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Fort Walton Beach/Destin? plus snorkeling?


Acorn
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I might have a chance to drive my kids to this part of Florida in June. They will be unvaccinated so I'm not sure how to plan covid cautious trip.  Dh will be working in the area with a kitchenette in his room. I have never been to this part of the country at all. Most likely I won't have a car from evening to mid morning.  I could try to rent a car, depending on availability and non-inflated costs. What are some recommendations for the area? We have never been on a beach trip. I would love to at least once, but don't know what to pack or do. I would be most excited about seeing new wildlife species and habitats. One child is currently having anxiety about non-masked people. I haven't decided if it is fear that she will get sick, or if she is just mad that people can't follow stated rules. This trip so uncertain, I haven't told her that Florida will have less mandates than our state.  If you have been to the area in June, how reasonable is it to think that we could socially distance on a beach?

I would love to snorkel.  My children are nearsighted so I'm not sure how their experience would go.  I don't think they are ready for contact lenses, and not sure that we could get appointments in time. Each time I change contact brands, I only get one trial pair to last until follow up apt.  Lately, even getting eye appointments has been difficult. I will buy prescription googles for beach swimming since those are fantastic price. Snorkeling masks cost quite a bit more. I would absolutely hate to buy prescription mask online and then have it leak because it wasn't a good face fit.  I also see masks are kid or adult size, and I have a small 13 year old.  Has anyone tried gluing old glasses inside a mask? I think the distance from the eyeball would be off.  There might be diveshops with prescription rentals, but I don't know if I will have much transportation.  We are comfortable walking several miles a day, but I don't know if there will be pedestrian safe access between places.

 

ETA: I think dh will be staying on Okaloosa Island. It looks like a Gulf Coast beach front condo.

 

 

 

Edited by Acorn
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I don't have answers to all your questions, but one of our favorite family vacations ever was at Ft. Walton Beach (Okaloosa Island). We rented a condo on the beach, 4-5 floors up. It is an area with more families vacationing, grandparents down to the babies, and was not very crowded. The sand is called "sugar sand" because it is so white and fine. We went to the grocery store when we first arrived, and bought a lot more convenience foods than normal to make meal prep easy. We only went out to eat twice for the week--once for our anniversary at a seafood buffet, and once at a fast food place because we did a dolphin excursion that morning and when we got back we were ready to eat right then.

The dolphin excursion depends on how many people you have and their ages (two to a jet ski, and I think have to be 16 to drive one). A guide leads a group all on jet skis out to a little bay where the dolphins like to play. You aren't close enough to worry about covid with that group. We didn't see too many dolphins in the bay, but on the way back, they were just right there! It was so much fun.

Overall, our family mostly prefers just hanging out at the pool and at the beach, or reading/games/movies inside, so we don't usually want many planned activities. Whether you would need a car depends on that. We would have needed one a couple of days, because of distance to restaurants and activities, and to run out and buy boogie boards.

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We have gone to the beach a ton, and we love the Destin area.  We did a beach trip last fall to Hilton Head, and it is very easy to stay socially distanced on such a trip!

As far as Destin, we loved snorkeling at the Jetties.  The beach access is called O'Steen Public Beach and it is literally a small path off of Gulf Shore Drive (it is easy to miss).  It is a "longerish" walk to the Jetties, but it is the best place to snorkel.  The water is shallow and the kids can literally stand and stick their head in the water and see fish.  If you take some lettuce, the fish will come right up to you and eat it.  The Jetties themselves also have sea creatures on them 🙂  Just make sure you and your kids do not go out to the end of the Jetties.  The current gets strong there and can be dangerous.  If their vision isn't terrible, they might not need prescription facemasks.  I have a small head, so I can wear a youth facemask.  The morning is the best time at the Jetties, so you may want to get a car if possible.  

They a really quaint aquarium, Gulfarium.  You might want to call and check how they are handling Covid.  They have several activities with dolphins and other animals (it can be pricey), but our kids enjoyed it.

We also did kayaking on one of the inlets and a dolphin cruise (again, not sure how they are handling this with Covid, but we saw so many dolphims when we went).

Overall, we just love hanging out on the beach.  I always take beach toys (even the older ones like to make sand castles), paddle ball, boogie boards, etc.  I usually try to get food to make easy dinners.  When we went to Hilton Head last fall we did eat out at places with outdoor dining. 

We are going back to Destin (hopefully) the end of July.  The beaches and the water are so beautiful!!  

 

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My children hate the beach.  However, we went to Destin a few years ago and went snorkeling, and it was super cool.  Both I and one of my kids are very nearsighted, but the nature of snorkeling was such that wildlife was close enough that we could see it unaided.  Both of my beach hating kids rather enjoyed Destin.  

 

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We stay at San Destin there at least once a year.  It’ll be crazy crowded and not masked....at least it was when we were there in September last year.  The benefit of staying at San Destin is an in house shuttle to shopping/restaurants/beach and health clinic.

Edited by Sdel
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We live in the area-ish and in June it will be really busy, especially on Okaloosa Island and in Destin. There will also will be a ton of people not wearing masks, probably the majority of them. Socially distancing on the beach may be hard also 😕. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but probably better for you to prepare your DD now rather than find it a surprise when you get here.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Update: We will be going. Now, what to pack? I bought their prescription swim googles, paddle ball and a frisbee. 
Hard to know what teens would want for sand castles. They like architecture design, so I’m think they will build things but maybe not with preschool toys?

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If you have those big plastic castle molder thingys, then just take some things like old spoons, spatulas, etc., to add more details. Another fun beach game is spike ball. We always want boogie boards too, but they can be bought pretty cheaply once you are there.

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I had to look up boogie board. I read what sizes to look for based on heights. Do you think we will each want our own? Will lower price grocery store ones last for a couple of weeks?

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3 hours ago, Acorn said:

I had to look up boogie board. I read what sizes to look for based on heights. Do you think we will each want our own? Will lower price grocery store ones last for a couple of weeks?

We never worried about specialized sizes. The regular size at the local beach shop or Walmart worked for everybody. The young kids were just able to fit more of themselves on one. We bought 3 or 4 and shared. They should last unless something weird or unusual happens. Ours always lasted just fine, even though they aren't high-quality. You don't want anything expensive, in case it's lost in the waves for some reason (they come with a velcro wristband and cord, which helps). We even took ours home and used them on the lake afterwards, and maybe on the next beach trip, as well. They are just fun for riding the waves, our main favorite beach activity.

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Buy boogie boards when you get here from Walmart or wherever (Walmart will be the cheapest). They'll last fine. DD has had her boogie board from Walmart for 7 years, lol!

If you're staying on Okaloosa Island then there's a Publix right over the bridge into Fort Walton Beach. They have great subs and fresh fruit. They also sell aloe leaves in the produce section so if you guys get sunburned you should get these as they work miracles on burns. I cut down the sides with scissors to get the spikes off and then slice them in half. Much better than anything in a bottle for relieving sunburn.

Have fun!

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At the beach yesterday, I saw two slight, young boys break their boogie boards. They were standing on them in the surf because each time a wave would come in the water would raise and push them along. They were having a blast. Unfortunately, boogie boards aren't devised to have someone's full weight on them. So, just a heads up if your guys want to try the same thing. It didn't take long for these boards to break.

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Posted (edited)
On 5/17/2021 at 9:20 AM, importswim said:

Buy boogie boards when you get here from Walmart or wherever (Walmart will be the cheapest). They'll last fine. DD has had her boogie board from Walmart for 7 years, lol!

If you're staying on Okaloosa Island then there's a Publix right over the bridge into Fort Walton Beach. They have great subs and fresh fruit. They also sell aloe leaves in the produce section so if you guys get sunburned you should get these as they work miracles on burns. I cut down the sides with scissors to get the spikes off and then slice them in half. Much better than anything in a bottle for relieving sunburn.

Have fun!

I second the Pub Subs! They also have really good fried chicken. (Publix) Publix will also have boogie boards, inflatables already pumped up ready to go, beach chairs, umbrellas, etc. Very convenient. 

I recommend buying/bringing long sleeved rash guards. You WILL get sunburned. Or just assume someone is going to get sunburned. And that someone will still want to go to the beach. So slather on a high % zinc oxide sunscreen, and then wear a rashguard on top of that.

Most condos in the area either have beach service included or you can pay to have chairs and an umbrella set up. I have mixed feelings about this. If you are driving and also very concerned about social distancing, I would buy my own umbrella and chairs. If you use a service, you are likely going to be set up too close to other people. I mean, you might be 6 feet apart, but I don't enjoy hearing everybody else's conversations while I'm relaxing at the beach. I like to find a spot away from people. As far away as possible. 🙂 It will be crowded that time of year. Personally, I think the chances are about zero that you can catch something while at the beach, but I want my personal space.

Also...Fort Walton Bch/Okaloosa Island is a little more known for presence of rednecks. Moreso than Destin. I have a friend who goes there every year and LOVES it. But she also posts something nearly everyday on her FB about some "colorful" incidents. Nothing awful--it's always hilarious. Like older women wearing suits they have NO BUSINESS wearing. Stuff like that. She doesn't post pics of anyone--just highly comedic status updates. FWIW, I stayed in that area last Labor Day, and I saw nothing like my friend typically reports, so maybe it's just a certain condo complex. IDK. We really enjoyed our stay.

I second (or third) the Jetties suggestion for snorkeling. But the beach is kind of narrow there, and there will be lots of people that time of year. 

The beaches there are absolutely glorious. Y'all will have so much fun! 

ETA don't forget the part in your hair and your ears when applying sunscreen!

Edited by popmom
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Posted (edited)

You mentioned wildlife habitats. It will be a bit of a drive, but Grayton Beach State Park is gorgeous. A bit closer is Topsail Hill Preserve State Park( also gorgeous), and even closer is Henderson Beach State Park. For wildlife habitat viewing Grayton Beach and Topsail are better. 

Grayton Beach SP is right next to Seaside which is the planned community where The Truman Show was filmed. 

Just expect traffic if you drive anywhere. But it's okay because you're exploring and seeing places you've never seen. 🙂

Edited by popmom
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Posted (edited)
On 5/15/2021 at 1:09 PM, Acorn said:

I had to look up boogie board. I read what sizes to look for based on heights. Do you think we will each want our own? Will lower price grocery store ones last for a couple of weeks?

You won't need one for everyone. Some days the waves may be too calm to do much boarding. I prefer something inflatable like this--more my speed.  But honestly my body fat to muscle ratio allows me to float without any inflatable at all. 😉 And I prefer it. Floating is my super power. 

Edited by popmom
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On 5/17/2021 at 11:02 AM, stephanier.1765 said:

At the beach yesterday, I saw two slight, young boys break their boogie boards. They were standing on them in the surf because each time a wave would come in the water would raise and push them along. They were having a blast. Unfortunately, boogie boards aren't devised to have someone's full weight on them. So, just a heads up if your guys want to try the same thing. It didn't take long for these boards to break.

Yeah....DS's lasted one season because he decided to try to use it as a skim board instead of a boogie board. LOL! DD is less adventurous and that's probably the only reason why hers has lasted 7 years. HA!

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