NPR for Florida's Great Northwest

Destin Seeks Input On Beach Access From Locals, Visitors

Jennie McKeon/WUWF Public Media

If you’ve visited Destin’s beaches recently, the city wants to hear about it. 

Earlier this week, the city of Destin launched its visitor survey to gain insight on the city’s public beach access and overall experience at beaches. The survey is done in partnership with the Haas Center at the University of West Florida.

Destin’s public beach access has been an ongoing issue. Most of the beaches are privately owned. The city’s three beach parks and eight beach trails have a combined total of less than half a mile of public beach, according to the Northwest Florida Daily News. This does not include James Lee Park, which is maintained by Okaloosa County, or Henderson Beach State Park. 

“Back in January, we worked with the Haas Center with a survey of broad questions,” said Catherin Card, public information officer for the city of Destin. “We received that feedback and now we’re looking at people’s experiences at the beach. Was there adequate parking? Was there enough space at the beach?”

Acquiring public beach access is a top priority in the Destin City Council’s 2020 Strategic Plan. Earlier this month, the council voted unanimously to direct staff to bring purchase agreements for three beachfront parcels in the Crystal Beach area. The city has pledged $9 million to the initiative and Okaloosa County has pledged an additional $13 million. 

“This is the first bite of the apple,” said Councilman Parker Destin said at the Aug. 3 meeting. “This will be the first of many acquisitions. We’re going to be turning the dial back to a Destin that far more familiar and far more enjoyable from a quality of life standpoint.”

Card said there is not definitive timeline for the survey; it likely depends on how much feedback they receive from a wide audience. 

“We know we’ll get positive feedback from people who stay at private beaches,” said Card. “We want to heard from renters in the Crystal Beach area who get out to the beach and it’s literally the size of a postage stamp. We want to get that gauge from residents and visitors.” 

The survey data will be presented to elected officials to help with long-term planning, said Card. The survey can be found at Additionally, the city has placed metal signage around city-owned accesses and beach trails with a QR code so people can simply scan the code and be directed to the survey. 

“We want to know where we stand,” said Card. “We want to deliver our brand better so that people will want to come back. Hearing from constituents and visitors, we’ll get to know where our problems lie.” 

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Jennie joined WUWF in 2018 as digital content producer and reporter.