Destin, a Sunshine State gem, is one of the most visited places on the Gulf Coast. Look forward to all the makings of a holiday getaway with sugar-white beaches and emerald green waters, all in one of the most beautiful states in the US.
This vacationer’s paradise is also affectionately called the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village” and has, since its humble village beginnings, grown to attract a significant portion of Florida’s visitors.
Top Things to Do in Destin Florida
Table of Contents
- Top Things to Do in Destin Florida
- 1. Crab Island
- 2. Destin Harbor Boardwalk
- 3. Hire a Fishing Charter
- 4. Visit Gator Beach
- 5. Urban Air Adventure Park
- 6. Indian Temple Mound Museum
- 7. Henderson Beach State Park
- 8. Destin Commons
- 9. The Redbird Art Experience
- 10. Dolphin Sunset Cruise
- 11. Harbor Walk Marina
- 12. Big Kahuna’s Water & Adventure Park
- 13. Escape Zone
- 14. Baytowne Wharf
- 15. Banana Boat Excursion
- 16. Visit the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park
- 17. Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone
- 18. Helicopter Ride
- 19. Parasailing
- 20. The Track Destin
- 21. Eglin Beach Park
- 22. AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar
- 23. Noah & Heather Wells Maximum Magic
- 24. Indian Bayou Golf & Country Club
- 25. Uncle Buck’s Fishbowl and Grill
- 26. Banana Bart’s
- 27. Mattie Kelly Park and Nature Walk
- 28. Ziplining
- 29. Destin History & Fishing Museum
- 30. Snorkelling at Norriego Point
- 31. Rent a Bike from Fun Pug Bike Rentals
- 32. John Beasley Park’s Artificial Reef
- 33. Wet-N-Wild
- Final Thoughts on the Best Things to Do in Destin
What makes this city special is the variety of activities on offer that cater to every type of traveller. From shopping and alligator interactions to museum-hopping, there’s something for everyone. Not to mention, it’s a foodie’s paradise that offers countless delectable seafood establishments. Beach-bumming is simply one (excellent) way to spend your time here. Let’s dive right in!
1. Crab Island
This beautiful slice of paradise attracts water-lovers by the boatful! Yes, this popular sandbar spot can only be reached via boat and it’s a well-known summertime destination for locals and visitors. The shallow, wadable waters make it a spot people can spend hours hanging out at. You can take the Crab Island Shuttle or make a splash with your own private Crab Island rented boat.
Groups fill their cooler boxes and pack their water activities for a day of fun in the sun. Surrounded by crystal-clear waters you can relax on your boat, jam out to music or cool off on a float. For those who want to get active, rent a paddleboard from a local vendor, or even enjoy some fly fishing.
Although most people pack their own food and drinks, Crab Island does have floating food vendors and restaurants occasionally, but finding out beforehand may be worthwhile.
2. Destin Harbor Boardwalk
Harbor Boardwalk is one of those free attractions that provide the perfect place to spend a few hours when funds are in short supply.
The boardwalk stretches along the harbour and is a popular spot to catch a beautiful Florida sunset. The area includes a variety of shops to peruse and plenty of restaurants as well; many of them offer stunning water views and deals on delicious meals.
Others prefer to skip the evening crowds and visit first thing in the morning for a fresh perspective. Start your day right by breathing in the Gulf of Mexico’s fresh ocean air while getting in a leg stretch. Afterwards, take a stroll to The Breakfast Table or the Donut Hole Bakery Cafe – both open early and serve a memorable breakfast.
The boardwalk also hosts many annual events, including the Destin Seafood Festival and an annual fishing rodeo, so be sure to look out for any while you’re in the city.
3. Hire a Fishing Charter
Destin is known as The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village and boasts the largest charter fishing fleet in Florida. Here you get unique deepwater access in the northern gulf. Hiring a charter boat takes the pressure off and allows the experts to guide you to their secret honey-holes so that you can reel in the big fish.
4. Visit Gator Beach
The world’s greatest alligator park is a must during any trip to Destin. After all, nothing says Florida like alligators! These scaly creatures are quite a sight to behold and you can do so completely free of charge. That’s right, there is no admission fee and watching any of the gator shows won’t cost you a dime either.
This exciting spot offers visitors the opportunity to get up close and personal with these fascinating creatures in a safe and controlled setting (certainly safer than trying to spot them in the wild).
The excitement continues. Fancy feeding one of their 100-plus alligators? Simply attach some of the specially formulated Gator Food for sale to a cane pole provided and voila! Once you’ve lowered the string down to the pond you will see some eager gators swimming closer to snatch up their snack.
Perhaps the feeding process doesn’t entice you as much as an Instagram-worthy snapshot with one of these scaly fellas. Whether you’re the adventurous type, an animal lover or simply looking to cross off a bucket-list item, you can hold a baby alligator for a small fee and create a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
5. Urban Air Adventure Park
With so much to do and experience, you may need to pay Urban Air Adventure Park more than one visit. Whether your children are attracted by the laser tag, climbing walls, ropes course, trampolines or ‘sword-fighting’ on the battle beams – they’ll be begging to come back for more.
This dreamland for kids will keep your youngsters entertained for hours. In fact, adults will find themselves jumping for joy too. The older crowd will even call themselves experienced gamers after strapping on the virtual reality headsets and going to battle.
6. Indian Temple Mound Museum
A short 10-minute drive from downtown Destin, you can enjoy an educational-centred activity to add a different element to your beachy holiday. The museum, alongside the mound itself, exhibits artefacts of a past Native American way of life. There are also pieces from other periods of the area’s history to admire, providing visitors with a special opportunity to venture back in time.
7. Henderson Beach State Park
Warm gulf waters and white sand dunes mark this picturesque gem. This protected treasure along the Emerald Coast is perfect for relaxation and seaside activities. Boasting fishing spots, an abundance of aquatic life, a nature trail, and 60 campsites that lead onto the beach via the boardwalk, there is no shortage of fun to be had here.
8. Destin Commons
Fancy some al fresco shopping? There is no need to miss out on retail therapy during your beach vacation. Fringed by palm trees and outdoor vibrancy, Destin Commons allows you to ditch the stuffiness of regular mall shopping.
This open-air shopping centre is a popular spot for browsing and spending. It offers a handsome range of national stores, dining options, a cinema, and a kid’s play area to keep everyone entertained for the perfect family outing.
9. The Redbird Art Experience
Looking for a rainy day activity to do with your kids? This spot is perfect for a lowkey afternoon where you can get those creative juices flowing. Here you will have the opportunity to make really fun pieces of art from all sorts of recyclable materials.
Visitors will pick the base of their art, from canvases, pieces of wood, picture frames and even old window panes. From there you’ll get a tray to carry around while you pick out materials that tickle your fancy. Everything from rocks, shells, and broken glass, to mugs, old spoons and keys are up for grabs.
The next day your piece will be ready for collection, after being set with resin overnight. This is a unique Destin experience that will leave you feeling uplifted and relaxed.
10. Dolphin Sunset Cruise
Get up close to some bottlenose beauties on a magical sunset cruise. The waters of the Gulf of Mexico and Choctawhatchee Bay are teeming with bottle-nosed dolphins ready to be spotted.
You will be able to pick from various dolphin cruise tours on the harbour where operators will take you out in open-topped and glass-bottomed boats for a special viewing experience. You might even catch a golden sunset.
These cruises are offered year-round but can be best enjoyed during summer. Looking back at the views of Destin from your boat will also be an added bonus to your Florida experience.
11. Harbor Walk Marina
If you’re visiting Destin with your significant other you might be on the lookout for some romantic locations. Voted the ‘best date night spot in Destin’, you can’t go wrong with a sunset stroll here. With swanky boats bobbing in the water and sweeping ocean views of the Gulf of Mexico, you’ll quickly see why.
Brimming with shops to browse for holiday souvenirs and a relaxing sea breeze, it’s the perfect prelude to an intimate dinner at one of the popular seafood restaurants nearby.
12. Big Kahuna’s Water & Adventure Park
Water parks provide another great option for a day of family fun. Perfect for all ages, you will have no shortage of activities to pass the time. With lazy rivers, wave pools and water slides-galore there is plenty for everyone.
Not to mention, for those who’d rather not get wet, this park has got you covered. Opt for a game of Tropical Mini Golf, defy gravity on the Sky Coaster, or get your adrenaline pumping on the Cyclone Twister.
13. Escape Zone
Enjoy a day of fun trying to escape the escape room! This is the perfect team-building or family-bonding experience that you will be talking about for months to come.
Your team will be locked into a room providing an eerie but exhilarating start. Next, you’ll need to find and solve all the clues in order to escape, all before the time runs out. Practise thinking outside the box, working under pressure, and drawing on the strengths of different members.
14. Baytowne Wharf
End your beach day with a drink and a dance at this lively spot. The array of nightlife options provide the perfect night out on the town. Dust off the sand and step into some hip and trendy establishments.
On the edge of Choctawhatchee Bay, this gorgeous spot is a must-see and boasts boutiques and restaurants to enjoy during a delightful evening stroll. For those looking for some more action, the Village Door is the area’s designated nightclub while the Fat Tuesday Daiquiri Bar shows big-screen sports matches.
15. Banana Boat Excursion
Hang on for a wild ride during this unique Destin activity. Banana boat ride tours will get your blood pumping as you squeal with delight. Passengers try to hang on to the long banana-shaped inflatable vessel without losing their grip. If you can’t hold on, you’ll tumble into the beautiful emerald-green water which promises to have you giggling uncontrollably.
16. Visit the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park
This is an excellent spot to take the whole family. The regular admission allows access to all the animal displays, scheduled shows with sharks and dolphins, and time at the “touch tank”. Here you’ll see your kids overjoyed as they interact and play with sea plants and small marine creatures in this special tank.
Moreover, an extra fee will grant you encounters with various marine life like feeding the penguins, “fishing” in a prepared tank or even having a dolphin meetup.
17. Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone
Less than 10 minutes from downtown Destin Florida, this exciting adventure zone awaits, along with a day of jam-packed fun. A roller coaster, indoor arcade and mini-golf are only some of the thrilling attractions.
More indoor facilities include a state-of-the-art Redemption Arcade, 4D movie theatre, and an urban Assault Laser Tag. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, a Salvati’s Pizza Factory beckons.
The fun continues outside with everything from Animatronic Dinosaur and Pirate-themed 18 hole mini-golf courses, a 60-foot ropes course, bungee trampoline and go-karting. If you feel the heat from these activities you can cool off with a friendly war in the bumper boat pool.
18. Helicopter Ride
Looking for a fresh perspective on Destin or some incredible Go-Pro footage? Fly above this beautiful city to get a birds-eye view of its many attractions and breathtaking landscapes.
In a coastal helicopter ride, you can expect to see views of Emerald Coast from Destin to Miramar Beach, as well as cruise over the area’s unique dolphin-shaped reef.
Grab a buddy or go solo to soar through the sky with the seagulls and pelicans while being towed by a boat below. Feel your cares float away as the salty ocean breeze blows through your hair for a magical experience.
From this birds-eye view, you are likely to spot tarpon, sharks, cobia, sea turtles and dolphins which takes sightseeing to a whole new level. The adrenaline rush and amazing views are definitely bucket-list-worthy.
20. The Track Destin
This amusement park features several thrilling activities for all family members. Enjoy some or all five go-kart tracks of varying levels including a riveting 3-story track. There are also family rides, thrill zones, arcade games and more. This has been a Destin Florida attraction for over 30 years and is a must-visit for a day of non-beach, family fun.
21. Eglin Beach Park
If you happen to be a government worker, military personnel or are travelling with someone who is, you will get to beat the crowded beaches and have exclusive access to Eglin Beach Park.
The beach park features direct access to the Gulf of Mexico, 4 large pavilions, a central deck area, 2 sets of restrooms with showers, and lots of picnic tables. It’s a great place to read a book or have fun with family and friends during the summertime.
22. AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar
This is a must for any seafood lovers and is one of Destin’s top nightclubs offering unique drinks, delicious oysters, and seafood. It also boasts an awesome dance floor. Due to its proximity to the Emerald Coast, it’s known for the freshest seafood in the area.
Enjoy sipping on your favourite drink at Bimini Bar while listening to live music. Or amble through AJ’s shop and peruse the gift cards and variety of shirts for sale.
23. Noah & Heather Wells Maximum Magic
If you’re on vacation in Destin, don’t miss the wonderful magic show at the HarborWalk Theater. World-class, thrilling illusions and hilarious comedy await, as well as exciting audience participation.
This is undoubtedly one of the top things to do in Destin with kids as your little ones will be absolutely thrilled to see the magic tricks. This one-of-a-kind show will leave the whole family rolling with laughter and thoroughly entertained.
24. Indian Bayou Golf & Country Club
This hidden Destin-gem boasts top-rated staff, courses, and facilities for a luxurious experience on the greens. Swing the day away at this club which offers beautiful scenery and holes that will challenge and intrigue you. End off the day with a mouth-watering meal and refreshing drink at the onsite bar and grill while soaking up the tranquil views.
25. Uncle Buck’s Fishbowl and Grill
If you’re looking for a cool place to eat that provides a unique experience then look no further. More than a regular restaurant, this is a bowling alley and eating establishment with an under-the-sea themed experience. After a day on the beach, grab something delicious to eat at the restaurant, or opt to enjoy it at the bowling alley while you play your game.
26. Banana Bart’s
This is one of Destin’s secret spots. Overlooking the Destin Harbor, this quirky little shop offers a variety of eclectic souvenirs. Some of these include clothing, jewellery, home decor items, souvenirs, and handmade bits by local artists.
Standing tall since its owners established it in 1993, this is a truly independent “mom-and-pop” shop. Experience a sense of time travel when it comes to their delightfully eccentric and “old school” ways, like tallying purchase totals with a pencil and bagging items in plain brown paper sacks.
27. Mattie Kelly Park and Nature Walk
In between beach days, this natural park is a great place to spend the afternoon with the family. Much of the greenery is considered wetlands and therefore cannot be developed, making this a unique, nature sanctuary in the city.
Whether you choose to meander along the wooden pier and admire the beautiful birds and plants of the area or settle down for a picnic, you’ll leave rested and refreshed.
If you find yourself in The Village of Baytowne Wharf, the zipline at Baytowne Adventure Zone is a thrill-lovers must-do! It’s also the original zipline and adventure zone of the area. Over 12 metres high and soaring over 90 metres across the lagoon, this Destin adventure will leave you feeling exhilarated and probably ready for more.
Or you may want to explore other things on offer. Catering to all ages, you’ll find everything from carousel rides and a rock wall to an exciting ropes course.
29. Destin History & Fishing Museum
Museums are a great place to explore and have fun during vacations. The exhibits of this museum present the history of Destin and its journey from a small fishing village to a major tourist attraction.
It’s filled with over 75 mounts of locally caught fish, historic photographs, artefacts, fishing equipment and documents of early Destin. The museum is usually open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM daily.
30. Snorkelling at Norriego Point
This gorgeous slice of sandy paradise faces both Destin Harbor and the Gulf of Mexico, creating a magical meeting spot. Here, the inlets of water are protected by jetties, making for calm swimming conditions and very few waves.
In this area, it’s also very common to find scuba divers as well as snorkelers. The clear water and white, sandy bottom allow for easy viewing of marine life. You can spot large schools of fish, stingrays, seahorses, crabs, anemones, sea urchins, and sea turtles.
31. Rent a Bike from Fun Pug Bike Rentals
Often the best way to sightsee a new place is to walk or bike around the area. This way you get to take in all the scenery and get around effortlessly. And of course, the extra exercise will be a bonus to work off that vacation over-indulging!
Fun Pug Bike Rentals makes the renting experience effortless for Destin visitors by providing a free delivery and pick-up service. Moreover, they cater to all sizes, even the smallest of riders. Look forward to various types of bike options as well, including electric bikes.
32. John Beasley Park’s Artificial Reef
This park near Destin’s East Pass is a wonderful place to spend the day. It has two dune walkovers and a beach pavilion with picnic tables and restrooms. The artificial reef is close to shore and to add the icing on the cookie, parking is ample and entrance is free
The artificial reef is one of a couple in the area, and is made up of anything from concrete piles and specifically designed modules, to large shipwrecks! These are teeming with fish and marine life, creating a scuba enthusiast’s heaven. They are also excellent sites for fishing, diving and snorkelling.
Depending on the time of year, a snorkel here might reward you with sightings of dolphins, turtles, nurse sharks, and maybe even octopuses.
It’s no secret by now that this city is a beach-bums paradise and water-babies certainly have no shortage of aquatic fun to indulge in. Make the most of your beach vacation by experiencing some of the best Destin has on offer when it comes to watersports.
Whether you’re keen to spray some foam on a jet ski, thrill yourself with kitesurfing, or try your hand at parasailing, the sky is your limit. The Emerald Coast’s favourite watersports adventure company will not disappoint.
Final Thoughts on the Best Things to Do in Destin
It’s clear that Destin is for everyone. Whether you want to eat your heart out, zoot across the ocean, or simply work on your tan while curling your toes in some powder-white sand, Destin’s got you covered. Be it a romantic getaway or a family holiday, this destination promises a boatload of memories.
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