I noticed the warm breeze in my hair, salty ocean smell and an occasional speck of sand tumbling off my skin upon embarking on my bike ride.
I had arrived from Toronto the day before and just enjoyed an afternoon at the beach, which I was now riding past with the Gulf of Mexico on my left and Stewart Lake on my right. The road I was on, called Scenic Highway 98 (or Old 98), has a boardwalk for pedestrians and a designated, paved bicycle path stretching across the Destin, Florida, waterfront.
Something about this bike ride encompassed what this city, and my trip, meant to me.
I had the sun warming up my skin, the wind blowing through my hair, with no purpose or destination in mind but to explore and enjoy the area. It feels free to have no time-restraints, no rushing — and I am definitely not alone in this sentiment.
Snowbirds flock to Destin year after year for that feeling, and the area has been gaining a lot of recognition for its icing-sugar white beaches. The sand is some of the whitest in the world, coming from the Appalachian Mountains and consisting of finely ground quartz, contrasting handsomely with the emerald green waters.
This is a place where people go to be happy. I truly felt like I could, and would love to, keep biking on forever.
Three miles on my way, I stopped to sit in an adorable white gazebo with a Spanish tile roof at the edge of Four Prong Lake, home to fish, turtles and other wildlife.
Looking out at this small body of water, it had a similar appearance to Canadian cottage country back home on a smaller scale, with large, lavish homes nestled tightly together and a bunch of greenery in between. It is the serene view of a motionless lake juxtaposed with the bustling beach and the sound of its breaking waves behind you.
Because all good things have to come to an end, I biked a mile more until I came across a little café with a handful of chairs and tables sprawled outside underneath a green awning a few feet from the bike path, and a sign that let me know you get $1 off if you arrive on a bicycle. Being now parched, I interpreted that as a sign of fate, parked my bicycle and ordered a strawberry smoothie.
I didn’t know at the time, but Camille’s goes from beach bar to full-fledged restaurant at 5 p.m., where they serve fresh seafood from the Harbor Docks Seafood Market, and sushi ($6 on Mondays). If the food is as satisfying as that smoothie, I will surely return before my time here is done.
I had made my way a significant distance across town, and could have easily turned up at Camille’s to go into a busier part of town where the Shoppes at Paradise Isle, Destin Commons (home to popular stores like Forever 21, Williams Sonoma, Hard Rock Café), and Ross’ plaza all are, but at that moment I was content with my smoothie and wanted to return home while the air was still warm and the sun was still shining.
Little did I know that nearly every day in Destin would be sunny, and my biggest dilemma would be deciding: Should I go on a bike ride and visit some shops, or spend another afternoon at the beach? Life in Destin can be so difficult…
Erika Simon is a freelance writer and photographer based in Toronto, Canada, who has been in Destin/Miramar for the last month. See more of her work at erikagsimon.com.