For a comprehensive listing of outdoor activities in the area, go to www.waltonoutdoors.com.
Boating -- Pontoon boats are highly popular for use on the back bays and for Sunday-afternoon floating parties in East Pass. Several companies rent them, including Gilligan's Watersports (tel. 850/650-9000; www.gilligansofdestin.com) and Brooks Bridge Bait and Tackle (tel. 850/243-5721; www.destin-ation.com/adventuremarina). Expect to pay about $150 for a half-day, $250 for a full day.
Fishing -- Billing itself as the "World's Luckiest Fishing Village," Destin has Florida's largest charter-boat fleet, with more than 140 vessels based at the marinas lining the north shore of Destin Harbor, on U.S. 98, east of the Destin Bridge. Arranging a trip is as easy as walking along the Destin Harbor waterfront, where you'll find the booking booths of several agents, the best being Harborwalk Charters (tel. 800/242-2824 or 850/837-2343; www.harborwalkfishing.com). Rates for private charters range from about $100 per person to $300 per person, depending on the length of the voyage.
For additional information on small- and large-group charters, check out FishDestin.com (tel. 850/837-9401 or 850/585-0049; www.fishdestin.com). If you're a die-hard angler, consider coming in October for the Destin Fishing Rodeo (tel. 850/837-6734; www.destinfishingrodeo.org), a month-long fishing extravaganza.
You don't have to go to sea to fish from the catwalk of the 3,000-foot Destin Bridge, over East Pass. The marinas and bait shops at Destin Harbor can provide gear, bait, and fishing licenses. In Fort Walton Beach, you can cast a line off Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier, 1030 Miracle Strip Pkwy. E./U.S. 98 (tel. 850/244-1023; www.okaloosaislandpier.com), open 24 hours a day. Adults pay $7.50 to fish, seniors $6.50; children 12 and under pay $4.50. Observers pay $2. Bait and equipment rentals are available for $7 to $8.
For those angling for something different, WaterColor Inn's Orvis Fly Fishing School (tel. 850/534-5008; www.orvis.com/store/product.aspx?pf_id=9C0G) offers a 2-day course year-round on select Tuesdays/Wednesdays and Saturdays/Sundays and is open to participants of all levels at $470 per person, including equipment and lunch.
Golf -- For advance information on area courses, contact the Emerald Coast Golf Association, P.O. Box 304, Destin, FL 32540. Also look for South Coast Golf Guide, the free annual directory published in Pensacola. Be sure to ask whether your choice of accommodations offers golf packages, which can mean significant savings.
For course information, go to www.golf.com or www.floridagolfing.com, or call the Florida Sports Foundation (tel. 850/488-8347) or Florida Golfing (tel. 866/833-2663).
On the mainland, nonresidents are welcome to play at the city-owned Fort Walton Beach Golf Club, on Lewis Turner Boulevard (C.R. 189) north of town (tel. 850/833-9530). The club has two 18-hole courses -- the Pines and the Oaks (tel. 850/833-9528) -- plus a pro shop. Greens fees at both courses are about $18 to $27 year-round, including cart.
In Destin, Indian Bayou Golf and Country Club, off Airport Road (tel. 850/837-6191; www.indianbayougolf.com), has three 9-hole courses with large greens and wide fairways. They look easy, but watch out for water hazards and hidden bunkers! Greens fees, including cart, are about $30 to $65.
Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, on U.S. 98 East, in southern Walton County (tel. 850/267-8211 for tee times; www.sandestin.com), is the largest facility here. Its 72 holes are spread over three outstanding championship courses. The Baytowne and Links courses overlook Choctawhatchee Bay. Fees for 18 holes are $49 to $135, with specials for hotel guests.
Some of the 18 championship holes at Emerald Bay Golf Club, 2 miles east of the Mid-Bay Bridge on U.S. 98 (tel. 850/837-5197; www.emeraldbaygolfclub.com), run along Choctawhatchee Bay; the water adds both beauty and challenges to the otherwise wide and forgiving fairways. Greens fees are $35 to $105, depending on time and season.
In southern Walton County, the semiprivate Santa Rosa Golf & Beach Club, off 30A in Dune Allen Beach (tel. 850/267-2229; www.santarosaclub.com), offers a challenging 18-hole course through tall pines looking out to vistas of the Gulf. The club has a pro shop, a beachside restaurant, a lounge, and tennis courts. Fees are about $49 to $99.
In Niceville, a 20-minute drive north via the Mid-Bay Bridge, nonguests may play golf (four 9-hole courses; $45-$62) or tennis (21 courts; $6-$10 per hour) at the Bluewater Bay Resort (tel. 850/897-3241; www.bwbresort.com), which also has condominiums for rent.
Call ahead for reservations and current fees at all these clubs; also ask about afternoon and early-evening specials.
Hiking -- Meanderers will find plenty of opportunities to get lost in this area, from the new Deer Lake State Park and nature trails of WaterColor to Point Washington State Forest, 5865 E. U.S. Hwy. 98 (tel. 850/231-5800; www.beachesofsouthwalton.com/point_washington.aspx), a 15,810-acre forest featuring the Eastern Lake Bike/Hike Trails established by the Florida Division of Forestry. Trails consist of three double-track loop trails of 3.5, 5, and 10 miles, and weave through a variety of plant communities, cypress ponds, wet prairies, and swamps. Maps are available at the field office.
Horseback Riding -- Seaside Stables, 613 Hwy. 393 (tel. 850/622-2202; www.seasidestables.com), offers horseback rides through the forest by appointment only. Prices start at $50 for an hour.
Kayaking -- Sunny Days Bikes and Kayaks, 2129 S. County Hwy. 83, Santa Rosa Beach (tel. 850/267-0040; www.sunnydaysbikes.com), rents kayaks for $65 a day.
Sailing -- The 54-foot schooner Nathaniel Bowditch (tel. 850/650-8787; www.bowditchsailing.com) will take you on sunset cruises Monday through Saturday, $40 per person, or $50 per person for a wine-and-cheese cruise.
Scuba Diving & Snorkeling -- Military buffs will find the waters off Destin littered with sunken barges, tugs, Liberty ships, landing craft, airplanes, army tanks, and bridge rubble populated with grouper, flounder, and cobia. At least a dozen dive shops are along the beaches. Considered one of the best, Scuba Tech Diving Charters has two locations in Destin: at 301 U.S. 98 E. (tel. 850/837-2822; www.scubatechnwfl.com) and at 10004 U.S. 98 E. (tel. 850/837-1933), about a half-mile west of the Sandestin Beach Resort.
Watersports -- Hobie Cats, WaveRunners, jet boats, jet skis, and parasailing are available all along the beach. The largest selection of operators is at the marina just east of the Destin Bridge, behind the Hooters. These include Boogies (tel. 850/654-4497; www.boogieswatersports.com) and Gilligan's of Destin (tel. 850/650-9000; www.gilligansofdestin.com).
If surfing the wild surf is a bit too adventurous for you, check out YOLO Boarding, 820 N. County Hwy. 393, in Santa Rosa Beach (tel. 850/622-5760; www.yoloboard.com), a not-so-new kind of "surfing" (aka stand-up paddleboarding) that suits those who love the water but not the wave action. YOLO (an acronym for You Only Live Once) involves standing up and paddling on a big, safe, comfortable longboard, offering a whole new point of view -- from paddling with dolphins or sneaking up on blue crabs to dropping in at your favorite surf-break or just enjoying the view toward the beach. YOLO-ing, or stand-up paddling, has evolved from its surfing roots to a far more gentle way to enjoy time on the water from a new perspective.