Explore Florida’s Gulf Coast: Destin

Located along the Florida Panhandle with a front-row view of the Gulf of Mexico, the stunning city of Destin beckons vacationers with its white sugar sand and pristine beaches ringed by some of the most tropically panoramic views in the entire Sunshine State. Home to the world’s largest charter fishing fleet, Destin is famed as a fishing paradise—however, it’s not just fishing that attracts visitors to this Gulf gem, but its abundance of outdoor activities, adventurous parks and attractions, and a cuisine scene that represents Gulf-to-Table dining at its finest. With something for everyone looking for a getaway under the Florida sun, Destin is destined to both charm and delight viewers with its natural beauty and vibrant, beachy vibes.

Fun, Sun, And Adventure

One of the best reasons to visit Destin is its spectacular weather—sunny, blue skies abound and there’s nothing better than getting outside and experiencing the warm, luxurious temperatures while chilling on the beach or taking a swim in the emerald-hued waters. And while Destin is widely known as the “world’s luckiest fishing village” because of its well-stocked waters, there are a number of other fun activities on both land and sea for everyone from beach bums to outdoor adventurers—and everything in between.

For The Beach Bums

Destin is known for its stunning beaches that boast powder-soft sand and access to the warm, wonderful waters of the Gulf. There are several ways to enjoy the beaches of Destin—each with a character (and views!) all their own.

One of the largest access points in Destin is at James Lee Park. Located near the famed Crystal Beach area and luxe lodgings like the Henderson Beach Resort & Spa, this public access beach is a gateway to some of Destin’s most beautiful beaches—and a great place to swim, fish, picnic, or just relax in the tranquil seaside atmosphere and stunning Gulf views. Another popular way to enjoy Destin’s beaches is through a visit to Henderson Beach State Park; a sprawling and secluded 200-acre gem on the Emerald Coast. Home to a meandering and scenic nature trail that’s perfect for wildlife and bird watching, it’s also a great place to see some of the area’s distinctive plant species—including some that are endangered or protected and make their home in some of the state’s last remaining coastal scrub communities. Cycling is another popular activity at Henderson; the mile-long paved road is perfect for two-wheeled travelers. Swimming, fishing, geo-seeking, and camping are other popular activities within the park; however many visitors visit simply to climb the 30-foot white sand dunes and enjoy nature’s beauty along the coast—the perfect blend of relaxation and laidback recreation.

A sandy stretch located near the end of Holiday Isle, one side of Norriego Point faces Destin Harbor, while the other side consists of the East Pass leading to the Gulf of Mexico—making for extremely calm and tranquil waters that are perfect for swimming and scuba diving. A popular spot for adventures on the water, Norriego Point is also a favorite destination for boaters, kayakers, paddle boarders, and jet-skiers. What makes this peninsula so unique is that it has the best of both worlds—a bustling harbor with plenty of recreation surrounded by peaceful, emerald green waters perfect for both sightseeing and swimming.

Destin’s Distinctive Destinations

While lounging all day on one of Destin’s beautiful beaches is a great way to spend a vacation, there are plenty of other attractions in this charming FL town that are perfect for those looking to round out their relaxing travel itinerary with a taste of fun and exciting Destin destinations. Those looking for adventure will want to check out one of the area’s fun parks. The Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park is located in nearby Fort Walton Beach and is a great way to experience local wildlife, including sea lions and dolphins; while Big Kahuna’s Water & Adventure Park is full of big thrills (including roller coasters!) and epic waterslides that are fun for all ages. Visitors can also get their gator on at “The World’s Greatest Alligator Park,” Gator Beach. Free to visit, and home to the most alligators in the area, this fun attraction gives adventurers the chance to get up close and personal with Florida’s most famous reptile.

For those who truly want to experience the hustle and bustle of Destin, the Destin Boardwalk is the place to be as it’s home to some of the city’s best outdoor activities—and some of its most spectacular harbor views. Anything you want to do in Destin, the boardwalk is the place to find it: from parasailing to snorkeling; boat, jet-ski, paddleboard, and kayak rentals; and all of the area’s best tours and expeditions—including dolphin cruises, charter fishing trips, snorkeling adventures, and trips to the famous Crab Island sandbar. There’s also a number of restaurants here, too; including the local fave Boathouse Oyster Bar and AJ’s Seafood & Oyster Bar, a cool waterfront spot to hang out with the locals.

Other Fun Things To Do In Destin

Believe it or not, Destin is also home to a number of exciting attractions that don’t involve the sand and sea. Fishing is not only a popular pastime in Destin, but also an integral part of the city’s culture, history, and economy—and visitors can learn all about it at the Destin History & Fishing Museum, a wonderful spot to experience the stories of this beachside town that sprung from a small fishing village before becoming the top FL destination it is today. Want to get out of the sun and spend an afternoon of indoor fun? Then head to Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone, home to a movie theater, go-karts, bumper cars, a dinosaur park, and more; or get have an underwater experience without actually getting wet at Uncle Buck’s FishBowl & Grill—home to bowling, great burgers, and a fabulous aquarium. After you’ve seen Destin’s spectacular views from both land and sea, it’s time to take sightseeing to the next level with an amazing helicopter tour—the perfect way to experience the unique Gulf-side city’s white sand beaches and aquamarine waters from above.

Eat, Drink, And Be Merry

Destin is famed for its fresh seafood and distinctive Gulf-to-Table dining—and the area is home to a number of one-of-a-kind restaurants that serve up the goods, all with a side of the stunning views the area is known for.

HarborWalk Village is in the heart of the Destin Harbor—and is known as a bustling hubbub of activity that includes a myriad of fun restaurants. From casual eateries like Fish Heads Bar and Harbor Tacos, to the freshest local seafood at East Pass Seafood & Oyster House, HarborWalk Village is the epicenter of laidback waterfront dining.

It’s not just seafood that’s on the menu in Destin—the area is home to a number of eclectic eateries that make the grade when it comes to delicious bites. Casual Mexican fare reigns supreme at La Paz Restaurant & Cantina, home to traditional Tex-Mex fare for almost 30 years; while delish burgers are on tap at the fun beachside spot Al’s Beach Club and Burger Bar. Haven’t had enough of the harbor? Then be sure to try locally-sourced seafood at its finest at Brotula’s Seafood House, or super casual and fun waterfront dining at The Crab Trap.

Where To Stay In Destin

Like many beachside Florida towns, Destin has a variety of lodgings for every vacationer—whether it’s a beachfront hotel or luxe resort with all the amenities; a campground under the stars or a vacation rental, this Gulf of Mexico gem has accommodations for every type of traveler.

One of the best ways to experience Destin is by staying at a beachfront spot that makes it easy to access all the area’s best attractions—and without a doubt, the Emerald Grande at HarborWalk Village is one of the city’s most centrally located spots. A harbor front escape close to the action, there are also a number of fun things to do onsite that make Emerald Grand one of the best all-around lodgings in Destin. Private beach access has never been easier than with a stay at the Silver Shells Beach Resort & Spa, home to some of the city’s most scenic views and luxe accommodations. Looking for more privacy? Then be sure to check out Villa Bianca’s stunning beachfront home, one of the best ways to truly escape on a Destin getaway. Silver Shells also offers guests a beachfront condo in their prestigious St. Maarten building for those who want privacy while also enjoying proximity to top amenities.

Beautifully situated in Northwest Florida adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico, the city of Destin is may be known for its spectacular beaches—but there is an abundance of other attractions both on land and sea that make this Gulf getaway the perfect idyll for soaking up the sun and getting a taste of Florida’s best outdoor adventures. From laidback beach vibes to heart-stopping natural scenery; a Gulf-to-Table cuisine scene that’s as fun as it is delicious; and unique indoor and outdoor attractions, Destin is a distinctively diverse destination perfect for anyone looking to experience all the charm of a Florida beach town—all set to the backdrop of the stunningly scenic emerald waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Panama City Beach

Read next: Explore Florida’s Gulf Coast: Panama City Beach

Discover more exciting experiences along Florida’s Gulf Coast in Panama City Beach.

Enjoying our content?

Subscribe and receive a weekly newsletter packed with awesome stories to inspire you!

Related articles