By 6:30 a.m., early-morning walkers and fishing enthusiasts were out in force along Walton County’s Miramar Beach. Walton County’s beaches opened at one minute after midnight on Friday morning.

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MIRAMAR BEACH — Beaches in Okaloosa and Walton counties and the city of Destin, closed since March in local efforts to control the spreading coronavirus, reopened on Friday.

By 6:30 a.m., early-morning walkers and fishing enthusiasts were out in force along Walton County’s Miramar Beach. Walton County’s beaches opened at one minute after midnight on Friday morning.

“It’s usually not this crowded at 6:30,” said Erin Jacobs as she walked along the beach in workout gear for the first time in weeks.

A full-time resident of a nearby condominium tower, Jacobs said it had been tough to watch the beach from her window since Walton County closed its beaches on March 19.

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“It’s been taunting,” she said, smiling in the bright early-morning sun.

Also enjoying a walk on the beach early Friday were husband and wife Heidi and John Cherney, condo owners who came down from Tennessee to enjoy the beach.

The Cherneys hit the beach at 5:30 a.m., making their way around barricades that had not yet been removed by county workers.

“We just wanted to be part of the first sunrise,” Heidi Cherney said.

Down the beach, local Tena Marshall — “I was born and raised here,” she said proudly — was enjoying the first morning back on the beach by fishing for pompano.

Marshall has been dealing with cancer, and fishing on the beach, she said, had been therapy for her.

“Then they locked me down,” she said. “I went (fishing) in the freshwater a little bit, but it’s not the same as the beach.”

Fishing up the beach from Marshall was Donald Braswell, a metropolitan Atlanta resident who owns a Miramar Beach condominium.

“We just broke the ice — got our first pompano!” Braswell said excitedly.

Braswell, whose rental of his condominium has been stymied by the state’s ban on short-term vacation rentals, opted to stay in the residence himself, but clearly missed the rental revenue he would normally be getting.

In fact, Braswell has had to give refunds to renters who couldn’t use the condo as a result of the short-term rental ban.

“This is the most expensive pompano I’ve ever caught,” he joked.

A few miles west, at the Shore at Crystal Beach public beach access in Destin, friends Carissa Maguire and Courtney Reeves settled into their beach chairs early Friday morning, safe inside the border they formed in the white sand around them.

Elsewhere at and around the beach access, early risers were fishing, exercising and paddleboarding in the warming sun. In an idyllic moment, one paddleboarder was surrounded by three dolphins.

Beaches in Destin were reopened Friday with the normal hours of sunrise to sunset daily.

Maguire was concerned about how well people would be observing social distancing guidelines.

“I wanted to see what the social distancing is like here before I bring my kids out,” Maguire said Friday morning next to her friend and fellow Niceville resident.

“And,” she said, “I think it’s important for people to come out and get some sunshine for their mental health.”

Reeves said she thinks it is up to each individual to be safe at the beach during the coronavirus crisis.

“I missed it so much,” she said of her beach-time. “I think it’s safer than going to the grocery store.”

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After enjoying her first beach visit in awhile, Destin resident Barbara Doane left The Shore at Crystal Beach with a smile.

She said beachgoers were doing a good job of practicing social distancing.

“If people see too many people congregating, they’ll break them up,” said Doane, who added that in many ways, “Things will be different from now on.”

Also on Friday, the Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier and beaches in Okaloosa County’s jurisdiction began being accessible, at least temporarily, from 6:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

The County Commission could consider a return to full beach hours, and possibly an adjustment to the pier’s limited hours, at its next meeting on Tuesday.

Early Friday morning in Okaloosa County, dozens of people walked in and along the surf, sat on the sand or on chairs, fished from the shore and enjoyed other beach activities, all while doing their best to keep their distance from other beach-goers. The air temperature was in the low 50s.

At the Okaloosa Island Pier, more than a dozen fishermen eagerly waited to gain access to the facility at 6:30 a.m. sharp so they could cast their lines in the Gulf of Mexico once more.

About half of the fishermen wore protective masks. They included Rick Stringer, who said being able to fish from the pier was one of the top reasons why he recently moved to Crestview from Kentucky.

“I just love to be out here,” said Stringer, who was looking forward to reeling in “anything I can catch.”

On the beach just east of the pier, Crestview resident Alyssa Rummelt relaxed in a beach chair while her three children played in the water.

“We were up at 5 o’clock waiting to go to the beach. We were hoping for some waves, but we’ll take them,” she said as small rolls of surf touched the beach.

Rummelt said she supports the return to normal beach hours, from dawn to dusk, at county beaches “as long as people are not on top of each other.”

While starting a long beach walk by the pier at about 6:45 a.m. Friday, Fort Walton Beach resident Bobby Rollins said he supports having limited beach hours for awhile.

“This is probably the best way” in order to ease back to normal, he said. “The (coronavirus) is still going around.”

By noon Friday in Walton County, the fishermen and walkers had largely given way to families, along with couples young and old, enjoying the sun and waves.

Offering a friendly face and a source of information to beach-goers, Dan Nicholson, a volunteer Beach Ambassador with the county’s Tourist Development Council, said he was not surprised by the size of the crowd at the Miramar Regional Beach Access as the temperature reached the low 70s under a sunny blue sky.

Couples, individuals and groups on the beach were maintaining social distance, and Nicholson said he hadn’t fielded any questions related to coronavirus. Instead, he said, he was answering questions about fishing licenses and whether items that washed up on the beach could be taken.

A mile or so east on the beach, Anita Wetherill, who owns a condo in Miramar Beach, was enjoying the son with her daughter, Christina Buoni, and her grandchildren, 10-year-old Leigha and 7-year-old Miranda.

The family came down from Ohio on Monday, where it had been “cold and rainy every single day,” Buoni said. They haven’t decided how long they’ll stay, but they clearly were in no hurry to leave.

“It’s fabulous,” Buoni said.

“This is our favorite place,” echoed Wetherill.

Despite Walton County’s decision to open public and private beaches, access wasn’t necessarily uniform across the county on Friday.

In the private community of Seaside, where beach accesses were closed prior to the county’s March beach closure, the community’s commercial beach accesses remained closed Friday, according to Kerri Parker, executive director of communications for the Seaside Community Development Corporation.

Elsewhere in southern Walton County, beaches in the private community of Seacrest Beach remained open, but because of limited space, the community indicated that it might limit the number of people on the beach to maintain social distancing.