Skip to main content

The Emerald Coast is home to some of the safest beaches in the world. We fall in love everyday with the beautiful white sands and the blue-green waters that mother nature has so graciously gifted us here in Destin, Florida. And though our beaches are natural beauties, it is with the help and cooperation of all beachgoers that we are able to maintain and preserve not only the beaches for our own enjoyment, but also to show respect to all sea life by protecting their habitat.

Whether you’re a first time visitor or Destin local, you may have asked yourself what you can do in order to spend your time at the beach with utmost fun and relaxation whilst being safe and respecting our natural environment. In order for you to get a better understanding of our beach culture, we have gathered a handful of guidelines and Okaloosa Island beach preservation tips, that will help you enjoy your beach vacation responsibly while also having the time of your life, here on the beaches of Okaloosa Island, Fort Walton and Destin.

Florida Beach Safety Guidelines

Beach Flag System

When it comes to Okaloosa Island, Destin or Fort Walton beach safety, fear not! Upon arriving at any beach access point on Florida’s Emerald Coast, you will find signage with indications as to the representation of each color flag, which are put in place to inform you of the current water conditions. There are 5 different indicator categories:

Green: The green flag represents “Low Hazard”, which is an indicator of calm water conditions.

Yellow: The yellow flag represents “Moderate Hazard”, which indicates moderate water currents.

Red: The red flag represents “High Hazard”, which indicates strong currents.

Double Red: The double red flags represent “Closed Beach”, and this indicates that nobody should enter the water.

Purple: The purple flag represents “Dangerous Marine Life”, which indicates that dangerous marine life has been spotted. This could include anything from dangerous fish, stingrays, jellyfish or even sharks. The purple flag is sometimes raised in addition to any of the other flags.

It is important to acknowledge that whichever of the flag indicators is raised, be it low hazard or high hazard, dangerous marine life or no dangerous marine life, every person young and old should always be aware of the natural environment that surrounds them and exercise caution.

Sun Protection

Oh, the importance of slathering on that sun protection factor! When it comes to beach safety in Okaloosa Island, water conditions aren’t the only thing to consider. Remember to protect your body’s largest organ – your skin! There is such a huge variety of sunscreens on the market today, but the most important thing to keep in mind is that the higher the SPF, the better protected you will be. We recommend using products that offer a SPF of 50 and nothing less than SPF 30.

People commonly assume that sunscreen is only meant for people with fair skin, but this could not be farther from the truth. Though fairer skin is more susceptible to burn from sun exposure, there is other sun-induced damage that affects all people regardless of skin color. So be sure to slab on that creamy sun shield. Here are some more tips to remember:

  • When it comes to babies and young children, look for products that contain zinc and/or titanium dioxide when choosing sunblock.
  • Sunblock is not just for larger surface parts of the body; be sure to cover smaller areas such as the rims of your ears, forehead, nose, lips, back of the neck and scalp where hair separates.
  • Complement your skin protection by using sunglasses and a hat. When opting for sunglasses remember that these too come with different levels of UVA and UVB filtration, so go for the ones with the highest percentage of UV absorption.
  • Water and sand also reflect and often intensify the damage of sun rays, so it is common for many beach goers to layer up on lycra shirts with SPF, or even full body SPF water suits, typically worn by surfers.
  • If you find yourself spending hours on end exposed to the sun, it is essential that you reapply your sunscreen, as many times as necessary. Ideally every two to three hours, or more frequently if you go in and out of the water.
  • Watch out for the sun’s position. From 10AM to 4PM the sun is at its strongest point. When your shadow appears shorter than you that would be a good time to seek some shade.
  • Look out for the expiration date of the sunscreen you purchased. They are usually good to use for 2 to 3 years, however an expired sunscreen may not provide the appropriate protection, in which case you should throw it out and get a new one.

Beach and Marine Preservation

As we mentioned in the beginning, mother nature did a spectacular job with producing these scenic beaches, but it depends greatly on the human element to keep them looking as gorgeous as they do. When it comes to Destin locals, they are very hands on with Destin beach preservation. A volunteer group of local citizens, the Okaloosa County Environment Council, organizes two Destin beach clean ups each year. Over a span of three decades and more than 30,000 volunteers, 100 tons of debris has been removed from our beaches.

Litter and Personal Belongings

Hold on, we’re not suggesting that litter and your personal belongings are the same thing. What these two have in common is simple: Don’t leave them behind on the beach. You can find trash receptacles at all public accesses. You may also want to bring a bag with you in case you have a bigger load of things to throw away after your day at the beach. Please consider taking this with you so you can dispose of it properly.

Glass is not allowed on the beach. The fun news is you can bring a six pack of cold ones, just be sure they are cans and not bottles. And of course, be sure to take the empty cans with you to dispose of them accordingly.

As to your personal belongings, you probably don’t intend on leaving anything behind in the first place, but it happens to the best of us. It is important that you collect all of your items when you leave the sugar white sand. At night time, City of Destin staff do a thorough sweep of the beaches, and any property that is left abandoned will be removed and becomes property of Okaloosa County. Not a cooler, beach chair, umbrella or any other personal item should be left behind.

Sea Turtle Nesting Season

Astoundingly, seventy percent of the nation’s sea turtle nesting takes place on Florida’s beaches. This is another reason why we take it upon ourselves to treat the beach environment as gently as possible, and we strive to leave absolutely no obstacles or residue behind that could potentially be harmful to our little marine friends.

From March to October, sea turtles emerge from the surf at night to lay eggs in the dry sand and then return to the sea. If you find yourself building sand castles or burying any one of your family members or friends in the sand, it is vital that you smooth out any holes that you create, by the time you leave. This will ensure that baby turtles won’t face any obstacles in getting to the surf during nesting season.

We think by now you should have a clear impression of the conduct guidelines, beach preservation and safety practices to uphold when vacationing on one of the Emerald Coast’s many luxurious beaches. For our sake and that of marine life – you can do your part by abiding by these simple steps so that we and future generations can continue to enjoy the beauty of the beaches. Now come and enjoy an adventure with us at Crab Island Watersports on Okaloosa island, or find out about other exciting beach activities you can undertake in Destin, Florida.

Check Out Our Crab Island Rentals

The regular pontoon boat in the harbor.
A girl jumps off a slide
People on a jet ski watch dolphins
History of the Fort Walton Beach & Destin Area: Part I Previous Article Golfing in Destin & Fort Walton Next Article