• Port St. Joe beach, Florida \u2013 Image by Flickr user Katy Warner

    Port St. Joe beach, Florida – Image by Flickr user Katy Warner

  • Sea Turtles, Florida Emerald Coast \u2013 Image by Flickr user Andrea Westmorland

    Sea Turtles, Florida Emerald Coast – Image by Flickr user Andrea Westmorland

  • Idyllic Seaside Beach, Florida \u2013 Image by Flickr user Luca Sartoni

    Idyllic Seaside Beach, Florida – Image by Flickr user Luca Sartoni

Where’s better to head during the summer than to the Sunshine State itself, Florida? Drive the Emerald Coast, with the wind in your hair and the sun beaming down on your face.

Located on Florida’s north-western shores, the Emerald Coast is about 100 miles long, and stretches from Pensacola through to Panama City. The Emerald Coast is actually the unofficial name, its real name is the Gulf Coast. It was given its moniker due to the emerald green colour of the ocean caused by the sun beaming down and illuminating the algae. So if you’re after a beach trip with a difference, the Emerald Coast is the ideal spot.

Drive: Port St. Joe to Seaside

87 miles 2 hours, 15 minutes

Port St. Joe

Each town along this gulf stretch has a distinctly different feel, while still making the most of their gorgeous beaches. Located south of Panama City, the small town of Port St. Joe is ideal for a spot of rest and relaxation before you begin your onward journey. You can walk through the famously peaceful town, or lie on the beach and work your way through your holiday reading list. But make sure you head to a small shack for some of the most delicious freshly-caught seafood in the state. We recommend Dockside Seafood & Raw Bar.

Snorkelling at Port St. Joe

If you’re up for something a little more active, why not dive into the emerald ocean and see what you discover with a spot of snorkelling? Because much of the water is protected, you’ll find it easier with a guide. The shallow waters mean that those looking to go scalloping will find them in abundance.

Seaside

Your drive will end in Seaside, the setting of The Truman Show. Set a couple of hours west of Port St. Joe, this is an idyllic spot which is perfect for a simple, chilled break. The beaches here are highly regarded, and Seaside Beach itself was named ‘Best Beach on Earth’ for families by Travel + Leisure magazine in 2013. Once you arrive, be sure to rent a holiday cottage and spend your break wandering through the quiet streets and immerse yourself in the community.

Gulf Islands National Seashore

Sixty-six miles west from Seaside is the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Here you can camp in serene surroundings, spend your days lounging at the beaches, go boating and fishing in the sun, or hiking the scenic park. This area is known for its sea turtles; the park is home to six of the seven species that biologists have identified. Despite the fact that sea turtles are incredibly well-adapted to their environments (and have existed for 150 million years), they face a worrying future due to human activity. When staying in the park, there are simple things you can do to help protect the sea turtles:

  • Shield your car lights at night
  • Don’t litter and properly dispose of your rubbish
  • When boating, look out for sea turtles coming to the surface to breathe, and avoid going too near the shore, where females come during nesting season
  • Don’t disturb their nests. You can stay a safe distance away and watch them, then later report your sightings to the park ranger

If you’re a teenager, you can volunteer with Turtles T.H.i.S (Teens Helping in the Seashore) as a citizen scientist to learn more about the turtles, and how to protect them.

Are you looking forward to a summer trip away? Florida and its Emerald Coast are waiting for you to explore!