Travel Guide

Destin, Fl

First Time Visitor
to Destin?


Insider Tip: Join our Facebook Group to ask questions, get recommendations, and share your passion for Destin.

The Vibe

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First of all, Destin is different from a lot of other beach towns in Florida. Destin began as a tiny little fishing village that has grown into a family-friendly destination for visitors from all over the world. However, it doesn’t have quite the international flair that you will find in Miami or Key West.

Destin is a family-friendly fishing village with beautiful beaches and great seafood. There’s not a lot of “nightlife” with clubs and dancing or after-hours entertainment. Depending on your expectations, there are different beach areas in Florida that are better suited to help you get the most out of your vacation. Destin is perfect for a relaxing seaside vacation. 

Destin is not a town you can get around in by walking. You will need a car to reach shopping, restaurants, and activities. Unlike Miami or Clearwater Beach, there is no ocean drive that traverses the beach with hotels, restaurants, and clubs on one side of the street with a sidewalk or boardwalk on the other for rollerblading or bike riding along the beach. There is, however, an area near the marina called HarborWalk Village with shopping, dining, and plenty of activities for the whole family.

The biggest attraction in Destin is the beach. The sand is what makes it so special. It absolutely has no rival. And that’s mostly because it’s not sand. It’s actually small particles of quartz. It is the purest white you will ever see and so fluffy and soft. Often, referred to as the sugar-white sand of the Emerald Coast.  

Most of the beaches in Destin are private and accessed only by the adjacent condo visitors and owners. Beach vendors begin setting up umbrellas and chairs very early in the morning along the water’s edge. If you want a front-row seat, you will need to make sure that beach service is part of your condo package or budget enough for daily rentals. Approximately $40+ a day for 2 chairs and 1 umbrella. All beaches have public a right-of-way from the waterline and back for 20 feet. Some people do try to set up their umbrellas in front of the vendors but that can be quite difficult to achieve. 

If you are not staying in a condo with beachfront access, there are small roped off portions of the beach for you to use, or you can visit one of the public beach parks. Henderson Beach State Park and James Lee Park have the most parking spaces available. Nevertheless, parking in Destin is at a premium and you must arrive very early to get a spot, especially in the high season. Miramar Public Beach access is another area with lots of parking and facilities. It is located at 2396 Scenic Gulf Drive Miramar Beach, Florida 32550 next door to Pompano Joes Restaurant 

Beach Safety

Double red flags mean, the water is closed. Please take the time to review the beach safety page and what the flags mean. It could save your life or that of a loved oneLearn more… 

Having never visited Destin before, choosing where to stay can be one of your most difficult tasks when it comes to planning your stay. With over 13,000 rooms available, making a selection that is right for you can be daunting, to say the least. 

Here are a few things to consider:

Beachfront properties:

Beachfront hotels and condos are at a premium most days out of the year.
Destin proper has more condos on the beach than hotels. Some of the best-rated, fan recommended properties are Pelican Beach Resort, Henderson Park Inn (adjacent Henderson Beach State Park), The Sundestin Beach Resort, Holiday Surf and Racquet Club (on Holiday Isle).  In the pictures below, you can see the first one includes the Destin harbor/marina area.

Holiday Isle is a small peninsula lined with several condominium complexes and high-end vacation homes. It is bordered on one side by the Gulf of Mexico and the Destin Harbor on the other. The views at night are spectacular. If you are high enough up, you have a top-rated view on all sides. This is also an excellent location for watching fireworks from your rental. Holiday Isle is also one of the best places to watch the sun slip below the horizon on the Gulf of Mexico.

The second map is a picture of Destin and Miramar Beach. James Lee Park is a large public beach near the Crab Trap restaurant.

If you prefer a hotel on the beach, Ft. Walton is a next-door neighbor to Destin and you will have more choices such as The Island by RLHilton Garden Inn,  and Four Points by Sheraton. 

If you don’t mind a 15-minute drive (without traffic) Miramar Beach has two beachfront luxury resorts and several condo vacation rentals. The Hilton Sandestin and the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort are both excellent choices. 

Staying on a Budget

If you’re traveling on a budget, you may want to consider staying a block or two off of the beach. The Fairfield Inn and Suites is directly across the street from Henderson Beach State Park. It is walking distance to the beach if you have a beach wagon for toting all your essentials. 

Hampton Inn and Suites is near Henderson Beach State Park with plenty of nearby amenities. 

If you’re really watching your budget, the Extended Stay America may be a better choice for you. It is very close to James Lee Beach Park and Crystal Shores Public Beach access points. 

Most tours and attractions are located in or near the Destin Harbor,  or HarborWalk Village. Holiday Isle offers pretty quick access to these locations and is less busy than other places located on HWY 98. 

One thing to remember. You WILL have traffic in Destin most of the year. Be sure to allow extra travel time when your activities have scheduled departure times. The tours don’t wait and you will not receive a refund. Allow extra time for travel. (15-20 minutes in addition to what your GPS recommends would be the minimum).

Fan Favorites: 

Dolphin Encounters are the top-rated activity in Destin. 

You have several options from an adventurous thrill ride on the Sea Blaster to a relaxing catamaran tour and everything in between. Learn more… 

Pontoon Boat Rentals are a great way to spend the day or half of the day on the water doing exactly what you want to do. You can venture out to Crab Island or cruise the vast Choctawhatchee Bay. Most rentals will hold up to 10 passengers and a few will hold up to 12 passengers. 

Waverunners, sometimes referred to as Jet Ski’s, are also an exciting and fun way to explore the beautiful waters of Destin looking for dolphins. 

Destin has several boat tours for snorkeling and exploring the emerald green waters of the gulf. You can find out more about those here. 

See Top Attractions for 2021

Where to Eat Seafood in Destin

One of the top questions in our Facebook group is “Where to get the best seafood in Destin.” 

Here are our fan’s top choices 

Like everywhere else, Destin has months that are better to visit than others. Spring and fall offer lower prices and fewer crowds than the summer months and busy holidays. But any day at the beach is a better day than in the office.

You can find out more about water and air temperatures here, as well as when would be the best time for you to visit. Learn more…

Shopping

Destin Commonslocated at 4100 Legendary Dr, Destin, FL 32541, is an award-winning outdoor lifestyle center with nearly 100 retail stores and restaurants offering the finest shopping, dining and entertainment, including anchor stores such as Bass Pro Shops, Belk, H&M and Uncle Buck’s Fishbowl & Grill. With its elegant fountains, outdoor music, and palm trees draped in lights, Destin Commons is a fantastic place to walk around or let the kids cool off at the Splash Pad and Pirates Play Cove or take a ride around the center on the Mini Choo Choo – Cubby Caboose. The mall also features an AMC movie theater with state-of-the-art digital projection and sound.