City to the Beaches of South Walton with drive times from twenty to forty minutes.

The 125,000 square foot terminal building has seven gates, state of the art security, quick baggage delivery systems and WI FI throughout.  Restaurants, retail, and rental car venues are on site for convenience. There is also a special Military Welcome Center upstairs for all active personnel and veterans. This area includes a private lounge with large flat screen TVs, computer terminals, a small kitchen and kids play room. There are almost fifty arrivals and departures daily with nonstop service to and from Atlanta, Baltimore/DC, Cincinnati, Houston, Memphis, Nashville, and Orlando. Direct flights are also available from New York and Chicago with plans to add London as a nonstop flight in the near future. Current carriers include both Delta and Southwest with more to come.

Pensacola Airport

Pensacola Gulf Coast Regional Airport

The oldest airport serving the Emerald Coast is the Pensacola Gulf Coast Regional Airport which was established way back in 1935! It is located in Northeast Pensacola off Interstate 110 just a three mile jog down Airport Road. This location is forty-five to ninety minutes away from most Ocean Reef properties but could be worth the drive if the airfares are less. This airport also currently offers travel to and from the most amounts of cities with nonstop flights including Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Memphis, Miami, Orlando, Tampa and Washington DC. Currently it offers twelve gates but a major expansion is underway which will provide sixteen gates upon completion in 2011. Major renovations are underway as well for the terminal building itself as well as the adjacent parking garage. A free shuttle service is provided for other parking areas and curbside check-in is provided by Skycaps. Restaurants and gift shops are on site as well as rental car companies. Courtesy page phones are available along with WI FI service. Carriers include Air Tran, American Eagle, Continental, Delta, United Express and US Airways.

Destin Airport

For non commercial flights which include private planes and jets, Destin's Coleman Kelly Field has been in operation since 1963. The 5,000 linear foot runway can accommodate corporate jets, private planes and charters. Located two miles north of Hwy 98, in the heart of Destin off Airport Road, it has a 6,000 square foot facility that was just completed in 2007. It recently won an award among private plane owners as one of the best facilities of its kind nationwide. Open 24/7, it is run by two competing airport operators which are Destin Jet and Miracle Strip Aviation, each with their own private lounge areas. Air traffic control and guidance comes from nearby Eglin AFB. This airport provides the kind of intimate service you might expect for its “jet set” patrons, one of which is that they literally roll out a red carpet for passengers as they deplane! Other amenities include plush leather seating, WI FI, comfortable recliners, big screen LCD TVs, Kitchens and wet bars, private locker rooms with showers, limousine access and car rentals. Down home touches include complimentary coffee, delicious cookies and rocking chairs on the veranda. Besides private planes, small commuter charter flights now arrive here on a regular basis from Atlanta.

So, now you know. Just like the classic song said, “we can get there fast and then take it slow”! Ocean Reef bids you a happy, safe landing here in paradise. It will be our pleasure to have everything ready and an ample selection of vacation rentals for you and your family once you arrive.