From the pristine emerald waters of our Gulf of Mexico to rare coastal dune lakes to the beautiful Choctawhatchee Bay and river system, South Walton is one of the most eco-diverse places you’ll ever find.

A great way to explore and learn more about South Walton’s rare coastal dune lakes is by joining Murray Balkcom of WalCo Eco Tours for a kayak or YOLO cruise across Western Lake. Murray takes both groups and individuals, explaining local plant and wildlife as he goes.

Guide Karl Renelt has also been introducing people to South Walton’s extraordinary beauty since the 1980s. Karl’s a certified Florida Master Naturalist and is certified for coastal kayaking by the American Canoe Association. His tours include hiking, biking, kayaking and sailing on either the Gulf or the Choctawhatchee Bay.

Or, there’s Jason Stacy at Old Florida Outfitters. He’s a fly fishing pro, and nothing seems to make him happier than watching a student catch his or her first fish. His Orvis-endorsed school is held at WaterColor and offers both 2-day and 1-day options.

At Coffeen Nature Preserve, you can also explore 210-acres of protected land that’s rich with odd history. During WWII, the Air Force acquired the land and used it to test JB-2 missiles, eventually launching as many as 600 from Coffeen’s high sandy ridge. Tours are provided by appointment only. Phone: 850-622-3700.

Just a few miles north of Choctawhatchee Bay is E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center, a truly remarkable educational and environmental facility designed to serve kids, academics, scientists and anyone eager to learn more about the world in which we live.