Wondering what activities and attractions you can’t miss in the Emerald Coast? Our guide to the best things to do in Destin is just what you need!
Famously known as the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village,” Destin is full of so many fun things to do for the whole family.
Because Destin is placed perfectly near the Continental Shelf, it marks the gathering place for big catches like grouper and blackfin tuna.
Destin is famous for anglers from around the world to test their luck in deep sea, saltwater, and freshwater fishing. And though fishing may be an enormous appeal for these anglers, that’s not all Destin is touted for.
This hotspot fishing village is home to some of the best beaches in the United States. Destin beaches are famous for their sugar white sand and refreshing turquoise water. Destin, Florida makes for an ideal tropical vacation!
In addition to stunning white beaches and diverse marine life, Destin also has plenty of live entertainment, amusement parks, and kid-friendly attractions. Go on a sunset cruise, walk on one of the nature trails in state parks, or just lounge in the summer sun.
Destin, Florida has attractions to suit people of all ages!
READ NEXT: For more ideas in the Sunshine State, check out our new guide to the best things to do in Florida!
Table of Contents
- The Best Things to Do in Destin, Florida
- 1) Take The Family To Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park
- 2) Sun Tan & Swim At Destin-Fort Walton Beach
- 3) Join The Crowd At Crab Island
- 4) Shop & Dine Along Destin Harbor Boardwalk
- 5) Learn About The City’s Beginnings At Destin History & Fishing Museum
- 6) Relax & Unwind At Crystal Beach
- 7) Visit The World’s Greatest Alligator Park At Gator Beach
- 8) Visit The Coastal Town Of Miramar Beach
- 9) Fly Through Destin’s Waters On A Banana Boat Ride
- 10) Pick Your Choice Of Themed Mini Golf Courses
- 11) Catch A Big One At Okaloosa Island
- 12) Schedule An Unforgettable Sunset Dolphin Cruise
- 13) Take The Kids To A Water Park
- 14) Visit One Of The Best Beaches On Earth At Santa Rosa Beach
- 15) Become A Pirate (For The Day) At Buccaneer Pirate Cruise
- 16) Hike & Kayak At Grayton Beach State Park
- 17) Hitch A Charter For The Best Deep Sea Fishing
- 18) Peer At 12,000 Years Of Native American History At The Indian Temple Mound Museum
- 19) Take A Dip Into The Emerald Waters Of Henderson Beach State Park
- 20) Snag A Catch Of The Day At Dewey Destin’s Seafood
- 21) Browse Through The Destin Commons
- Where to Stay in Destin, Florida
The Best Things to Do in Destin, Florida
Looking for fun things to do in Destin? Then, you need to check out this list!
We’ve combined all the best activities in this popular beach vacation town into one epic list. Dip into the emerald waters of Henderson Beach State Park. Take a picture holding a live alligator at Gator Beach, or go on fun banana boat tours. You can do it all in Destin, Florida!
1) Take The Family To Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park
Established in 1955, Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park is a wondrous marine-based park that is one of the most fun things to do in Destin for families and kids.
The exhibits here are home to numerous marine animals, including sea turtles, alligators, otters, penguins, sea lions, and exotic birds. Trainer chats allow visitors to learn more about the fascinating animals up close and personal.
And if that isn’t enough, the available animal encounters give guests a chance to swim with stingrays and interact with sea lions and dolphins!
Right next to Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park is the Okaloosa Island Boardwalk, one of the family-friendly hot spots of Destin. It features a range of shops, restaurants, and a long beach line to soak in the sun after exploring the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park.
- Address: 1010 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548, United States
- Hours: 9 am – 4:30 pm
- Cost: $20.95
2) Sun Tan & Swim At Destin-Fort Walton Beach
Situated along the Panhandle, Destin-Fort Walton Beach is a popping spot for those looking to participate in watersports or soak up the sun.
Offering stunning views of the Gulf of Mexico, many active-goers explore the emerald waters by snorkeling, swimming, paddleboarding, or hitching a boat ride.
Those looking to simmer in the sun and relax on the beach’s white sands can be found stretched out on towels or leaning back on beach chairs.
Between exploring the waters and roasting in the sun, beachgoers will head to HarborWalk Village for refreshments, food, and shopping for neat finds and souvenirs.
This is also one of the many places in Destin, FL where you can find beach sand sculptures!
READ NEXT: Check out our 2 Week Florida Road Trip Itinerary for more ideas in the area.
3) Join The Crowd At Crab Island
What was once a tiny island near Choctawhatchee Bay is now a Destin-favorite sandbar named “Crab Island.”
Crab Island has quickly become one of the best things to do in Destin, welcoming swimmers, boaters, fishers, and paddlers from all over. A popular hangout spot, the sandbar is large enough that wave runners, boats, and kayaks can bank for everyone to socialize.
In addition, it’s not uncommon to find floating restaurants and other marine-savvy vendors drawing in customers for snacks and drinks.
The shallow water by Crab Island makes it a perfect spot for sporty setups like volleyball, basketball, snorkeling, floating on tubes and boogie boards, and hanging out while basking in great vibes and outstanding scenery.
Find more info about fun things to do on Crab Island on their official website!
4) Shop & Dine Along Destin Harbor Boardwalk
Covering almost a mile along the Destin Harbor, the Destin Harbor Boardwalk offers waterfront access and stunning scenery.
One of the best things to do in Destin, the boardwalk hosts numerous activities, including restaurants, bars, beaches, and eclectic shops.
There are also watersport rental options to take on Destin’s waters for a day of thrill and exploration. While you’re at it, check out HarborWalk Village. This is where you can find ziplining, the famous Emerald Grande condos, live music, and weekly fireworks shows!
And if you’re still craving more exploration, go on a Destin educational scavenger hunt. Each challenge guides you to noteworthy hidden gems and points of interest as you uncover clues for a fun and intriguing way to learn more about Destin.
5) Learn About The City’s Beginnings At Destin History & Fishing Museum
Settled at the foot of Destin Bridge, Destin History & Fishing Museum is a unique site we recommend to learn more about the background of Destin.
The museum preserves and shares the history of what once was a small fishing village in the 1830s. It homes an impressive collection of antique fishing rods and reels, one of which is the original Penn Reel of the famous American writer Ernest Hemingway.
You can also find the oldest preserved seine fishing boat, The Primrose, which was constructed in 1925. Explore vintage photographs of a time before electricity was invented, of captains and early Destin settlers.
- Address: 108 Stahlman Ave, Destin, FL 32541, United States
- Hours: 10 am – 4 pm (Closed Sunday/Monday)
- Cost: $5
6) Relax & Unwind At Crystal Beach
Considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the nation, Crystal Beach features crystal clear waters, snow-white sands, and pristine scenery to spend a relaxing day at.
If you’re more inclined to be active outdoors during your trip here, rent a kayak or boat to travel the waters.
The surrounding neighborhood is a charming tropical community with pastel homes, palm trees, and cute picket fences. Visitors must head through the dune walkovers or neighborhood beach access points to reach Crystal Beach.
Biking is a popular activity at Crystal Beach, along the Scenic Gulf Drive, a stunning route that traverses amongst glittering waters, impressive beach houses and towering condos, and sandy beaches along the gulf.
Nearby, head to Salamander Spa at The Henderson Beach Resort for one of the best spa treatments featuring sunlit relaxation spaces, a whirlpool tub, full-body massages with warm mineral stones, and relax in the lavender room.
Then, reserve a seat at Beachwalk Cafe for a romantic dinner atmosphere settled beachside with the sounds of the ocean’s waves and the rich smell of salt surrounding you.
7) Visit The World’s Greatest Alligator Park At Gator Beach
Checking out Gator Beach is one of the best things to do in Destin!
Hop over with friends and family to Gator Beach to tour this intriguing attraction. The largest alligator park on the Emerald Coast, Gator Beach allows visitors to see these scaly reptiles up close (but not too close!).
Take a picture holding a live alligator (you can tell the family you wrestled it, too!). Then, feed over 100 alligators with specially formulated Gator Food attached to one of the park’s cane poles. Watch as the gators swim up and try to snag a bite!
Then, sit down for a free gator show featuring world-class Gator Handlers. Learn more about alligators from the well-trained and educated staff, or discover more at the exhibits.
This is one of the most fun things to do in Destin, Florida, especially for animal lovers!
- Address: 20001 Emerald Coast Pkwy, Destin, FL 32541, United States
- Hours: 11 am – 8 pm
- Cost: Free
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8) Visit The Coastal Town Of Miramar Beach
A popular vacation spot near Destin, Miramar Beach is a refreshing coastal town. The tropical vibes are immaculate, with beachside resorts, surf shops, sand-dusted beach roads, and palm trees decorating the area.
It’s not uncommon to find people parasailing or jet skiing in the waters, tanning in the white sand, or shopping at Silver Sands Premium Outlets, one of the nation’s biggest designer outlet centers.
Head to the Village of Baytowne Wharf for social and family-friendly fun. The town center is bustling with restaurants, live entertainment, and unique shops.
Round up the kids and take them to the center’s Baytowne Carousel and Adventure Land Playground, where there are activity options like ropes courses and ziplining, for a memorable family vacation. Everywhere in Destin, FL has a family-friendly atmosphere!
9) Fly Through Destin’s Waters On A Banana Boat Ride
If you’re going to hit the water, travel in style (okay, it may not be a yacht, but it’s fun!).
Banana Boat Rides can fit up to six people, ages five and up allowed, on these humorous boats. So if you have your whole family, you can enjoy your own private boat! Fly through the water and feel the thrill as you race across Destin’s crystal-clear waters.
The banana boat trips add an exhilarating twist to the experience, with thrill-inducing bouncing as the boat is pulled through the water by a jet ski. But, of course, the big fun of riding a banana boat is falling off and testing to see who lasts the longest!
10) Pick Your Choice Of Themed Mini Golf Courses
Destin is home to some of the best themed mini golf courses, perfect for taking on with the family!
Adding some friendly competition to your vacation, surrounded by dinosaurs, waterfalls, and jungle animals will make your trip to Destin memorable. Big Kahuna’s isn’t only a water park. It has a tropical-themed miniature golf course with tiki heads, wooden bridges, waterfalls, and three upgraded courses.
Another fun-themed mini golf course is TRex Island Adventure Golf at Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone on Okaloosa Island. The prehistoric-themed animatronic 18-hole miniature golf course features numerous dinosaur species around every twist and turn. Don’t forget to keep score, the winner gets free ice cream!
11) Catch A Big One At Okaloosa Island
A narrow-shaped island stretching three miles in length, Okaloosa Island acts as a barrier between the Gulf of Mexico and Choctawhatchee Bay.
A section of the island belongs to the Gulf Islands National Seashore, which draws in millions of visitors wishing to see the sparkling emerald waters and white beaches for themselves.
After an eight-dollar fee, the local fishing pier allows anglers to test their luck and skills for catching fishing games like redfish, tuna, jack crevalle, and tarpon. And if you’re not looking to fish, the entrance fee is only two dollars to stroll along the pier and admire the spectacular views.
Between suntanning on the white sandy beach and catching fish, satisfy your appetite at some of the eateries located on the boardwalk; from tacos and margaritas to Gulf Grouper and the catch of the day!
12) Schedule An Unforgettable Sunset Dolphin Cruise
Who wants to combine a sunset cruise and a dolphin tour? Everyone!
Dolphin cruises in Destin are an extraordinary chance to catch sight of bottlenose dolphins flipping, playing, and jumping through the emerald waters. With the addition of perfect timing, you can see dolphins and Destin’s awe-inspiring sunsets on a cruise you’ll never forget.
These cruises end with a picturesque sunset above shimmering waters. If you’re lucky, dolphins will break water for a unique experience in Destin!
READ NEXT: Tampa is also an excellent place to visit in the Florida Gulf. Check out our list of the best things to do when you get there!
13) Take The Kids To A Water Park
Big Kahuna’s Water Park presents over 40 water attractions, thrill rides, and a miniature golf course for a day of inexplicable fun!
A magical place teeming with excitement and activities to partake in, Big Kahuna’s Water Park welcomes all ages.
So hop on a boogie board and drop into the Honolulu Half Pipe wave stimulator to test how long you can stay on. Relax and float through the lazy river. Or scream to your heart’s content as you slide down the five-story Jumanji or the Maui Pipeline.
The park is currently closed for the winter but will reopen in summer! Check the website for the schedule and for a full list of prices.
- Address: 1007 US-98, Destin, FL 32541, United States
14) Visit One Of The Best Beaches On Earth At Santa Rosa Beach
Famous for its natural beauty, Santa Rosa Beach is a unique beach town situated along 26 miles of the Emerald Coast.
Boasting luxury and artistry, the town features luxury beach houses and condos, an artist colony named Gulf Place, and fine dining. Gulf Place is a creative community that homes many things to do in Destin.
The Gulley Amphitheater hosts live music and concerts. The Artists of Gulf Place is where small galleries and artists showcase their work for visitors to peer at and ponder over.
Santa Rosa Beach is not only a luxurious and creative community. It also features one of the best beaches on Earth. Its refreshing sparkling emerald waters and clean sugared beaches make it a place to remember.
At Santa Rosa Beach, you can experience a little bit of everything, from hitting the beach and shopping for local art to listening to live music and having a romantic upscale dinner.
15) Become A Pirate (For The Day) At Buccaneer Pirate Cruise
Anyone looking for family fun in Destin should consider a Buccaneer Pirate Cruise!
This one-of-a-kind family-friendly adventure traverses through the Emerald Coast. As soon as you step aboard the boat tour, you join in the quest as pirates surrounded by exhilarating performances and lively music–and pirate spirit, of course!
The captains and mates will take the crowd on a festive journey of dancing, singing, banter, and piracy (the fun kind). The cruise launches off at Destin Harbor and stays in protected waters. After private training and sea legs have been addressed, guests will work with fellow mates to uncover hidden treasure!
16) Hike & Kayak At Grayton Beach State Park
Ranked amongst the most beautiful beaches in the nation, Grayton Beach State Park is one of the best things to do in Destin.
This park is ideal for surfing, freshwater and saltwater fishing, swimming, and sunbathing. And that’s not all! Visitors also come here to bike and hike the nature trail that stretches more than four miles, winding through a coastal forest and salt-flavored winds.
Keep the active lifestyle coming by hitting the waters by kayak, paddleboard, or canoe as you adventure the local salt ecosystem.
There are available options for overnight nights at Grayton Beach State Park. The full-facility campground welcomes tents and RVs with the added choice of modern cabins available to guests.
- Address: 357 Main Park Rd, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459, United States
- Hours: 8 am until sundown
- Cost: $5 per vehicle
17) Hitch A Charter For The Best Deep Sea Fishing
As one of the best fishing cities in the United States, Destin is the place to reserve a charter for deep-sea fishing.
Commonly known as the “Billfish Capital of the Gulf”, you can catch some impressively-sized billfish, Mahi Mahi, tuna, grouper, and more.
Destin, Florida is also called the “Luckiest Fishing Village”. So those who love to fish will have a blast on their Destin vacation.
Plenty of fish scouring the emerald waters, and with a charter for deep-sea fishing, you might get lucky and catch a big one!
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18) Peer At 12,000 Years Of Native American History At The Indian Temple Mound Museum
An archaeological site in Fort Walton Beach near Destin, the Indian Temple Mound Museum preserves a monumental historical site.
The large mound protected at the museum is estimated to have been established around 850 CE. This historical find was built by the Pensacola culture Indians who once lived there.
The museum is the first municipally owned and operated museum with more than 1,000 artifact collections, reputed to be one of the best in prehistoric ceramics in the Southeastern United States.
Other exhibits at the museum include artifacts dating back to early settlers and European explorers and stories of local pirates.
- Address: 139 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548, United States
- Hours: 10 am – 3 pm (Closed Sunday/Monday)
- Cost: $5
19) Take A Dip Into The Emerald Waters Of Henderson Beach State Park
Featuring 30-foot white sand dunes, crystalline emerald waters, and pristine white sand, Henderson Beach State Park is the place to bask in tropical vibes and refreshing views.
The park is protected on the Emerald Coast, preserving and protecting Destin’s last natural coastal scrub.
Henderson Beach State Park’s waters are home to tropical fish, sea turtles, and dolphins that swim and jump as they go about their day. Due to the water’s striking appeal, swimming or renting out boogie boards to float in the water is a favorite activity at Henderson Beach State Park.
Other popular activities at the park include fishing, exploring the nearby nature trail, and camping out in the 60 available campsites to live it up by the beach.
- Address: 17000 Emerald Coast Pkwy, Destin, FL 32541, United States
- Hours: 8 am – 8 pm
- Cost: $6 per vehicle
20) Snag A Catch Of The Day At Dewey Destin’s Seafood
Ran by the family of the founder of Destin, Dewey Destin’s Seafood honors its beloved hometown and its founder by serving up sustainable and fresh seafood in family-owned restaurants in six locations.
Each location of Dewey Destin’s serves a special menu, making visiting every location different and worthwhile. If you set up at the original location, you’ll dine beside the water with a fresh catch as your meal!
- Address: 9 Calhoun Ave, Destin, FL 32541, United States
- Hours: 11 am – 3 pm
READ NEXT: For more tropical destinations in Florida, consider heading to Key West!
21) Browse Through The Destin Commons
Located in downtown Destin, this open-air shopping and dining center has everything you could need for the whole family.
After a day of lounging on white sand beaches or swimming in the emerald green waters of the Gulf Coast, pop over to Destin Commons to refuel.
There are over 85 stores here, making it one of the top Destin attractions. Grab some food, shop for souvenirs, or just enjoy strolling around and people-watching at Destin Commons!
- Address: 4100 Legendary Dr, Destin, FL 32541, United States
- Hours: Hours vary based on the shop, but average times are around 10 am – 7 pm.
Where to Stay in Destin, Florida
Now that we know the best things to do in Destin let’s check out the best places to stay during your trip! Whether it’s your first family vacation to Destin, FL, or you’re on a romantic getaway or a friend’s trip, there are places to stay for any budget.
Best Cheap Hotel in Destin, Florida
For an affordable stay in Destin, reserve a room at Sandpiper Cove Beach.
The perfect condo rental for the ideal trip, Sandpiper Cove Beach is feet away from private beachfront access. A stay at this cozy vacation rental includes access to six tennis courts, a boat slip rental and launch, five swimming pools, three hot tubs, and more convenient features!
Best Mid-Range Hotel in Destin, Florida
Stay at Hyatt Place Sandestin at Grand Blvd for a convenient location with all the best in Destin. The hotel is mere steps away from Destin’s finest dining, entertainment, and shopping. Within the hotel, guests have desirable accommodations like an on-site restaurant, a heated outdoor pool to relax in, complimentary breakfast, and free parking.
Best Luxury Hotel in Destin, Florida
One of the best hotels in Destin, Florida, Hotel Effie Sandestin offers luxury like no other. The new luxury hotel exudes elegance and refinement paired with desirable accommodations.
Schedule tee time on four championship courses at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort. Experience relaxing bliss at Spa Lilliana with feature treatments from Biologique Recherche.
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