The Best Things to See and Do in Destin, Florida

Rise above the Destin waters and you can catch a glimpse of a passing dolphin
Rise above the Destin waters and you can catch a glimpse of a passing dolphin | © Wiliam Perry / Alamy Stock Photo
Nick Dauk

Who said you had to go to the Caribbean for white sands and jade waters? Uncurling for miles along the Emerald Coast in Florida, Destin is a far cry from its humble beginnings – today it’s often referred to as the luckiest fishing village in the world. That’s down to the bounty delivered by the Gulf of Mexico, which makes dining a fail-safe pastime here. Read on for things to see and do in Destin – Florida’s dreamy, creamy-sand holiday spot.

1. Relax on Destin's beaches

Natural Feature

© Visit Florida

If your love of the beach has brought you to Destin, you’re not alone – for good reason. The best Gulf-side expanses are along the Panhandle and Destin’s public shoreline is simply glorious. There are half a dozen public-access points – among them Calhoun, Silver Shells and June White Decker Park, located next to one another. Meanwhile Osteen and Norriego Point are conveniently close to major attractions on Gulf Shore Drive. Top tanning tip: with its undulating snow-white sand dunes, Henderson Beach State Park is a must for sun-seekers.

2. Stroll along Destin Harbor Boardwalk

Amusement Park, Architectural Landmark

Destin, USA - April 24, 2018: Harborwalk village, people walking by marina with Margaritaville restaurant tropical bar cafe on summer sunny day in Flo
© Andriy Blokhin / Alamy Stock Photo

Whether you’re here for the beach or the bars, at some stage you will, inevitably, gravitate towards the Destin Harbor Boardwalk. It unravels for a good quarter of a mile beside the harbor, and is abuzz with activity night and day. You come here to join dolphin cruises and chartered fishing trips and there’s also snorkeling and parasailing. Wander on to the adjoining HarborWalk Village and you can bar-hop and graze. Even if you manage nothing else, a little people-watching with a cold drink in your hand isn’t a bad way to spend a sunny afternoon.

3. Visit Crab Island

Natural Feature

May 23, 2020; Destin, FL, USA; Boaters crowd an area known as ?Crab Island? in the shallow waters near Destin FL. as the long Memorial Day weekend begins. Mandatory Credit: Michael Snyder/The Northwest Florida Daily News via USA Today NETWORK/Sipa USA
© Sipa US / Alamy Stock Photo

Do Destin like a local and go beyond the beach to Crab Island. Only accessible by boat, this sandbar lays on all kinds of family-friendly fun, including water volleyball, fishing and boating. Or simply float in the shallow emerald waters flowing in from the Gulf of Mexico and watch the world go by. Your kids will have a blast on the inflatable obstacle course while you order up lunch from one of the mobile food boats and small floating restaurants. Pack a towel – and plenty of sunscreen.

4. Burn some energy at Urban Air Adventure Park

Amusement Park, Park

Florida, USA. 1st Apr, 2019. A preview event for first responders, their families, and friends Friday at the new Urban Air Adventure Park in Wellington. The indoor park features virtual reality, a sky rider coaster, a ropes course, climbing walls, a battl
© ZUMA Press Inc / Alamy Stock Photo

If rain stops outdoor play, there’s always the great indoors: Urban Air Adventure Park puts bounce into your kids’ day with trampolines among more than a dozen attractions. Put sibling rivalry to the ultimate test on the Battle Beam or, if you think you’re the quickest in the family, challenge everyone to the Ropes Course (or Warrior Course) to see who’s fastest on their feet.

5. Hire bikes at Miramar Beach

Natural Feature

Destin, USA - April 24, 2018: Miramar beach city town in Florida panhandle gulf of mexico ocean water, wooden steps boardwalk to sand dunes with peopl
© Andriy Blokhin / Alamy Stock Photo

Destin’s neighbor is well worth getting to know – and as it’s a quick drive from Destin, it makes for a fine day trip. You’ll find plenty of opportunities to shop and dine, in between reclining on the sands. If you’ve got – or can get your hands on – a bike, the leisurely ride along the 3mi (5km) Scenic Highway 98 Trail will blow away the cobwebs. Be sure to replace lost calories – perhaps with grilled fish tacos and a fruity Maverick Mojito at the Surf Hut; anyone with a credit-card habit to indulge will love Silver Sands Premium Outlets.

6. Get your adrenaline pumping at the Track

Amusement Park, Sports Center

Kids drive low-powered cars with big bumpers at the Track Recreation Center in Destin, Florida. (Photo by Lisa Thatcher Kresl/Dallas Morning News/MCT/Sipa USA)
© Sipa US / Alamy Stock Photo

Sure, Destin is for lovers of old-school beach vacations – but the adrenaline thrills are remarkable, too: take the Track, where you’ll find five different go-kart tracks catering to new drivers and speed-racers alike. And the wow factor doesn’t stop when the ride ends; here you’ll find blaster boats, bumper cars, a ferris wheel and even a harnessed skydiving experience geared towards little ones. And with more than 50 games in Fat Daddy’s Arcade, there’s everything you need for a fantastic day out.

7. Book water activities with Destin Parasailing

Sports Center

A pair of adventurers try parasailing just off Miramar Beach, Florida, on May 1, 2021.
© Michael Rolands / Alamy Stock Photo

An exhilarating way to see the jade waters of the Gulf is from the sky. Sign up with CWS (Commercial Water Sports) and a certified United States Coast Guard captain will take you out. As you rise above the sea, look down – you may spot playful dolphins and smoothly gliding sharks that call these depths home. Prefer an outing that’s a little less head-spinning? Destin Parasailing can arrange jet ski rentals, charter fishing trips and pontoon boat rentals.

8. Get some retail therapy at Grand Boulevard

Shop, Shopping Mall

The buzzy lifestyle of Miramar Beach is on full display at Grand Boulevard, a chi-chi must-visit spot where locally owned boutiques rub shoulders with major brands. Grab a Starbucks and get set to flex the plastic. Highlights include flowery “Florida” shirts at Tommy Bahama and the many options available for lazy lunches – restaurants serve flippingly fresh fish straight from the Gulf. Keep an eye on Destin’s event calendar for special weekly happenings – chief among them the bustling, ever-popular farmer’s market, as well as Theatre Thursdays and Wellness Wednesdays.

9. Visit Fort Pickens

Museum, Historical Landmark

An Aerial View of Ft Pickens along Pensacola Beach, Florida USA
© Andreoletti / Alamy Stock Photo

It’s a good hour and a half from Destin, but a visit to Fort Pickens is time and money well spent. The journey itself is spectacular enough, with the glittering Gulf beside you mile after mile. When you reach this 19th-century fort, take a few minutes to view the military memorabilia from the Civil War and WWII. You’re then free to explore the surrounding Gulf Islands National Seashore, and indulge in a full day of fishing, hiking and wildlife-spotting.

10. The Boardwalk, Okaloosa Island

Architectural Landmark, Shopping Mall

© Visit Florida

Take a 10-minute drive west from Destin on the Miracle Strip Parkway and you’ve got a day of fun to look forward to on the Okaloosa Island Boardwalk. Right beside the Gulf of Mexico, it’s made for the convenience of beach babes: the restaurants are swimsuit-casual and the boutiques welcoming of sandy toes. You’ll be hooked on the fresh seafood at Floyd’s Shrimp House – a fantastic choice for a lunch stop prior to rummaging through the beach threads at Surfside Outfitters. Special events after dark include movie nights, live music, even pirate shows; is there a finer way to end the evening than with summer fireworks lighting up the dark Gulf waters?

Looking for more recommendations? Find a hotel perfectly suited to your needs from this list of the best hotels for every traveler, and book your stay right here with Culture Trip. For the best dinner in town, explore the best restaurants in Destin – the local seafood is incredible.

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