11 Best Things To Do In Destin, FL (and a few not to do)

11 Best Things To Do In Destin, FL (and a few not to do)

Welcome back to Wanderfully Lost, a travel community that makes all your family vacation dreams come to life! And for today’s blog, we are taking you on a tour of the best things to do—and a few not to—in Destin, Florida.

And while Destin might seem like a small town, the adventures here are endless – fishing, water sports, amusement parks, fine dining, and shopping. You can find a little bit of everything, and that’s the charm of this place.

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11. Have Fun at Big Kahuna’s Water & Adventure Park

For families seeking a break from the sun and surf, Big Kahuna’s Water & Adventure Park is a thrilling option that always leaves you wanting more. While some visitors find the park to be on the pricier side, it stands out as one of Destin’s premier family-friendly destinations.

Open from mid-May through August, the water park boasts over 40 attractions, including slides, water rides, and the Honolulu Half Pipe with a wave simulator.

Now, the water rides stay closed between September and early May, but Big Kahuna’s Adventure Park is open throughout the year, offering a mini-golf course and other thrill rides.

The catch here is that the parking itself is a place to be. But be prepared for additional costs, such as parking fees and locker rentals.

Over the years, visitors have appreciated the diverse range of attractions, making Big Kahuna’s a worthwhile detour from beach activities that are common in Destin.

Big Kahuna’s Water & Adventure Park on Google Maps:

10. Go ‘Destin Fishing’

Destin is known as the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village,” and it truly lives up to its reputation with dozens of fishing opportunities. Interestingly, fishing isn’t just fishing here—it is Destin Fishing.

From jetties to piers and the iconic Destin Bridge, anglers can cast their lines for diverse breeds of fish like pompano, bluefish, king mackerel, and many more. The city’s seven piers, including the Okaloosa Island Pier, provide excellent fishing spots for adults, seniors, and children alike.

For a more immersive experience, consider booking a fishing charter to explore the open waters. Destin Harbor, a hub for fishing charters, offers a glimpse into the city’s maritime charm, complete with restaurants and bars.

Oh, and don’t miss the chance to participate in the Destin Fishing Rodeo in October, a highlight for fishing enthusiasts showcasing impressive catches.

Destin Fishing Rodeo on Google Maps:

9. Visit Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park

If you want to learn more about Florida’s marine life, the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park needs to be on your to-do list. While not even nearly as huge as SeaWorld, this park truly enchants visitors, especially families.

From daily dolphin and sea lion shows, this park provides entertainment and is home to a variety of marine creatures, including gators, reptiles, penguins, and stingrays.

For an added adventure, consider the Animal Encounters, allowing interaction with dolphins and snorkeling with stingrays.

Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park on Google Maps:

8. Enjoy the Golf Courses in Destin

For golf aficionados, Destin offers a golfing paradise with scenic courses and country clubs like nowhere else. With four championship golf courses in Destin alone and a total of eight in the Emerald Coast region, golfers can perfect their swing against picturesque backdrops.

Kelly Plantation Golf Club, set along Choctawhatchee Bay, stands out for its waterfront views and unique history as a former turpentine plantation. Emerald Bay, nestled within a gated community, offers stunning Choctawhatchee Bay vistas.

On the flip side, Regatta Bay and Sandestin, both highly recommended by wanderers, contribute to Destin’s reputation as a golfer’s haven.

Kelly Plantation Golf Club on Google Maps:

7. Go on a Shopping Spree

When you want to take a break from the sun or the beach fatigue sets in, you can always indulge in retail therapy at Destin’s premier shopping complexes.

From charming boutiques to outlet malls, the Emerald Coast provides a truly impressive shopping experience. Destin Commons, HarborWalk Village, and Downtown Fort Walton Beach are some of the best-known malls in the region.

Destin Commons on Google Maps:

6. Visit the Shores at Crystal Beach Park

If you’re looking for a serene and picturesque escape, Shores at Crystal Beach Park is the place to be. Located in the Gulf of Mexico, this beach park is celebrated for its ivory sands and crystal-clear waters.

Open from sunrise to sunset daily, Shores at Crystal Beach Park provides amenities such as a pavilion, restrooms, showers, picnic tables, and limited parking—all free of charge.

What’s more, the park is home to vacation rentals and cottages, making it a perfect destination for those looking to immerse themselves in the natural beauty of the Gulf.

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Shores at Crystal Beach Park on Google Maps:

5. Hop on the Boat Tours

Experience the maritime wonders of Destin like never before!

Whether you’re in the mood for a pirate-themed cruise, a romantic sunset sail, or an exciting dolphin-spotting excursion, Destin has a boat tour for you.

Fishing charters are insanely popular. You can try your luck on the open seas with highly-rated companies. For a romantic escapade, consider a sunset sail, with companies like Sail Away and Beach Luxury which are both very well-known.

Most boat tours depart from Destin Harbor, and while prices vary depending on the type and duration of the tour, the experience is well worth the cost.

Destin Harbor on Google Maps:

4. Check Out the Harbor Boardwalk

For a perfect blend of waterfront views, entertainment, and activities, the Destin Harbor Boardwalk is a must-visit destination. Stretching about a quarter mile along the waterfront, the boardwalk offers unparalleled views of ships sailing in and out of the harbor.

This free-to-enter attraction is so much more than just a scenic stroll. Rent kayaks and paddleboards, or indulge in parasailing and Jet Skiing excursions. And as the sun sets, the boardwalk transforms into a lively hub of bars and restaurants with live entertainment.

Destin Harbor Boardwalk on Google Maps:

3. Take a Dolphin Cruise

No trip to Destin is complete without a venture into the waters to witness the playful sea creatures in their natural habitat. Many local boat tours offer specialized dolphin cruises, delighting visitors with narrated tours and close encounters with these fascinating marine creatures.

The thrill of spotting dolphins in the wild adds a unique and unforgettable element to your Florida vacation.

2. Take a Trip to Crab Island

Crab Island is not your typical island—it’s an underwater sandbar surrounded by crystal clear waters, drawing boaters and ocean lovers from near and far.

Accessible only by boat due to strong currents, Crab Island offers enough space for everyone to find their own spot in the shallow water. Bring floats, visit at high tide for the best experience, and consider joining a Crab Island Adventure Tour for family-friendly water activities.

While you can bring your own refreshments, floating vendors add to the total experience. Whether you’re soaking up the sun or engaging in water adventures, Crab Island is a quintessential Destin experience.

For a hassle-free beach experience, make sure to check out our beach vacation essentials travel kit here.

Crab Island on Google Maps:

1. Head to Henderson Beach State Park

Topping the list of the best things to do in Destin is Henderson Beach State Park. Beyond its relaxed atmosphere, the park boasts a mile-long beach with sugar-white sand composed of pure Appalachian quartz. The unique sand stays cool in the summer sun, casting the pristine waters in an emerald hue.

Escape the crowds and enjoy nature trails, grilling spots, and campsites in this easily accessible and clean oasis. Park rangers and staff receive accolades for their helpful tips and vast knowledge of the area.

Henderson Beach State Park on Google Maps:

And what not to do!

Don’t visit the extremely famous places:

For those in search of a more serene and authentic experience, consider leaving out the touristy spots reminiscent of Wisconsin Dells or Dolly World along the harbor walk. Opting for quieter, locally beloved spots along the waterfront guarantees a more intimate and genuine connection with the coastal beauty of Destin, prioritizing a relaxed and enjoyable ambiance over crowds and noise.

Skip Baytowne Golf Club

If you’re a golf enthusiast, it might be a good idea to skip Baytowne Golf Club. While its poorly maintained greens could potentially lead to a subpar golfing experience, there are alternative acclaimed golf courses in the vicinity worth exploring. Indian Bayou Golf Club, for instance, has emerged as a promising option with positive feedback, ensuring a maximized pleasure derived from this popular outdoor activity in the area.

Also skip Dewey’s

To truly spice up your culinary adventure in Destin, consider steering clear of Dewey’s if you’re seeking an extraordinary dining experience. Despite initial hype, the experience might not align with your expectations. Fortunately, Destin offers a myriad of dining options such as The Craft Bar, The Other End, and the Crab Trap, promising excellent food and diverse beer selections. Exploring these alternative dining venues allows for a more diverse and satisfying culinary journey in Destin, ensuring a delightful experience without the risk of letdown.

Destin is a place that almost never disappoints. But it is important to keep in mind that it can also be overwhelming. So plan in advance and make sure you know what you want to do. Because there is something for everyone here, and then some more.

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Happy Travels!

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