Soft white sand, emerald-green waters, beautiful weather, theme parks, watersports, exciting marine life, fresh seafood, and family-friendly resorts– Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Florida, has it all! If you’re looking for the perfect destination for your next family vacation, this gulf coast community should be on your radar. Here’s why.
Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Florida, has dedicated significant resources for families to find fun things to do together. Whether you’ve got tiny ones or teenagers, you won’t have to worry about them getting bored on the beach.
Just head to DestinFWB.com, where you can find activity suggestions broken down by age. Even better? Their website has a unique live chat feature where real, local moms are on standby waiting to answer your vacation questions!
Let’s take a closer look at the fantastic family adventures that Destin-Fort Walton Beach has to offer.
Things To Do With Kids in Destin, Florida
Little Adventures (Free)
When you’re headed to the beach, keep an eye out for the Little Adventures Outposts. These outposts were created with families in mind. They offer FREE 60-minute adventure classes such as stand-up paddleboarding lessons, surf lessons, fishing lessons, sea creature exploration, surf safety, and more. The best part?
Little Adventures’ classes change each season, so be sure to visit the Adventure Destin-Fort Walton Beach calendar to stay up-to-date on the latest classes.
Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park
The Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park in Fort Walton Beach offers up close and personal experiences with animals! As you venture through the park, you’ll meet aquatic creatures and mammals found locally and globally. Meet playful sea lions, feed African penguins, pet stingrays, or even get splashed by a dolphin! And, if the crew gets hungry, there’s a Dive-In Eatery on site where everyone can grab a bite!
Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation
Our beloved sea turtle population is in danger, and the Gulfarium needs your help! Sea turtles are endangered. It can seriously harm them when they get entangled in fishing lines, swallow hooks, or eat plastic by mistake.
To help save sea turtles and educate us, the Gulfarium created the C.A.R.E. Center. It stands for Conserve, Act, Rehabilitate, and Education. If a sea turtle needs rescuing, the Gulfarium in Fort Walton Beach will do its best to bring them to safety. Once in their care, the turtle will be treated, monitored, and then released home.
Saving Our Sea Turtles
Do you know how you can help? First, if you’re a visitor to the Gulfarium, consider adding on a Discover Sea Turtles tour as proceeds go towards the C.A.R.E. Center. During this tour, your family will learn all about current residents, go through the sea turtle intake process, and learn how to help these beautiful creatures.
Here are a few steps your family can take to help save our sea turtles!
- Properly dispose of your trash
- Recycle, Recycle, Recycle!
- Buy a reusable water bottle
- Carry reusable grocery bags
- Pick up trash on the beach
- Turn off beachfront lights*
*Did you know artificial lights on the beach at night can prevent female sea turtles from nesting in the sand? These lights can also disorient baby turtles, making it challenging to find the water after hatching. If you live in a sea turtle nesting area, consider turning off your beachfront lights or investing in sea turtle-friendly light bulbs.
Destin-Fort Walton Beach sunrises are simply stunning. If you’re an early riser, be sure to head to the beach one morning and catch the sunrise. Feel the cool white sand under your toes, then stick your feet in the warm gulf waters. Take a walk down the beach and enjoy the gorgeous scenery.
If you’re a beach-loving family, enjoy the day on the beach at Henderson Beach State Park. Set up the umbrella, queue up the music, build a sandcastle, and cool down in the water. There’s nothing more relaxing than a day at the beach! And, if you’re looking to do a bit of exploring in nature, Henderson Beach State Park has hiking trails!
Are you looking for a camping adventure? Partake in a family beachfront camping experience! Snuggle up next to the campfire, make s’mores, sip on hot chocolate, gaze up at the stars, or explore the beach at night. Want to know more? Check out this RAVE review by kids!
Dolphins are majestic creatures, and Destin, FL, has no shortage. Whether a dolphin sunset cruise or a day-time dolphin excursion, your family will be delighted with excitement when they spot a pod of these beautiful mammals.
Smile -n- Wave Sailing Adventures offers scenic trimaran cruises up and down the Choctawhatchee Bay, where you’re likely to spot bottlenose dolphins! You’ll sail with Captain Pam and her crew, who’ll ensure your family will have an incredible dolphin excursion. She’s very knowledgeable about the marine life in the area and can even recognize dolphins by the markings on their dorsal fins! A bonus? The kiddos may even get to help sail the boat!
Family Fishing Trips
Destin, Florida, is known as the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village,” thanks to its abundant supply of pristine waterways and unmatched recreational opportunities. This beautiful coastal city offers some of the best fishing conditions in the country, with warm water temperatures year-round and a variety of fish species. Whether seasoned anglers or beginners looking for a great offshore fishing experience, fishing in Destin is sure to be a great family adventure.
There are numerous options for family fishing trips in Destin-Fort Walton Beach. You can take a charter fishing boat, head to The Island Pier, check out Gulf Islands National Seashore, go kayak fishing, or do a little shore fishing on Okaloosa Island.
Destin Fishing Rodeo
And, if you happen to be visiting in October, sign-up for the Destin Fishing Rodeo, which has been running since 1948! Anglers of all ages compete yearly for more than $100,000.00 in cash and prizes. You can participate from a group charter, a private boat, a kayak, a pier, or a paddleboard!
Whether you’re looking for great shopping and dining options or you want to spend some time exploring the scenic marina, HarborWalk Village is a great place to take the family for the day.
For those looking for activities on land, there are plenty of great shops where you can find unique gifts, including a variety of specialty boutiques and gift stores. Those who are hungry will love the fantastic range of restaurants in the area, from casual seaside bistros to elegant fine dining establishments. And those looking to get out on the water can rent kayaks and paddleboards, reserve a fishing charter, take a ride on a glass-bottom boat, or even take a dolphin cruise.
Destin, Florida, offers various activities to suit any water enthusiast. Paddleboarding, surfing, kayaking, parasailing, kite surfing, fishing, snorkeling, you name it, Destin’s got it! Destin offers the perfect mix of adventure and relaxation, whether your family is experienced adventurers looking to try new and challenging activities or casual vacationers craving a relaxing day on the water. Check out HarborWalk Village, where you can rent the vessel of your choice!
Explore Tide Pools
What makes Destin-Fort Walton Beach so unique is its abundance of low-tide rock pools, which attract divers and snorkelers from all over. These rocky vistas offer an incredible glimpse into the marine ecosystem, with diverse ocean life constantly on display. A great place to take the kids for a tide-pooling or snorkeling adventure is Norriego Point. The calm shallow waters make it perfect for families with little ones to explore.
Destin Fishing & History Museum
The Destin Fishing and History Museum is the place to go if you are interested in learning more about the rich fishing history of this coastal town. From colorful displays that illustrate crucial moments in the evolution of fishing to exhibits highlighting the stories of local fishermen and their families, this museum provides an in-depth look at a vital aspect of life in Destin. And, while you’re taking in all the museum has to offer, the kids can participate in a scavenger hunt!
Theme Park Fun
If you’re looking for a little theme park fun with the family, Destin-Fort Walton Beach has a few options for you!
Big Kahuna’s Water & Adventure Park is a 60,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor water park featuring a giant wave pool, waterslides, and a relaxing lazy river. Big Kahuna’s offers hours of wholesome fun for families or groups of friends. Between March and Labor Day, the park is open every day.
Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone is one of the top family-friendly attractions on Okaloosa Island. This fun and exciting amusement park offer a wide range of thrilling rides and games, including water slides, go-karts, and arcade machines. Whether you’re looking to spend a relaxing afternoon with the kids or want to unleash your competitive spirit on the bumper cars, Wild Willy’s always has something fun for all ages.
The Track is an amusement park in Destin featuring 5 go-kart tracks, mini-golf, bumper cars, blaster boats, rides and rollercoasters, and an arcade. The Track is a great place to spend the day with the kids.
Where to Eat in Destin-Fort Walton Beach
When it comes to family dining in Destin, Florida, there are endless options to choose from. From upscale restaurants serving fresh seafood dishes to cozy cafes and cantinas with the classic southern fare, there is something to satisfy everyone’s tastes. If you’re looking for a great family dining experience, we highly recommend the following:
- Brotula’s Seafood House & Steamer,
- Rockin’ Tacos,
- Dewey Destin’s Seafood,
- and Camille’s at Crystal Beach.
And, if you’re looking for a great breakfast sandwich or cup of coffee in the morning, head to East Pass Coffee Co.!
Lulu’s is a popular restaurant in Destin owned by Jimmy Buffett’s sister, Lucy (Lulu) Buffet. Located right on the coast, this vibrant eatery is known for its delicious seafood and stunning ocean views. Additionally, Lulu’s offers live music performances throughout the week that will keep your family entertained.
What makes Lulu’s special is that they are very sensitive to food allergies and offer a special menu to ensure your little ones stay healthy. And, if the kiddos need something to do while waiting, there’s an arcade to keep them entertained!
At Fudpucker’s Beachside Bar & Grill, you can enjoy all the classic beachside fare you’d expect, from burgers and milkshakes to piña coladas and fried gulf shrimp. Kids will enjoy the vibrant environment, a special menu, and can even go on a scavenger hunt! But what really sets this Florida hotspot apart is Gator Beach which features tons of real alligators!
Where to Stay in Destin on Your Family Vacation
The Henderson Beach Resort
Located just a short walk away from pristine white sand beaches and sparkling emerald waters, the Henderson Beach Resort in Destin, Florida, is perfect for a relaxing family beach vacation. This world-class resort offers everything you need for a rejuvenating retreat, from luxurious rooms and suites to delicious dining options and an on-site spa.
Families can enjoy a splash in the pool, hang out in the hot tub, or even ride down a lazy river. The kids can enjoy an ice cream cone at Sprinkles, get creative at Poppy’s Kids Club, and even have fun on the lawn with hula hoops and frisbees! Henderson Beach Resort also offers complimentary kayak, bike, and paddleboard rentals!
Places to eat and drink include a rooftop bar where you can relax or catch a fantastic sunset, their Primrose restaurant, which has an extensive sushi menu, experience beautiful views of the gulf at Horizons, or enjoy a meal by the pool at Sea Level.
The Emerald Grande at HarborWalk Village
Located right on the Destin Boardwalk Harbor, the Emerald Grande resort sits in the center of all the action. With four different family room options, fabulous waterfront views, spacious balconies, a wealth of top-class amenities, and delicious eateries steps away; this resort was designed to keep your family comfortable and entertained.
Whether you’re looking for a relaxing retreat on the beach with the family or an action-packed vacation filled with adventure sports, the Emerald Grande is sure to be a perfect choice.
The Island, by Hotel RL
Hosting families since 1966, this newly renovated resort located in Fort Walton Beach, is the perfect getaway for families looking to enjoy the beautiful Florida coastline. The Island Resort offers spacious beachside suites, a private beach, two pools, and fine-dining options. This beachfront resort has everything you need for a relaxing family beach vacation.
Whether you want to sunbathe on the sandy beaches, go paddleboarding in the emerald-green waters, or sit back and take in the stunning scenery, The Island Resort provides excellent amenities to ensure your family has a blast while visiting Destin-Fort Walton Beach.
A Family Vacation in Destin-Fort Walton Beach, FL
When it comes to family vacations, there’s no better place than the beautiful beaches of Destin-Fort Walton Beach, FL. With its warm, crystal-clear waters and stunning white sand, this area is the perfect destination for spending time with loved ones.
Whether we’re splashing around in the waves, building sandcastles on the beach, or taking to the water for a fantastic excursion, there’s always something new and exciting to discover. And with so many great restaurants and shops, spending time together is just as fun on land as in the water.
A Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Florida, family vacation will leave your family with life-long memories!
Disclaimer: I was hosted by Destin-Fort Walton Beach, FL during my time here. All opinions are my own.
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Alexandrea Sumuel is a travel writer and the founder of Wander With Alex, 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 easier.