When we moved here 20 years ago, there was no place we'd rather be than the beach.

When hurricanes threatened the Gulf of Mexico, we'd stand in awe on the boardwalks, watching the angry froth of the waves cover the white sand.

On sunny days we'd visit the piers on Navarre Beach, Okaloosa Island or in Panama City. My husband would fish and I would walk the shoreline, searching for shells or marine life. We lived in sunscreen, bathing suits and hats.

We'd go to Walton County when we were feeling rich. Just being out there in the land of pastel perfect homes made us feel like we were living on a movie set.

But one stretch of beach we rarely visited was Destin's. I don't know why.

Now, there are many reasons not to go to the beach there, with the No. 1 being that you can't get there. You can't park there. You can't sit there. You can't even really stand there, unless you're mindful of where you're standing. It's a little bit like standing too long in front of the White House or Buckingham Palace. Big brother is watching you and the safest move is to take a quick picture and keep on going.

But reading this newspaper's stories in recent weeks over the battle for the beaches in Destin and South Walton gives me a new appreciation for the beaches we loved best — Okaloosa Island's and Navarre's.

On those beaches we were never told we couldn't be somewhere. We always had room to sit, to walk, to swim. In fact, if we were willing to get up early in the morning, we could walk forever and rarely see another person.

As someone who loves this entire area, I'm hoping that common sense prevails. That everyone realizes no one wins if the beaches that draw people here are off limits to most visitors.

And while I'd hate to see all of those people who can't use Destin and South Walton beaches head west to Okaloosa Island and Navarre, it would bother me even more to send them home hating on the Emerald Coast.

We do have the world's most beautiful beaches. Our sand is whiter than your sand. Our waters are bluer than most of your swimming pools. Now we just have to work on making our visitors feel at home on the stretch of sand they traveled hundreds of miles to enjoy.

Daily News Managing Editor Wendy Victora can be reached at 315-4478 or wvictora@nwfdailynews.com