The Scenic Stays Local: Debunking Myths About Your Northwest Florida Vacation

April 10, 2024

With a staff of locals making up our Scenic Stays team, it’s safe to say we know the Emerald Coast. Many of us were born and raised here, watching firsthand the transformation of our stunning coastlines into a premier vacation destination. We can tell you the history of some of our most famous restaurants because we went to high school with the chef, or we can give you the intimate details of some of our most popular festivals because, well, we go to them every year. It’s safe to say that much of what you enjoy about Northwest Florida while on vacation is the same as what we enjoy.

So we’re bringing you The Scenic Stays Local, a collaboration of current information straight from our team. Think of it like having a direct line to the most local of locals, here to give you the inside scoop on the area.

With summer right around the corner, we thought a great topic for The Scenic Stays Local to cover was some of the common misconceptions of summer travel. Perhaps you heard it’s more crowded or restaurants have longer waits during the summer months. True, when things kick up, our quiet communities turn into a bustling travel destination, nearly doubling in size during peak season. Increased activity can present some challenges, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a stellar time on your couples getaway, guy’s weekend, or annual family vacation

We tapped into a few of our local staff to debunk some myths and explain why a trip to Northwest Florida is always an excellent idea!

Summer Temperatures

Myth: It’s too hot to go to the beach in July and August.

Debunked: The beaches are still stunning; you just need to know when to hit them! 

Here’s what our team members have to say:

While the temperatures in Northwest Florida can soar during the summer, there’s no need to sweat it out indoors! I bring a beach umbrella for shade and pack a cooler with plenty of ice water and Gatorade to stay hydrated. I also wear a hat and sunglasses and apply sunscreen regularly to protect myself from the sun’s intense rays.

For the best possible experience, I plan my beach outings earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid being in the sun during the hottest part of the day. Not only do I enjoy pleasant temperatures, but I also experience fewer crowds, making the time even more enjoyable! 

Water Conditions

Myth: There’s nothing to do when the Gulf of Mexico isn’t crystal clear.

Debunked: Despite occasional variations in water conditions, Northwest Florida’s beaches offer many fun experiences for beachgoers.

Here’s what our team members have to say:

As an avid year-round beachgoer, I’ve seen the water conditions vary from predominately crystal clear to occasionally murky due to natural factors like seaweed, algae, and other marine particles. However, these occurrences are typically temporary and shouldn’t deter you from enjoying the beautiful landscape. There’s still plenty to enjoy at the beach, from walks along the shore and flying kites to building sandcastles and collecting seashells! 

You can also book a vacation home with a pool or stay in a community with a pool to ensure you get plenty of time in the water!

Busy Attractions

Myth: There are too many people at popular attractions.

Debunked: This just presents an opportunity to explore other family-friendly activities!

Here’s what our team members have to say:

During the high season, attractions can get busy. I’d recommend booking early and planning your visits during the morning or weekdays when possible. But remember, you have plenty of options during your beach vacation in Northwest Florida! If Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park seems too busy, rent a kayak and explore our local waterways in peaceful solitude. It’s a great way to get the kids out on the water, maybe see a few dolphins, and embark on a different adventure. Hit the hiking trails on 30A or cast your line in Navarre; it’s your call!

Seasonal Traffic

Myth: Traffic during the spring and summer months makes getting around difficult.

Debunked: Embrace the laid-back beach vibe by riding a bike or walking to restaurants and shops.

Here’s what our team members have to say:

Getting around Northwest Florida may be more challenging during the busier months, but there are other ways to explore the area! I like to rent a bike, hit the Timpoochee Trail, and explore the communities on 30A. Not only is it a fun way to get around, it’s the preferred mode of transport! Trust me, your whole family will have a blast riding along the coastline, stopping for ice cream, and picking up souvenirs at cute shops near the trail. If staying in Destin or Okaloosa Island, you’ll find many boutiques and restaurants within walking distance of beautiful vacation homes and condos; the same is true in Panama City Beach

Why not ditch the car and spend the day on the water, paddleboarding the coastal dune lakes? The kids will love the sense of adventure and being outdoors, and you’ll have a blissful day in glorious sunshine!

Bustling Restaurants

Myth: Long lines mean we can’t dine out with the kids.

Debunked: While popular restaurants may have longer wait times, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a good meal with the family!

Here’s what our team members have to say:

Several waterfront eateries rest along our beautiful coastline, offering incredible views and delicious food, and they’re all very popular. I’d recommend visiting during off-peak hours and, if selecting a beachfront spot, let the kids have fun playing in the sand while waiting for your table. 

If the line’s too long at the ever-popular Donut Hole or Lulu’s during your beach vacation, maybe it’s an opportunity to check out new restaurants. Better yet, showcase your exemplary culinary skills with a home-cooked meal in your vacation home or condo, or prepare a picnic for the beach! 

Popular Beaches

Myth: The most popular beaches are overcrowded and offer little room to spread out.

Debunked: Opt for different stretches of shoreline and enjoy peaceful beach days away from the crowds.

Here’s what our team members have to say:

Families flock to the beach daily as schools break for vacation, creating a lively atmosphere along our sandy shores. If you’d like a little more room to spread out or want a quieter experience, you’ll find peaceful stretches of beach to unwind and relax just a short distance away. Although I enjoy spending time at The Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island and James Lee Beach in Destin, they tend to draw larger crowds during prime time. I like to swing by and catch incredible sunrises and sunsets there, but choose less crowded areas for basking in the sun.

Henderson Beach State Park offers stunning beaches, covered picnic pavilions, restroom facilities, and barbecue grills, so I can cook burgers and relax with a cool drink. During peak times, the park may reach capacity and temporarily close the entrance. I arrive early to experience fewer delays or park at the nearby beach access points at Crystal Beach. And I have endless options at Grayton Beach State Park, whether spending time fishing, paddling, hiking, or just relaxing at the beach.

Amazing Sea Life

Myth: My fear of sharks and rip currents makes me afraid to get in the water.

Debunked: Following local guidelines, swimming in designated areas, and keeping abreast of changing conditions are the best ways to have a safe, fun experience at the beach.

Here’s what our team members have to say:

I’ve always felt safe at the beach and take comfort in knowing that highly trained lifeguards stationed at public beaches dedicate their days to my safety. Beach flags offer additional reassurance, conveying current conditions and letting me know if I need to exercise caution. And if I get caught in a rip current, I know to swim parallel to the shore until I’m out of the current’s pull, then swim back to land. Following local guidelines and swimming in designated areas further reduces my risk, ensuring a safe and enjoyable beach experience. 

And in all my years at the beach in Northwest Florida, I can attest that shark sightings are scarce. But our warm Gulf waters are teaming with playful marine life, including dolphins, sea turtles, and more! If you still have reservations, consider a dolphin cruise—it’s a great way to see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat!

Ready to plan your Northwest Florida beach vacation? Book today with Scenic Stays!

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