Often referred to as the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village”, Destin is a Florida destination worth visiting if you are looking for a holiday filled with hot sunny days and many hours spent having fun on the white sandy beach. As a smaller town and not such a touristy resort, Destin is perfect for a romantic getaway, family holiday or an extended weekend far away from the busy life. You will certainly be impressed even with the first glimpse of the crystal clear waters with shades of green and the sparking white sandy beaches. Start planning your holiday to Destin – the Emerald Coast’s Charming Gem!
Location of Destin
Situated on a peninsula dividing Choctawhatchee Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, Destin is a fantastic destination if you are looking to escape from the standard and vastly popular resorts across the state of Florida. What was once just a small fishing village, has now become a small charming gem known for the stunning Gulf of Mexico beaches, as well as the refreshing emerald green waters.
Getting to Destin
If you are now ready to head to Destin for your fantastic summer holiday, you might be asking how to get to this beach resort. Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport is the closest air hub, however, it is served only by a handful or airlines, such as Silver Airways, United Airlines and Delta. Pensacola International Airport and Tallahassee International Airport are also not too far at 56 and 165 miles, respectively. Check out the best flight deals.
Those of you, who will be coming from the local areas, will be happy to know that Destin can be easily reached by car as well. For example, while Jacksonville is 327 miles east of Destin, New Orleans is 250 miles west, however, Highway I-10 is extremely convenient as it allows direct and quick access to the city. If you are planning a longer trip, you might want to drive along the extremely scenic Highway 98 and admire Destin’s paradise coast lined with tall palm trees.
When to Visit
In order to be able to fully enjoy the beauty of Destin, you should escape the summer season. The months of June and July attract massive tourists crowds. So do not be surprised that we are suggesting April as the best time to visit Destin. During this period in Florida, the temperatures are already high around the mid-70s and even 80s and the water has warmed up enough, so you will be able to go for a swim in the crystal clear waters of the Gulf.
Once you reach Destin, the first thing you should do is dip your toes into the refreshing waters of the Gulf or take a peaceful stroll down one of the beautiful beaches. Make sure to check out our complete list of the best beaches you should stop by in Destin:
Henderson Beach State Park
With its narrow winding trail in between the majestic snow-white sand dunes, Henderson Beach State Park is a real paradise away from the busy hectic life. The best part of visiting this particular beach in Destin is the seclusion and solitude you will be provided with. As this is a preserved area, there is an admission fee of $5 per vehicle, but as you take the first look of the beautiful emerald waters you will know that it is totally worth it!
Henderson Beach is an excellent choice for families, as you can go swimming and fishing or even biking and hiking down the nature path. During the peak season you can also find some concession stands, but it is a better idea to be prepared with your own snacks and organize a picnic by the water. Among the other available facilities, visitors can discover kid’s park, restrooms and outside showers.
Situated slightly outside of Destin’s downtown area, Miramar Beach is a less touristy and fairly secluded beach, perfect if you are planning a relaxing afternoon by the water. It is the sugary soft sand that has made this one of the most pristine beaches in Florida. Besides enjoying the refreshing clean waters and soaking the sun, visitors can also try various water activities, such as kayaking, stand-up paddle-boarding, body-surfing, etc. During the summer months, an old-fashioned ice-cream truck is bringing a bit of nostalgia to the adults and a lot of joy to the children.
James Lee Park
It is the crystal clear and shallow water, which has made James Lee Park one of the most preferable beaches, especially among families. Combined with the large and convenient parking, as well as the huge number of facilities provided, James Lee is great even for visitors with smaller children. The small playground, a few restrooms with changing rooms and outside showers are also a nice added bonus to make your day at the beach comfortable and hassle-free. The beach is also perfect if you are looking for a bit of an adventure, as it is one of the best spots for parasailing in Destin. You will be able to admire the breathtaking views of the emerald waters and the stunning sandy beach from the top, feel the refreshing breeze and maybe even catch a glimpse of some playful dolphins.
Crystal Sands Beach
Located along the Scenic Highway 98, Crystal Sands Beach is one of the most popular area for holiday rentals. As there are numerous pastel-colored beach houses, the choice seems almost endless. It is believed that the sand is the whitest and the water is bluest here, hence, this is one of the must-visit beaches in Destin. There is just a handful of available parking spots here, so make sure to arrive early in the morning. Another benefit of waking up early to get to Crystal Sands is that you might get the chance to enjoy the beach completely by yourself. With one pavilion and a small and cozy recreational area, it is also a great spot for an afternoon picnic. Despite the limited facilities, visitors will be also able to find restrooms and showers.
In the past few years, Destin has developed massively as a tourist destination, as a result, visitors can now find various different types of accommodation options based on their needs and budget. If you would like to treat yourself to a more deluxe stay, you can choose between The Henderson Beach Resort & Spa or the Emerald Grande at HarborWalk Village, which are both located just a few steps from the beach. If you prefer a slightly more budget-friendly hotel, the Quality Inn & Suites and the SummerPlace Inn Destin are some fantastic choices, as you can still admire the ocean scenery from your balcony.
For those who are planning an RV road trip around the state, Camp Gulf situated at the heart of Miramar Beach offers a great camp grounds, where you can either park your RV or even set a tent for a few nights. Additionally, visitors will be able to find fabulous beach cabins less than 400 step away from the beach.
Regardless, which options you would go for – a more luxurious suite room or just a small tent, which will allow you to become one with the surrounding area, you should certainly plan at least two nights in Destin, in order to be able to fully experience the unique atmosphere of the resort.
Things / Activities to Do
Make sure to plan at least a weekend getaway to Destin, as you will be surprised by the huge number of intriguing spots to visit across the town.
Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park
If you are planning a family-trip to Destin, your first stop should be at the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park. Home to dolphins, sharks, penguins and other animals, this is a great attraction, which will not only be fun, but also extremely educational for your children. As the park organizes various shows throughout the day, it is worth first checking their schedule to make sure you will get to fully experience the marine creatures. From the dolphin encounter, to feeding the penguins, this is one of the most enjoyable places to visit in Destin so make sure to add it to your travel itinerary.
Destin Harbor Boardwalk
If you have spent the entire day at the beach and you are looking forward to going for a relaxing stroll while admiring some beautiful ocean views, you should stop by the Destin Harbor Boardwalk. This is also one of the most popular spots to catch the sunset from. Make sure to go a bit earlier if you would like to find a table in one of the restaurants and enjoy some delicious seafood with drinks as the sun is kissing the ocean goodnight. The quarter of a mile long boardwalk also offers some great small local shops, perfect to get some souvenirs from!
Destin History and Fishing Museum
It would be a shame to visit the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village” without diving into its history. That is the reason why one of the must-visit places in Destin is the History and Fishing Museum. Start by learning about the city’s past and explore the artifacts and photographs showing the development of the town. Then you should move onto the next section with exhibits of ancient fishing equipment, believed to have been owned by Ernest Hemingway and tools used in the fishing industry throughout the years. You will also find some interesting and extremely well-preserved fish caught by the locals.
Visit Crab Island
Despite your initial thought, Crab Island is not an island at all. Locals are now referring to this spot as the underwater sandbar, as the water is extremely shallow and crystal clear. Many people would anchor their boats at this location and spend the day having fun in the water. This extremely popular spot among sailors is situated on the Northern Side of the Destin Bridge and you can often see large crowds and numerous boats as you are driving along. It is certainly worth visiting the Crab Island as the water is not only crystal clear, but also very peaceful and calm without any waves. The only thing that you should have in mind is that in order to reach the Crab Island, you would need to rent a boat or join an organized cruise.
The Market Shops
Last but not least, before you leave Destin, you need to make sure to visit the city’s top shopping destination – The Market Shops! Situated at the Miramar Beach, the area has numerous local boutiques, pleasant restaurants, well known fashion brands offering their newest summer collections and beauty salons. This is the ultimate location where you can do last-minute shopping, grab some souvenirs and then indulge in a fine-dining experience with fresh seafood and delicious cocktails. As the area is quite popular among both locals and tourists, during some afternoons and evenings, they are also hosting live music performances.
From the emerald green waters to the white sandy beaches, Destin is one of the must-visit destinations in Florida. Besides the stunning beaches and breathtaking sunsets, though, there is so much more to explore in what was once just a small fishing village. Are you ready to visit Destin – the Emerald Coast’s Charming Gem? Which of the stunning white sandy beaches will you be visiting first?