The Best Things to Do in Destin
If you’re looking for the best things to do in Destin for families. You’re in the right place! We think Destin is easily one of the best places to visit in Florida with kids.
The soft sugary sand in Destin, Florida is just waiting for families to visit. You will find this charming area in the northwestern section of the state right on the Gulf of Mexico. Destin is a very family-friendly destination. And you will discover there are so many things to do in Destin during your visit.
You may not be interested in all the things to do in Destin. But you won’t be able to resist many of the best things to do in Destin, FL, especially when the weather is nice and sunny during your Florida vacation. Which is almost always is!
Top things to do in Destin
So, what are the best things to do in Destin? Start reading and get ready to be excited about the possibilities for your vacation there.
The 32 Best Things to Do in Destin
1. Relax on Crab Island
You may be wondering why I am sending you to an island when Destin is such a fabulous destination. Well, I’m not. Crab Island isn’t really an island. It is more of an underwater sandbar. Crab Island is so popular, we have a blog post that is a complete guide to Crab Island.
The locals love visiting Crab Island and are more than willing to share this piece of paradise with visitors. It is best to visit during high tide. However, any time of the day can be fun.
Getting to Crab Island is simple by boat. You can rent one for the day or take a tour boat ride to the island.
I recommend taking floats to use in the water. Coolers filled with snacks and drinks are also helpful when you plan to stay for a while.
2. Check Out the Gators at Gator Beach
You won’t do much relaxing when you choose to visit Gator Beach. This is one of the best things to do in Destin when you want to spend time with alligators.
Hundreds of gators live at Gator Beach. Some of them are babies, while others are much older. You can even see an albino gator during your visit.
I recommend planning your visit around the gator shows, held four times a day.
3. Visit the Destin History and Fishing Museum
Destin has long been known as a fishing village. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that there is a fishing museum that shares the area’s history. The kids probably won’t want to stay inside this museum for long. But you won’t need to since it is not very big.
The exhibits focus on the time Destin became a fishing village to the time it was finally declared a city. One of the exhibits even focuses on how the sand on Destin’s beaches gets so white.
4. Have Fun at Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park
You don’t always need to head down to the beach to have a little fun in the water while on vacation in Destin. Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park is near the top list of things to do in Destin for families.
The water park is only open from May through August. So, you must plan your vacation carefully to have fun on the water. The rest of the year, the rides on the adventure side of the park are still open for fun in the sun.
5. Go Fishing
Since Destin used to be a fishing village, you know you must go fishing while you are visiting. Unless you really dislike fishing!
There are so many places to fish in Destin. Try your skills at any seven piers or the Destin Bridge to start. You can always head to one of the beaches if you have no luck.
If you want to see all the fishing action without really participating, you should visit Destin in October. That is when the Destin Fishing Rodeo and the Destin Seafood Festival are held. Check out some fishing tours in Destin.
You can sink your teeth in Destin’s fish bounty at the seafood festival. Lots of yumminess without the work of catching anything!
6. See Marine Life Up Close at the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park
You should be able to easily spot dolphins and other marine animals in the Gulf of Mexico. But if you want to see them up closer, you can head over to the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park.
This small aquarium-like park doesn’t have any of the larger sea creatures. But you can watch dolphin, and sea lion shows. There are also gators, penguins, and stingrays to check out during your visit.
If you are looking for unique things in Destin, you can always do an animal encounter at this park. Imagine feeding and playing with dolphins or snorkeling with stingrays during your visit. That would be something for the memory books!
7. Go Shopping
There are many places to go shopping for souvenirs in Destin, FL. You can even find those clothing items you forgot to put in your suitcase when you packed.
Many stores and boutiques can be found at Destin Commons, HarborWalk Village, and Silver Sands Premium Outlets.
Depending on how much you purchase, you may need to grab another suitcase to take home with you.
8. Have Fun at Henderson Beach State Park
One of the best beaches in Destin can be found at Henderson Beach State Park. The beach is approximately one mile long. And the sand is sugary white, thanks to the Appalachian quartz.
One of the benefits of pure white sand is it stays cool underneath your feet.
Since this beach is further from many of the resorts in Destin, it doesn’t get as crowded. This is excellent news if you want to escape many people for the day.
9. Go on a Dolphin Cruise
It is simple to rent a boat and head out onto the water while on vacation in Destin. But doing that doesn’t guarantee you will spot any dolphins or other marine life.
The best way to see dolphins is to take one of the many dolphin cruises Destin is known for. The guides of these tours always seem to know where the dolphins are hanging out on any particular day.
So, use their expertise to see dolphins and learn more about these beautiful creatures. I recommend a small group sunset dolphin watch tour.
10. Walk Along the Destin Harbor Boardwalk
The Destin Harbor Boardwalk is only about a quarter of a mile long. However, it is an excellent thing to do in Destin at any time of the day and night.
You can relax as you sit and watch the boats sail in and out of the harbor. You can also do a little shopping and grab a bite to eat.
11. Take a Pirate Cruise
What kid, or adult, doesn’t want to act like a pirate on occasion? You can make this fantasy a reality in Destin by taking a pirate cruise. Most of the pirate cruises are two hours in length.
You can sing, dance, and participate in pretend sword fights during the cruise. There are also scavenger hunts, water gun fights, and a treasure chest being retrieved from the water. You might want to cover your ears when they shoot off the cannon.
12. Go Snorkeling
Swimming at the local beaches can be fun. But it is more fun to go snorkeling when you are visiting Destin.
You can check out some of my favorites on my Amazon storefront or the links below.
One of the best things to do in Destin is signing up for a snorkeling tour. The guide will take you to areas where lots of marine life is swimming. That way, you have plenty to look at when you are under the water.
13. Build a Sandcastle at Crystal Beach
Plenty of beach cottages line the sandy Crystal Beach, making it a picturesque place to visit. The crystal clear water is perfect for swimming. But most people prefer to build sandcastles in between trips into the water.
14. Play a Round of Golf
There is nothing wrong with playing a round of golf or two while on vacation in Destin. You will find a couple of different courses in the area. However, the favorite golf course in Destin is the Kelly Plantation Golf Club.
This golf course is located on Choctawhatchee Bay. You may find yourself distracted by the palmetto stands, bayous, and waterfront views as you go from hole to hole.
15. Play a Few Arcade Games at Fat Daddy’s
There aren’t too many rainy days in Florida when you can’t get outside. If you happen to be unlucky enough to have one of those days during your vacation in Destin, no worries. You can easily head to Fat Daddy’s for hours of fun with the family!
Fat Daddy’s is an arcade that has more than 100 arcade games. Make sure you sign up for the point card system. It makes it easy to track your points, so you can claim a few prizes before you leave.
16. Watch a Little Magic at the Maximum Magic Show
Over at HarborWalk Theater, you can watch the magic tricks of two illusionists at the Maximum Magic Show. Between magic tricks are tons of laughs and a bit of mindreading.
This family-friendly show never disappoints. It is easily one of the best things to do in Destin!
17. See Destin from a New Perspective While Parasailing
One of the best ways to see Destin from a different vantage point is by parasailing. As you look at the city and coastline below, you will soar approximately 400 feet above the water.
18. Visit the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge
The Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge is located where the Sasquatch Zoo used to be. This refuge focuses on conservation and education about the local wildlife. More than 100 animals call this refuge home.
Some of the animals were rescued from captivity, while others were obtained when a zoo closed. A few were injured and are simply staying here until they can be released back into the wild.
Spend part of your day visiting with the Bengal tiger, wallaby, lemurs, baboons, and sloths. You can even feed the deer, goats, and llamas during your visit.
19. Explore the Air Force Armament Museum
Only one museum houses the artifacts and memorabilia of the Air Force Armament, and it is located in Destin. There are 29 different aircraft on display at this museum. When you are not checking out the planes, you can see the bombs and missiles that have been used in combat.
20. Visit Emerald Coast Science Center
Hands-on experiences are everywhere at the Emerald Coast Science Center. Your entire family will love the different exhibits that focus on robotics, physics, engineering, and so much more.
Chemistry demonstrations are done on Thursday mornings. So, plan your visit accordingly if you have a budding chemist in your family!
Other fascinating features of this science center include the Planetarium, Marine Exhibit, Dino Dig Pit, and SMALLab.
21. Explore the Baytowne Wharf Pier
Out of all the things to do in Destin, many people forget about the Baytowne Wharf Pier. This pier is located on the shoreline of Choctawhatchee Bay. There are numerous boutiques and restaurants along the pier. So, shop, explore, and eat until you are ready to venture somewhere else for the rest of the day.
Oh, and special events and festivals are held on and near this pier all year. The Wednesday Night Concert Series is popular. Just grab a few sweet treats from the Candymaker before finding your seat for the performance.
22. Take a Sandcastle Building Class
Taking classes to learn something might not be at the top of your list of things to do while on vacation in Destin. But what’s the harm of taking a sandcastle building class?
You get to learn how to make amazing sandcastles that don’t fall apart before they are finished. You get to play in the sand the entire time. And you’re out in the sun making new friends too. I call that a win-win for everyone!
Most sandcastle building classes are two hours long. Your instructor is a professional sandcastle builder who has won contests. They will teach you about the different tools you can use to create your sand art.
I recommend bringing your camera so that you can take a picture of your sandy masterpiece. This is one class you won’t want to forget!
23. Go for a Walk at Mattie Kelly Park and Nature Walk
It is all about peace and tranquility at the Mattie Kelly Park and Nature Walk. This is one of the best free things to do in Destin while on vacation.
There are bayous and wetlands inside this park. Many birds call this park home, so make sure you take the time to watch a few of them.
Walking along the boardwalk is a popular activity. I recommend finding the hidden beach during your visit. You can easily enjoy a picnic lunch without the crowds of the other beaches in Destin.
There are no public restrooms at this park. So, you should make sure to plan your visit accordingly.
24. Have a Bonfire on the Beach
Does your family love the beach so much that you have difficulty getting them to leave? Well, you can extend your stay a little longer when you choose to have a bonfire on the beach!
Imagine listening to the sound of the waves as the flames of the fire dance under the nighttime sky.
Now, before you start thinking of how to accomplish this, let me share the guidelines for having bonfires on the beach in Destin. You have two options. One is easier than the other.
The first option involves getting a permit for the pit and purchasing the wood yourself. The second option is hiring a company that will take care of setting up the bonfire for you.
No matter your choice, the result will be a nice fire on the sandy beach in Destin!
25. Go on a Sunset Cruise
Nothing is better than watching the sun setting over the water from a boat. You will find a few different sunset cruise options when you vacation in Destin. This is an excellent activity for couples and families.
26. Participate in Water Sports
Okay, so I have mentioned a couple of different water sports above. Now I want to get the rest of them out there. After all, you know time in Destin equals lots of time in and around the water.
Adventure lovers will want to venture out on a jet ski. And those who want a slightly more relaxing adventure will want to rent a kayak or paddleboard for their time in the water. Any of these options may have you out near dolphins and other marine animals. So, be careful and keep your distance while appreciating their beauty simultaneously.
Pontoon boats and banana boats can also be a lot of fun to go out on when you are on vacation in Destin.
Looking for a place to stay? Look no further than SpringHill Suites by Marriott Navarre Beach.
27. Take a Helicopter Tour
Take a helicopter tour if you want to see Destin from above but don’t want to go parasailing. Climb into the helicopter, sit back, and enjoy the views!
This is one of the best things to do in Destin once you get over the fact that you are in a helicopter in the sky.
28. Visit James Lee Park
James Lee Park is one of the best places to visit in Destin when you want to relax and play. There’s a playground for the kids. You can all swim in the Gulf. And after a picnic lunch, you can do a little fishing.
29. Go Ziplining
When you want to go ziplining in Destin, you must head to Harbor Zipline and Free Fall. Everyone will love ziplining with the views of the water in the distance. Make sure you save a little time by taking the free fall and tackling the interactive LED rock wall.
30. Take a Day Trip to Okaloosa Island
There is nothing wrong with heading to Okaloosa Island when you are on vacation in Destin. Okaloosa Island offers a change of scenery with fewer crowds. Yet you still have the soft sandy beaches and an abundance of water sports to keep you busy.
Between your time in the water and sand, you can do a little shopping at the nearby stores. Make sure you grab some food at the restaurants as you pass them by.
31. Relax at Clement Taylor Park
This park is where the one-room schoolhouse used to be located in Destin. The schoolhouse is now long gone. But in its place is a gazebo, pavilion, and playground. Add in the swimming area and pier, and you have a fantastic place to spend an afternoon.
32. Watch the Fireworks
A vacation in Destin during the summer means you can watch the fireworks on Thursday nights. The fireworks go off in the harbor. The evening begins with live music.
Walking around the harbor is an excellent way to enjoy the music and fireworks. However, if you want to escape the crowds, I recommend taking a boat cruise in the harbor instead.
The best things to do in Destin with kids
These are the best things to do in Destin during your next vacation. Did your favorite things to do in Destin make this list? If not, please share your favorite Destin activities in the comments! Planning a trip to Destin? Make sure to check out nearby Navarre, our favorite NW Florida town! Don’t miss the 20 best things to do in Navarre with kids.
About Florida Travel With Kids
Florida Travel with Kids was started by a family who loves to travel the state of Florida with kids! This site will help you explore the fun state of Florida and all of the kid-friendly activities you’ll find here.
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