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Nestled on Florida’s Emerald Coast, Destin is an alluring destination known for its white sand beaches, emerald-hued waters and ample fishing opportunities. From adventurous pirate cruises to kid-friendly waterparks and delectable seafood offerings, Destin caters to travelers of all ages. Full of natural splendor and outdoor attractions, read on to discover the best things to do in Destin, Florida.
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Made of Appalachian quartz, the sugar-white sand that lines Henderson Beach State Park is enough to put it on the top of the list. You can embrace 6,000 feet of scenic shoreline, and bask in the sunshine with views of the beautiful emerald waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Perfect for a family day out, spend an afternoon swimming, grilling, or strolling the scenic nature trails.
Another idyllic escape in Destin is Crystal Beach. Lined with rainbow-colored beach cottages, you can sit under the shade of an umbrella, take a dip in the crystal-clear waters and dig your toes in the sand as you listen to the peaceful sound of the tide rolling in. This dreamy beach area is a favorite amongst the locals, as its quiet landscapes also offer easy access to pavilions and picnic tables.
Stretching nearly a quarter of a mile along the Destin Harbor, the Destin Harbor Boardwalk provides easy access to the waterfront and features a range of local restaurants and gift shops. Enjoy the beautiful photo opportunities or watch the fishing boats come in, as the area serves to preserve the harbor’s unique character. It’s also where the annual Destin Seafood Festival and Destin Fishing Rodeo events are held.
Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park has been delighting marine life enthusiasts since 1955, as it’s a historic aquarium that features a variety of unforgettable animal encounters. You can watch Atlantic bottlenose dolphins from a submerged platform, feed an African penguin, or introduce yourself to gentle seals and spunky sea lions. The little ones will delight in the Kids Reptile Safari, where they can come face-to-face with turtles, lizards, snakes and alligators.
Destin is known for its range of enticing seafood joints, so much so that it’s hard to narrow it down to just one. Brotula’s Seafood House & Steamer is popular for its “hook and cook” cuisine with steamed and boiled shellfish platters, while Boshamps Seafood & Oyster House boasts “Gulf to Table Southern Cuisine” with beautiful views over the harbor. Head to Dewey Destin’s to dine on fresh grouper, or dig into the Creole-style seafood dishes at Louisiana Lagniappe.
Sitting pretty on Choctawhatchee Bay, take a trip to the Village of Baytowne Wharf to enjoy a wide range of boutiques, eateries and nightlife venues. It boasts a full calendar of family-friendly events, from movies under the stars and flyboard shows to free outdoor concerts. The kids will delight in fishing in the lagoon or dropping quarters in the arcade, while adults can browse the collection of buzzing nightclubs when the sun goes down.
A perfect respite from the heat, take the kids to Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park. Loaded with over 40 attractions, hop on Kowabunga Racer with four of your friends and plunge down 300 feet in a race to the finish on a “speed mat” down a slide the length of a football field. While the waterpark is open from mid-May to August, you can still enjoy the racetrack, park rides and mini-golf course.
Grayton Beach State Park is home to one of Florida’s most pristine beaches for swimming, and its location 23 miles east of Destin makes it a hotspot for day trips. Admire the quiet landscapes and Gulf of Mexico views, or spend your day swimming, surf fishing or hiking through the coastal forest nature trails. Those who want to indulge in an overnight adventure can book one of the charming two-bedroom cabins available on site.
There’s a long list of boat excursions available in Destin, but none are as entertaining as the Buccaneer Pirate Cruise. It’s an interactive family-friendly adventure, where you can hop aboard a 100-foot U.S. Coast Guard approved motor vessel and participate in sword fights and water gun battles. Enjoy plenty of stories, songs and dances, and embark on a memorable adventure on a treasure hunt.
Perfect for when you’re looking to slow down and appreciate your surroundings, the Okaloosa Island Pier is a great place to watch fishermen reel in a catch or rent rods and reels to join in on the fun yourself along the 1,261-foot-long fishing pier. Located four miles west of the Destin Bridge, you can catch a wide variety of saltwater fish or simply spend some time enjoying the salty breeze.
Home to an array of scenic golf courses, those looking to improve their swing can head to Kelly Plantation Golf Club. Constructed on the former site of a turpentine plantation, this visually impressive 18-hole course showcases miles of manicured grounds and waterfront landscapes, lined by bayous and magnolia and palmetto trees. Set along the Choctawhatchee Bay, make sure to admire the 7.5-acre lake that surrounds holes 9 and 18.
A perfect excursion for when you’re in need of a souvenir, head to the outdoor retail shops in Destin Commons. You’ll find a wide range of local and national brands selling anything from electronics and sporting goods to homewares and beauty products, with stores like Bass Pro Shops and H&M available. After you’ve gotten your fill of browsing the window displays, take a break in the on-site movie theater or grab a bite to eat at one of the restaurants nearby.