Many of our Ocean Reef Resorts guests already know – the sugary shoreline here has brilliant bright white sand and is acclaimed for featuring “the most beautiful beaches in the world.” During the end of the last Ice Age many thousands of years ago huge chunks of pure white quartz crystal were cut from mountaintops and carried into the Gulf by the Apalachicola River. The millennia of waves and tidal action ground the quartz into a pure white powder of tiny crystalline glass. This sparkling sand creates the remarkable emerald 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 dark green luminescent glow. The beach itself has been designated a “Blue Wave Beach” due to its unspoiled natural beauty. This significant achievement is one of a precious few to have received this acclaim for excellence since it is our nation’s highest rating for pristine shoreline cleanliness.
However the beach is just the pure white ribbon that wraps the real star of the show, which is the clear glorious Gulf water itself. There are other clear waters in Florida and the closest contender is south of Tampa near Sarasota known as Anna Marie Island, which, like Destin, is really a peninsula. However surveys for the clearest water in Florida consistently rate The Emerald Coast as Number One. This esteemed title of clarity includes Destin, Miramar Beach, all the picturesque coastal villages along South Walton’s Scenic 30A and Panama City Beach. The water here along our coast is usually “swimming pool clear”! There is a natural reason for this. The clarity of water in the ocean or Gulf is influenced by how much sediment flows in from mainland drainage. Fortunately our sugary shore here is protected by the lack of rivers draining directly into the Gulf due to the huge expanse of Choctawhatchee Bay, which is miles away from the mainland. The bay acts as filter for any sediment coming in from small rivers way over on the other side. The only opening between the bay and Gulf is at East Pass, which interconnects the two at Destin’s Harbor. Crystal clear water pours from the deep Gulf into the bay on a daily basis. It remains mostly undiluted when it returns to the Gulf since brackish inland drainage has already been naturally filtered by the big bay. This is not the case along most other parts of the Gulf or open oceans. The closest major rivers to our shores are the Apalachicola River, 100 miles toward the east, which flows into another large bay, and the Mississippi 250 miles towards the west. The largest deposit of sediment flowing directly into the Gulf comes from the mighty Mississippi River but the Gulf current carries the runoff counter clockwise away from our crystalline coast.
Unlike waters in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans that have a somber grayish green color, here they resemble the tone of glittering jewels. The main ingredient that creates the emerald green color is chlorophyll from natural microscopic plankton. The pure clarity of the water and the sun’s light on the minuscule plankton reflected from the white sandy bottom creates a luminescent glowing green tone. The dazzling array of color goes from emerald green to almost aquamarine depending upon the mix of water conditions and sunlight. The jeweled colors are precious and first time visitors are sometimes startled with delight when they first see the dazzling sight. Occasionally when an offshore storm or heavy rain occurs the water clarity is affected, but it is temporary. June sea grass occurs during parts of the summer that can affect water clarity but it is natural and safe. It tends to drift affecting some beaches more than others depending upon the tides. However from early October through Memorial Day Weekend expect to see swimming pool clear conditions during your stay.
Besides swimming in the clear waters many people enjoy snorkeling along the jetties at Destin’s East Pass where the boats go in and out. Mounds of rock line the sides for protection and to insure an opening into the Gulf which provides a perfect habitat for colorful fish. You can access it from the far western point of Holiday Isle or across the Destin Bridge on Okaloosa Island. You can literally swim with the fish and view their beauty as a colorful underwater rainbow in motion.
One of the most rollicking rendezvous points to enjoy the crystal clear waters is at Crab Island which used to be a large raised sand bar where locals liked to go to catch crustaceans. Today it is a friendly floating playground where folk frolic in the water from April thru October. An anchored fleet of yachts, pontoons, ski boats, sail boats and wave runners congregate there in the translucent waters. The waters remain swimming pool clear while the tide is coming in so it can be another fun place to snorkel. However most gather there to swim, eat, drink, party and engage in all forms of water time fun. Friendly partygoers wade from boat to boat visiting each other while enjoying the refreshing water that ranges in depth from knee high and up to your shoulders. This wonderful watery world inspires everyone to play. Many visitors rent out pontoon boats to join in the fun from La Dolce Vita Water Sports at Harborwalk Village where Ocean Reef Resorts guests receive special discounts. Nothing beats relaxing with friends on a boat while swimming, having cold drinks, listening to music, munching on tasty treats and watching the lively human scenery. Local radio stations on big barges during special holidays sometimes broadcast live musical programs. There are also floating trampolines, portable slides, volleyball and fun engaging water contact contests. Food vendors are available to deliver sandwiches, ice cream, beer and favorite drinks by boat to those who haven’t brought their own delicious fare.
Take a fun look at some of our Ocean Reef properties today and reserve your own vacation rental beside the swimming pool clear waters of the Gulf. Many of our vacation destinations have a swimming pool of their own so you can have the best of both worlds!