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When most people think of the Emerald Coast, it most likely includes a few thoughts of long summer days bathing in the sun on the beach. For this reason, summer is an understandably desirable season to visit, but what if we told you there was something magical that the Florida Panhandle had to offer during the fall months, worthy of considering a fall escape to the Emerald Coast during September and October?

Well, that’s what we’re here to tell you! Read on for our top four reasons to visit the Emerald Coast during Fall to learn about unique opportunities Fall in Florida can offer.


Halloween Activities

In the Fort Walton area, two spectacularly spooky Halloween activities make visiting Florida in Fall a real treat. The Wentz Brothers are at it again with their famous haunted house, which began in their home, and has now expanded to three adrenaline-filled haunted houses, including Protocol Z, Lazarus Toys, and the Halloween highlight, Shriek Show. It is unquestionably a must for Halloween lovers, as it’s the biggest haunted house event on the Emerald Coast. If you are bringing little ones along, we recommend that you take advantage of their Family Days, starting from Saturday September 24th and onward every Saturday from 12.00 – 4.00 pm. Tickets for all three of The Wentz Brothers’ Festival of Fears are available for direct purchase on their website.

A family-friendly and unique Halloween experience is the Planetarium Special Feature: Spooky Secrets of the Stars, at the Emerald Coast Science Center on October 27th from 5:00 to 8:00 pm. The 45-minute show features stories about mythical creatures and the star-filled sky. Fun tip: embrace the Halloween spirit by wearing your costume! We recommend purchasing tickets with plenty of time in advance, so you don’t miss this educational family event!

Another Halloween event perfect for families is Halloween Haunt in the Destin Commons on October 28th from 6:00 to 8:00 pm. One more bonus? This free Halloween event includes fun activities from crafts and face painting to a costume contest and trick-or-treating, making it the perfect Halloween extravaganza.


Destin Fishing Rodeo

With a nickname like “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village,” it’s no surprise that Destin would have a month-long fishing tournament during October, Destin Fishing Rodeo. Dating back to 1948, this is a 70+ year tradition that has just gotten bigger as the years go on.

This year marks the 74th anniversary of the Destin Fishing Rodeo, which represents the importance of fishing to this small corner of the world. Competitors back in its first year, 1948, would win prizes such as a full kitchen set with a sink, refrigerator, and stove. Prizes have adapted with the times, and this year there is over $100,000 in cash and prizes are on the table. The competition is fierce, with tens of thousands participating in this beloved Destin tradition.

Even if you’re not crazy about fishing, head to A.J. ‘s Seafood and Oyster Bar to witness the daily weigh-ins for a fun way to participate in the competition. As you can imagine, fishing in Destin during October is on every angler’s bucket list, but which area you spend your time in depends on the competition you’re competing in and your fishing level. The Destin Bay East Pass Jetty area is perfect for beginners, where you’ll likely catch a nice Redfish. For the more experienced anglers, the Billfish division is what you’ve been waiting for, so you’ll want to head to The Gulf’s nearshore artificial reefs. As these areas have strict protection laws, make sure to enter the Catch and Release Division, take a photo of your catch, and then release it to preserve these precious fish species.


Fall Wildlife

Most people think of the pristine beaches when they think of the Emerald Coast, but in the Fall season, migrating butterflies take center stage. Monarch Butterflies from North America migrate south for the winter, passing through Destin, Florida, as a pitstop (although some will call Florida’s gulf coast home for the winter season). An excellent and serene place to witness this phenomenon is the Butterfly Garden in Destin, full of different species of plants & flowers, which makes for an interactive and educational activity for the whole family. Destin local Velda Dougherty created the beloved Butterfly Garden as a passion project during the pandemic by
strategically including plants that attract butterflies. Is there anything more magical than a sea of butterflies in flight on a warm Florida fall day? We think not!

Cooler but still pleasant fall temperatures make it an excellent bird-watching season, which Florida is also famous for! Luckily for you, Henderson Beach State Park is a quick 7-minute drive from Destin and offers great bird watching for migratory birds during the fall season and the resident wading birds and shorebirds. Other outdoor activities available in the park are bicycling, hiking, fishing, and swimming.


Less Crowds Make for Perfect Platooning

Crab Island is the place to be in the summertime due to its turquoise waters, perfect for lounging on a pontoon boat on a typical long summer day. As it’s a popular place to be during the peak summer months, the waters can get crowded with other sun-seekers.

For those seeking warmer temperatures with fewer crowds, aim to visit in September when the water is still warm. Another plus? During September, our pontoon and jet ski rentals are available Monday through Sunday, so you can still squeeze in plenty of time on the water with friends and family. On the other hand, if you’re excited about all of the October activities offered on the Emerald Coast and don’t mind the cooler ocean temperatures, October is a great time to visit. Remember that our rental schedule is from Friday through Sunday in October, making it the perfect downtime between the Destin Fishing Rodeo, a Fall Wildlife excursion, or a Halloween event.

Looking to lock down your Fall escape to the Emerald Coast? Learn more about our pontoon and jet ski rental options for the perfect addition to your vacation.

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