A long weekend in Destin, Florida, is a perfect escape for beach lovers seeking relaxation and adventure. Nestled along the stunning Emerald Coast, Destin is filled with white sandy beaches and emerald green waters, making it a paradise for sunbathing, swimming, and water sports.
The area is renowned for its world-class fishing, and fishing enthusiasts can charter boats to reel in prized catches like red snapper and grouper. Beyond the beaches, Destin offers a vibrant culinary scene, with fresh seafood being a highlight. From indulging in delicious Gulf shrimp to savoring mouthwatering oysters, visitors can sample the flavors of the sea.
Whether exploring the charming Harborwalk Village, teeing off at picturesque golf courses, or embarking on a dolphin-watching cruise, a long weekend in Destin promises unforgettable excitement.
Destin, Florida: Day 1
Breakfast at a Local Café in Destin
Start your day off with breakfast at a local Destin café. Feel like sleeping in? Not to worry, many cafes in Destin serve brunch! Café Destin comes highly recommended, serving breakfast, brunch, and lunch with indoor and outdoor seating. Another favorite is the Donut Hole Bakery and Café, serving breakfast and fresh donuts all day! And finally, check out Capriccio Café for a delicious coffee and a crepe.
Explore a Museum
Next, check out one of Destin’s museums and learn more about the area and its history. The Destin History and Fishing Museum will take you back to the 1830s when the first little fishing village, East Pass, was created.
Are you interested in Native American history? Then you’ll want to check out the Indian Temple Mound Museum in Fort Walton Beach. The museum showcases Native American artifacts, a schoolhouse, a post office museum, and many other exhibits.
Finally, head over to the Air Force Armament Museum if you’d like to learn about military aircraft and armaments such as bombs, guns, and missiles. This is the largest Air Force armament museum in the world. The museum is open Monday through Saturday, and admission is free.
Lunch at a Waterfront Restaurant
Destin, Florida, has no shortage of waterfront restaurants! Enjoying good seafood is perhaps one of the best things to do in Destin.
Lulu Buffett, Jimmy Buffett’s little sister, has a restaurant called Lulu’s with two locations in Florida and one in Alabama. Lulu’s Destin has fantastic waterfront views, seating on the shore, and a fun atmosphere that the whole family will enjoy.
Another excellent waterfront lunch option loved by locals is Dewey Destin’s Harborside. Grab some delicious seafood from their extensive menu and enjoy the views of Destin Harbor.
Henderson Beach State Park
Destin’s Henderson Beach State Park is a popular recreational area that has a campground, hiking trails, and a beach. Enjoy a gorgeous day on the beach, sitting on the soft white sand and swimming in the emerald green waters of the Gulf.
Emerald Green Waters
Destin is in northwest Florida along the Gulf of Mexico. Because of the abundance of algae in the waters, when the sun is shining the water is emerald green. That’s why the area is called the Emerald Coast. Not to worry, it’s perfectly safe to go swimming in the water.
Soft White Sand
As well, Destin is known for its soft sugar-white sand. The sand is so fine that it squeaks under your feet when walking on it. Why is the sand in Destin so white? Destin’s sand is made up of tiny quartz particles resulting from a process involving the Appalachian Mountains and the Apalachicola River, which started ages ago.
McGuire’s Irish Pub Destin
McGuire’s Irish Pub in Destin is a popular restaurant serving pub favorites, seafood, steaks, and more. Locals and vacationers visit McGuire’s for good food, a relaxed atmosphere, and friendly service.
When you first walk into the restaurant, you’ll notice something unique—the walls are covered in one-dollar bills. A tradition started by the owners back in 1977 when doors first opened, patrons now place an autographed one-dollar bill on the wall when they visit. Today, the owners estimate about two million dollars on the walls.
Destin, Florida: Day 2
Don’t Skip Breakfast!
If you’re looking for a hearty breakfast, head over to Destin’s The Pancakery. Breakfast is tasty, portions are large, and the staff is super friendly.
Another local favorite is the East Coast Coffee Co. Known for a great cup of joe, this coffee shop also serves breakfast. Try one of their delicious acai bowls, breakfast sandwich, or toast!
Visit HarborWalk Village
HarborWalk Village is a popular entertainment center located along the Destin Harbor Boardwalk. Visiting HarborWalk Village is easily one of the top things to do in Destin because of its location and all the things there are to do.
Shopping and Entertainment
Destin’s HarborWalk Village is filled with shopping and entertainment options for you and your family. Listen to live music, throw axes, play mini-golf, go ziplining, participate in an escape room, take a helicopter tour, or grab a drink at one of the many waterfront restaurants.
Entertainment on the Water
If you’re looking for water sports or any other water-related activity, Destin Harbor is where you need to be! Interested in diving into the clear emerald green waters and learning more about Destin’s sea life? Then you’ll want to check out your scuba diving, snuba diving, and snorkeling options.
But if you’d rather play on the water, there are plenty of options for renting kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, pontoons, and jet skis!
Head Over to Crab Island
A former island, Crab Island is now a sandbar that many locals and tourists flock to. Take your boat, water taxi, a tiki bar, or shuttle over to the sandbar and enjoy the sun, water, and good company! Although alcohol sales are no longer allowed on Crab Island, you can still find floating restaurants and food trucks if you need a bite. Check out these tips for visiting Crab Island!
Destin Vacation Boat Rentals
If you’re looking for a little more than just floating on the water, check out Destin Vacation Boat Rentals! They offer excursions that will take you on a tour of the harbor and the national seashore on a catamaran. Then you’ll head back to their adventure park and enjoy kayaking, standup paddleboarding, or inflatable waterslides!
Enjoy a Fresh Seafood Dinner
One of the top reasons to visit Destin, Florida, is for the fresh seafood! Destin is a fisherman and seafood lover’s paradise, surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico from Choctawhatchee Bay.
If you’re looking for dinner on the water, check out Tailfins Waterfront Grill. Tailfins has great customer service and a decent menu selection. A plus? You’ll get to enjoy live music by local artists with dinner!
Another excellent waterfront dinner option in Destin is Boshamps Seafood and Oyster House! Be sure to get there early because there is usually a decent wait for dinner. However, they have plenty of indoor and outdoor waiting options if you have to wait.
Destin, Florida: Day 3
Experience Brunch in Destin
Brunch is a big deal in Destin! After a long day in the sun and a long snooze, a good meal and mimosa are in store!
If you’re looking for a local favorite, check out Crackings. They are known for their customer service, fast service, and delicious breakfast. They are only open until 2 PM, so don’t sleep in too long!
However, if you’re looking for brunch while overlooking the Bay, you’ll want to try out Brotula’s Seafood House and Steamer.
Lastly, The Local Market is a cute little bistro serving American comfort food, coffee, and beer. While their menu isn’t large, their flavors and their hearts are!
Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park
Located just 10 minutes from Destin on Okaloosa Island, you’ll find the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park. Visiting the Gulfarium is one of the top things to do with kids near Destin, Florida.
The Gulfarium is filled with animal exhibits showcasing the local marine environment. Learn all about Destin’s marine life and habitats while having fun! You’ll have the opportunity to observe alligators, penguins, otters, dolphins, birds, sea turtles, sharks, and more!
The best part of visiting the Gulfarium is perhaps the animal shows! Watch dolphins and sea lions as they do extraordinary tricks on command. And if you’re lucky, a dolphin may even splash you!
TIP: Be sure to arrive at the shows early as seating is limited and first come first serve.
Lunch and Shopping at Destin Commons
Destin Commons is a large open-air shopping mall with more than 85 stores, a retail chain, and local boutiques. If you’re looking to take a few souvenirs home, the Destin Commons is a great place to find something unique!
And if you get hungry while you shop, grab lunch at one of the many fine-dining or fast-food restaurants at the mall.
If you haven’t taken the perfect vacation photo for Instagram yet, head over to the Destin Commons murals! Representing Destin culture, these murals were painted by local and world-renowned artists.
Go on a Sunset Cruise
While you’re in town, be sure to take some cruise out on the water as the views are spectacular. However, if it’s your last night in town consider a relaxing sunset cruise with the family.
Sunset Dinner Cruise
If you’re looking for a sunset dinner cruise, check out SunQuest Cruises. Their 125′ triple-decker SOLARIS yacht offers fine dining along with a beautiful sunset.
Other Types of Cruises
However, you have many other options if you’re not interested in a dinner cruise. If you want to see marine life, go on a sunset dolphin cruise. If you are looking for something kid-friendly, try a pirate cruise! But if you’re all adults looking to let loose, rent a motorized tiki bar and go on your cruise with friends!
Alexandrea Sumuel is a travel writer and the founder of the Wander With Alex travel blog, where she provides vacationers and travel enthusiasts with trip ideas, travel guides, news, and itineraries. She travels to experience, eat, and explore-- and, on occasion, escape! Alex’s mission is to help people travel a little easier.