Top 4 Things To Know

Before you book your vacation to Destin, Florida

Located along Florida’s Panhandle between Pensacola Beach and Panama City Beach, Destin is a little slice of paradise with sprawling sugar-white sand beaches, turquoise waters and an abundance of family-friendly activities.  Let us help you relax and unwind in this postcard-worthy vacation spot. Keep reading to learn more about Destin’s best hotels, resorts and vacation rentals before you book.

Aerial shot of Destin and Henderson Beach State Park in Florida

Let's Get to Know The Area

Destin, Florida offers more than 13,000 rooms in a variety of accommodation types and styles. Then there is the choice of which beach you want to be near. Do you want to be within walking distance of restaurants and attractions?

How do you choose which one is right for you and your traveling companions? 

Destin and Miramar Beach areas have more vacation rentals than hotels that are considered beachfront. If you are specifically looking for a beachfront hotel, you will have more options in Ft. Walton Beach/Okaloosa Island.  

One thing to keep in mind, if you stay across the bridge in the Ft. Walton Beach area, be sure to allow EXTRA time for traffic when driving to Destin. Up to 30+ minutes in addition to what the GPS estimates. Expect the unexpected. If you have scheduled events in Destin, you don’t want to be late and lose your reservation or non-cancellable tickets.  This can be frustrating and costly if you miss your tour departure time. The tour providers will not refund your money or deposit.

1. Location

Photo Credit: Destindolphinview

If you choose a property that is not beachfront,  you will need to be close or willing to travel to a public beach.  Some vacation rentals across the street from the beach have gates/access to their private beach. Be sure to find this out if you don’t want to walk a long way to a public entrance. There are over 13 public access points to some very beautiful beaches. Parking is extremely limited at most of the public beaches. Learn more… 

Pro tip: A car is necessary in Destin. Most things are not walkable. 

Holiday Isle is a peninsula that sits between the harbor (the departure point for most tours and attractions) and the Gulf of Mexico. You can reach Holiday Isle by turning right on Gulf Shore Drive three miles after crossing the William T. Marler Bridge (East Pass) coming into Destin. The area is a bit quieter as it’s off of the main road of Hwy 98. 

There are several large resorts/rentals in the heart of Destin on Hwy 98 that include Pelican Beach Resort, Jade East, Silver Dunes, and the Sundestin (not to be confused with the Sandestin in Miramar Beach). 

Henderson Beach State Park

There are a couple of properties across the street from the main public beach in Destin which is Henderson Beach State Park (recently listed on best U.S. Beaches by Dr. Beach). Keep in mind, if you are staying across the street from the park, Hwy 98 is a six-lane road and very busy. It is quite a hike from the park entrance down to the beach. Many people walk it, but not recommended without a beach wagon or something to haul your belongings.  

Many of the resorts that are beachfront on Scenic Hwy 98 are across the street from the beach. This is a two-lane road that hugs the beach from the Henderson Beach Resort to Miramar Beach. Although it’s heavily traveled, the speed limit is low and the cars must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians. That being said, stay vigilant, especially with kids, but it really isn’t as bad as it sounds. 

2. Read The Reviews

Many of the vacation rentals in Destin are high-rise properties. Finding a cottage or small house on the beach is nearly impossible, if at all.  Keep in mind, each unit in several of the resorts are individually owned. The décor and attention to details can vary greatly from room to room in the same complex. That’s why it’s important to read the reviews of each unit/room BEFORE you book. 

    • One or two bad reviews doesn’t mean it’s not a good place. Try to gather the context of the review and the person writing the review. For instance, if the guests liked to party and be loud after hours, were they upset that the manager or other guests were trying to keep them quiet? If you like to party late at night, this would not be a good place for you.
    • On the other hand, if there were things broken or not working in the condo and the management failed to address the situation in a timely manner,  or if at all, maybe you want to keep looking for another place.
    • When were the worst reviews written? If they are recent, definitely take them into consideration. If they are several months or years old, try to establish if positive changes have been made or the unit is under a new owner/management by reading more recent reviews.
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O'Steen Public Access Beach

3. Beach Access

Many of the condos in Destin are directly on the sand or across the street from the sand with access to a private beach area. If you have small children, crossing a busy street to reach the beach may not be your first choice. Be sure to read the description thoroughly and/or speak with the management about the facility to better understand the location of the property.  

If you are staying in a facility without direct beach access, you may have to utilize a nearby public beach in order to be near the water. Several condo facilities allow beach service providers to begin setting up their chairs and umbrellas at the water’s edge very early in the morning making it nearly impossible for you to be near the water unless you use their equipment which can be as high as $40.00 a day or more.  

Ocean view (Gulf view in Destin) can mean a lot of different things to people. If you are truly concerned with the view, make sure you are able to see a picture clearly marked “view from the balcony or patio.” Often times, a peek-a-boo view will be considered a “gulf view” but will require a visit to the chiropractor to reset your neck after straining to see the Gulf. Don’t let unmet expectations ruin a perfectly good vacation.

June White Decker Beach

There are five public beach parks and eight public beach access points.   

 

Henderson Beach State Park

Over 300 parking spaces, beach wheelchairs, covered picnic pavilions, restroom facilities, grills, and campsites. Family-friendly. Learn more… 

Norreigo Point Beach Park  

Protected waters good for swimming and snorkeling with 27 parking spaces, showers and overlooks the east pass, restrooms coming soon. Learn more… 

June White Decker Beach Park  

Over 70 parking spaces, showers and restrooms. 

Shore at Crystal Beach Park  

9 parking spaces, restrooms, showers, and a covered picnic area. Learn more… 

James Lee Park

Over 100 parking spaces, playground, restrooms, and showers. Learn more… 

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Henderson Beach State Park

4. Pet Friendly-Vacation Rentals

The beaches in Destin do not allow dogs. No, they don’t understand they are part of the family too. There are a couple of parks that allow dogs if you bring them to Destin. 

Nancy Weidenhamer Dog Park 

Henderson Beach State Park 

Dogs are allowed on the hiking trail and campsites but not on the beach. 

There are a few rental properties who are pet-friendly, Maravilla and Beach Retreat Condos.