DESTIN, Florida is one of the most popular beach destinations in the entire world, and for good reason. Located between the historic streets of Pensacola and spring break capitol of Panama City Beach, Destin boasts some of the most scenic coastal real estate you will ever lay your eyes on. In addition to the sun and surf, things to do in Destin, FL include a wealth of world-class entertainment and dining options making it the ideal getaway spot for families, couples, and single persons alike.
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Table of Contents
- Attractions & Things To Do
- Tours & Activities
- Annual Events
- Beaches & Public Lands
The Destin, Florida Insider's Guide
|World's Luckiest Fishing Village|
The city traces its history to Leonard Destin, a fisherman who moved to the area from New London, Connecticut, settling in northwest Florida around 1845. For decades, he and his descendants fished and navigated the only channel passage to the Gulf of Mexico between Panama City and Pensacola, known as Destin’s East Pass.
If ole Leonard could see it now, he’d certainly be impressed. Incorporated in 1984, by any measure Destin is no longer a sleepy little fishing village. Although its population hovers at a comfortable 13,000 residents, 2017 saw the Destin-Fort Walton Airport receive over one million passengers for the first time in its history. Considering the area is primarily a drive-to market, the total number of visitors to Destin topped five million that same year.
Learn about Destin's rich history PLUS MORE with cultural and educational tours provided by Tripshock.com!
ATTRACTIONS & THINGS TO DO IN DESTIN, FL
Some of the region's top attractions are found in the once-quiet fishing village of Destin, Florida! Destin is a versatile destination through-and-through, teeming with both kid-friendly and adult-only attractions. From the sights and sounds of the Destin Harbor, to the 19th century coastal atmosphere of Baytowne Wharf, there is more to Destin than sugar-sand beaches!
Big Kahuna's Water Park
|Big Kahuna's Lazy River|
SAVE $5 on tickets when booking online at Big Kahuna's Water Park.
Destin HarborWalk Village
For more information on Crab Island in Destin including how to get there, tours, and nearby hotels visit MyCrabIsland.com!
Silver Sands Outlet Mall
|Silver Sands Outlet Mall|
The Village of Baytowne Wharf
Okaloosa Island Attractions
GULFARIUM MARINE ADVENTURE PARK
WILD WILLY'S ADVENTURE ZONE
TOURS & ACTIVITIES
There are so many things to do in Destin, FL it will make your head spin. The best part of all is that you can treat your whole family to a day on the water or out on the town without breaking the bank. From dolphin cruises to stand up paddle board yoga and jet ski rentals, check out a few of our favorite Destin, Florida tours and activities.
A dolphin cruise is the ideal family activity for a variety of reasons. Safe, scenic, and cost-effective, you and your loved ones can get up close and personal with curious pods of bottlenose dolphins as they dance and dash among the waves. Both sociable and intelligent, the dolphins of Northwest Florida seemingly enjoy the spotlight and love to put on a show!
Browse and book your perfect Destin dolphin cruise right here, right now!
Another great thing about Destin dolphin cruises is the fact that they come in all shapes and sizes. Where some double decker vessels provide sweeping views, spacious seating, and all the accommodations, you can also cruise smaller boats or jet skis for a more personalized and intimate viewing experience. How about your very own sunset dolphin cruise on a sailboat? Now that's living! Best of all, convenient scheduling means no matter what time of year you visit you or what time you want to venture out, you are sure to find a convenient time slot for everyone!
WatersportsWhen you're talking the sun and surf of beautiful Destin, Florida you can't help but think of water sports like jet skis, pontoons, and stand up paddle boards. Sure, you can partake in these activities elsewhere, but what makes Destin an exceptional place for watersports is the abundance of safe, inshore waters. Indeed, the Destin Harbor and Choctawhatchee Bay deliver everything you need from the Gulf of Mexico like beautiful white sandy beaches, picturesque sunsets, and amazing saltwater fishing opportunities all minus the madness of the open ocean.
|Pontoon boat rental exploring the Destin Harbor|
Pontoon Boats - If you're bringing the whole gang down to the Panhandle we suggest renting a pontoon boat. A 24 foot ocean pontoon is easy to operate and can accommodate up to 12 passengers. Most pontoons also come fully equipped with bluetooth stereos and cabanas to protect you from the harsh sun; so go ahead, make a day of it!
Jet Skis - If pontoons aren't your speed then you might consider a jet ski rental instead. Also known as a wave runner, these zippy watercraft can really fly. A great option for couples, active persons, and parents with thrill-seeking kiddos, rip through the waves with ease as you explore the inlets and jetties of the Bay. Jet skis are especially handy on those summer weekends when Crab Island is packed as you can navigate your way in to find the perfect spot!
Paddle Boarding & Kayaking - Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP) is one of the hottest activities on the beach. Surprisingly stable, pet-friendly, and a great way to get in some exercise while you're on vacation, there are few better ways to slow down and connect with nature. Similarly, kayaks afford similar perks except you are sitting down. As discussed earlier, kayaks are also a great idea for inshore bay fishing trips.
Stand Up Paddleboards and Kayaks are the perfect blend of adventure and exercise! Reserve your rental today!
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Thousands of travelers to Destin, Florida have only one thing on their mind... the next big catch! Of all the things to do in Destin, FL, fishing is a favorite for many visitors. In fact, the city of Destin has grown from a sleepy fishing village in the mid 1900s into a world-class destination for inshore, nearshore, and deep sea excursions. Whether casting a line from the white sandy beaches, or trolling for tuna miles from shore, the thrill of the catch is alive and well here on the Emerald Coast!
How to Fish in Destin, FL
|Father and Son fishing with the Vera Marie in Destin, FL|
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|Crew member filleting fish|
There are plenty of things to do in Destin, FL year round. Check out weekly farmer's markets, music showcases, magic shows, art walks, cooking classes--you name it! On top of the daily events Destin also plays host to a couple major annual events that attract tens of thousands of visitors. Both the Destin Fishing Rodeo and the Destin Seafood Festival embrace the city's heritage as a fishing and seafood mecca.
Destin Fishing Rodeo
|Fisherman Roy Martin (1956)|
What started out in 1948 as an effort by local fishermen to extend the tourism season past September and into October, this perennial fishing fiesta is now one of the most popular tournaments in the United States. Visit the Destin Fishing Rodeo homepage to register and read up on all of the latest tournament information.
No Boat, No Problem: What makes the Destin Fishing Rodeo so special is the fact that it accommodates for a variety of skill levels, techniques, and fish species. No matter who you are or what resources you have you can still compete for the top prizes! For example, you can fish inshore, nearshore, or offshore. You can also choose how you want to fish, whether that's on a big boat, a kayak, off of the pier, or even in the surf! There are 20 plus divisions and 33 species eligible in all, and public weigh ins let non--anglers in on the action!
Destin Seafood Festival
|Crawfish at the Destin Seafood Festival|
Fun, Food, and Fishing Fleets: On top of the food and celebrity chef showcases, the Destin Seafood Festival also features great live entertainment options, art exhibits, craft markets, and, perhaps best of all, a fishing boat showcase! Get a firsthand look at the life and times of a commercial fisherman, pick the brains of the most talented captains and crews in the Southeast, and see the latest and greatest fishing technologies in action! From monster, double-decker rigs with bunks and balconies to smaller, private charters, this is an opportunity that no angler should miss. Admission for the Rodeo is absolutely free and with family-friendly activities aplenty this is an event that the whole gang will enjoy!
BEACHES & PUBLIC LANDS
Destin Florida's Henderson Beach State Park features pristine white sugar sand beaches and more than 6,000 feet of natural scenic shoreline. Shifting sand dunes and coastal scrub provide habitat for a wide variety of plants, birds, and mammals.
Henderson's well-maintained boardwalks also provide access to the beach for swimming, sunbathing, and fishing. A total of six pavilions allow for picnicking and grilling, and outdoor showers are available for rinsing off after a day of playing in the sand. The kids can enjoy a playground along the park’s nature trail, which educates visitors on coastal dunes. This trail truly distinguishes the park from Destin’s neighbors to the east and west. Its coastal dune ecosystems are both ancient and rare, and a three-quarters of a mile long trail weaves through sand pine, sand live oak, saw palmettos, cacti, and wildflowers. Birds flock to this natural setting during migration, and almost a hundred species have been recorded. Interpretive signs throughout the nature trail provide information on native species and wildlife.
Bonus—the trail is pet-friendly! From May through October, this truly is the spot for breathtaking sunsets. With 60 campsites located in a secondary dune system, Henderson’s amenities include water and electric hookups and a central waste station. The park is A.D.A accessible and includes beach wheelchair availability.
For pet friendly travel advice, read our recent piece on Planning a Pet Friendly Destin Vacation!
Destin, FL is a veritable one-stop-shop for sightseeing enthusiasts! The dunes themselves are vegetated with lovely sea oats and wildflowers, while the water is warm and emerald green, and anglers can try their hands at catching red fish, flounder, catfish, cobia, whiting, and pompano.
You don’t have to be an ornithologist to admire the birds of the Emerald Coast. The majesty and variety of these creatures draw nature lovers from all over the world. Bird-watchers will get a chance to spy a wide range of avians including pelicans and herons! Loons, northern gannets and various sea ducks paddle offshore and are clearly visible with a good spotting scope. From May through August, the very rare least terns and snowy plovers nest in the sand.
|Brown Pelican (common)||White Pelican (rare)|
|Great Blue Heron||Little Blue Heron|
|Black Skimmer||Reddish Egret (fall)|
|Least Tern (rare)||Snowy Plover|
For local fauna and birding, head to Bluewater Bay Marina and Swamp, Bayou Plaza Shopping Center and Kiwanis Park, Florida Park, Ft. Walton Beach Landfill, Okaloosa Holding Ponds, Ferry Park, Oak Tree Nature Park, Destin/Olin Marler Bridge west side/jetties, and Mattie Kelly Park. One of the many local trees you’ll see includes the longleaf pine, an essential element in making resin, turpentine, and timber for sailboats. Its extremely long needles are popular for use in the ancient craft of coiled basket making. With over 250 species of plants and flowers, the Destin, Florida area is rich in wildlife, and a natural fit for a relaxing family vacation!
Destin, Florida: Come for the Beach, Stay for Everything Else
If you're looking for the perfect destination for a family getaway look no further than Destin, Florida. From the parties at Crab Island to the premier shopping and recreation of the Destin Commons, you had best believe that this once tiny fishing village has everything you need to make your next beach vacation extra special! Cruise the Choctawhatchee Bay and its many bayous and inlets, or stick to one of Destin's many picturesque beaches including Holiday Isle, Crystal Beach, and Henderson Beach State Park.