Beautiful turquoise water of Panama City Beach.

8 Best Towns on Florida's Emerald Coast for a Winter Getaway

Florida's emerald coast is an enchanting destination notable for its stretch of gorgeous white sand beaches overlapping the emerald ocean. Across 100 miles of picturesque shoreline, the emerald coasts include Escambia, Walton, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, and Bay counties. Beaches are the highlight of the coast, and they are found in small beach towns like Grayton and Pensacola. Thanks to the tropical climate, these beach towns offer the perfect atmosphere to enjoy charming outdoor scenery and recreation on a winter getaway. So, for that extraordinary winter experience away from sub-zero temperatures and snow, check out these eight towns on the emerald coast of Florida.

Perdido Key

Aerial view of Perdido Key
Aerial view of Perdido Key, Florida

Serenity and natural beauty reign endlessly in this quaint town on the emerald coast of Florida, nestled between Pensacola and Orange Beach. The landscape is defined by a narrow stretch of inviting sugar-white beaches and waterfront resorts dotting the shores. With comfortable year-round warm weather that allows for outdoor exploration, a winter vacation here will be memorable; visitors can kick off their outdoor winter fun on a relaxing note at Perdido Key Beach, which is characterized by pristine white sand and gorgeous turquoise waters. 

The Big Lagoon State Recreation Area is another memorable destination to explore. The park features up to 75 campsites, five picnic areas with shelters, nature trails, and boardwalks. But the highlight experience here is climbing an observation tower that spoils visitors with scenic views of the park, the Big Lagoon, and the Gulf Islands National Seashore.

Top accommodations in Perdido Key are in nearby Orange Beach or Pensacola, and they include Perdido Beach Resort, Orange Beach, and Pensacola Beach Resort, Pensacola.

Grayton Beach

Grayton Beach Florida Overhead View
Grayton Beach, Florida Overhead View,

For travelers seeking a winter vacation in a beach town far from the noise and bustle of cities, Grayton Beach is the place to be. Besides its comfortable weather, this town is particularly famous for its freshwater dune lakes that extend for up to 20 miles. It is home to the Grayton State Park, which offers incredible views of the coastal dunes and opportunities to bike or hike on a 4.5-mile trail into the forest. In the forest, visitors can spot birds such as bald eagles, camp in one of the 59 campsites, and spot wildlife such as gray foxes and black bears.

In addition, visitors will also enjoy access to a one-mile beach, which is great for swimming. Also, Western Lake - a 100-acre coastal dune lake within the park- offers opportunities for boating, kayaking, paddling, and fishing adventures. Sweaty Palms, Gratefully B, and Magnolia offer the best and most affordable accommodations in Grayton Beach. 


Bluewater Bay Marina with boats docked in Niceville, Florida.
Bluewater Bay Marina with boats docked in Niceville, Florida.

Niceville in Okaloosa County is a charming college town overlooking the shores of Choctawhatchee Bay. Although great to visit year-round, this town is particularly exciting in winter as it features abundant sunshine and picturesque small streams surrounded by woods that are vital to the local ecosystem. 

Furthermore, the town is home to Turkey Creek Nature Trail, which is a premier outdoor attraction in the town, where tourists can kayak, tube, and canoe. The nature trail also features holes for swimming a one-mile boardwalk for sighting wildlife and birds. 

For more adventures, visitors are invited to enjoy a scenic drive along Choctawhatchee Bay or head to Lions Park for relaxation and a picnic with family and friends. For where to stay, visitors can check out the Best Western Eglin Air Force Base Hotel or Comfort Suites near the Air Force Base. 

Panama City Beach

Pier Park is Panama City Beach's premier shopping and entertainment destination located across the beach. Editorial credit: Fotoluminate LLC /
Pier Park is Panama City Beach's premier shopping and entertainment destination located across the beach. Editorial credit: Fotoluminate LLC /

Panama City Beach is another enticing winter vacation gem on Florida's emerald coast, and of course, adorable sugar-white beaches and glistening emerald waters are guaranteed here. In fact, the city's slogan is "The World's Most Beautiful Beaches," and its sunny weather makes all things beautiful even in winter. So, while winter is typically a call to stay indoors, Panama City Beach does the exact opposite by inviting everyone outdoors to its idyllic beach. The beach offers boundless opportunities for swimming, sunbathing, promenading, scuba diving, fishing, and picnicking.

Beyond the beaches, the resort town is home to many parks, notably St Andrew State Park and Conservation Park. St. Andrew Park features two miles of sandy beach and two fishing piers, including amenities for kayaking, boating, diving, snorkeling, and camping. The Conservation Park features 24 miles of hiking trails, an outdoor classroom, a picnic pavilion, and a lush jungle. For gorgeous views of open skies, soft white sand beaches, scenic waters, and aquatic life, head to the Russell-Fields City Pier and Beach, where a 1,500-foot pier does all the magic.

Holiday Inn Resort and Beachside Resort offer the best stays in Panama City Beach. 

Fort Walton Beach

Aerial view of Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Editorial credit: pisaphotography /
Aerial view of Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Editorial credit: pisaphotography /

Fort Walton Beach is a resort town that sets the stage for an unforgettable winter getaway. This resort community enjoys warm weather year-round, and its beach is irresistibly gorgeous, with scenic views of turquoise crystal clear waters gracing sandy shores. It is the perfect landscape to enjoy picnics, strolling, sunbathing, sightseeing, and swimming. In addition, Fort Walton is home to more than 25 parks for recreation and relaxation purposes. Notable of them are Briarwood, Cecelia, Garniers Beach, Gardenia Court, and Gateway Parks.

However, if there is one park to visit, then it should be the Waterfront Beach Landing Park in Fort Walton. Here, there is a fishing pier, a boardwalk for strolling, a children's playground, a boat ramp, and 700 feet of waterfront to explore. History lovers can head to the Fort Walton Heritage Park and Cultural Center. This park is home to an Indian Museum with over a thousand artifacts reflecting native American heritage, including the Garnier Post Office and Camp Walton Schoolhouse Museums.

Island Resort and Wyndham Garden are top accommodations in Fort Walton for a vacation.


Beautiful relaxing scenic landscape views of Navarre Beach, Florida.
Beautiful, relaxing, scenic landscape views of Navarre Beach, Florida.

Navarre is regarded as "Florida's Most Relaxing Place," and thanks to the tropical weather, winter is just perfect for relaxing here. This enchanting town boasts a scenic beach along its 12 miles of shoreline where visitors can stroll, sunbathe, paddle, kayak, camp, and enjoy bonfire nights. However, more fun and relaxing opportunities abound at the Navarre Beach Marine Park, featuring picnic tables, playground equipment, gazebos, a pier, and beach access.

This park also offers scuba diving and snorkeling opportunities in its two diving reefs. The Navarre Beach Fishing Pier is the longest pier in the Gulf of Mexico at 1,545 feet and a great place to fish and capture breathtaking ocean views. Alternatively, rent an e-bike and ride along the shores of this beach town, which is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, to savor gorgeous ocean views and more sugary sands.

Some of the best places to lodge include Springhill Suites and the Navarre Beach Homes.

Pensacola Beach

Aerial view of Pensacola.
Aerial view of Pensacola.

Pensacola Beach is a small resort town in Santa Rosa County that lures tourists to its emerald waters and soft white sand beaches. In winter, it doesn't see much snow and freezing temperatures. Instead, there is atmospheric warmth and sunshine to explore its sugar-white beaches. While here, stroll along its pristine beach and watch for sea turtles that nest on the shores, including dolphins and rays swimming in the ocean. Otherwise, head to the Pensacola Fishing Pier on Casino Beach, one of the longest in the Gulf of Mexico, to catch emerald ocean views, more dolphins and rays, and also embark on fishing expeditions.

Also, there are a few trails to hike and discover the unspoiled natural beauty of Pensacola Bay. These include the half-mile UWF Edward Ball Nature Preserve Trail and West Campus Trail, which range from 0.75 to 12 miles. Both trails combined takes one through creek beds, wooded paths, small hills, and hardwood swamp.

Surf and Sand Hotel and Holiday Inn Resort to lodge in Pensacola.


Aerial view of Destin, Florida.
Aerial view of Destin, Florida. 

Destin is typically the first port of call for most tourists visiting the Emerald Coast. This beach town enchants every first-time visitor with its gorgeous stretch of snow-white sand beaches complementing the emerald green colors of the ocean. Most visitors flock to the town in winter to enjoy its tropical weather and fish in the ocean. However, the town's beach is the highlight attraction, with some of the whitest sands in the world, looking like finely grounded sugar.

Visitors can sunbathe, swim, go sightseeing, and enjoy picnics or bonfire nights on the beach. There are about 12 access points to the beach, including Norriego Point, Silver Shells, and Henderson Beach State Park, where fishing, picnic, swimming, and camping facilities are available. HarborWalk Village is another irresistible town attraction that features a scenic boardwalk, Harry T Lighthouse, Destin Zipline for thrilling adventures and stunning views, and many restaurants to wine and dine. Many companies in HarborWalk offer Dolphin cruises, including scuba diving and snorkeling experiences, to spice up a winter vacation.

The Emerald Coast is, no doubt, a hub for endless fun and adventures, especially for beach lovers, as the town offers some of the best beaches in Florida. It is also the perfect destination for a winter escape, courtesy of its tropical weather that is warm and soothing while some parts of the US are freezing. From sugar-white beaches and enchanting emerald waters to wildlife sightings, nature trails, and laid-back communities, the coast has every element to make a winter getaway unforgettable.

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