We like to keep things simple and laid-back along the Emerald Coast, but there are a few essential do’s and don’t’s that everyone should know.




Emerald Coast Do's


A lifeguard walks the beach.

Beach Flags Could Save Your Life!

Paying attention to the official beach flag system could, literately, save your life. Each morning, lifeguards assess beach conditions and raise a colored flag at each public access to denote the water conditions. These flags are either red, yellow, green, or purple. 


  • Double Red Flags: If you see two red flags flying, that means the water is CLOSED. Entering the water is prohibited and can result in a $500 fine and criminal charges. Do not go into the water

  • Red Flag: High surf and/or strong currents. Knee deep is too deep!

  • Yellow Flag: Medium hazard with moderate surf and/or currents.

  • Green Flag: Low hazard and calm water.

  • Purple Flag: Dangerous marine pests are present (like jellyfish and man ó wars).

How to Care for a Jellyfish Sting

Getting stung by jellyfish is rare, but it can happen. To help minimize tears and pain, experts suggest adding a small vinegar bottle to your beach bag, especially if you have children. That's because vinegar, a weak acid, can neutralize most jellyfish venom. If the worst happens and a loved one is stung, there are several things you can do to make them comfortable. 

Nemours Children's Health recommends: 

  • Removing any visible barbs or tentacles from the skin (do not rub!),
  • Rinsing the area with seawater and then vinegar (not freshwater), and
  • Soaking the area in hot water until the pain subsides.


Stand Up Paddleboarding on the Gulf.

Try Something New

There are so many ways to branch out and try something new during your Emerald Coast vacation! For example, have you ever thought about surf fishing? Or daydreamed of reeling in a shark?

Surf Fishing

Reel30A offers both a surf charter and a surf rental package. If you’ve never fished before or are nervous about casting into the Gulf, the surfing charter package provides the gear and includes an experienced Reel30A angler to show you how to do it.

Shark Fishing

The Stellaluna sport fishing boat offers shark fishing for those with a more adventurous appetite. Nurse, Bull, and Blacktip are among the types of sharks anglers are allowed to catch. No matter how old you are, pulling in a shark has got to be an incredible experience.

Stand Up Paddleboarding

On calm Gulf waters, it's almost magical to glide across the water's surface on a Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP). Perched high above the surface, it's easy to spot schools of fish below. The rare coastal dune lakes along Scenic 30A are ideal for paddleboarding, and when the lakes open into the Gulf, you can paddle straight from the lake to the Gulf! 

Scuba at the Underwater Museum of Art

The Underwater Museum of Art, located off the shore of Grayton Beach State Park, is the first permanent underwater sculpture garden in the United States! Commissioned works of art by national and international artists are deployed .93 miles off the coast each year. Over time, these sculptures have been transformed by marine life. You must be an open-water certified scuba diver to visit the UMA. Interested in becoming certified? Emerald Coast Scuba offers a three-step streamlined scuba certification that can be partially completed before you reach the beach!


Beach Access Points for Mobility Issues and Beach Wheelchairs!


A woman in a wheelchair is on the beach looking at the water.

June White Decker Park (1950 Scenic Highway 98)
This City of Destin Gulf-front park has an ADA-certified ramp, restrooms, parking, and all-terrain beach wheelchairs provided by reservation. Visitors can reserve free beach wheelchairs by calling the Destin Fire Control District at (850) 837-8413, Monday-Friday.

James Lee Park (3510 Scenic Highway 98)
This popular Gulf-front park is by the Crab Trap restaurant on the Walton/Okaloosa county line. Visitors can enjoy a playground, restrooms with changing rooms, 41 picnic tables, three pavilions, and nine dune walkovers. Visitors can reserve free beach wheelchairs by calling the Destin Fire Control District at (850) 837-8413, Monday-Friday.

Shirah Street public access (2850 Scenic Highway 98)
This beach access has a ramp and beach wheelchairs available with advanced reservations. Visitors can reserve free beach wheelchairs by calling the Destin Fire Control District at (850) 837-8413, Monday-Friday.

Henderson Beach State Park (17000 Emerald Coast Parkway)
There is a $6 fee to enter the park.
This gorgeous Gulf-front state park has 30-foot-tall dunes, a pristine beach, trails, and 60 campsites. For visitors in wheelchairs, an all-terrain beach wheelchair is available for the beach. Visitors should check at the ranger station for more information. The beach wheelchair may only be used within state park boundaries. 

The Shore at Crystal Park public access (2966 Scenic Highway 98)
This lovely beach access has a ramp, a pavilion, restrooms, outdoor showers, and ample parking but does not provide access to free beach wheelchairs.   

Miramar Beach Regional Access (1481 Scenic Gulf Dr, Miramar Beach, FL 32550)
This large beachfront park has an ADA-approved ramp. includes parking, ADA-accessible restrooms, a lifeguard stand, bike parking, showers, and a flag indicating surf conditions. The South Walton Fire District offers all-terrain beach wheelchairs, free of charge, from March 1-Oct. 31. The SWFD requires a signed waiver and an on-duty lifeguard must operate the chairs. Call the SWFD at (850) 267-1298 for additional information.

Topsail Hill Preserve State Park (7525 W Scenic Hwy 30A)
There is a $6 fee per vehicle to enter the park.
Topsail has 15 miles of marked trails, picnic areas, cabins, glamping tents, 156 RV sites, clubhouse facilities, and more. An 11-person wheelchair-accessible tram takes visitors on a lovely, tree-lined drive to the 3.2 miles of white-sand beaches at Topsail Hill Preserve. The park also has two all-terrain beach wheelchairs available for guests with mobility issues.

Dune Allen Regional Beach Access (5999 Scenic Hwy 30A)
The Dune Allen Regional access is new to 30A. Located across from Stinky’s Fish Camp Restaurant, this 1.51-acre park offers an ADA-accessible boardwalk, ADA-accessible restrooms, parking, outdoor showers, and seasonal lifeguards.

Fort Panic Beach Access (5707 W Scenic Hwy 30A)
Located just down from the Dune Allen Regional Beach Access is Fort Panic. This beach access is close to the outfall of Oyster Lake, one of 30A’s rare coastal dune lakes. An ADA-accessible boardwalk, parking, and restrooms are available. Lifeguards are on duty from March 1-Oct. 31.

Ed Walline Regional Beach Access (4447 W. Scenic Hwy 30A)
The Ed Walline Regional Beach Access is across the street from Gulf Place, which has restaurants, shopping, an artist district, and more. This popular beach access includes a Mobi-Mat that extends onto the beach, making walking onto the white sand much more manageable. Ed Walline offers an ADA-accessible boardwalk, parking, restrooms, and a beach pavilion. Beach wheelchairs are also available at Ed Walline with a signed waiver and must be operated by an on-duty lifeguard. Call the SWFD at (850) 267-1298 for additional information.

Grayton Beach State Park (357 Main Park Rd, Scenic Hwy. 30A)
There is a $5 fee per vehicle to enter the park.
Grayton Beach State Park has hiking trails, primitive camping sites, RV sites, and cabins for rent. Visitors with mobility issues can use the ADA-accessible boardwalk and the beach Mobi-Mat, making transitioning to the sand more straightforward. Cabin beach access also provides a Mobi-Mat. Beach wheelchairs are available at no additional cost, but park rangers ask guests to call (850) 267-8300 in advance to reserve them.

Santa Clara Regional Beach Access (3468 E. Scenic Hwy 30A)
The Santa Clara Regional Access in Seagrove Beach includes parking, ADA-accessible restrooms, a lifeguard stand, bike parking, showers, and a flag indicating surf conditions. Beach wheelchairs are available at Santa Clara with a signed waiver and must be operated by an on-duty lifeguard. Call the SWFD at (850) 267-1298 for additional information.

Inlet Beach Regional Beach Access (438 W. Park Pl Ave.)
Witness a slice of undeveloped Florida at the Inlet Beach Regional Access. Towering dunes, scrub oak beaten down by the wind, and long boardwalks to the beach make this a beautiful place to spend the day. Inlet Beach Regional has ample parking, ADA-accessible restrooms, an ADA-accessible ramp, a lifeguard stand, bike parking, showers, and a flag indicating surf conditions. Beach wheelchairs are also available at Inlet Beach with a signed waiver and must be operated by an on-duty lifeguard. Call the SWFD at (850) 267-1298 for additional information.

Camp Helen State Park (23937 Panama City Beach Pkwy, Panama City Beach)
There is a $4 per vehicle fee to enter the park.
Camp Helen State Park combines history with natural beauty. Tour the visitor center to learn about the prehistoric middens and mounds from 4,000 years ago or the Avondale Mill Company, which converted the property into an employee retreat. Historic buildings are available to tour. The park offers a beach wheelchair, but please note that there is a lengthy trail/mobi-mat/loose sand path to the beach. Contact a park ranger at the visitor center by calling (850) 233-5059 if interested.



Emerald Coast Don't's  


A curious sea turtle swims in the Gulf.

Sea turtles are protected

In 1995, South Walton Turtle Watch became a 501c3 non-profit organization, and after a lot of perseverance, it became the official Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Marine Permit holder for Walton County. South Walton Turtle Watch now manages and coordinates a small army of dedicated volunteers who walk Walton County beaches daily from May 1–Oct. 31 in search of a turtle crawl mark or signs of a nest. The organization also educates the community about ways to help sea turtles.

Sea Turtle Facts

  • Sea turtles are protected by the Endangered Species Act.
  • Loggerhead and Green Sea Turtles typically nest on our beaches.
  • Nesting season is May 1–Oct. 31.
  • Hatchlings are guided to the Gulf by the moon. White lights confuse them.
  • The temperature of the sand determines the sex of the hatchlings.
  • Sea turtles return to the beach where they were born to lay their eggs.
  • Mama sea turtles lay about 100 eggs in a nest and tend to lay 3–5 nests.
  • In 2021, 624 hatchlings made it to the Gulf in Walton County.
  • Call *FWC or 850-865-4503 if you see a sea turtle.
  • Visit southwaltonturtlewatch.org to learn more.

How you can help

  • Fill in large holes you dug on the beach!
  • Don’t leave chairs, tents, litter, or anything on the beach!
  • Don't use regular flashlights on the beach (use a red cover or red bulb).
  • Does your home have a Gulf view? Don't leave the curtains or blinds open at night.
  • Don't walk or play near a marked sea turtle nest.


A woman applies sunscreen to her face at the beach.

Don't Forget the Sunscreen

We know sunscreen isn't exciting, but have you ever tried to enjoy a vacation with a painful burn? Trust us, it's almost impossible to have fun while feeling terrible. With a few simple tips, you'll be coated in sunscreen and having fun at the beach and pool.

Remember, apply a lot of sunscreen and apply it often. 

Additional tips:

  • Wear sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher and reapply
    every 2 hours or after going in the water.
  • Wear a hat to shield your face, neck, and ears.
  • Avoid peak exposure. The sun’s rays are strongest
    from 10 AM–4 PM.
  • Wear sunglasses! They block harmful UVA and UVB rays.


For more tips and inspiration, please visit our friends at Helms Hope, a 501c3 non-profit organization advancing skin cancer prevention, awareness, and early detection.

The work and dedication of the Helms family have inspired us to include sunscreen and aloe in our welcome kits. We hope their story and health tips will inspire you as well.

We hope this list of Emerald Coast Do's and Don't's helps you have the best Emerald Coast vacation yet! Go soak up the fun!