Florida's No. 1 Coastal Economy Shines Beyond Summer

South Walton's 16 beach neighborhoods create a multi-billion dollar tourism economy.

Feb 25, 2016, 12:32 ET from South Walton, Florida

SOUTH WALTON, Fla., Feb. 25, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- As an upscale but casual coastal community in Northwest Florida, it may surprise some that more than 3.2 million annual visitors consider South Walton their perfect beach. Located along the turquoise water of the Gulf of Mexico with 26 miles of sugar-white sand, affluent travelers who appreciate the good life frequent the destination. These loyal visitors have helped this destination to become Florida's largest summer coastal economy for the past two years, but it is truly the "off" season where the most significant visitation trends appear; around wine festivals, creative affairs and unique eco-opportunities in the spring and fall.

This $2.9 billion annual tourism economy is driven by creative individuals whose passion for a better lifestyle impacts the satisfaction of every visitor.  On average, out-of-state visitors have a discretionary spend of up to $5,400 per visit.

The recipe for a powerful South Walton economy is simple: culinary prowess; passion for sunsets instead of jet sets; state parks instead of amusement parks; and appeals beyond the world-class beach, such as small festivals with large acclaim.

Fresh isn't just a universal adjective in South Walton; it's a way of life. Gulf-to-table seafood serve the destination's 200+ restaurants with menus that change daily according to what local fishermen bring off the waters or growers bring to the various farmers markets – or better yet the chef's kitchen door.  It's an example of when being "small" is a great advantage, and has led to nationally featured chefs, as well as award-winning culinary and wine festivals.

South Walton prides itself on preserving the natural ecosystem, protecting more than 40 percent of the current landscape through 15 rare coastal dune lakes (only found in places such as Madagascar and New Zealand), four state parks and a 15,000-acre forest bordering the Gulf of Mexico.

Stewardship of the ecosystem provides thousands of acres of water to paddle and more than 200 miles of paths to peddle.  Run/SUP and the 30A YOLO Bike and Beach Club were created by locals for fun and fitness, exploration, competition and represent the flavor visitors' savor. 

True art is abundant in South Walton's old-Florida style and New Urbanism communities. With more than 60 studios and galleries inspiration is everywhere. Artist of the Year Melody Bogle, finds her inspiration while painting in the salt air among 20-foot sand dunes and the coastal dune lakes. Digital Graffiti, the world's very first projection art festival, was described as "SXSW meets Art Basel" by Pursuitist. The 2015 festival had representatives from more than 20 countries whose inspiration canvased the stark-white stucco walls of Alys Beach.

The hyper-local lifestyle values the characteristics of southern charm – amazing food; appreciation for nature; and an eye for the finer aspects of life.  In return, the local economy along Scenic Highway 30A and across the southern county has quietly become notable, without sacrificing what many consider paradise.

Contact: Carey Cifranic, 850-622-7807

SOURCE South Walton, Florida