The Emerald Coast of Florida features some of the best beaches and seafood restaurants in the state.
it’s a strip of beauty that stretches between Pensacola and Panama City on the Gulf of Mexico in northwest Florida, between Pensacola and Panama City.
It’s one of Florida’s best-kept secrets; a world away from the blazing nightlife of Miami and the frantic theme parks of Orlando. Quiet expanses of powder white beaches, secret state parks with a variety of ecosystems, and turquoise waters teeming with dolphins and the region’s famous seafood can all be found here.
The best places to eat in the area are in Fort Walton Beach, Okaloosa Island, and Destin. The Emerald Coast should be at the top of your list if you like wide beaches and an abundance of nature.
That’s before we even talk about the beautiful weather all year, southern charm, and amazing Gulf-to-table dining.
1) AJ’s Oyster Shanty
Destin is also known as the luckiest fishing community in the world. Jetty fishing, deep sea fishing, charter fishing, and, of course, eating the delectable catches are all popular activities.
There are a lot of fantastic restaurants to try all of this seafood in Florida, and AJ’s is one of them. This is the place to get some cocktails to go with your crab claws, sit outside at a table, and eat your feast while listening to a live band.
The fried pickles, boiled shrimp, and smoked tuna dip are all must-tries. Served with melted butter, new potatoes, and corn the sweet and soft Snow Crab legs are also a must. In the crab-cracking game, patience is a virtue; endure with it and the reward will be worth it. And don’t forget about the bib!
2) Asiago Skillet, Destin & Fort Walton Beach.
Florida and substantial southern breakfasts go hand in hand, and both Asiago Skillet restaurants are excellent places to start your day. These places are family-owned and run, and they clearly have a passion for what they do, as evidenced by their long list of devoted customers.
The menu features a variety of skillet prepared foods that sound delicious. The Steak Skillet includes potatoes, sirloin, onions, peppers, mushrooms, asiago cheese, and two eggs.
Expect fluffy buttermilk pancakes the size of frisbees, hearty omelettes and American classics. There are lots of classic southern breakfast selections including biscuits with gravy, ham, sausage, bacon, and eggs.
The service is excellent, and the ambience is warm and inviting. There’s also a Bloody Mary bar where you can make your own.
3) Jackacuda’s, Destin
If you want to enjoy the local fish on the Emerald Coast Jackacuda’s in Destin is one of the greatest places to do so.
You’ll want to head straight for their colourful and brilliant specialty sushi rolls, which are located right in the centre of Harborwalk Village. The Backdown, with shrimp tempura, spicy lobster, jalapeño cream cheese, baked spicy crab, avocado and eel sauce is their signature dish, and it’s stunning.
Salmon, snow crab, tuna, yellowtail, and albacore are among the other seafood options on their sushi menu. They also serve a variety of seafood main courses, including blackened snapper, mahi mahi, and shrimp and grits from the south. Take a seat outside in the sun or shade, with a view of the boardwalk, and order a locally brewed beer to accompany your meal.
4) Fort Walton Beach’s Rockin’ Tacos
As destinations in Florida go you can bet this is one of the restaurants that is most packed during spring break. The vista over the powder white beach from this location on Okaloosa Island is worth a visit in and of itself.
This is the spot to go for Mexican-inspired cuisine and tequila cocktails while relaxing on the sun-drenched veranda.
The flavours at this Fort Walton Beach restaurant are fresh and excellent, from burritos and fajitas to burgers and quesadillas. Definitely don’t miss their avocado fries with chipotle aioli and coriander dip to start.
Then, for the best seafood selections, travel to their specialties section.
Try charred or grilled fish tacos topped with a spicy pineapple and mango habanero salsa. Tacos with shrimp, roasted red peppers, and green onions in a sweet and spicy salsa. Baja fish tacos with beer battered white fish, pico de gallo, and guacamole are also available.
The venue is still bustling in the evenings, with a late-night taco buffet and a house DJ. It’s a terrific spot to go from day to night.
5) The Gulf, Okaloosa Island’s bayside
When you first walk in, this two-story, largely al fresco waterfront drinking and dining establishment is a bit of a show-stopper. The room is made up of recycled and salvaged cargo containers and features a large and flexible floor plan.
There’s enough outdoor furniture strewn across the grass and sand to make you never want to leave. People can even arrive by boat at the dock.
Their seasonal menu features locally sourced ingredients and the venue includes table tennis on the grass, two bars, and a gift shop. Don’t be surprised if you see undecided groups hanging by the full-size menu unable to choose what to have.
6) The Local Market, Destin
The Local Market in Destin (from the same proprietors as Harbor Docks above) specializes in fresh and excellent breakfasts and lunches. If you arrive before 11 a.m., you can expect avocado toast and corned beef hash with eggs.
You’ll have a hard time deciding which gourmet sandwich to have for lunch as they all look delicious. Also don’t miss their homemade ice cream and juice bar, which are created and bottled in-house.
7) Destin’s Boshamps Seafood & Oyster House
BoShamps, with its magnificent views of Destin Harbor, is the perfect spot to unwind and enjoy a delicious meal. They serve fresh and local catches of the day, and you can enjoy breathtaking sunsets, and warm southern hospitality.
Chef Andi Bell, recognised a Rising Star of American Cuisine by the James Beard Foundation, works in the kitchen. Local baby spinach and artichoke hearts coated in melted cheese like a fondue are among the dishes on his menu. There’s also lobster mac ‘n cheese, duck confit cassoulet from the Gulf Coast, and plenty of local seafood.