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A Visit Inside the Visit South Walton Visitor Center

June 22, 2017 by Manny Chavez

Entering the South Walton Visitor Center is like walking into a room full of long-lost relatives. There's lots of “happy-to-see-you” faces and special greetings that wrap around you like a warm and fuzzy welcome blanket.

The Visitor Center, located where Highways 331 and 98 meet, is an arm of Visit South Walton and is manned by four Information Specialists: Christy Gibson, Norma Jean Umble, Jonathan Corman, and Joyce Clark. Each specialist knows just how to make sure each visitor feels right at home here in SoWal.

“Our Visitor Center provides information pertaining to our partners and distributes general information about South Walton, explains Visit South Walton Director of Communications David Demarest. “Everything from our beach access points, state parks, trails, etc. But the most important ingredient of our Visitor Center is our people…they put a face here and have an incredible depth of knowledge that they can share with everyone that calls or walks in. While we probably have a pamphlet that will answer most questions, we have a real person to steer you in the right direction and to tell you what they think is best based on your questions, or, point you towards the right pamphlet to take home with you.”

Some of the informational materials featured in the Center include the Official South Walton Visitors Guide (the tell-all information booklet), and numerous publications with info about beach safety, beach and bay access points, dune lakes, hiking and biking trails, sea turtles, restaurants, and accommodations. The official guide publication has a nifty pull-out mini-South Walton area map that will fit nicely in your shirt pocket. This little gem is worth the trip all by itself!

Most visitors know about the beach, but they also want to know what else there is to do here. “We familiarize them with our coastal dune lakes and give them our Ultimate Beach Bucket List brochure which will guide them to other activities and places to visit,” explains Lead Informational Specialist Christy Gibson. “First-timers are not aware of our 16 beach communities with 26 miles of pristine beaches. We hear, ‘where can we stay?’ or ‘Where’s the best place to stay and be close to dining and shopping?’ We truly have become vacation planners for people all over the country.”

Unusual questions vary considerably and go from, “Do you have an Alabama map?” to “where are those nude beaches?” Of course, nude beaches are a thing of the past, but inquisitive minds have no limits.

The Visitor center also makes available a monthly Events of South Walton publication that really comes in handy for both visitors and locals.
Beyond visitor information, the Center also sells a huge array of quality gift memorabilia. Hats, cups, beach towels, tote bags, koozies, visors, car tags, and mugs are just a few of the assorted offerings.

The Visit South Walton Visitor Center is a great place to call or visit.  Although they are geared towards visitors, locals would do well to visit and meet these great SoWal ambassadors. For more information, call 850-267-1216, visit www.visitsouthwalton.com, or see them on Facebook. Location: 25777 US Hwy. 331 South (at the intersection of Hwy. 331 and Hwy. 98).

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Manny Chavez

Manny and his wife Kris moved to the Emerald Coast in 1992. After 16 years as staff photographer for The Houston Post, Manny has successfully transitioned to creative weddings and beach portraits.

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