Isn’t it funny how something that happens in someone else’s life can end up having such a dramatic effect on your life and those around you? A little over four years ago, my cousin, Ali Nordlander (now Joseph) got stationed at Eglin Airforce Base outside of Destin Florida as a Labor and Delivery Nurse. We went and visited her and her then-boyfriend, now-husband, Tommy Joseph shortly after they made the move down there, and quickly saw that Destin is a special place.
Not too long after that Ali’s parents, my Aunt, and Uncle moved there. And a few years later Ali’s sister, my cousin Anna, also moved there. The secret was out, Destin is awesome! As such Liz and I have spent, from a couple of days up to a couple of months, there each year. It is a magical place with some of the best white-sand beaches on the planet, clear warm gulf-water, and friendly people. We are lucky to have family living there, thanks Ali for getting the party started!
So after spending three months in Europe, we decided some beach time was in order. My Aunt Mary negotiated the rental of a neighbor’s amazing house for two and a half months. His regal house sits on the bay, has a boat dock, pool, wrap-around deck, and is only a five-minute walk to a private beach. Not to mention the house was 10 times larger than any of our European accommodations.
The crux of our time in Destin was getting there. Since we would be there so long, we needed our truck, so we drove there. We broke the drive from Phoenix to Destin into three days. But I swear the drive across Texas felt like a week all by itself. Endless flat fields and a ton of 18-wheelers to jockey with on the highway.
Once settled, we made going to the beach a daily goal, so as not to take the amazing resource for granted. Most days we walked the beach for 60 to 90 minutes and/or snorkeled. We both loved this, as no two days are ever the same at the beach. The sand and waves change, the things that wash up on the beach change, the animals you see in the water change, the people you meet, the boats on the water and birds hunting for food all change every day. So over the course of three months, we only missed going to the beach about five days in total.
We relished spending time with the family and their amazing friends! We swam, ran, worked out, snorkeled, went boating, kayaked, played card games, drank beer, fished and set up tan lines that were sure to be permanent. Even twice being threatened by hurricanes didn’t dampen our enjoyment of Destin.
- Snorkeling an offshore artificial reef and having a 10-foot sailfish swim right past us.
- Paddling SUP boards in the open ocean while a shark swam laps around and under us. We also saw other sharks hurling themselves out of the water while spinning.
- Kayaking from our rental house to restaurants and bars.
- Sharing many beers and meals with family and friends!
- Seeing dolphins and manatees almost every day!!
As Destin is a tourist town in the summer it was nice to be there at the tail end of that period and into the fall. Once the crowds leave the weather and water stay warm for quite a while. Restaurants do not have endless wait times and the grocery store is less of a combat sport. In short, September through November is an amazing time to be in the Florida panhandle.
We also took a couple short trips to see some more of the area. We visited Pensacola, Apalachicola, and drove up to Tennessee and back for a ten-day farming adventure. That part of the USA certainly has its own feel and culture. Driving the back roads of Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia will take you on a trip into the past like you have never experienced.
After our short-term lease of the neighbors’ house was up, we found a 50% off deal on an amazing high-rise condo just across the street from the beach. So we stayed one more month, through Thanksgiving. This provided a whole new level of animal watching. From our expansive balcony 80 feet up we could watch fish, crabs, dolphins and even manatees cruise the water every day. The condo also turned into a great place for us to host Thanksgiving for our family and friends in the area.
After nearly four months with our feet in the sand, it was time to end this trip to Destin and start making our way towards the next adventure. We loaded up the truck at the end of November and made the long drive, over three days, back to Denver Colorado to see family and friends as it had been quite a long time since we had been there.
We spent a couple of days getting caught up with people, spent a couple of nights with a friend in Conifer and then made our way to our defacto home, Telluride. There we checked our PO Box and got caught up with a good friend about some future plans. We then stopped in Durango to do a little research for some future ideas we were considering.
A little more than ten days after leaving Destin we pulled into Phoenix. We stayed with my parents and enjoyed the Christmas holidays before we packed our bags for a 5-week trip to Europe.
Liz and I are mountain people, that is where we feel most at home. But a beach is a very close second. It was such a treat to be able to enjoy time with family and friends while being at one of the best beach destinations in the world. Thanks again Ali for leading the way!
No story about our time in Destin is complete without a picture of Murph!