So, you’ve been dreaming of a beach vacation for months now. Stress at work and maybe a few difficult details at home have you dreaming of umbrella drinks and lazy days in the Florida sun. However, when you finally get to bury your toes in the sand, your dreams of paradise look a bit more like this.
Destin has become more popular throughout the years because of its easy accessibility from most of the U.S. After the pandemic, many people are less inclined to get on a plane and deal with the hassle of air travel, so they go looking for that beach getaway a little closer to home. For that reason, prices in Destin have soared over the last few months as well as the crowds and umbrellas on the beach.
A very popular question we get in our Facebook Group is, “Where can I find a less crowded beach?” If you are willing to do what many are not, you can find a less crowded beach and sometimes a beach with not another living soul for thousands of feet.
Here are a few tips to help you find that perfect slice of paradise.
There are two times we have found to have fewer people even on a crowded beach; very early in the morning, and just after the lunch hour nap. Early morning for obvious reasons. Many people choose to sleep in when on vacation. And those who hit the beach early, usually have had quite enough sun by around 2:00 –3:00 in the afternoon. As they start to pack up their things and head back in, you are more likely to find parking and a spot closer to the water
Visit a state park.
If you have a car, and you’re willing to pack up your things and drive a little, here are a couple of tips for you.
Henderson Beach State Park
In the heart of Destin, you will find Henderson Beach State Park. Not only are there great facilities, ample parking, six thousand feet of undeveloped beach, hiking, birdwatching, and playgrounds; you will also find RV camping. (Campsites usually book a year in advance).
Topsail Hill State Preserve
Topsail Hill State Preserve is another park with several thousand feet of natural beachfront with sand dunes and hiking trails. From the parking lot, you can catch a tram that will take you through the palm tree forest out to the beach. There’s plenty of room on the tram for your umbrellas and coolers. During the summer, the tram runs every thirty minutes. You will find facilities in the parking lot as well as at the beach. Topsail Hill also has RV camping sites.
Grayton Beach State Park
Grayton Beach State Park is a 30-minute drive east of Destin and worth every mile. Dr. Beach chose Grayton Beach State Park as the number one beach in America for 2020 for good reason. You can enjoy thousands of feet of natural beachfront, hiking trails through the sand dunes, great facilities, and plenty of parking. When the parking lot reaches capacity, the gate attendants will close the entrance for a while. This keeps the crowds on the beach at a minimum compared to other public beaches with no crowd control.
Gulf Islands National Seashore (2 locations)
There are two locations you can enjoy. One is between Destin and Ft. Walton Beach on Hwy 98 (Okaloosa Island) and the other is between Navarre and Pensacola Beach on 399 (Gulf Breeze). Take the road less traveled and drive over to Opal Beach in the middle of Gulf Islands National Seashore Gulf Breeze. Beach Access #2 just a short distance west on 399 is also very good. Be mindful of the low-speed limit on 399. It takes a bit of planning but you can experience that solitude you were looking for when dreaming of that beach vacation getaway, even in the middle of the summer months. There are no permanent facilities at this beach, only an outhouse. It’s still worth the drive.
Norreigo Point Beach
Located at the very end of Gulf Shore Drive in Destin, is Norriego Point. When you are at the HarborWalk village and look across the marina, Norriego Point is the beach you are looking at. There are fewer people on this beach due to the accessibility. You have to arrive early to get a parking place and then carry all of your stuff over several yards of fluffy white sand to reach the beautiful beach. Unless you have a beach wagon, pack lightly. Don’t let this stop you, this is a great beach for swimming and snorkeling since it’s protected by the jetties.
No, this doesn’t mean you have to visit the beach when the water is cold. Our favorite time of year in Destin is October. Early in the month, you will find the water to be in the high 70’s or low 80’s on average. Daytime temperatures are in the high 70’s with a lot of sunshine. A perfect time to visit the beach since the crowds are significantly less and the rates for hotels and vacation rentals are lower than the summer months. May and early June before schools let out is also a great time to visit. The water will be a bit cooler but still very enjoyable.