Destin is one of the best Well Hello all, it’s been a minute since I’ve had any time to write a post! Since our 3 kids have been doing virtual school all year, my days have never been busier or more interrupted! Sigh of relief that the end of the school year is only a week away! We recently had a week to take vacation and visited the beautiful, Destin, FL and I thought this would be a great way to give you a Destin Travel Guide for Families! Anytime you travel with your kids, it’s a lot of work, and having planned all of our vacations for over 10 years(15 years if we go back before kids), I’d like to think of myself as a professional travel source! There’s countless hours that go into planning each vacation, research, staying within budget while making sure everyone has a great time!
Destin Travel Guide for Families
We have had numerous friends go to Destin each year that highly advised vacationing there and let me first begin by saying that it DID NOT DISAPPOINT. I’ve been to Mexico numerous times, Negril, Jamaica, Southern California and the East Coast and Destin is one of the most beautiful beach, I’ve been on, of all the places I’ve visited yet. As if the clear, turquoise water didn’t get me, it was the white sand beaches that were so clean and we actually found it difficult to find many seashells! There definitely is NO NEED to wear water shoes here! There is also the safer feeling you get by staying in the country, especially travelling with your young children. Destin is very family oriented and we felt extremely safe here, even crab hunting at night(more on that later in the post). One of the biggest things that you DO need to be careful of, is getting pulled out into a rip tide in the ocean. Be aware of which color flag is up on the beach, and even if it’s yellow doesn’t mean there ARE NOT any rip currents! Even the strongest man can be pulled out in a rip tide, so this isn’t just a warning for children! Either my husband or I had eyes on our kids at all times and definitely didn’t allow them to get very far out in the ocean. Just mentioning this as a precaution for you guys! There are accidents that happen all the time in the ocean due to the currents!
Where we Stayed
Living in Missouri, we drove to Destin and even managed to make the drive in one day! Having wifi in the car(thanks to OnStar) is an absolute must for your kids to hop on their computer during the road trip(there honestly was very little whining or asking when we were going to get there). If you are flying, you have the option to rent a car or find a vacation rental property that provides a golf cart to get around the city. You will see several people on golf carts, especially if their vacation rental is not ocean front.
We stayed at this Beachside Two property within the Hilton SanDestin Resort(which is also Miramar Beach) and it was absolute perfection. The owner has freshly remodeled the unit and its beautiful with a full kitchen and everything we needed(including 3 beach chairs and an umbrella). Possibly the best is going out on the balcony to be directly on the ocean. We saw several dolphins in the ocean from the balcony during our stay. The beds are comfortable, the unit is at the end of the hall which was very quiet, clean and the master shower could fit our entire family! The elevators are very fast and you can be out on the beach a few yards away in a few minutes. What’s most convenient is we needed to run up to the room several times during a beach day for whatever, and having it directly beach front was unbelievably convenient. It was stunning and I 100% recommend staying there! The owner, Teri, is just the best you’ll find! There’s even a restaurant available and pool to use on the property! The owner is amazing and always was quick to respond to any question we had. Okaloosa, FL was a close 2nd on my list to stay at, but this specific VRBO had everything we were looking for. If you want to head down the coast to the popular 30A/Rosemary Beach area, its a short 20-30 min drive away. Southwest Airlines recently started flying into Destin, as of May 2021, which is convenient for those who wish to fly!
Restaurants and Food options
There are endless food options in Destin! We tried the best we could to save on going out to eat, but there were so many places I had researched that became a must eat-at! I highly advise to join Destin Facebook Groups upon planning your vacation as well. This helped me out alot! What we tried to do was eat breakfast and lunch at the unit and go out to eat, which there is Wal-Mart, Target and several grocery stores nearby to pick up groceries. Thanks to the Destin Facebook Life Facebook group, one of the places that came highly recommended was The Back Porch When in Destin, you must have fresh seafood, right??? Their Red Snapper was amazing/my husband had the Grouper with Grit Cake was phenomenal! One morning I grabbed donuts from The Donut Hole right down the road from us. If you have a sweet tooth, head here because their cakes and pies looked out of this world and their donuts were incredible. You can also sit down and eat with full breakfast options if you want something else besides donuts. Another night we ate at Boshamps which if you had to choose two restaurants to choose between, this would be one of them! The restaurant is named after their 3 beloved Labrador Retrievers, and you simply cant go wrong with any dish on the menu. Right on the water, there is a back multi-level deck which the kids have a sandy area to play in, while you have a cocktail and enjoy the views! Expect to wait in line, and it’s valet parking only! I suggest getting there between 4:00-4:30 and to plan for traffic(because there is road construction that doesn’t look to be finished anytime soon)! In fact, I would plan to get to any popular restaurant at this time, due to the popularity and long wait times.
We did eat breakfast at a highly recommended place called Another Broken Egg located in Baytowne Wharf, which is the cutest area for families to walk around. They have tons of activities for the kids and plenty of shopping as well. Their cinnamon roll french toast has my mouth watering as we speak and if you’re an omelette lover, they have so many to choose from! Another suggested dinner venue was Pompano Joe’s and if you’re a crab leg or lobster lover, this is your restaurant. It was messy, but well worth it to have their grilled snow crab legs. My husband had the twin maine lobster tails, which were also mouth-watering. This restaurant is also right on the beach, parking can be challenging so again, get there EARLY! The kids chose Pizza, one rainy night, so we visited Merlins Pizza which is a small building, but was very good! It was one of the highest rated pizza places in Destin. Several restaurant that came highly recommended were Dewey Destin’s I really wish we could have eaten here, so we’ll have to save this for our next trip down there! Another was McGuires Irish Pub, Captain Daves, Lulu’s and the Crab Trap. Most all of these have an online menu that you can check out in advance, as well as their prices. I’ll say that an average plate at any of these is going to run each adult about $30-$40, excluding drinks or tip, so eating out can be quite expensive as the days go by.
If you like shopping, there is something for everyone in Destin! The Outlet Mall is perfect to visit during a rainy day. There’s over 110 shops to visit there. For a little higher end shopping, there are the shops at Grand Boulevard, which I had to visit a few of my favorites. Destin Commons is also a great place for shopping as well as Baytowne Wharf, mentioned above. If you’re searching for retail therapy, you’ll for sure find it in Destin! For all of those great souvenirs or memorable Destin t shirts, or beach schwag, visit any of the Alvins Island Shops!
Fun Things to do for the Family
Besides hitting the beautiful, turquoise water and white sand beaches, there’s so much to do for the whole family! If you’re looking to liven up the water play scene, heading to Big Kahunas water park is the perfect way to cool down beyond the beach. One evening we did a sunset dolphin cruise on the Original Seablaster, located in Harborwalk Village(which is such a fun place to walk around). Tons of cool shops, rides and restaurants along the harbor. This cruise was one of the best I’ve ever been on. The guys running it are so much fun, their music is top notch and we got to see so many dolphins! My kids even got to help drive the boat! I highly recommend this cruise. While we were at Harborwalk Village, the kids also zip-lined and did the bungee trampoline exhibit(which they loved)! There’s so much to do here, it’s worth spending an evening out here one night.
If you’ve ever wanted to go deep sea fishing, Destin has so many charters that run daily. My husband and eight year old son had never been and had wanted to for years. They did a 6 hr fishing trip via Pelican Adventures charters. It came recommended on the Facebook group, plus it was one of the more affordable fishing trips. The captain was very nice, knowledgeable and so helpful. I had no clue some of them could be so expensive! Bring plenty of sunscreen, a cooler for your lunch, and DRAMAMINE, cause you’re gonna need that, especially. My husband thought he would be fine out on the water, but did give some to our son, but after the 10 mile boat ride out to their fishing spot, he was crazy sick(which made for a not so fun trip). Our son, on the other hand, felt great and was catching fish right and left. His most unique fish was called a sucker fish(which sticks to the bottoms of sharks or whales and catches a free ride) that happens to look like something from outer space! He also caught some red snappers and target fish, too. There’s tons of fishing charters, deep sea dives, snorkeling and even parasailing, so just find one that fits your needs.
Not that family pictures are a fun thing for the entire family, but catching the sunrise on the beach is like no other! It was simply gorgeous! No shoes needed and I was able to put my tripod right on the sand and use my clicker to snap all the photos, myself. No need to pay a photographer!
If you have always wanted to see alligators up close, Fudpuckers is your place! They have so many alligators that you can see behind the glassed areas. They even have a rare, albino alligator that was amazing to see. To really excite the kids, getting to feed them is the best, ever! Just a few dollars and you’ll be given a pole with bate on the end, drop it down to the alligator pit, and there’s so many of them!!! You can even hold one for a picture, if you’re daring!
For a beautiful, close-by scenic drive, 30A is one of the most popular places in the panhandle. We didn’t make the drive, but have several friends that go there, plus I cant stop reading about it on social media. 30A is a highway that runs along the coast of the panhandle and along there are cute towns such as Rosemary Beach, Watercolor, Seaside, Seagrove Beach, etc. to name a few. Their known for being family-friendly, true beach town, quaint, laid back and relaxed, feel to them with adorable VRBO’s to choose from! If you happen to have a day to sight see, this would be the perfect area to visit!
Located in Fort Walton Beach is the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park. If you’ve ever wanted to swim with dolphins or interact with them, this is the place to do that! See Dolphins, Sea Lions, Sea Turtles, and you can even hold birthday parties here or hold an event.
If you’re a golf lover like our family is, there’s TONS of golf courses to play! Regatta Bay Golf Club, Kelly Plantation,Emerald Bay Golf Club and tons more golf courses for all skill levels.
For the pirate lovers, the Buccaneer Pirate Cruise is a 100ft pirate ship, made for a memorable experience. There’s sword fights, water gun battles and crazy pirate stories amongst the cruise. We saw one of these when we were leaving on the Seablaster dolphin cruise and it looked so fun. We’ll have to save that for our next trip to Destin.
Crab hunting at night was one of the the best highlights of our trip. The kids came prepared with flashlights and a bucket(as if they were going to pick the crabs up, themselves) ha The crabs appear after sundown and are mostly right along the edge of the water. They’re white and scurry off so fast, you can barely see them! My husband got the duty of tossing them into the bucket as the kids squealed with excitement! We saw TONS of them! Just when you’ve caught a few, and the hunt is over, release them back into the sand and watch them bury themselves directly down in the sand. It’s the funniest thing ever!
Destin Travel Guide for Families
As you can tell, Destin is a place that keeps you coming back for more fun each year, and there’s always something new to try or a delicious restaurant to dine at! Destin is one of the best places to travel to for families! I cant wait to go back. It definitely made for one of our best vacations yet. I hope you’ve found this guide helpful, drop me a quick note in the comments if you have a place that you highly recommend that maybe I missed on here! Thanks so much for reading!