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Get to know Blue Mountain Beach

Blue Mountain may be lofty — at a towering 65 feet above sea level at the top of one (very small) hill, it’s the highest point along the South Walton Beaches — but it hasn’t let its altitude infect its attitude. Since its settling, the community has been a low-key, laid-back destination, centered on the sugar-soft sand and amazing blue waters of the Gulf. The place’s color palette, which is enlivened by the purple-blue spikes of lupine flowers, has attracted artists for decades, and the bohemian vibe they brought with them still resonates through town. Away from the beach is a state forest full of pine and cypress, three coastal dune lakes, and plenty of places to hike and paddle. When you’ve had your dose of natural beauty, wander through town and enjoy the local color provided by quirky pubs, cafes, shops, and galleries.

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Living on the Emerald Coast

If the Northwest Coast of Florida has been overlooked, it’s because it’s just perfectly out of the way. Compared to other parts of the state, the scale of things is smaller and development came later, so the white-sand communities here seem thoughtfully planned rather than hodgepodge legacies of land rushes. Though the feel (and the traffic) is less metropolitan, today’s Northwest has plenty of top-notch culture, exceptional restaurants, and incredible retail experiences. This is a natural wonderland in its own distinct way, with wide rivers flowing through thick forests, vast stretches of preserved parkland, and a variety of beaches — from wild and rugged to picture-perfect strips of white. There’s plenty of golf and tennis, but the focus is on the pristine water and a boating culture that runs from yachts to fishing boats to kayaks, and from deep water to grassy flats to sparkling bays — and to the requisite bayous, teeming with waterfowl and fish. The sand is softer, the summer’s a little cooler, and the reservations are a little easier to come by — but it’s still 100 percent Florida.