The Emerald Coast is making global waves again. National Geographic recently named South Walton to its list of Best Trips for 2019, confirming what communities served by The Premier Property Group have long known: our region offers much more than just beautiful beaches. Citing the vast and varied marine life and the local efforts to protect natural resources, the National Geographic team chose South Walton as one of only three U.S. destinations to make the list.
The magazine is not alone in its applause. In 2018, Forbes called South Walton Florida’s Best-Kept Secret.
Comprised of 26 miles of beach, 16 communities, and four state parks, South Walton welcomes more than 4.1 million visitors annually, of which almost 40% are return guests. A 2018 report noted that each visitor to the area delivers an economic impact of about $1,126.
Built within the last 30 years, the 16 communities of South Walton are as unique and varied as the residents and visitors who grace their boundaries. Some are known for their architecture, some for their laid-back atmosphere, and others for their eclectic offerings. Artists, ecotourists, foodies, adventurers, athletes and shoppers alike find something to love about the area, whether they’re drawn to cutting-edge developments, extraordinary experiences or simple beach lifestyle.
Last month, we showcased the Underwater Museum of Art (UMA), recently named to Time’s Greatest Places of 2018. This uncommon offering combines the beauty of sculpture with the utility of an artificial reef to create a scuba destination unlike any other. The UMA launched in 2017 to provide a necessary habitat for a wide variety of marine life. Because the museum plans to add new sculptures annually, visitors can return every year to explore the new additions and the growing numbers of species that call the reef home.
Ecotourism opportunities are endless, extending from rare dune lakes that are only found in a few places around the world to the miles of trails that wind through South Walton. Countless varieties of marine life and animal species reside among the sugar-white sand and emerald waters, including the Great Blue Heron, the bottlenose dolphin, and endangered sea turtles.
Those who love South Walton for its charm enjoy unique shopping, spectacular restaurants, locally-caught seafood and inviting resorts. Outdoor amphitheaters play host to numerous shows and performances, and the farmers’ markets allow shoppers to support the local economy while enjoying the best of our local natural resources.
The neighborhoods of South Walton, each with its own personality and history, draw visitors of all ages and stages, primarily from the Southeast and the Midwest. Roughly 94 percent of visitors spend time at the beach, and more than three-fourths come to relax with family.
Visitors to the area create more than 22,000 jobs and generate a total economic impact of $4.4 billion annually, and those numbers continue to grow. For those already invested in the area, property values remain sound and profitable, as both Walton and Okaloosa counties repeatedly demonstrate growth in real estate closings. Simply put, it’s a great time to own property on the Emerald Coast.