There’s a reason they call it the Emerald Coast. Greenish-blue waters washing up on to deep white sand beaches, this is Destin.
The green cast waters hide, just below the surface, some of the most abundant marine life in the country. Steeply dropping sandy shelves quickly dive deep into the Gulf of Mexico provide a perfect environment for marine species all the way up the food chain.
Fishing. Fishing is how Destin got its start. In the 1850s Captain Leonard Destin, after a series of unfortunate events, settled in what would become one of the best fishing holes in America. Largely cut off by land from the rest of the world until the second half of the last century, Destin was a bit of a fisherman’s secret for some time.
Today, the word is out. The fishing is still good, probably still some of the best you’ll find. However, there are more things to do in Destin than just fish. Here’s everything you need to see and do while visiting Destin Florida.
1. Helicopter Tour Over Destin
A scenic helicopter tour over Destin is guaranteed to be one of the most memorable experiences you’ll have during your trip. Soar high above the harbor, sparkling ocean waves, and white-sand beaches while you soak in the awe-inspiring landscape from the comfort of a helicopter.
First-time fliers can choose either a 10 or 15-mile harbor tour, which offers picturesque views over the Emerald Green. For a more luxurious trip, you can extend your flight to visit Okaloosa Island, Panama City, or Pensacola. Don’t forget to bring your camera, because you won’t get panoramic views like this anywhere else in Destin!
- Coastal Tour $49 per person
- Beach Run $89 per person
- Jaws Tour $109 per person
- Dolphin Run $129 per person
2. Sunset Cruise
The beautiful landscape of Destin is best enjoyed with a sunset cruise through the Gulf of Mexico. There’s nothing more romantic than sipping champagne as you glide through the water, enjoying the gentle breeze and crisp ocean air. You’ll pass by tropical white sand beaches admiring the famous Florida sunset as it paints the sky a vibrant mix of oranges, pinks, and yellows.
If you’re lucky, you might spot a few dolphins; dolphin pods can be found in the Gulf of Mexico or Choctawhatchee Bay. Most cruises leave from Destin Harbor, and depending on your tour, can either be with a speed boat or sailboat. Afterward, you’ll return to the harbor, where you’ll have your choice of numerous bars and seafood restaurants to end the night.
3. Dolphin Watching Cruise
Get up close and personal with some of Destin’s most adorable residents on a breathtaking dolphin watching cruise. Aboard the catamaran, you’ll sail from the Destin Harbor into the glistening Gulf of Mexico to look for wild bottleneck dolphins in their natural habitat.
There are believed to be as many as 40,000 dolphins living off the coast of Destin, and a dolphin cruise is your best way to catch a glimpse of these playful, majestic creatures. Unlike other places in the world, the dolphin pods in Destin live there throughout the year, although you’re more likely to see them in the middle of their mating season (late spring until late summer). However, the waters around Florida are warm year-round, which means no matter which month you go, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to come face to face with these awesome creatures.
4. Fishing Charter
With miles of coastline and an abundance of marine life, Destin is one of the best places in Florida for inshore or nearshore saltwater fishing. Considered by many to be the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village,” Destin is the closest place on land to the Gulf of Mexico’s deepest part.
To make the most of your visit, you can hire a boat or fishing charter to take you around the different bays and reefs in the Gulf. There are more than 30 different species of edible fish living around the Gulf: red snappers, groupers, triggerfish, and amberjacks are just a few common breeds you’ll likely catch during your trip. It’s also possible to fish directly from the shore. Mackerel, cobia, and tarpon swim just a few yards from Destin’s coastline. Keep in mind that saltwater fishing without a tour company requires a license for anglers between 16 and 64.
5. Destin History & Fishing Museum
The Destin History & Fishing Museum is a small but fascinating museum exploring almost 200 years of Destin’s maritime history. You’ll learn how a charming 19th-century fishing village evolved into one of Florida’s most influential towns. Besides photographs and stories, the museum also has a vast collection of tools used before the invention of modern fishing rods and reels.
However, one of the most impressive exhibits in the museum is the fish display. Here, you’ll find over 75 different fish that were caught right here off the coast of Destin, including the elusive Mola Mola – or Ocean Sunfish. While it’s possible to tour the museum on your own, it’s worth visiting with the help of a guide or docent, who can shed light and share stories about the museum’s history.
- Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 10 am – 4 pm
- Admission: Adults $5, Children/Students $3, Children under 6 & members free
- Address: 108 Stahlman Ave, Destin
6. Crab Island
For a fun day in the sun, head to Destin’s Crab Island. Despite the name, Crab Island is not actually an island. It’s an underwater sandbar where boaters, sunbathers, swimmers, and partygoers come to spend a day playing in the warm, shallow waters. It’s a great place to play water volleyball or just float around drinking a cold beer on your innertube. There are numerous mobile food booths and floating restaurants if you need to grab a bite to eat in between all the activities.
Crab Island is located just a few minutes from Destin Harbor and can only be accessed by boat. If you’ve never driven a boat before, don’t worry. Numerous companies hire out easy-to-drive pontoon boats, and you only need to show your driver’s license. If you would rather leave the driving to a professional captain, it’s possible to visit Crab Island with a tour company. Bring your swimsuit, your sunscreen, and your beach games, and get ready to have an exciting day splashing around Crab Island!
7. Henderson Beach State Park
Florida is known to have some of the best beaches in the US, and Henderson Beach State Park is no exception. The 6,000-foot shoreline is dotted with massive dunes, many of which stand almost 30 feet high. It’s easy to see why Henderson Beach is one of the most beautiful things to see in Destin!
Besides being one of the premier spots for sunbathing, Henderson Beach is also a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Fish off the coast for flounders and catfish, trek along the boardwalk and hiking trails, or simply spend the weekend camping under the twinkling stars. More than 60 different campsites are located on the beach, making for a unique experience for anyone visiting Destin.
- Fee: $6 per vehicle
- Hours: daily 8 a.m till sunset
- Address: 1700 Emerald Coast Parkway, Destin Florida
A family favorite in Destin is the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park. Here you’ll find several large aquariums and exhibits filled with all kinds of marine life – even sharks! If you time your visit right you also have the chance to see dolphins.
- Hours: 9am-4:30pm Daily
- Address: 1010 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548
9. Harbor Walk Village
You can’t visit Destin without spending a day at Harbor Walk Village, the bustling cultural center of Destin. Spanning for almost a mile along the coast, the Harbor Walk Village is home to various restaurants, shops, cafes, and unique attractions catering to locals and tourists alike. During the summer, you’ll also find live music, weekly firework shows, colorful parades, and endless entertainment for the whole family.
Harbor Walk Village is the main location for many activities and tours leaving from Destin. Dolphin sightseeing excursions, snorkeling tours, pirate cruises, and helicopter rides can all be booked right here. You’ll also find the office of Boogies Water Sports, Destin’s top company for water sports. Rent a high-speed jet ski or wave runner, book your pontoon boat to Crab Island, or embark on a scenic paragliding tour over the water.
During your visit, don’t forget to check out the Destin Fishing Fleet – the largest fishing charter company in the entire world. They own 40 different fishing charter boats and operate guided tours for amateur anglers. From amberjacks and groupers to red snappers and triggerfish, the Gulf is home to more than 30 different kinds of edible reef fish. After your trip, have Brotula’s in the Harbor Village Walk cook and prepare your fresh catch for an unforgettable meal in Destin!
- Admission: FREE
- Hours: Open daily 10 am – 10 pm
- Address: 34 Harbor Blvd, Destin
10. Big Kahuna’s Waterpark
During a hot summer day in Destin, the Big Kahuna’s Waterpark is a thrilling attraction the whole family can enjoy. Adventure seekers can enjoy one of over 40 different water-based attractions, like the high-speed Kawabunga Racer or the winding California Twister. You can also try your hand at surfing on the giant swells on the Honolulu Halfpipe.
Younger kids also have their own devoted area at Big Kahuna’s. Whether they’re splashing around on the kid-sized paradise of Buccaneer Cove or taking a leisurely float down the gentle lazy river, Big Kahuna’s is guaranteed to be a wild family-friendly adventure!
If you prefer to stay dry, Big Kahuna’s also has you covered. The Adventure side of the park is packed with thrilling rides, including the spinning cyclone twister and the tropical mini-golf course. There’s also the heart-racing Sky Coaster ride, which drops you 60 mph from over 100-feet in the air.
- Currently closed due to weather conditions & maintenance, call the park for hours 850-837-8319
- Waterpark one day tickets: $48.99 over 48″, $40.99 under 48″, $38.99 Senior – Book tickets online to save money
- Adventure Park tickets – Several pass option; click here for all ticket options
- Address: 1007 US Highway 98 East, Destin
11. Destin Commons
One of the biggest Destin attractions for locals and tourists is the Destin Commons. The expansive shopping complex is packed with dozens of restaurants, bars, retail shops, and even booths and games for the little ones.
- Address: 4100 Legendary Dr, Destin, FL 32541
12. Uncle Bucks Fishbowl & Grill
Uncle Buck’s Fishbowl & Grill is more than just your typical restaurant. It also happens to be an underwater-themed bowling alley! The walls and ceiling are covered in life-sized marine animals, the bowling bowls are painted like alligators and mermaids, and the lanes have moving projections of swimming fish and roaring ocean waves. Be prepared to be mesmerized by the beautiful underwater scenery from the second you walk through the door.
The food is also guaranteed to delight your tastebuds. Choose between fish and chips, shrimp alfredo, or New England clam chowder. The extensive burger and pizza menu is also an excellent option for those who crave something more traditional. Although Uncle Bucks Fishbowl & Grill is a great option for the whole family, we recommend the signature Fishbowl cocktail for diners over 21. It’s made with five different types of alcohol and served in a giant fishbowl.
- Monday-Thursday 11 am-8 pm
- Friday & Saturday 11 am – 9 pm
- Sunday 11 am – 7 pm
- $32 an hour for a lane (max 8 bowlers) Monday – Thursday
- $37 an hour for a lane (max 8 bowlers) Friday – Sunday
- $4.25 show rental
- Address: 4251 Legendary Drive Destin, Florida
13. Princess Beach
For a bit of sand, sun, and relaxation, visit peaceful Princess Beach in Destin. This pristine slice of paradise is covered in powdery white sand and swaying dune grasses, the perfect setting for a quiet day on the beach.
Princess Beach is owned by the Air Force and a permit which you can apply for on your phone is required to access the beach, but it’s worth it. You’d be hard-pressed to find a picture-perfect place in Destin to spend the day!
14. Indian Temple Mound Museum
Located just a short drive from Destin in Fort Walton, the Indian Temple Mound Museum is a historical look into 1200 years of prehistoric Native American history. It’s located next to the Fort Walton Mound, a 223-foot wide complex built in 850 by people from the Pensacola culture. Along with the Letchworth Mounds and Lake Jackson Mounds state park, the Fort Walton Mound is one of the three last remaining mound landmarks in Florida.
Inside the museum, you’ll find a vast collection of ancient pre-Columbian artifacts, including an impressive gallery of decorated clay pots. It’s a great place to visit with kids, as many of the exhibits are hands-on and interactive. Admission to the Indian Temple Mound Museum, Camp Walton Schoolhouse Museum, Garnier Post Office Museum, and the Civil War Exhibits Building are all included with your ticket to see the Fort Walton Mound.
- Admission: $3 for ages 4 and up
- Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 10 am – 3 pm
- Address: 139 Miracle Strip Pkway SE, Fort Walton Beach
15. Maximum Magic Show
Located right on the Destin Harbor Boardwalk, the Maximum Magic Show is a must-see Destin attraction. Noah and Heather are award-winning illusionists, and their show is full of mindreading, special effects, and awe-inspiring magic. This family-friendly show also requires a lot of audience participation, so don’t be surprised if you’re pulled up on stage to help the magicians with their next act!
As the only magic show in Destin, the Maximum Magic Show is guaranteed to have you scratching your head and leaving the theater wondering, “how did they do that?!” Definitely add the magic show to your list of things to do in Destin with kids.
- Book Tickets Online Here
- Address: 10 Harbor Blvd. Suite 234, Destin
- Book Tickets Online Now
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