Sun, Sand, and Smiles: A Destin, Florida Beach Vacation

Destin, Florida is an excellent vacation destination in the Florida panhandle. In the heart of the Emerald Coast, the area’s beaches are known for their soft sugar-white sand and sparkling emerald-green waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

If you enjoy being in or around the water, you’ll thoroughly enjoy a Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Florida, vacation. Along with its gorgeous beaches, it’s known for great fishing, water sports, fresh seafood, and family-friendly vacation options.

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Where to Stay in Destin, Florida

The Henderson Beach Resort Destin, FL
Photo Credit: Alexandrea Sumuel

Henderson Beach Resort: I thoroughly enjoyed this luxury resort, which is situated across a residential road from the gorgeous Henderson Beach State Park. Rooms are spacious and modern, the spa is luxurious, and the on-site restaurants have great menus, the roof-top bar is great for sunsets, and there is a lazy river that connects to the outdoor pool! The beach is a short walk across the road and is a great spot to enjoy Destin’s soft white sand, emerald green waters, and beautiful sunsets. 

Emerald Grande at Harborwalk VillageAnother luxury stay my family highly enjoyed. These condos are known for their great location in Harborwalk Village on the Destin boardwalk. You will be steps away from many restaurants, bars, shopping, beach rental shops, and activities like zip-lining, mini-golf, and axe-throwing. The hotel also has a water shuttle service to take you to a private beach. The hotel itself is a great option for families, as it has separate bedrooms. Gorgeous waterfront, city, and pool views from balconies, modern, spacious, and an all-around great stay. 

Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa: Offers luxurious rooms featuring private balconies with stunning views of the Gulf of Mexico and modern amenities, including mini-refrigerators. Enjoy on-site amenities, including three outdoor pools, a full-service spa, and several dining options. Strategically located on the beautiful sands of Miramar Beach, the resort is also adjacent to a world-class golf course, making it a perfect retreat for relaxation and recreation.

Things to Do in Destin, Florida

Destin-Fort Walton Beach
Photo Credit: Destin-Fort Walton Beach

Destin, Florida, is a treasure trove of activities suitable for every type of traveler, from beach enthusiasts and adventure seekers to families and couples.

The city’s stunning white sand beaches are perfect for sunbathing, beachcombing, and swimming in the crystal-clear waters of the Gulf of Mexico. For those interested in water sports, Destin offers everything from jet skiing and parasailing to snorkeling and scuba diving, providing ample opportunities to explore the vibrant marine life.

Fishing enthusiasts can enjoy some of the best deep-sea fishing in the region, while golfers have access to premier golf courses with scenic views.

Harborwalk Village / Destin Boardwalk

Destin Harbor
Photo Credit: Destin-Fort Walton Beach

HarborWalk Village in Destin, Florida, is a lively waterfront hub where entertainment, shopping, and dining converge to create a fun atmosphere. You can go on fishing charters, parasail, kayak, scuba-diving, or snuba-diving, enjoy drinks on a floating tiki bar, or take a dolphin-watching cruise. The boardwalk itself invites leisurely strolls with panoramic views of the harbor while live music and seasonal fireworks light up the evenings.

Dining at HarborWalk Village is an adventure in itself, with popular restaurants like Harry T’s, which offers a menu filled with seafood favorites alongside spectacular views of the harbor, and Margaritaville, where guests can indulge in a laid-back, beach-themed atmosphere with classic American fare. For those craving a taste of local seafood, Dewey Destin’s Seafood Restaurant is a must-visit for its authentic flavors and fresh catches.

Henderson Beach State Park

destin
Photo Credit: Alexandrea Sumuel

Henderson Beach State Park is an excellent option if you’re looking for beach time or other outdoor activities. The park offers swimming, hiking, biking, fishing, camping, and bird watching. Park amenities include picnic pavilions and benches, restrooms, grills, campsites, and kayak launch points.

Like many of the beaches in the area, Henderson Beach State Park’s sand is as white as snow. Why is the sand so white? Made up of tiny quartz particles, it was created by a process involving the Appalachian Mountains and the Apalachicola River ages ago.

Why is the water so green in Destin, Florida? The Emerald Coast offers beautiful green waters resulting from the sun reflecting off the algae. And on cloudy or rainy days, the water may not look as green. Is it safe to swim in the green water? Yes!

Crab Island Sandbar

crab island destin florida
Photo Credit: Destin Vacation Boat Rentals

Crab Island Sand Bar in Destin, Florida, is a famed aquatic playground that attracts locals and tourists with its shallow, crystal-clear waters and vibrant social scene.

Originally a small island, Crab Island has evolved into an underwater sandbar, accessible only by boat, where the water is waist-deep and perfect for a day of fun under the sun.

Visitors can anchor boats, float on inflatables, or mingle with fellow beach-goers. The area is bustling with activity, offering floating vendors who provide snacks, beverages, and even full meals right on the water.

Water sports are plentiful, with options to rent paddleboards, kayaks, and jet skis, enhancing the adventure.

Crab Island also hosts live music and water-based activities like obstacle courses. It is a unique destination where the Emerald Coast’s festive atmosphere and stunning backdrop come together for an unforgettable experience.

Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park

gulfarium
Photo Credit: Alexandrea Sumuel

Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park is a must-visit attraction for anyone interested in marine life and conservation. Located a short drive from Destin in Fort Walton Beach, the park has a variety of educational and entertaining exhibits featuring dolphins, sea lions, sharks, and many other marine life.

The park’s highlight is undoubtedly the daily dolphin and sea lion shows, which showcase the intelligence and agility of these amazing animals. You can get up close and personal with various marine species through the park’s touch tanks and interactive animal encounters.

Amusement Parks

water park
Photo Credit: [@.shock/DepositPhotos]

Are you looking to take the kids to a theme park? Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park is a great way to spend a day with the family! Enjoy waterslides, rides, wave pools, a lazy river, mini-golf, and more! The park closes for the winter and reopens around spring break each year. 

The Track is an amusement park in Destin featuring go-kart fun for all ages. But if you’re not interested in racing, The Track has other things to do! You can play mini-golf, enjoy rides, blast your friends with a water cannon, and more!

Destin History and Fishing Museum

Destin Fishing and History Museum
Photo Credit: Alexandrea Sumuel

Destin is self-proclaimed as the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village” because of the area’s wide variety of fish species. The typical fresh catch includes gulf shrimp, oysters, red snapper, grouper, mahi-mahi, cobia, and mackerel. There are numerous opportunities for charter fishing, pier fishing, inshore fishing, and even kayak fishing.

The Destin History and Fishing Museum offers visitors a glimpse into the area’s rich fishing heritage. The museum features exhibits showcasing the evolution of fishing in the Destin area, including artifacts and photographs from the earliest days of the fishing industry.

Air Force Armament Museum

Military Air Museum DFWB
Photo Credit: Destin-Fort Walton Beach

Head 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.

Shopping at Destin Commons

Destin Commons
Photo Credit: Destin-Fort Walton Beach

Destin Commons is an enjoyable outdoor shopping center that features a variety of shopping, dining, live entertainment, and a movie theater. The walls of the buildings are adorned with vibrant murals created by local and well-known artists, providing an excellent backdrop for photos. Additionally, on the last Sunday of each month, there is an Artisans Market where you can buy locally-made products. 

Where to Eat in Destin, Florida

Brotula's Red Snapper Destin
Photo Credit: Alexandrea Sumuel

In Destin, Florida, the culinary scene is as vibrant as its beaches, offering a variety of dining options that cater to all tastes and preferences. Seafood is undoubtedly the star in Destin, with many establishments serving fresh catches daily, ranging from succulent gulf shrimp to red snapper and oysters, often prepared with local flavors and ingredients. Beyond seafood, visitors can indulge in traditional Southern comfort food, authentic Italian, and lively Mexican.

Brotula’s Seafood House & Steamer is an excellent, locally-owned restaurant with water views. Enjoy the day’s catch with friends and family while watching boats and yachts pass by. Boshamps Seafood & Oyster House is another good seafood restaurant with water views and an outdoor deck. Be sure to get there early, as the wait is usually long. However, they offer indoor and outdoor waiting areas for their guests. Other popular spots include Rockin’ Tacos, Lulu’s, Dewey Destin’s Seafood, and Camille’s at Crystal Beach.

Your Destin, Florida Vacation

HarborWalk Village 2
Photo Credit: Destin-Fort Walton Beach

Vacationing in Destin, Florida, offers a rich blend of natural beauty, engaging activities, and warm hospitality that makes it a standout destination on the Gulf Coast.

From the stunning, sugar-white beaches and emerald waters ideal for a variety of water sports, to the abundant fishing opportunities and scenic golf courses, Destin caters to both adventure seekers and those in pursuit of relaxation.

The lively culinary scene, vibrant shopping districts, and family-friendly attractions like HarborWalk Village ensure that every day is filled with new experiences and delights.

Whether you’re looking for a serene beach retreat or an action-packed getaway, Destin provides a perfect backdrop for a beach getaway with family or friends.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alexandrea Sumuel - Groves is a nationally syndicated travel writer and founder of the Wander With Alex travel blog. Her work has appeared on MSN, YAHOO!, Euronews, and FOX, ABC, and NBC affiliates across the United States. 

Alex travels to experience, eat, explore, and occasionally escape! She collaborates with destinations, vacation property management companies, and hospitality technology firms to provide her readers with exclusive insights and information.