If there’s one thing you can count on Florida’s Emerald Coast, its white sand beaches and emerald waters that create a postcard-perfect landscape for an array of outdoor adventures. It’s unspoiled shorelines and family-friendly attractions range from beautiful state parks and kid-approved water parks, where you can spend your days kicking back with your toes in the sand or getting up close to Florida’s diverse marine life. Read on to discover the best things to do on Florida’s Emerald Coast.
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Enjoy the outdoors at Henderson Beach State Park (Nearby Hotels)
Unwind on the Appalachian quartz, sugar-white sand that lines Henderson Beach State Park, as its worthy of a day trip alone. You can soak up the natural beauty of the 6,000 feet of scenic shoreline, and bask in the sunshine with views of the beautiful emerald waters of the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a perfect spot for a family day out, where you can spend an afternoon swimming, grilling, or strolling the scenic nature trails.
Beat the heat at Shipwreck Island Waterpark (Nearby Hotels)
Considered a landmark in Panama City, Shipwreck Island Waterpark has been a top summer destination for over 30 years. Both kids and kids at heart can test their courage and brave the park’s Tree Top Drop, where two slides come off a 65-foot tall platform that drops into a gripping free fall slide, or zip line off a 17th-century sailing ship into a lagoon pool.
Escape the crowds in Grayton Beach State Park (Nearby Hotels)
If you’re looking for a secluded beach area, head to Grayton Beach and nearby Grayton Beach State Park. Boasting emerald green waters that are perfect for a summertime swim, two rare coastal dune lakes where kayaking is popular and plenty of biking and hiking trails, you’ll be spoiled for choice with outdoor adventures. Admire the Hemingway-style wooden homes that line the picturesque side streets and explore the vibrant art galleries.
Pitch a tent in St. Andrews State Park (Nearby Hotels)
St. Andrews State Park is a beautiful barrier island that offers miles of undeveloped and uncrowded shoreline. Swimming, snorkeling, diving and kayaking are popular activities, while biking and hiking trails wind through the park. Take the boat trip to nearby Shell Island, where both kids and adults alike will delight in the strong possibility of encountering a bottlenose dolphin sighting.
Make a splash at Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park (Nearby Hotels)
Take the entire family to Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park for a day of thrills. Here you can pick from over 40 attractions, where you can 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. There’s also a racetrack, park rides and a mini-golf course.
Embrace the waterfront atmosphere at HarborWalk Village (Nearby Hotels)
Sitting in Destin’s city centre, HarborWalk Village offers an array of exciting entertainment, restaurants and activities. Take a stroll around this lively area to enjoy its waterfront shopping, paddle board and kayak rentals, jet ski rentals and glass bottom boat tours. Catch live music and fireworks shows and visit seafood restaurants serving succulent local delicacies. It’s also home to the Destin Fishing Fleet, the largest charter fishing fleet in the country.
Hunt for treasure on Buccaneer Pirate Cruise (Nearby Hotels)
A variety of boat excursions are available in Destin, but none are as entertaining as the Buccaneer Pirate Cruise. Hop aboard a 100-foot U.S. Coast Guard approved motor vessel and participate in sword fights and water gun battles at this interactive family-friendly adventure. The kids will delight in the engaging pirate stories, songs and dances, then the entire family can embark on a fun-filled treasure hunt.
Step back in time at Fort Pickens (Nearby Hotels)
Explore Fort Pickens, one of the only forts to remain in the hands of the Union through the Civil War in Florida. It’s an iconic piece of Florida history, where you can step inside the officer’s and prisoner’s quarters, the mine chambers and the interior gun rooms. The 19th-century military fort sits at the end of a white sand beach, where you can climb atop the cannon and admire the views.
Explore Eden Gardens State Park (Nearby Hotels)
Just north of Seaside you’ll find Eden Gardens State Park, home of the majestic two-story Wesley House mansion. Sitting on 163 acres of historic land, the columned verandas, moss-covered park and ornamental gardens are a perfect respite from the hustle and bustle of city life. Dating back to 1897, you can come and enjoy a guided tour of the house or go fishing off the dock in Tucker Bayou.
Catch a Blue Angels show at National Naval Aviation Museum (Nearby Hotels)
See the world’s largest Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola. The fascinating National Naval Aviation Museum features 150 beautifully restored aircraft and showcases the Naval Aviation’s rich history. Browse more than 4,000 artifacts that highlight the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard Aviation. Experience Flight Simulators, watch a video on the Giant Screen Digital Theater and pick up a souvenir at The Flight Deck Store.
Learn something new at Science and Discovery Center of Northwest Florida (Nearby Hotels)
Take a break from the beach and explore the Science and Discovery Center of Northwest Florida, a children’s museum that designs its programs to introduce the topics of history, technology and science in an interactive and fun fashion. Step outside and walk on the nature trail through marshy areas, experience animal encounters, or get hands-on with a range of engaging exhibits.
Feed penguins at Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park (Nearby Hotels)
Do you dream of getting up close to Florida’s marine life? Head to Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, a historic aquarium that offers a variety of memorable animal encounters. Watch Atlantic bottlenose dolphins from a submerged platform, feed an African penguin or introduce yourself to gentle seals and spunky sea lions. Little ones can go on an exciting Kids Reptile Safari, where they can come face-to-face with turtles, lizards, snakes and alligators.
Go kayaking at Camp Helen State Park (Nearby Hotels)
Boasting an array of environmentally rich landscapes, the 180-acre Camp Helen State Park makes for a great weekend excursion. Not only does it have a scenic beach area with excellent shelling, but it is also home to one of the largest coastal dune lakes in Florida. With lush vegetation and bordered by the Gulf of Mexico, spend your days swimming, beachcombing, hiking and fishing.