Jennie McKeon/WUWF Public Media

Local governments took strong measures to detract visitors when they closed beaches in March. 

Now, most have reopened as the state moves into phase one of its reopening plan. But with the short-term rental ban and social-distancing orders still in place, the peak season will be a bit different. And local tourism offices are sharing that message with incoming visitors. 

“Open beaches come with responsibility,” said Destin Mayor Gary Jarvis. “We want everyone to be good neighbors. Don’t be part of a potential problem, but a participant in the solution.” 

Jennie McKeon, WUWF Public Media

The first thing Jane Mihanovich did when she arrived at Okaloosa Island Friday morning was stick her feet in the emerald water. 

“I came here to see and to touch the ocean,” said the native Croatian who moved to Fort Walton Beach in 2007. “When I got in, it felt incredible … indescribable.” 


Following moves from Okaloosa and Walton counties, the city of Destin voted unanimously Friday morning to close beaches in city limits from March 21 through April 30 to prevent spread of coronavirus. 

Ninety percent of Destin’s beaches are privately owned, but City Council members decided an all-or-nothing approach would be the best option.

“If we’re only closing 10% of the beaches, what is that going to affect,” asked Councilman Skip Overdier. “That’s like putting a three-alarm fire out with a garden hose.” 

Jennie McKeon / WUWF

During the winter months, Friday mornings at the Destin Library are dedicated to a writers group for snowbirds who get together to share their latest ideas.

It could be a funny song, a poem or a work of fiction. It doesn’t matter as long as you bring something to the table.

Friday’s meeting was followed by a presentation of works from group members. It was an eclectic mix of creative pieces from some who have been writing for years and a couple who have stepped up to the podium for the first time. 

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

This year’s Emerald Coast Open was a record-breaker with nearly 20,000 lionfish removed from the water in Okaloosa County.

The annual fishing tournament aims to reduce the number of lionfish from the Gulf of Mexico where they pose a threat to native marine life.

File photo

Now that snowbirds are starting to head home, Destin is preparing for a new influx of visitors.

Spring breakers.

College students have made the Destin area their home during their break for some time. It’s easy to spot them on the beach with their school flags waving as they throw Frisbees back and forth and snap selfies. Most of them are drinking, but not all of them are the legal drinking age.

After multiple reports of coyote sightings in the Destin area, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will be holding a workshop Thursday to help residents live peacefully among the non-domestic canines.

Coyotes can be found in all 67 counties throughout the state. Even in highly developed areas, such as Destin. From January 2018 through January 2019 there have been a total of 56 calls regarding coyotes in the Okaloosa/Walton area, said Carli Segelson, spokesperson for FWC.

Savannah Vasquez

People visit Destin and South Walton primarily for the beaches.

But local governments are finding there’s little public access to its No. 1 asset. Now, they’re tasked with buying beachfront properties for visitors to enjoy.

The City of Destin has 13 beach access points. Eleven of those are city-owned, one is county-owned and one is owned by the state. Most of them provide only limited access to the beach creating a problem for visitors who want to enjoy the Emerald Coast.