Although first time visitors may be unaware of this natural treasure, local Destin natives are very familiar with East Pass and the stone jetties that are there. In fact The Travel Channel named the Destin Jetties as the Number One Destination among Top Ten Favorites named by Destin locals in a recent survey. East Pass is located by Destin’s Harborwalk Village and the marina, which is home to the largest private charter fishing fleet on the entire Gulf of Mexico. It serves as the opening between Choctawhatchee Bay and the glorious gulf. The Destin Bridge and Highway 98 cross over this pass where you may usually view all the boats frolicking around at Crab Island on one side and the unbelievably green emerald hued waters of the glistening gulf on the other.
Almost 100 years ago this opening from the bay to the gulf was closed off entirely by a huge hurricane that buried it with sand from a surge. Destin fishermen and residents reclaimed this pass by digging a narrow trench from the bay to the gulf. In no time at all tidal action created this wide new opening which became known as East Pass. Mother Nature continued to try to close this opening through tidal sand erosion, so stone barriers were placed there going out to form twin jetties that flank the opening on both sides. This serves as a gateway for boats going in and out of Destin and protects the opening. The construction of the Destin Jetties also created a big artificial reef that attracts a wide assortment of fish.
Although these reefs support a huge diverse group of fish the most common include Spanish Mackerel, Amberjack, Trout and Black Drum from spring thru summer. During the fall and winter months you may catch Sheepshead, Red Fish and Flounder. Adventuring anglers often use Shrimp or Blue Crab as bait and those who are experienced use what is called a Carolina rig that has a leaded weight, a swivel barrel and a lead line. The best place to bring in big fish is at the end of each jetty near the open gulf since fish often try to lose their hooks by swimming back into the rocks in order to make the line break. Most experienced jetty fishermen use a special circle hook for this reason. Local shops and fishing guides will be more than happy to offer advice and help you. The Destin Jetties can provide some of the best fishing around and you don’t have to pay for a charter rental boat to enjoy it.
However even though Destin has come to be famously known as “The luckiest fishing village in the world” most people who go to the jetties are there to experience the amazing undersea world discovered through snorkeling or even scuba diving. This aquatic adventure should not be missed due to the breathtaking beauty of this underwater world beneath the jetties. Besides the stunning fish and an occasional sea turtle, dolphins may often be seen swimming in the distance since they seem to love it here! For snorkeling you will need fins and a mask with a snorkel tube for breathing that will measure from twelve up to fifteen inches long. Make sure to put lots of water proof sun block on your back with a high degree of protection since it will be completely exposed while you may enjoy snorkeling for lengthy periods of time. Usually the gulf waters are warm enough to comfortably swim in but you may want to wear a wet suit during other times of the year.
It is always best to check the tide schedule and Beach Safety Flag system before you decide to go snorkeling at the Destin Jetties. If red flags are flying due to rip currents it would not be a good day for snorkeling. Even yellow flags urge caution because the jetties have a narrow opening that funnels the water in and out. Purple flags mean that sea life may cause a hazard which usually means jelly fish have been spotted. It is always best to go to the Jetties when the tide is coming in since this assures high visibility. The gulf water coming in can provide “swimming pool clear” conditions, which makes for a glorious experience since you may easily see all the underwater sea life. The culmination of high tide serves as the absolutely best time to have this kind of view. When the tide goes out sea grass from the bay goes with it and clouds the water. You can actually see it coming especially over at Crab Island as the water begins to go out for low tide. There are a number of reputable experienced captains and guides available to take you snorkeling as well as scuba diving. Many provide tours, instruction and all the equipment you will need for your underwater adventure. You will find them at the Destin Marina and Harborwalk Village. Ocean Reef Resorts guests receive one free three hour snorkeling trip each day of your stay aboard the Sea Blaster. You may find additional information about this opportunity on our Reef Rewards section of our website.
There are two places to go for parking if you don’t plan to arrive at the Destin Jetties by boat. One is on Holiday Isle and Ocean Reef Resorts has quite a few of our vacation rental properties nearby, which makes this conveniently accessible. The O’Steen Public Beach Access nearest to this part of the Jetties is at the end of Gulf Shore Drive. You will see the big blue sign on your left. Parking is across the street on the right but be aware that this fills up quickly during the busy tourist season so you may want to get there early. The other part of the Destin Jetties is across the Destin Bridge on the west side, which is part of the protected National Seashore. You may find the closest parking beside the bridge on the water although there are a few other spots that parallel Highway 98 on that side. However be ready for a little bit of a hike.
Enjoy the now shared local favorite destination of the Destin Jetties. Soon you will discover that Destin is not just all about the beautiful beach. It is about the glittering jewel toned waters and abundant sea life that is nestled beside these sensational sugary shores.