Stretching some 30 miles from end-to-end and spanning 4 to 6 miles across at any given point, Choctawhatchee Bay is home to a teeming abundance of redfish, speckled trout, shrimp, oysters, gulf menhaden, blue crab, flounder, striped mullet, white mullet, and of course, the ever-delightful dolphins.
Choctawhatchee Bay’s also home to endangered species, including the giant gulf sturgeon (think huge alligator-looking fish), which seasonally migrate through the bay up into the Choctawhatchee River system to spawn.
The bay and its adjoining bayous and rivers are ideal for boating, fishing, YOLO boarding, kayaking and eco tours. For deep-sea excursions, the Gulf can easily be accessed through the pass in Destin, or using the gorgeous Intercoastal Canal to travel east to the pass in Panama City Beach. Both Destin and PCB have lively harbors lined with fun restaurants and bars for boaters to enjoy.
If you don’t own a boat, there are still plenty of ways to access and enjoy the bay (aside from simply rubber-necking as you cross the 331 bridge).
For tranquil vistas of the grassy shallows, visit Eden Gardens State Park or Hogtown Bayou (on County Road 393 North), where you can watch the wildlife and, if you’re lucky, a pod of dolphins fishing for mullet. Just north across Choctawhatchee Bay, the new Live Oak Landing offers campsites, quaint cottages, guided fishing excursions and more, all along the gorgeous Black River. For bay-side dining and nightlife (as well as jet skis, kayaks and other water rentals), visit the excellent marina at Baytowne Wharf. From here, you can even jump aboard the Solaris or SunVenture for sunset, dolphin and dinner cruises!
If gator-spotting is on your Bucket List (although hopefully it’s not the last item on your list), schedule a river tour with Smiling Fish Charters. Choctawhatchee’s undeveloped rivers and canals are absolutely beautiful and are also abundant with wildlife of all varieties, including ospreys and bald eagles.