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Get to know Miramar Beach

Miramar Beach is a beach town in its purest form, and its five square miles have been a popular destination for decades. That’s made it rich in shopping and dining options, as well as just about every other convenience you’d need. Because it has the Gulf to the south and Choctawhatchee Bay to the north, there’s not a lot of room to grow, and that translates into a vibrant urban feel. Those bodies of water, of course, are big attractions for day-trippers, as are the outlet malls, the big beach hotels, and the endless surf shops. But there’s also a strong community that calls Miramar Beach home, and the locals know all the secrets of getting out into the wilderness in nearby state forests, preserves, and parks. You’ll find a big variety of condos along the shore and single-family homes on tree-lined cul-de-sacs, as well as some incredible mansion-sized beach houses.

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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.