Editor’s note: Here is the second post written by a GUEST writer(Pearce) here on NOadventure. Also look around town for the new stickers I had made or email me if you want to know how to get one.
Many people believe that there is no clear water anywhere near Louisiana. Those who buy into this claim most likely have spent a substantial amount of time vacationing near areas like Grand Isle or tubing down rivers like the Bogue Chitto, a distributary of the Mississippi. Don’t get me wrong, reeling in the occasional tarpon or tying on a good day-buzz on a float trip down a lazy river are fun, but don’t sell yourself short. Not all the water in or near Louisiana is muddy or tannic. Head east, to Destin, Florida.
The last 30 years of unregulated development in the Florida panhandle have made the approach to Destin along highway 98 seem more like using AOL in 2000 without a pop up blocker than it does like the landscapes that inspired local artist/naturalist Walter Anderson some 70 years ago. Unfortunately, 30-foot dunes of bleach-white sand topped with sea oats are largely obscured by monolithic skyscraper hotels and go-kart tracks. Don’t be deterred, what’s on the other side of this façade of shenanigans is worth the drive.
One of the best places to snorkel in the panhandle is at <Destin Pass>. This crystal blue and aqua green channel of water separates Ft. Walton from Destin. On either side of this channel is a line of jetties built to protect the beaches from erosion created by the wave action of passing boats. These jetties are the entry point for your aquatic exploration. Use the map to navigate down the road from 98 to a small strip of protected land known as Holiday Isle. Park your car on the side of the road and walk down the trail of sand until it opens up and the wall of jetties is in sight.
The walk from the car to the beach is a bit long for some, especially when trekking through sand. Walk toward the gulf, keeping the jetties to your right. If you are new to snorkeling and want to ease into the game, bear right earlier on before the water gets too deep. Here you can get used to swimming with a mask on, blowing the saltwater out of your snorkel, and donning your fins with relative ease. If you are a little bit more advanced, head further down toward the Gulf, and hop over the wall of boulders.
This part can get tricky. Put your cloths in a safe place high enough that a wave from a passing boat won’t send them swimming. Ease into the water, watching out for the barnacles on the rocks. Find a flat rock to sit down on, put on your fins, and place your mask and snorkel in place. Be careful, as passing boats can send a wake that will make you buoyant one moment and then send you instantly crashing back down into the rocks. Make sure you are steady at all times. When the water is calm enough, ease in, and take in the underwater scenery.
A few things to note in the arena of safety:
1) There are boats traveling through the pass at high speeds. While they are used to seeing divers in the area, it is best to float a diver’s flag or at least swim within 100 ft. of someone else’s.
2) Watch the tide. If it is going out to sea, stay close to the jetties and keep an eye on your surroundings. If you begin to get too close to the Gulf, get out immediately and walk back. A strong tide can carry even a strong swimmer out to sea. USE FINS! (Editors’s note: Snorkeling conditions in the Jetty are relative to the tide. The best time to go is high tide, so if you plan to snorkel for 3 hours, get there 1 hour before peak tide. I have been there at low tide and it sucks. In optimal conditions, the visibility is 50+ feet.)
3) If someone is fishing in an area before you get there, be courteous and keep your distance.
4) Jellyfish(as big as Frisbees) can sometimes inhabit the area and they do sting. Sharks, though very rare and seldom dangerous, are also sometimes spotted.
Use copious amounts of sunblock(Editor’s note: fuck sunblock.) and remember to bring with you to the jetties: flip flops, a wet bag or a dry bag to store your belongings, mask, snorkel, fins, and one car key. Try to bring only what you will need with you and lock everything else in the vehicle. The flip flops in the wet bag will keep your belongings afloat should they fall in.
On the way home, and if the timing is right, stop at the Hip Pocket Deli at 4130 Barrancas Avenue in Pensacola for some of the cheapest biggest sandwiches on the east coast of the Mississippi. The sandwiches are huge, the prices are low, and gas is expensive, so why not?
To cap it off, a video of Andrew diving under: