Why is the Sand in Destin so White?

The answer might surprise you...

Posted on 12/24/2021

The Hawaiian Islands may be famed for their volcanic beaches, and the cliffs of the Pacific Coast offer some of the most unique views around, but when it comes to the most beautiful beaches in America, you can find them in Destin on the Florida panhandle. The beaches across the panhandle and farther south along the Gulf of Mexico are renowned for their sparkling white sand and supple texture, and they have led many people to make Destin their annual waterfront destination. But what makes them so unique among beaches in the U.S., and how did they end up with such brilliant white sand? Let's find out!

A history of the white sand beaches of Destin

Of all the times you've set foot on a sandy beach and looked out at the ocean, have you ever stopped to think about where the sand came from? It's hard not to as your toes descend into the soft, sugary sands of the Destin beaches, and the story of how the sand got to be that way is as interesting as the sand itself is beautiful.

Appalachian Mountains

It's actually made up of tiny bits of quartz crystals that have been washed off of the Appalachian Mountains over the years. From the mountains, the quartz crystal is then carried down to the Gulf of Mexico via the rivers that feed into it, such as the Apalachicola River east of Destin. From the Gulf it washes onto the beaches as the tides carry it onto the shores, where it collects into the pristine sand that we know and love today, and is made whiter by the power of the sun.

What's one of the coolest things about this process? It's still happening today! That's why the white sand hasn't disappeared from erosion due to the many storms that have come through the area over the years; the Apalachicola River is continually feeding new pulverized quartz into the waterfront to keep the beaches nearly as white as snow.

Walking on Destin Sand

If you've had the opportunity to feel this sand, then you know that there's really nothing else like it in the country. An official with the Destin History and Fishing Museum put it best when speaking to journalist and podcaster Bill Clevlen:

"Not only does the sand sparkle, it actually squeaks when you walk on it from the sides of the grains of sand rubbing against each other."

The extent of white sand beaches along the Gulf

Destin isn't the only place in Florida that has white sand beaches, although we do think the Destin beaches are the best (we might be a little biased!). On the panhandle, the white sand covers the beaches in places like Panama City Beach, and extends as far west as Pensacola near the Alabama border. It also collects in southern Florida, stretching from just south of St. Petersburg down to Marco Island near the Everglades, albeit much darker shades of white.

Holding Destin Sand

Enjoying the white sand beaches of Destin

The white sand beaches of Destin and the surrounding areas are one of the great natural phenomena of our nation, and their origin as quartz crystal high in the Appalachian Mountains cements their status as a true southern landmark. Everyone should have the opportunity to safely enjoy these beaches for many years to come, which is why it's so important for us all to do our part to keep them looking great.

Make sure you throw all of your trash and recyclables away in the appropriate bins, and never leave any litter on the beach. Also, remember to read and follow the municipal beach regulations. Then, all you have to do is look out at the exquisite white sand contrasting with the emerald waters, relax, and savor every moment of your Destin vacation.

What Makes Destin's Water Green?

Find out Why the Water is Green in Destin.

If you're ready to see the majesty of our's white sand beaches for yourself, Ocean Reef Resorts is ready to help you find the perfect Destin vacation rental for you and your family.

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