Plan the perfect trip with our hand guide of the best things to do in Destin, Florida.

The sunshine state is home to so many wonderful things. Especially when it comes to the north of Florida. The Emerald Coast is home to one of Florida’s most hidden destination, Destin. Destin, Florida is an underrated city located right on the panhandle. If you are looking for a great getaway, then Destin, Florida is the perfect place to get away to.  With so many things to do in Destin, Florida you can easily spend a week here without getting bored. Not only that but if you are traveling with children, then Destin, Florida is perhaps one of the best locations to visit. The family friendly atmosphere makes it one of the cheapest family vacations to go on. Let’s dive into some of the awesome things to do in Destin, Florida this travel season.

1. Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park

Things to do In Destin, Florida

Credit: Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park / Facebook

The Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park is the premier spot to go to if you are looking to observe the beauty of the ocean wildlife. Here at the Gulfarium Adventure Park visitors can get a glimpse at some of the most majestic creatures that call the ocean home. There are dolphin shows where these cute creatures will show off for you. And there are sharks, sea turtles, stingrays, and alligators for you to observe as well.

If you are traveling with children, then you must stop by the touch tank. The touch tank is home to cute little hermit crabs and starfish. Your little ones will actually be able to get up close and personal while they pick up and hold these cute little critters.

If you or your kids are looking for a little more fun, then you can even hop in the water and swim with dolphins and stingrays.  Lastly, small children will never get bored thanks to the children’s play area. This play area is complete with a sandbox where your little ones can run around and enjoy just the grounds. This smaller scale Marine Adventure Park is undoubtedly a destination that you will not forget. All that is offered here easily makes it one of the best things to do in Destin, Florida. Not only that, but it is certainly one of the best places to visit in Florida.

2. Go on a Hike

things to do in Destin - Go on a Hike

When you are packing for your trip to Florida, do not forget to pack along your favorite hiking gear. Destin is home to some beautiful hidden trails that not many know about. There are plenty of nature trails and hikes in some of the main national parks here. Some of the popular parks that you should absolutely explorer include Henderson Beach State Park, James Lee County State Park, and John  Beasley Beach Park.

When you go exploring through Destin’s natural wildlife, you are sure to see some picturesque views of the sand dunes and the unique terrain around you. It is certainly one of the most relaxing things to do, especially if you head out early in the morning. If you are traveling with children, then no worries, your kiddos can easily navigate the hiking trails as they are not rigorous at all.

3. Lounge Around on The Beach

things to do in Destin - Lounge Around on The Beach

Of course, one of the best things to do in Destin, Florida is to kick back and relax on the beach. The beach here is undoubtedly one of the best beaches in Florida. The emerald green waters are crystal clear and certainly inviting. In fact, if you fixate on the water enough, you might even think you are at the Bahamas because it is so beautiful. You do not have to plan much to have a great vacation here. Simply head out early and spend hours goofing off on the water.

One of the best ways to enjoy the beach is to bring along the proper equipment. Because of the sun, you will certainly want to bring along a proper beach umbrella for protection. Of course, bringing along a beach chairs up to you, but if you are looking to do some serious relaxing, we certainly would recommend it. Because the hours do tick by rather quickly, do not forget to bring along plenty of water in your favorite water bottle. Sipping on water throughout the day will allow you to stay hydrated no matter what. Lastly, one of the great things about lounging around on the beach is the fact that it makes for a great family bonding time.

4. Go on a Dolphin Cruise

things to do in Destin - Go on a Dolphin Cruise

When you get to Destin, Florida, one of the best things to do in Destin is to go on a dolphin cruise. The Emerald Shores of Destin are home to some of the most majestic dolphins you have ever seen. Better yet, these dolphins are just splashing in the water waiting for you to come to visit them. When you go on a dolphin cruise, you are more than likely to see these sweet animals jumping around the water. In fact, do not be surprised if some of the dolphins swim right up to you and try to play around.

Going on a dolphin cruise is another one of the best things to do with children here. Just be sure to bring along plenty of snacks and food. The boat allows you to bring on whatever you would like on board. If you would rather not pack along snacks, then there is a snack bar right on the boat. You can purchase really anything you need in order to enjoy this boat ride. This unique experience is certainly one that you should take advantage of. Typically, the dolphin cruise lasts for about two hours. If you ask any visitors, they will tell you that it is two hours that is well spent. If you are looking to book a great dolphin cruise, consider booking with Southern Star Dolphin Cruises. They offer cruises that are as memorable as they are fun. 

5. Rent a Boat

things to do in Destin - Rent a Boat

Credit: Destin Vacation Boat Rentals / Facebook

Splashing around the emerald water is fun and all, but there is no better way to explore the waters of Destin Florida than by renting a boat. When you rent a boat, you are literally the captain of your own ship. You can zoom around on the bay or make your way to the popular Crab Island. One of the best boat rental companies to go with is the fantastic Destin Vacation Boat Rentals.

Renting a boat is great for several reasons. For starters, the boat rentals are rather affordable. In fact, you can rent a pontoon or speed boat for just under $300 for the entire day! In addition to that, many of the boats here have an inside area that is nicely covered. This is perfect for if you are traveling with little children who may be sensitive to the sun. Lastly, you do not have to worry about whether or not you can rent a boat, If you are able to operate a vehicle, you will be able to operate a boat. This means that virtually everyone can have the opportunity to set sail with ease.

If you are not sure where to go once you have your boat, no worries. The guys at the dock will tell you some popular destinations to go out and explore. Depending on the surf and the weather, there are some neat locations that you should certainly not miss out on.

Before you head out on to the water, be sure to plan accordingly. Some things that you must take with you include snorkeling gear. Although many of the boat companies do provide you with snorkeling gear, it is always best to bring your own. The underwater wildlife here is certainly one of the top things to do in Destin. Do not miss out on it.  Along with that, do not forget to wear plenty of sunscreen. Spending a day out on the water can easily result in sunburn so make sure to stay protected at all times. Lastly, bring along plenty of water and food so that you do not get hungry or dehydrated. And of course, be sure to bring along sand toys, beach toys, and towels for when you dock.

Renting out a boat and exploring the waters of Destin is easily one of the best things to do in Destin, Florida. Travelers from all over highly recommend it because it is such a unique and fun experience. Especially if you are traveling with the whole family.

6. Go out to Crab Island

things to do in Destin - Crab Island

Out in the water, you will find an expansive sandbar that is referred to by many as Crab Island. Crab Island once used to be an island, but because of rising water levels  And other natural occurrences, it has now become a sandbar. The neat thing is, this sandbar is one that has been turned into one of the most popular things to do in Destin.

In order to get to Crab Island, you will certainly need to have a boat. Crab Island is too far and dangerous to swim out to otherwise. When you get here, you are sure to be greeted with a pleasant surprise. When you do get to the sand bar, you will find that the water will typically reach no further than your waist. It makes for the perfect place to park your boat and wade around in.

Children are certainly going to love Crab Island. This is because right on the sand bar there is a floating inflatable obstacle course. This obstacle course is perfect for running around and having fun on. Not only that but if you are hungry, there is even an on site restaurant for you to dine at as well.

Before you head out to Crab Island, it is imperative that you check the tide levels. Typically, when the tide is out, you will find that the water will be super crystal clear. However when the tide rolls in, the water does get a little cloudy, green, and unfavorable. The best time to visit Crab Island is typically during the earlier hours. This is when you will find water conditions to be the most favorable. To get a glimpse at Crab Island, check out this cool video by clicking here.

7. Head over to Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone

things to do in Destin - Wild Willy's Adventure Zone

When spending time in the sun has gotten the best of you, then make your way indoors to Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone. Wild Willy is one of the best things to do in Destin, Florida because of all that it has to offer. This awesome facility is the perfect place to play some good old fashioned arcade games. Not only that, but there is even a laser tag course that is perfect for the whole family to take advantage of. Before you head outside, take a look at the 4D movies that are playing. The experience is certainly one that you should take advantage of if you have not done so already.

In addition to the indoor activities, there is plenty more fun for you to have once you go outside. Outside of Wild Willy, you will find a great mini golf course. This golf course is just as fun as that is cute. If you are feeling a little adventurous, then the ropes course is another great opportunity to take advantage of. Whatever you decide to do, you are sure to love that lively atmosphere and that Wild Willy offers.

8. Go Parasailing

things to do in Destin - Go Parasailing

Having fun on the Waters of Dustin is great and all, but one of the best things to do in Destin, Florida is to experience the water from above. Parasailing is easily one of the most popular water sports to take advantage of here. For starters, this is the perfect thing to do if you are a thrill seeking adventure lover. In addition to that, you will get to see the city of Destin and the beach below from a whole new perspective. Lastly, what we love about parasailing over the ocean is the fact that you will get the opportunity maybe even see some neat Wild Life Below you. Do not be surprised if you see dolphins are stingrays swimming around underneath you.

9. Stroll Around HarborWalk Village 

things to do in Destin - HarborWalk Village

Credit: HarborWalk / Facebook

HarborWalk Village is the place to go to in Destin if you are looking to stroll around and enjoy the scenery around you. This lovely strip is loaded with an eclectic range of restaurants and shops. If you are looking for a great place to eat, then this is the place to go. Shopping for souvenirs? No problem HarborWalk Village has it all as well.

If you are looking to go on an excursion such as a dolphin cruise, a pirate cruise or renting out a boat, then the HarborWalk Village is where you will want to go as well. It is here where a lot of these water activities are sold. Not only that, but you are sure to find other activities and excursions that you can take advantage of as well. We recommend starting your visit to Destin, Florida at HarborWalk Village. That way, you can get a true sense of what Destin is like and all that it has to offer.

10. Enjoy Destin Commons

things to do in Destin - Enjoy Destin Commons

Credit: HarborWalk / Facebook

Out in the main strip, you will find an outdoor mall called Destin Commons. It is located right on Crystal Beach and it is certainly an experience if you like to shop. For starters, this outside mall is a unique experience because gone are the traditional corridors and hallways of your typical Mall. If you are here during the holidays, then this outdoor mall simply lights up with beauty. However, if you are here any other time of the year there is still something great for you to fall in love with as well.

The outside of this outdoor mall is where you will find a great children’s play area. If you are traveling with young children, then be sure to treat them by going to this outdoor play area. It is super fun and friendly for children of all ages. Once your kiddos are done playing around, there is plenty more for you to do. In typical fashion, you will find plenty of restaurants to dine at as well as shops to pop in and out of. Of course, if you enjoy some good people watching, then there is no better place to kick back and relax at than the outdoor mall.

When to Visit Destin, Florida

things to do in Destin - Destin, Florida

You really cannot go wrong when it comes to the right time to visit Destin, Florida. However, it really does all depend on what you want to do here. For some, visiting in the offseason is what makes the most sense. When you visit during the off season (the winter months),  you can still expect to find favorable weather. In fact, the weather will stick around 60° generally. Not only that, but the sunshine will make it feel a little warmer. If you do not plan on jumping in the water and instead really want to see the city, then do not be dismayed by visiting during the off season. Plus when you do come during the off season the crowds of tourists are shorter and might even be nonexistent.

The prime time to visit Destin, Florida is generally during the month of May to September. During this time you can expect to find crowds at an all time high. If you do not mind this, then this time frame makes for a great time to visit. Especially if you enjoy doing things like sightseeing and other touristy activities. In addition to that, the weather is certain to be perfect. Just be mindful that it will absolutely be a lot hotter because of the warmer months. If you are traveling with young children, be certain to keep this into consideration.

Where to Stay Once You Arrive

things to do in Destin - Awesome place to stay

Credit: Flickr

One of the most important things to do in Destin, Florida is to figure out where you want to stay on your adventure here. There are a couple of things that you should keep in mind. With the rise of home sharing services such as Airbnb, you can certainly get some really awesome deals.  If you are traveling with a big family, then you should consider renting out an Airbnb.

What is neat is that Airbnb will allow you to rent out a full townhouse at an incredibly affordable price. Especially if you are traveling with several families that can split the bill with you. If you are traveling just as a family, then hotels and suites are another option to go with. However, these to tend to be a little bit pricier. The good news is many hotels are located right on the shoreline. This offers you the ability to have awesome ocean views of the beautiful Gulf. If you stay at an Airbnb you may find it difficult to replicate these gorgeous ocean views.

Final Thoughts

Traveling to Destin, Florida is easily one of the best family vacations to go on. For starters, the atmosphere here is simply relaxing. You can enjoy yourself without having to worry whether or not your children are doing the same. Kids of all ages are sure to enjoy the lovely atmosphere that Destin, Florida is so well known for. Before you plan your adventure out here be sure to do your research. Not only that, but be sure not to leave off some of the activities on our list of the best things to do in Destin, Florida. Heres to happy and family fun travel!

Related Article: The 7 Best Things To Do In St. Augustine, Florida.

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Nadia El-Yaouti is a mother, English language arts middle school teacher, writer, and photographer. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and two little girls. Although she considers herself a workaholic, Nadia’s greatest pride is being a mom. When she’s not juggling work, you can be sure to find her traveling the world with her little family.

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