Destin affectionately calls itself ‘The world’s luckiest fishing village’, having blossomed from what was once a small, low-key location into one that now attracts most visitors to Florida’s Emerald Coast. Most come for the beaches, and it’s no wonder – these stretches of white sand easily rival those in southern Florida. 

    In fact, the beaches are some of the most beautiful in the United States. Yet what makes Destin so popular is the variety of other things to do, from shopping to alligator-spotting and museum-hopping. Beach-bumming is simply one way to spend your time here.

    What are the best things to do in Destin?


    Destin Harbor Boardwalk

    Take in views of the Gulf of Mexico

    • Food
    • Couples
    • Photo

    While plenty choose to visit the Destin Harbor Boardwalk as the sun goes down, coming here first thing in the morning lets you take in the sublime views from another perspective as well as escape the evening crowds. 

    Running for almost a quarter of a mile along the harbour front, this is the place to stretch your legs and get your day going in earnest as you breathe in the Gulf of Mexico’s fresh ocean air. Afterwards, take a stroll to The Breakfast Table or the Donut Hole Bakery Cafe; both open early and serve hearty, comforting breakfast fare.

    Location: 102 Harbor Blvd, Destin, FL 32541, USA

    Phone: +1 850-683-3009


    photo by logopop (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    Indian Temple Mound Museum

    Discover the history of Destin’s native residents

    • History
    • Photo

    Destin delivers on educational activities just as well as it does with its powdery white sands. Alongside Fort Walton Beach, just a 10-minute drive from downtown Destin, is the Indian Temple Mound Museum. 

    As far back as the year 800, the large mound here – now a National Historic Landmark – supported the temple used as the residence of the leader of the area’s native inhabitants. The museum alongside the mound itself exhibits artifacts of the Native American way of life, as well as pieces from other periods of the area’s history.

    Location: 139 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548, USA

    Open: Monday–Saturday from 10 am to 4.30 pm (closed on Sundays)

    Phone: +1 850-833-9595


    photo by Infrogmation (CC BY 2.5) modified


    Henderson Beach State Park

    Hit the beach or explore scrub trails on land

    • Families
    • Adventure

    There’s no shortage of beaches to spend time on in Destin, but Henderson Beach State Park is something special. The 6,000 feet of shoreline within the park make up the last coastal scrub area surviving in the Destin area. 

    The beach’s sparkling white sand is truly stunning, and a great spot to spend the day relaxing, while the clear Gulf waters offer both swimming and the chance to spot an abundance of aquatic life. Back on land, there are trails to follow through the conserved sand dunes, and if you can’t quite bring yourself to leave then there are even camping opportunities here.

    Location: 17000 Emerald Coast Pkwy, Destin, FL 32541, USA

    Open: Daily from 8 am to 8 pm

    Phone: +1 850-837-7550


    Destin Commons

    Indulge in a spot of al fresco retail therapy

    • Families
    • Food
    • Couples
    • Shoppers

    Shoppers are well taken care of in Destin, so there’s no need to panic if you get the urge for some retail therapy during your beach vacation. Having said that, it would be a shame to hide away indoors when the weather is nice, and you’re surrounded by so much natural beauty – which is where Destin Commons comes in. 

    This handsome open-air mall is decorated with tall palm trees befitting its location and, as well as a good range of popular national stores, there’s a cinema, restaurants, and a children’s play area, so everyone is entertained.

    Location: 4100 Legendary Dr, Destin, FL 32541, USA

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 7 pm (Fridays and Saturdays until 9 pm, Sundays from 11 am)

    Phone: +1 850-337-8700


    photo by Radoslav Radoslavov (CC0 1.0) modified


    Dolphin sunset cruise

    Get up close to the bottlenose beauties

    • Families
    • Photo
    • Adventure

    Every great getaway should include a stunning sunset, but Destin offers one with a true difference. The waters of the Gulf of Mexico and Choctawhatchee Bay are rich with bottle-nosed dolphins, and numerous operators on the harbour take out open-topped and glass-bottomed boats for beautiful sunset vistas and great chances of spotting dolphins. 

    Cruises are offered year-round, but they’re best enjoyed in the summer. Most begin with a harbour tour, before departing for open water in search of these magnificent creatures. The views back towards Destin – offering a different perspective than you might have had so far – are an added bonus.


    HarborWalk Marina

    It’s one of Destin’s most romantic locations

    • Families
    • Couples
    • Photo

    A celebration of Destin’s attractive harbour, the HarborWalk Marina might be set up to kick-start a day of aquatic fun (it’s the jumping-off point for boat rides, cruises, and other tours) – but it’s also a romantic spot to take a walk as the evening begins to set in. 

    In fact, the marina has been voted the ‘best date night spot in Destin’ and, with the spectacular views out into the Gulf of Mexico and of flashy boats bobbing on the water, it becomes obvious. Feel the sea breeze and pick up a souvenir of your visit to Destin, before heading off to dinner at one of the nearby seafood restaurants.

    Location: 66 Harbor Blvd, Destin, FL 32541, USA

    Open: Daily from 5 am to 10 pm

    Phone: +1 850-650-2400


    photo by logopop (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    Baytowne Wharf

    Escape the beach for a dance and a drink

    • Nightlife
    • Couples

    The village of Baytowne Wharf is ideal to head to when you decide you’ve had long enough on the sand – but the array of nightlife options mean it’s also great for a night on the town. 

    Lit up by night on the edge of Choctawhatchee Bay, Baytowne Wharf is a gorgeously serene spot, and the boutiques and restaurants mean simply taking a lazy wander of the wharf can be a pleasant way to spend an evening. For something more energetic, the Village Door is the area’s only nightclub with live music, while the Fat Tuesday Daiquiri Bar shows sports matches on the big screen.

    Location: 9300 Baytowne Wharf Blvd, Miramar Beach, FL 32550, USA

    Phone: +1 850-267-8000


    Crab Island

    Rent a pontoon and head out to sea

    • Food

    What better way to celebrate the Emerald Coast’s bountiful seafood, and the idea that Destin itself is ‘The world’s luckiest fishing village’, than by getting out into its own natural habitat for lunch? 

    Once an actual island, paradise-like Crab Island has since been eroded to an underwater sand bar that makes for shallow, wade-able water. It attracts countless locals and visitors to pull up on rented pontoon boats and splash around in the calm, sheltered and clear sea. Seasonal floating restaurants like WaterWorld serve up everything from seafood to Mexican dishes, while individual boats sell Cajun boiled peanuts and ice cream.

    Location: Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548, USA

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 6 pm

    Phone: +1 850-803-7717


    Destin’s famous seafood restaurants

    Chow down on the village’s ocean bounty

    • Families
    • Food
    • Couples

    There’s no getting around it: you’re not doing Destin properly unless you’re indulging in its famously delicious seafood. The difficulty might be picking somewhere to eat, since you’re spoilt for choice. 

    Destin’s harbour has a concentration of great seafood restaurants, from the quirky décor and casual atmosphere at the Boathouse Oyster Bar to AJ’s Seafood & Oyster Bar, which evokes the good life with great views from right on the docks. Dewey Destin’s harbourside location is next door, with a lovely outdoor deck, while the elegant Primrose Restaurant at the Henderson Beach Resort & Spa is a 10-minute drive away.

    Chris Wotton | Contributing Writer

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    Attractions and experiences recommended in our guides may be affected. Please check local guidance before you travel.

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