What makes Destin’s water green? This is one of the first questions visitors ask when they initially discover Destin, Florida. The second question is usually quick to follow which is: “Why are Destin’s beaches so white?” Even many of our Ocean Reef Resorts visitors who make a wonderful family tradition of visiting our bright white sugary shores and glittering emerald green waters each year do not know the answer.
Actually the two are somewhat interrelated. The dazzling green water color is partly due to the reflective quality of the powdery white sand beaches that grace this part of the world. This beachy white piece of paradise extends over 53 miles along the coast which includes Destin, Miramar Beach, South Walton, and Panama City Beach. This pure stretch of white ribbon continues on toward Gulf Shores, Alabama but the crème de la crème, (the cream of the cream!), is here along the Emerald Coast. Further west there are river inlets and bays that directly add more “coffee” to the “cream” so to speak with sediment from the mainland. Yes they are white but not the brightest of the white. This bedazzling reflection comes from the sand, which is actually shimmering quartz crystal. Beach sand around the world is comprised of sea shells, coral and various minerals washed down through sediment depending upon the location. These colors range from charcoal black to brown, tan, pink and white. Destin is acclaimed for having some of the whitest sand on earth because the primary ingredient is white quartz crystal that was sheared off the ancient Appalachian Mountains by glaciers during the last great Ice Age. They washed into the gulf and were ground down by wave action over the many millennia into a white powder that’s so fine it squeaks when you rub your feet upon the surface of the beach.
The other part of the emerald green equation is the clarity of the water here that is usually “swimming pool clear”! Our sugary stretch is protected by the lack of rivers draining directly into the gulf here due to the wide expanse of the Choctawhatchee Bay, which is three to five miles away from the mainland. Destin, Miramar Beach and South Walton resemble an off shore island in this regard. The giant bay filters sediment coming in from any rivers or creeks far away on the other side. Clear clean water pours in from deep gulf waters on a daily basis that is undiluted by brackish run off. Along other parts of the gulf the Mississippi River deposits the most amount of sediment but water currents circulate counter clockwise going toward Texas away from our pristine coast. In fact the rest of the nation has other rivers, streams and bays that pour directly into the ocean, which effects water clarity on highly populated beaches.
There is only one narrow opening here from the bay to the open gulf which is at East Pass next to Destin’s Harbor. Interestingly enough even this natural opening was closed for a while by a huge hurricane that hit Destin back in the 1920s. Local townsfolk and fishermen dug a trench reopening this narrow passage in order to save the harbor. At that time Destin’s livelihood depended solely upon the fishing industry and it worked because the largest private charter fishing fleet on the entire Gulf of Mexico is harbored here. Unlike the beaches elsewhere along the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, which appear to be a very dark grayish green color, the waters here have a glowing luminescent glittering green tone.
The main ingredient that creates the green color is actually natural chlorophyll emanating from microscopic plankton or algae which can be found all over the world but is not often able to be seen. A combination of the clarity of the water and the sun’s reflection on the bright sandy bottom creates the luminescent glow. It is almost iridescent since the range of color can change from emerald to peridot to a greenish aquamarine depending upon conditions. In Destin’s harbor at East Pass the water is so green it looks like an artificial dye has been poured into the water but here it is actually 100% natural! The colors are literally breath-taking because when you first see them you may gasp with delight at this precious sight.
The range of colors is caused by the conditions, which include the amount of the natural microscopic algae in the water, the clarity of the water and the amount of the sunlight’s reflection on the sugar sand bottom. For example if there is not much plankton present the water has less green chlorophyll and appears to be more of a clear bluish aquamarine. If a storm is churning up the gulf offshore or on a cloudy day the water color is dissipated. The location of the sun in the sky and seasonal changes also change the hues due to the amount of light. Usually the clear water glitters like a treasured assortment of green jewels.
You have to fly out to some faraway island way out in the Caribbean in order to even come close to experiencing such sensational scenery that is a natural phenomenon here along the Emerald Coast in Florida. Most of our visitors travel here by car and are a relatively short distance away- so why not join them? Ocean Reef Resorts offers an abundance of fine vacation rental accommodations and most of them are right next to the glorious waters of the gulf.