Do You Know About Artificial Reefs of Destin Florida?

Thanks to the installation of artificial reefs, Destin is emerging as a popular spot for snorkeling and scuba diving. Last year, Okaloosa County established 115 reef sites, which are now thriving with a diverse array of fish and marine creatures. Furthermore, an extra 40 reef sites will soon be positioned offshore, catering specifically to scuba enthusiasts.

Last year, four out of the 115 reef sites established were inshore artificial reefs. Snorkeling, which demands minimal equipment such as a mask and snorkel, is accessible to swimmers of all skill levels.

Depending on the season and chance encounters, snorkelers might catch glimpses of dolphins, sea turtles, redfish, grouper, sheepshead fish, nurse sharks, crabs, and possibly even an octopus or a manatee.

Off the coast of Destin Florida,Walton Beach, artificial reefs encompass a variety of structures, including pre-fabricated concrete formations like the snorkel reefs, repurposed materials such as old bridge components, surplus military equipment and even retired vessels deliberately submerged to rest on the ocean floor.

Deploying an artificial reef is a meticulous and time-consuming endeavor. It involves several stages, including securing grant funds, contracting, obtaining permits, and preparing the reefs for deployment.

For instance, when deploying vessels, extensive cleaning and preparation are necessary to eliminate any fuels, oils, plastics, or other hazardous materials that could harm the environment we aim to improve. Subsequently, each reef undergoes thorough inspection and testing before being deemed ready for deployment.

Destin and Fort Walton Beach are evolving into sought-after snorkeling and scuba diving hubs, courtesy of the installation of artificial reefs.

Last year, Okaloosa County established 115 reef sites, now bustling with diverse marine life, attracting enthusiasts. Additionally, 40 more reef sites will soon cater to scuba divers, further enhancing the area’s appeal as a vibrant underwater playground.

What Are Artificial Reefs?

Artificial Reefs serve as human-made constructs aimed at fostering marine life and, in certain instances, enhancing surfing conditions. These reef structures are intricately designed to offer a sustainable food supply, as well as shelter and security, for numerous species.

The South Walton Artificial Reef Association, or SWARA, has been actively involved in the deployment of sixteen separate artificial reef sites with approximately seven hundred individual structures since the summer of 2015. These structures, constructed from materials such as concrete, steel, and limestone, are anchored into the seabed utilizing fiberglass pilings.

Where Can You Find Artificial Reefs?

Destin boasts numerous man-made reefs strategically positioned near public beaches for convenient access by visitors. The majority of these reefs are situated in close proximity to public parking facilities and restrooms, enhancing accessibility for guests.

Typically positioned anywhere from 200 to 300 yards offshore, these reefs are intended to be reachable from the shore. While some of the more distant reefs may require transportation via boat, paddleboard, or kayak, many remain accessible from the beach.

Utilizing a GPS device is recommended to help in locating these reefs, ensuring an enjoyable and hassle-free experience for visitors.

What Can You Do at Artificial Reefs?

Artificial reefs serve as a beloved snorkeling destination for numerous people each year, attracting families looking for adventure and enjoyment. With some reefs situated just 200 yards offshore, it is effortless to bring the whole family along for a memorable outing.

Beyond snorkeling, it is common to spot individuals bringing paddleboards and kayaks to explore the reefs. Some may choose to fish, while others simply revel in the tranquility and beauty of the surroundings. You may completely tailor the experience to your interests!

While these reefs are located in Florida’s waters and are open to the public free of charge, it is important to remember that you are accessing them at your own risk. Be sure to remain vigilant regarding tides and adhere to the local beach flag system for safety purposes.

The following are a few of the top snorkeling spots in Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Florida.

1. Henderson Beach State Park’s reef

Henderson Beach State Park, a prized Destin destination, offers serene dunes and now boasts a vibrant reef attracting snorkelers who have spotted sea turtles and dolphins.

2. John Beasley Park’s reef

John C. Beasley Park in Fort Walton Beach offers a delightful day out, bordering a protected beach leading to Destin’s East Pass. With two dune walkovers and a spacious beach pavilion featuring picnic tables and restrooms with changing rooms, visitors can easily access the nearby artificial reef located east of the pavilion. Ample parking is available, and entry is free of charge.

3. Okaloosa Island beach accesses four

On Okaloosa Island, nestled between Water’s Edge and The Nautilus on Santa Rosa Beach Blvd, lies Beach Access 4. Despite its unassuming name, this access point offers a reef closer to shore and features a convenient beach walkover with restroom facilities.

4. Destin’s crab trap reef

Just south of The Crab Trap in Destin lies another renowned artificial reef, perfect for snorkeling adventures. After a day of underwater exploration, The Crab Trap serves as an ideal spot to enjoy a meal and exchange stories about the diverse array of fish observed. Visitors often encounter large schools of fish in this area.

5. The Jetties

Situated adjacent to HarborWalk Village in the heart of Destin, the Destin Jetties stand out as the city’s premier snorkeling destination. Composed of large rocks barged from Kentucky to stabilize the East Pass, these jetties are easily visible when crossing the pass.

Renowned for their shallow waters near the rocks, they are especially popular among beginner snorkelers and families seeking a safe and enjoyable underwater experience.

In conclusion, the installation of artificial reefs has allowed Destin and Fort Walton Beach to become world-class locations for scuba diving and snorkeling. With Okaloosa County’s efforts in establishing over 115 reef sites teeming with marine life and an additional 40 sites on the horizon, the area offers abundant opportunities for underwater exploration.

Whether you are snorkeling near Henderson Beach State Park’s vibrant reef, exploring John Beasley Park’s serene coastline, or discovering the underwater wonders at Destin’s Crab Trap Reef and the Jetties, there is no scarcity of things to do in Destin Florida. From snorkeling adventures to beachside relaxation, these artificial reefs offer unforgettable experiences for all.


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