Good Morning America called us one of the “Top 10 Most Beautiful Places in America.” In 2013, the Travel Channel said we’re the “Best Family Beach.” But anyone who frequents the area knows that Destin and its surrounding destinations are much, much more than words can express.
Visiting the Emerald Coast isn’t a vacation; it’s an experience. While some arrive in hopes of seeing the famous beaches, others are in search of a family getaway. Many are here to relax and explore, while others are here to party. Whatever the case may be for your visit, we welcome you to explore what the area has to offer. Chances are, whatever the reason for your visit, there’s something here that fits your needs.
Packing up the kids and driving to the beach has been a long-lived summer past time for many families along the coast. There’s the thrill of playing in the ocean, building a sandcastle, and enjoying quality time together that coastal towns such as Destin thrive on. If you’re seeking a family adventure, look no further- the Emerald Coast has plenty to offer families visiting the area. Aside from the beaches and great family-friendly restaurants, many area attractions are perfect for the entire family
Sandestin itself offers many activities for kids and their adult counterparts. There’s Adventure Landing in the Village of Baytowne Wharf and Jolee Island Nature Park.
Fat Daddy’s Pizza is perfect for a rainy day. There’s great food plus an arcade. Next door, there’s a Laser Tag center that offers even more fun.
Gator Beach is both educational and fun. It features live gators and gator shows- plus it’s built inside of Fudpucker’s Restaurant.
If you’re looking for supply and demand, shopping in Destin is an adventure all its own. Destin Commons, the area’s exquisite outdoor mall, houses dozens of stores. From apparel, to home goods, to a movie theater, it’s at least a day’s entertainment. For the bargain hunter, Silver Sands Outlet Mall is only a hop, skip and a jump away, offering 110 different stores including Coach, Nike, Brooks Brothers, Michael Kors and more. For those searching for a boutique experience, shops off of Santa Rosa Beach’s famed 30-A, as well as shoppes on Destin’s HarborWalk, offer everything from handmade jewelry to local artists. And if you’re searching for a Spring Break shirt to add to your wardrobe, or a Destin picture frame to add to Aunt Mae’s collection, look no further than the dozens of beach stores located along beach road and off of Highway 98.
Just going to the beach is only part of enjoying the Emerald Coast’s pristine waters and white, sandy beaches. There’s diving and snorkeling adventures offered through places such as Destin Snorkel, varied water sports ranging from pontoon boats to parasailing, excursion cruises such as Destin’s Original Sea Blaster and Olin Marler’s Dolphin Cruise, sailing charters, and even the simplest idea of fishing, whether on land or by sea. Surrounded by both the bay and the Gulf of Mexico is what makes the Emerald Coast special- and Destin a top destination for all water lovers and thrill seekers.
Arts and Culture
Did you know that dozens of films and television shows have been created in the area? Movies such as The Truman Show and Jaws 2 were filmed here, while active television productions on HGTV and The Discovery Channel are actively filming in and around Destin. But that’s not all- the area is highly cultured in theater and entertainment, offering the best in performance arts. The Mattie Kelly Fine & Performing Arts Center is a world-class leader in entertainment, and one of the area’s best venues. Sinfonia Gulf Coast, the area’s only professional orchestra, also performs regularly. This is in addition to concerts and theater in the parks and, of course, the annual Mullet Festival. With the area’s ever changing culture, it’s best to look up the calendar of events for the time in which you are visiting.
Going to the Chapel
While any coastal town can offer the simplicity of a beach wedding, Destin and the surrounding areas do it right. Offering not only the look and feel of an Emerald Coast wedding, the area also boasts some of the top wedding planners and venues in the state of Florida. Couples can offer their wedding guests not only a destination wedding, but a variety of possibilities- from a wedding cruise with SunQuest Cruises, to something elegant and refined with Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort. Whatever a bride and her groom can imagine, the wedding professionals of the Emerald Coast can create.
The restaurant culture of the Emerald Coast is diverse enough to offer the best menu selections for even the pickiest of eaters. Coastal choices such as Pompano Joe’s, Harbor Docks, Dewey Destin’s and Louisiana Lagniappe bring seafood home. Local favorites such as The Marigny, Stinky’s Fish Camp, Rick’s Crab Trap and Miss Lucille’s Gossip Parlor are off the beaten path, but have varied menus from lunch to dinner. There’s also Fat Daddy’s Pizza, Fudpuckers, and Mellow Mushroom for the kid in all of us, offering the best family friendly cuisine in the area. If your taste buds allow, there’s a bit of every culture hiding in our seaside haven.
Night On the Town
Sometimes all a person needs is some great music, good drinks, and a few appetizers to make a trip worth while. We pride ourselves on offering nightlife appealing to all generations- from those who like to drink a beer and watch the waves, to those who like to dance the night away. The Village of Baytowne Wharf, located inside the Sandestin Resort, has a lot to offer- everything from the famed Rum Runners dueling pianos, to local favorite The Village Door. AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar offers great live music or talented local DJs alongside their famed drink menu, while The Boardwalk at Okaloosa Island is thriving with Howl at the Moon and The Swamp. If you’re looking for a younger crowd, Nighttown offers an 18+ admission.
Destin, Sandestin, Miramar Beach, Santa Rosa Beach, Okaloosa Island, Holiday Isle, Seaside, Alys Beach and the surrounding towns leave a lasting impression on those who visit. It’s not just about the experience; it’s about the memories. With so many options, and places that will forever impress upon its visitors, the Emerald Coast strives to see families, friends and visitors return again and again. By opening up to new ideas and new experiences, the possibilities are endless. We truly hope this Destin Florida Vacation Guide will help you enjoy all we have to offer. Visit Destin today!