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EMERALD COAST BEACH ACCESS VARIES WILDLY, BASED ON COUNTY

 

Residents of Holiday Isle don’t expressly forbid tourists and visitors from crossing the public beaches behind their homes or condominiums, but they don’t make it easy to get to them either. They’re not alone among inhabitants of the World’s Luckiest Fishing Village when it comes to trying to prevent the outside world from encroaching upon the crystal white sands and blue-green Gulf waters that make the Emerald Coast unique. In central Destin, some private beach owners have gone to great lengths to keep interlopers off of their property and in doing so have chopped public beaches into squared off islands of sand surrounded by rope fences. And in east Destin what beach there is is made difficult to get to by a lack of available parking. Holiday Isle Though there are dozens of access ways to the beach areas on the peninsula created by Destin Harbor and the Gulf of Mexico, nearly all belong to private residents or condominium complexes. There are just two public beach accesses on Holiday Isle. One works to funnel visitors onto Norriego Point, away from Holiday Isle homes and condominiums. The other drops would-be beachgoers off at the Destin Pass, leaving them a half-mile walk to the Gulf of Mexico. Norriego Point, a thin strip of sand that separates the state’s busiest charter fishing harbor from the pass leading into it, has been reborn in the past couple of years with an infusion of BP settlement money. Enough sand has been placed on the once severely eroded point to create 11 more acres of beach, according to Patrick Russell, the community association manager for the Holiday Isle Improvement Association, the self-proclaimed “master association for properties located on Holiday Isle.” Public bathrooms and other amenities are planned to enhance the visitor experience, Russell said. The Norriego Point Public Beach Access is about midway down the point, and provides access strictly to the waters of the East Pass and Destin Harbor. There’s no convenient route to the Gulf of Mexico. A trek to the water along the O’Steen Public Beach Access, the westernmost of Holiday Isle’s two public paths, terminates on state-owned white sand stretching to a jetty sheltered cove within the East Pass.

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