The Destin, Fort Walton Beach, and Okaloosa Island area is known as the heart of the Emerald Coast. Framed by the Gulf of Mexico on the state's northwestern coast, it is renowned for its superb sport fishing and fresh gulf-to-table seafood, along with 24 miles of blindingly white sugar-sand beaches and emerald green waters. Other lures include 10 championship golf courses, excellent seafood restaurants, a variety of activities, and a wealth of shopping options.
The destination is easily accessed via Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport (VPS), which is served by American, United, Delta, and Allegiant Airlines and is located 8 miles from Fort Walton Beach and 15 miles from Destin.
The largest of the Destin/Fort Walton Beach convention venues, used for the area's tradeshows, meetings, exhibitions, and entertainment events, is the Emerald Coast Convention Center. Situated on nearby Okaloosa Island, the center has a 21,000-square-foot grand ballroom with a banquet seating capacity of 1,400 and a theater seating capacity of 2,350, as well as eight separate meeting rooms and the 30,000-square-foot, open-air Bayview Plaza.
There are many other options for meetings in some of Destin's and Fort Walton Beach's diverse accommodations, including hotels and resorts, condominiums, and private beach house rentals. Heading the list of Destin's larger meetings-oriented properties are the 281-room Emerald Grande at HarborWalk Village, with 8,000 square feet of meeting space; The Henderson, with 170 rooms and suites, plus 10,000 square feet of meeting space; and The Palms of Destin Resort and Conference Center, with 6,000 square feet of meeting space.
In Fort Walton Beach, variety is the most appealing aspect of the event venues, which include hotels overlooking the Gulf of Mexico; amenity-rich, high-rise condominiums; and expansive beach homes. Among the larger options for meetings are the 335-room Ramada Plaza Beach Resort, with 14,000 square feet of meeting space; the 216-room Four Points Sheraton, with 5,900 square feet of meeting space; the 195-room Holiday Inn Resort, with 3,000 square feet of meeting space; and the new Hilton Garden Inn, with 5,000 square feet of meeting space.
Dining venues in the area offer both entertainment and culinary experiences, with open-air cafes, cedar seafood shacks, and Euro-style bistros serving fresh fish that comes straight from the largest charter boat fleet in North America. Local delicacies include red snapper, gulf and bay shrimp, amberjack, cobia, tuna, and mahi-mahi — served a variety of ways.
The attractions available for day trips and spouse programs range from the Gulfarium, which has Atlantic bottlenose dolphins and other marine animals, to fishing trips, sunset sails, and progressive dine-arounds, to Destin Commons, a shopping complex with upscale stores, a 14-screen movie theater, numerous restaurants, and Bass Pro Shops.
Relaxation after intense meetings in Destin/Fort Walton Beach revolves around numerous beach activities and golf at courses such as the Fred Couples-designed Kelly Plantation, the 27-hole Indian Bayou Golf Club, and Bluewater Bay Resort, which is home to 27 holes designed by Tom Fazio and Jerry Pate. The center of nightlife is the picturesque Destin Harbor, with restaurants, lounges, and live music venues all overlooking or on the harbor. Group dining options are plentiful, as are group activities.