100 Things We Love About The EC

Why we choose to live, work and play in the Emerald Coast
The EC has a distinct sense of place that gives us a true sense of belonging. Photo by Kansas Pitts

Locals will tell you that the quality of life here is unlike any other, not because of the sugar-sand beaches, though they are spectacular.

Not because of the weather, though the Southern tropical climate is desirable all year.

It is surely because of the people who give this little patch of Florida personality plus.

They are our earnest, hardworking friends, family and neighbors who pour their hearts and souls into all they do — including delicious restaurants, quaint retail shops and service-centric businesses they own and operate, and the exceptional professional services they dutifully provide to each of us day in and day out.

After 20 years, Emerald Coast Magazine is still proud to be the first consumer magazine on the scene dedicated to celebrating all the Emerald Coast has to offer through compelling stories about local people, places and things that make the EC the distinctive place it is.

We would not be here without the hard work of our talented publishing team, the loyal support of our readers and the financial support of our advertisers, so to our extended Emerald Coast family, we offer a heartfelt thank you for 20 terrific years.

In celebration of our 20th anniversary, we decided to mark the occasion with a few “love notes,” so here are 100 reasons we still love the Emerald Coast

  1. Biting into a bit of history with a grouper sandwich at Dewey Destin’s.
  2. Ice skating at The Village of Baytowne Wharf.
  3. The local excitement during college football season.
  4. Homemade ice cream from Southern Craft Creamery.
  5. “The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village” tagline.
  6. The quaint, historic library in DeFuniak Springs.
  7. Turtle Bob and the gopher turtles at the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center.
  8. The wonderful Wyland Whaling Wall at Legendary Marina.
  9. The yum factor at The Yard Milkshake Bar.
  10. Exploring Fort Walton Beach as a zombie during Halloween.
  11. Any of the dozens of Italian ice flavors at GS Gelato.
  12. Shopping for quirky keepsakes at Banana Bart’s.
  13. Strolling folk art galleries and studios all along the coast.
  14. The visual feast of Digital Graffiti at Alys Beach.
  15. The romantic wooden bridges on 30A.

    Biting into a bit of history with a grouper sandwich at Dewey Destin’s. Photo by Jacqueline ward Images

  16. All the outdoor amphitheaters along the coast.
  17. The “running of the bulls” event in Pensacola!
  18. The Hands Across the Sands movement that is now a global effort.
  19. The Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation’s mission to help local children’s charities.
  20. Knowing the highest elevation in Florida is in Walton County on Britton Hill.
  21. Our world-class tennis centers and the talented pros who teach us their tips.
  22. The charming Camp Walton one-room schoolhouse.
  23. The fact that 30A is a nationally designated scenic highway.
  24. A dirty martini at the Marlin Grill.
  25. We love that Dog Daze is the Lollapalooza on the pup circuit.
  26. Mountain Film Festival at WaterColor and how it takes us away into the magic of the silver screen.
  27. Shopping old-style stores like Modica Market, Red Bay Grocery and the Little Big Store.
  28. The proximity of the Gulf Stream that brings us the bounty of the Gulf.
  29. Saying “I Do” on the beach is a dream that never gets old.
  30. Original gifts at The Zoo Gallery.

    The yum factor at The Yard Milkshake Bar. Photo by Scott Holstein

  31. Custom pet portraits hand-painted by Donna Burgess.
  32. The things we learn during the speaker series at the Crestview library.
  33. Channeling our inner Jack Sparrow on the Buccaneer pirate ship.
  34. The underwater diving adventure of the USS Oriskany.
  35. An afternoon at Eden State Garden.
  36. The sparkle that the Celebration of Lights in DeFuniak Springs adds to the holiday season.
  37. Preservationists like Dennis Ray in DeFuniak Springs.
  38. Getting our organic on at the many new farmers’ markets.
  39. Performing arts organizations that cater to families, such as Emerald Coast Theatre Company.
  40. Cupcakes by the Sea, KaraBoo, Stacey Bakes, Henrietta’s — we love all the cute cupcakes and bakeshops on the coast!
  41. Getting a free pass to the beach at Henderson Beach Park.
  42. Cooling off at Big Kahunas in the summertime.
  43. The dedicated and compassionate staff at Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge.
  44. Fireworks frenzy! From The Village of Baytowne Wharf to the Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island, there is often a weekly celebration in the sky above.
  45. The big Coca-Cola bottle at The Buccaneer Gift Shop.

    People-watching while sipping a cappuccino at Amavida in Seaside. Photo by Scott Holstein

  46. The Flight Academy in Pensacola.
  47. The old-fashioned toys in the gift shop in Historic Pensacola Village.
  48. The you-pick berry farms in Baker.
  49. Promenading at the Mardi Gras parade, the holiday parade and the Destin Boat parade.
  50. David Seering, Michael J. Thomas, Cheryl Jones and the many other longtime class acts.
  51. The intimate gala evenings at Seagar’s Prime Steaks & Seafood.
  52. Festivals and fetes from wine and beer to seafood and barbecue.
  53. Catching a Broadway show at the Mattie Kelly Arts Center.
  54. The classic beauty of the cottages in Seaside.
  55. The handy beach flag safety system.
  56. Shopping outdoors in Seaside.
  57. The choo choo in Destin Commons for wee ones.
  58. Walking the boardwalk atTurkey Creek.
  59. All the new babies at the Gulf Breeze Zoo!
  60. The giant eagles nest at the Wildlife Sanctuary of Northwest Florida.

    The visual feast of Digital Graffiti at Alys Beach. Photo by Kurt Lischka

  61. Driving over the William T. Marler bridge in Destin and putting everything in perspective.
  62. The interactive exhibits at the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park and Gulf World.
  63. The newsstands painted by local artists.
  64. Celebrating National Record Store Day at Central Records in Seaside.
  65. Standing in line at Joe Patti’s Seafood is somehow fun.
  66. That we can have dinner date night at Carmike Cinema’s Boulevard 10.
  67. Yoga on the beach and Pilates on paddleboards.
  68. Deep-sea fishing, bay fishing, shore fishing, pier fishing and, well, fishing.
  69. Zooming on go-karts at The Track.
  70. The pageantry of Billy Bowlegs.
  71. Having more than 1,000 holes of golf to choose from.
  72. An afternoon at The Landing in Fort Walton Beach.
  73. The relaxing artsy vibe of Ruskin Place.
  74. Strolling along the Destin Harbor.
  75. Watching the fish weigh-ins during the many exciting fishing tournaments.

    Standing in line at Joe Patti’s Seafood is somehow fun. Photo by Scott Holstein

  76. Eco tours in Walton County.
  77. Playing a hand of poker while boating during the Emerald Coast Poker Run.
  78. The Thanksgiving tradition at Harbor Docks.
  79. Snorkeling the jetties.
  80. Gulf Islands National Seashore, pure and simple.
  81. Backyard throwdowns like Forrest Williams Backyard Boogie and Chi Chi Miguel.
  82. Local bands like Heritage, who never forget their roots or fans.
  83. Cheese pillows at Sailor’s Grill in Navarre are always a bite of heaven.
  84. Inspiring young inventors like Andy Hermann continue to impress us.
  85. Guessing the time of the sunset at Bud & Alley’s.
  86. Being able to order a fattening grilled cheese and healthy organic juice from side-by-side Airstreams.
  87. Being able to bike nearly anywhere on 30A.
  88. The dedicated health care providers who give us much more than most small town communities have.
  89. Homemade saltwater taffy from The Candymaker.
  90. The local songwriters who help tell stories through music.

    The fact that we have fashion designers like Nicole Paloma who stand up to any fashion house in New York, Paris or Milan. Photo by Tim Skipper Photography

  91. People-watching while sipping a cappuccino at Amavida in Seaside
  92. Local reports from community newspapers like “The Seaside Times” and local stations such as 30A Radio.
  93. The blessing of the fleet.
  94. The Greek Festival, the Italian Festival, the Salsa Festival …
  95. The Best of the Emerald Coast winners’ awards celebration.
  96. The photographers along the EC who stay here though they could work anywhere they choose.
  97. All of the locally owned “mom and pop” shops and restaurants.
  98. Delicious local craft beer lovingly brewed right here.
  99. Channeling our favorite superheroes at Pensacon.
  100. The fact that we have fashion designers like Nicole Paloma who stand up to any fashion house in New York, Paris or Milan.

After 20 years, Emerald Coast Magazine may not be the only one, but we will always be proud to say we were the first magazine dedicated to telling the stories of the Emerald Coast.

And if you want to say we’re the best, well, we won’t exactly argue.

Categories: 20th Anniversary of EC, Opinion