The Emerald Coast is home to some of the world’s safest beaches. Accidents are rare, and most travelers respect the beach’s delicate ecosystem. But on occasion, beach rules and regulations are disregarded or unknowingly ignored. Don’t let your beach vacation at Okaloosa Island end in hefty fines, or much worse, tragedy. Follow the guide below to assure a safe and law-abiding vacation on Okaloosa Island!

Okaloosa Island Beach Flag System

Beach safety flags have been warning beach goers in Florida since 2002, and in 2005 the state passed a bill requiring flags to be displayed at all public beaches. 5 Flags each hold a different meaning from “Dangerous Marine Life” to “Water Closed to Public”.


beach rules
courtesy of City of Destin


Typically the purple flag can be raised in conjunction with the other four. A heavy saturation of floating Jellyfish is typically the reason for the purple flag, but can also signal the presence of a shark, alligator, or sand flea infestation. The double red flag is raised only under extreme conditions including severe weather or unusually strong rip currents. It is necessary to NEVER enter the water under red flag conditions. Most accidents in the water occur when visitors are NOT adhering to the beach flags, so this system should be taken very seriously, even for expert swimmers.

Sun Protection

A day at the beach can quickly turn into a week of pain! The Florida sun shines bright, and even through clouds can burn and damage skin in a matter of minutes. Resist the rays with help from the Florida Society of Dermatology & Dermatological Surgery!

  • Sunscreen for infants: Look for the ingredients zinc and/or titanium dioxide.
  • When to toss: Discard sunscreen that is past its expiration date or is over two years old.
  • Use your noggin: The best combination for protecting your head is sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat. Often-neglected areas are the ears, back of the neck, lips and scalp at the part in the hair.
  • Pick the right shades: Look for sunglasses that are described as blocking 99% or 100% of UVA and UVB, or as providing UV absorption up to 400 nm.
  • Cover up: Wear tightly woven darker clothing in the sun, as it reflects more UV rays, and look for fabrics made of nylon or Dacron, which are more protective than cotton.
  • Beware reflections: Water, sand and even porch decks can reflect and intensify the damaging rays of the sun.
  • Check your shadow: The sun is strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If your shadow appears to be shorter than you are, seek shade.
  • Be a role model: Teach your children good habits for sun protection. Eighty percent of a person’s lifetime sun exposure is acquired before age 18.
  • African-Americans and Hispanics need protection too: People with naturally darker skin aren’t immune to the effects of the sun and can still burn.
  • Apply and reapply: Whatever type of sunscreen you prefer (gel and cream are the best choices), be sure to reapply every two to three hours during times of prolonged exposure.

Rip Currents

Rip currents are a strong water current that are found near beaches. They can occur in both salt and freshwater, and are one of the leading causes of drowning on the Gulf Coast. Rip currents work by moving floating objects outside the zone of breaking waves, typically into deeper waters. Swimmers will know they are caught in a rip current by identifying the strong pull from their current location. A rip is often compared to a fast moving treadmill, pulling all floating objects including fish, sea weed, and sea foam with it. If caught in a rip current, try one of these two methods…

  1. Swim parallel to the shore until you feel release from the current. DO NOT swim against the current.
  2. Float on your back or lightly tread water until the rip current dissipates. Once out of the current, signal for help.


beach rules
Image from Surf News Network


Okaloosa Island Beach Rules & Regulations

Okaloosa Island follows county regulations. The current beach regulations are put in place for the safety of beach goers and the stunning natural beaches of Okaloosa Island. The following are beach rules enforced by the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Department.

  • NO LITTER on the beach. Everyone should know this one, but we find stacks of abandoned trash, cans, cigarette butts, and bottles every day. We want to keep our beaches beautiful for everyone to enjoy.
  • NO GLASS on the beach. No glass containers and alcoholic beverages are prohibited in all County and City of Destin beach parks.
  • NO ANIMALS on the beach. Animals are not allowed on the beaches for health and safety reasons.
  • NO FIRES on the beach. We do not allow fires on the beach because we want to keep the sand white and also for health and safety reasons.
  • NO VEHICLES on the beach. Beach cleaning machines, approved beach services, and emergency vehicles are the only exceptions.
  • HEED WARNING FLAGS on the beach. Most often, a yellow flag is flying. This means enter the water with caution. The red flag means that conditions are dangerous; please do not venture into the surf. Only on the calmest days will you see the blue flag (still swim with caution).
  • NO BOATING near the beach. An Okaloosa County Ordinance requires motorboats (including jet skis, wave runners, etc.) to stay at least 700 feet from the Gulf shoreline.