Autumn Fun in Florida

A family strolls along one of South Walton's white-sand beaches.


Summer may be the quintessential beach season, but it’s not the only time to enjoy Florida’s warm weather and pristine coastline. In fact, both The Beaches of South Walton and The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel—both popular summer destinations for Florida-bound travelers—have tons of fall events and activities to offer, not to mention plenty of opportunities to enjoy the beach, all without the summer crowds and the infamous (sometimes unfriendly) Florida heat.

Located along Northwest Florida’s Gulf Coast, South Walton’s 15 beach neighborhoods host a series of fall concerts and festivals. Those visiting from September through November can enjoy the 10th installment of the area’s popular Autumn Tides, which will feature plenty of musical, culinary, artistic and ecotourism events. The season’s signature events include Baytowne Wharf Beer Fest and Taste of the Beach.

Now in its fourth year, Baytowne Wharf Beer Fest is a weekend full of brew tastings and pairings with more than 100 beers available for sampling. The event will take place Saturday, Oct. 22, at the Village of Baytowne Wharf in Sandestin. Additional activities include a progressive beer tasting seminar at the Funky Blues Shack, a beer pairing dinner at Marlin Grill on Friday and a beer brunch on Sunday. More than 100 Corvettes will also be on display throughout the weekend as part of the Vettes at the Village car show.

South Walton’s Taste of The Beach event, meanwhile, brings six wine and culinary events to the area over the course of four days in early November, featuring national wine suppliers and boutique vineyards and a host of local chefs and restaurants serving fresh, local fare.

Other fall events around South Walton include the Baytowne Art Walk (Sept. 2-4), the Back to Nature Festival (Oct. 14-16) and the Rosemary Beach Uncorked wine festival (Oct. 22).

Starting Sept. 1, book your clients at Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa and they can enjoy the property’s Serenity Spa package, complete with beachview accommodations and two 50-minute massages at Serenity by the Sea spa. Rates start at $199 per night with a minimum 2-night stay required.

For more information about South Walton, including additional vacation packages, go to

Over on southwest Florida’s Gulf Coast, The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel is presenting the destination’s fourth annual Islands FallFest from September through November. The promotion combines annual events and festivals with hotel rates and packages commissionable to travel agents.

Taking place Oct. 21-23 and Oct. 28-30, visitors can check out the 26th annual Oktoberfest in Cape Coral. Hosted by the German-American Club, this huge celebration features German culture, food, music and dancing. Highlights include authentic live entertainment with large musical groups from Germany, along with lots of German food and beer. Gates open Friday, 4 p.m. to midnight, Saturday, noon to midnight, and Sunday, noon to 9 p.m. Tickets cost $5 in advance and $6 at the gate for ages 13 and older.

Clients looking for a family getaway? Recommend heading to the 2011 American SandSculpting Championship & Beach Festival, which continues to be among the most popular, family-friendly events in Florida, attracting an estimated 50,000 attendees over the 5-day event.

This year’s festival will feature 16 of the world’s best master sculptors along with Florida State and amateur sculptors uniting on Fort Myers Beach to create their imaginatively stunning works of art. The event will also include a street party and other evening activities. Tickets cost $3 for children and seniors; $5 for adults; and $10 for a family package.

Book your clients the FallFest package available at West Wind Inn on Sanibel Island and they’ll receive 2-night accommodations, a bottle of wine and admission to J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Rates start at $154 dbl per night through Nov. 1.

Other Fort Myers properties offering special rates during Islands FallFest include GullWing Beach Resort (from $149 dbl per night) and DiamondHead Beach Resort & Spa (from $159 dbl per night).

For more information on travel to the Fort Myers/Sanibel area, visit