‘A sea of shiny happy people’: Memorial Day weekend proves to be 'one of the best' in years

Matt Algarin
Most of the beaches during the perfect weather Memorial Day Weekend looked like this one near the Marler Bridge on Okaloosa Island.

As many along the Emerald Coast had anticipated, the unofficial start of the summer tourism season was nothing short of a success.

"We had an amazing weekend with record-breaking numbers," HarborWalk Village's Jamie Hall told The Log, adding that they saw more than 6,500 visitors a day. "It was one of the best weekends we've had along the harbor boardwalk."

Whether they were soaking up some sun on the sugar-white beaches, dining in area restaurants or playing golf at one of Sandestin's famed golf courses, the visitors were here, and in large numbers.

 Driving into and through Destin was slow-going under the crush of cars, even as the visitors quickly spilled off the roadway to find some grub.

Local restaurateur Dewey Destin told The Log that the tables in his restaurants were full, and customers were happy.

"We were very close, or right at, last year's numbers on the harbor, and we beat last year's numbers on the bayside," Destin said. "I'm very pleased. I think we are going to have a good, strong summer, unless we have a hurricane or something comes down from Washington."

Despite the large number of visitors, Destin Beach Safety Chief Joe D'Agostino said "everything went very smooth," as his lifeguards patrolled the beach. Outside of a few minor incidents like a child cutting his foot on a shell, he said there wasn't much to report.

"This whole spring has been pretty easy," D'Agostino said.

One point of interest that lifeguards reported was the increased number of people recreating near the east jetty and East Pass, which is now patrolled by a lifeguard on a jet ski, after a series of drownings over the past few years.

Back on land, Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort's Laurie Hobbs said her "optimistic" outlook for the holiday weekend paid off as the resort's various department heads issued glowing reports.

"We experienced the best Memorial Day weekend we've had in five years," Hobbs said. "We are anticipating a very good summer season ahead."

So, whether its sports, dining, shopping or fireworks shows and summer concerts, the tourists are in town and ready for a little fun in the sun.

"This kick-off to the summer season was a great indication of an amazing, amazing season to come," Hall told The Log. "It was just a sea of shiny happy people."