This Mile-long Beach on Florida's Emerald Coast Has 20,000-year-old Quartz Sand — and It Was Just Named One of the Best in the U.S.

Plus, it's in a town dubbed the "luckiest fishing village in the world."

Florida's Emerald Coast, stretching about 100 miles along the northwestern part of the state, has no shortage of picture-perfect beaches and dreamy Caribbean-like views that draw more than seven million visitors annually. And most of them — or about 4.5 million — end up in Destin, a former fishing village turned popular beach town, home to one of the country's best beaches, according to Tripadvisor's latest report.

Aerial view of boardwalk in Henderson State Park

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Henderson Beach State Park covers some 208 protected acres of towering sand dunes, nature trails snaking among scrub landscapes, campsites, picnic areas, and abundant wildlife. But the park's crown jewel is its vast, mile-long beach washed by the emerald waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The sugary sand — some of the cleanest, finest, and whitest in the area, even by Emerald Coast standards — consists of quartz particles brought here from the Appalachian Mountains 20,000 years ago.

Henderson State Park beach,

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Swimming is possible almost year-round, with average water temperatures ranging from 64 degrees in January and February (perhaps swimming weather for the courageous cold-plungers) to 85 degrees in the summer.

Dubbed "the luckiest fishing village in the world," Destin has long been known as one of the top spots in the country for sportfishing thanks to its unique location and underwater topography that afford quick access to deep-sea fishing just 10 miles offshore. The waters here abound with tuna, pompano, catfish, flounder, and whiting, and many local restaurants serve the freshest seafood.

And while Destin's vibrant downtown has plenty of resorts to stay at, travelers who want to experience Henderson Beach State Park in all its natural beauty can book one of 60 pet-friendly campsites that can accommodate tents and RVs up to 60 feet long. The sites tucked away in lush greenery have water, electricity, shared restrooms, showers, and other family-friendly facilities.

Wild grasses on Henderson state park beach sea coast.

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Another favorite activity here is hiking. The park has a paved three-quarter-mile trail that zigzags between the dunes and wanders by a playground for Henderson's youngest visitors.

Daily admission fees at Henderson Beach State Park vary between $2 for pedestrians and $6 per vehicle, with many visitors staying until dawn as the park is known for its jaw-dropping sunset views.

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