From the Mountains to the Beach: the Story Behind Destin’s “Sugar Sand”


What makes Destin’s beaches so white?

Take one step onto the beautiful beaches of Destin, Florida and you are immediately surrounded by pristine water and sand so white it looks like sugar and so fine your feet sink right in. This unique appearance is exactly why the sand on the beaches of the Emerald Coast is referred to as “sugar sand,” but have you ever wondered the story behind where this “sugar sand” came from?

white sand

The beaches of Florida’s Emerald Coast are made from the Appalachian mountains and this sand is actually rock – nearly 100% quartz mixed with finely ground seashells. The story begins 12,000 years ago in the final centuries of the last ice age when the planet was warming, and the miles-deep North American ice sheet was in full retreat.

Along the spine of the Appalachians, the ice and rock beneath it formed what can only be described as a massive crucible that pulverized the quartz into a fine talc-like powder (under a microscope, the individual grains are finely worn into ovals—like tiny identical bits of sea glass). The melting ice became a torrent, sending a slurry down various waterways all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, much of it delivered by what we now know as the Apalachicola River. Upon arrival at the coast, tides and currents sent the powdered quartz in every direction—but mostly eastward. As time came and went, a unique coastline was formed, and today, we are so lucky that our Destin area beaches are comprised of this fine white sand.

A casual walk on an Emerald Coast beach is an unmatched experience. The sand is so fine that it squeaks under your feet. Crystal clear waters meet the coast with each wave, and the white sand causes the water to appear almost as if it glows within. This pairing of the sand and the Gulf create this perfect maritime world that stretches on for miles and miles in both directions. There are other beaches further to the east and west, but nothing compares to the beauty of the Emerald Coast.

chairs on beach

The story of Destin’s soft, white sand, and the beaches that bring millions of visitors to the Emerald Coast each year, is still in the making. The Appalachian Mountains continue to release its buried veins of quartz and in every moment of every day, the Apalachicola River delivers that tiny, precious cargo to the sea. If you’d like to see this gorgeous white sand in person, start your vacation rental search with Destin Dreamers. Our luxury Destin and Miramar Beach vacation rentals are the perfect home base for your beach vacation.