For many travelers, Destin is the dream destination on the Florida Panhandle. Situated along the famed Emerald Coast, this city has got it all: high-class resorts, gorgeous white sand beaches, plenty of activities, and, of course, beautiful blue-green waters. Although Destin isn’t exactly a local secret, this beach’s numerous attractions and amenities make it a perennial favorite with international tourists.
In our list of the top things to do in Destin, you’ll get a sampling of the many exciting and relaxing things to do around this city. We’ll also let you in on the best-reviewed resorts in the area to help narrow down your hotel search. Here’s a quick list of the ten best Destin attractions we’ll explore in greater depth:
- Visit The Beaches
- Destin Harbor Boardwalk & HarborWalk Village
- Destin History and Fishing Museum
- Mid-Bay Bridge
- Destin Harbor Farmers’ Market
- Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park
- Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone
- Destin Commons
- Baytowne Adventure Zone
- The Track Family Fun Parks
Because Destin is such a famous travel destination, it’s well worth your time to learn as much as possible before visiting. Please look through our definitive Destin guide to help better plan your stay in this popular Panhandle paradise.
Why You Should Visit Destin, Florida
First off, Destin is the ultimate city for fishing enthusiasts. Indeed, soon after 19th-century fishermen discovered Destin’s favorable environment, they quickly gave the city its official nickname: “The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village.” Even today, fishing fans hold Destin’s location in high regard, especially during the autumnal Destin Fishing Rodeo.
But you don’t have to be a fishing fan to have a great time in Destin. Beach bums will fall in love with Destin’s (literally) cool white sand and shimmering emerald waters. This city also has quite a reputation for its golf courses, family-friendly attractions, and luxury resorts. Oh yeah, and did we mention Destin has happening foodie & shopping scenes?
As an added bonus, Destin is only about an hour’s drive from other great destinations like Panama City Beach and Pensacola.
When planning your Destin trip, please keep in mind summer is the most crowded and expensive time to visit. For a cheaper vacation without a high chance of precipitation, you might want to consider visiting during the spring.
10 Things To Do In Destin, Florida
Now that you know the basics of visiting Destin, let’s go a bit deeper into our picks for the top 10 Destin attractions.
1. Visit The Beaches
When in Destin, one visits the beach…but which beach is right for you? Here are three suggestions to help you decide.
For Camping Fans: Henderson Beach State Park
For those who enjoy camping, look into Destin’s central Henderson Beach State Park. Measuring 208-acres, this protected area has 60 official campsites ideal for RVs and tents. Visitors to Henderson Beach State Park could also enjoy many outdoor activities like hiking, fishing, and biking.
The Center Of It All: Crystal Sands Beach
To the east of Henderson Beach State Park is Destin’s most popular and commercialized strip of sand: the Crystal Sands Beach area. Here you’ll find free access to many public beaches as well as many beachfront resorts, shops, and local restaurants. Just keep in mind these beaches tend to be the most crowded and free parking along Scenic Highway 98 is limited.
For Secluded Snorkeling: Jetty East Beach
Those looking for a more secluded Destin beach experience should consider visiting Jetty East Beach. About a 20-minute drive west of the Crystal Sands area, Jetty East has a particularly high reputation amongst snorkelers. Those traveling here might also want to check out the company Sand Castle Lessons’ website for a unique experience on Jetty East’s sands.
2. Destin Harbor Boardwalk & HarborWalk Village
Completed in 2012, the Destin Harbor Boardwalk has become one of the central tourism draws in the area. Along roughly ¼ mile on Destin’s Harbor, you’ll be treated to a wide array of shops, restaurants, and activities like tour boats and fishing. Before leaving, be sure to climb to the top of nearby HarborWalk Village’s hotels for excellent views of the area.
Every store in HarborWalk and the Destin Harbor Boardwalk has different hours, but most open at 11 AM and close between 7 PM and 9 PM. You can find out more about what’s happening here on Destin Harbor Boardwalk’s website.
3. Destin History and Fishing Museum
If you’re curious about Destin’s development, then you need to stop at the Destin History and Fishing Museum at some point. Curators at this small museum work hard to explain how Destin’s geology helped influence its fishing industry, and in turn how fishing fueled Destin’s tremendous growth. A few highlights at this fascinating museum include authentic seine boats, dozens of fish mounts, and historic artifacts used by early fishermen.
Usually, this museum is open between Tuesdays and Saturdays from 10 AM – 4 PM. Tickets cost $5 per adult and $3 per child but check the Destin History and Fishing Museum’s website for info about discounts.
4. Mid-Bay Bridge
Measuring about 3.5-miles, the Mid-Bay Bridge was constructed in the early 1990s to help tourists travel directly into Destin from Niceville. But it’s not just ease of access that makes Mid-Bay Bridge a good tourist destination. Visitors enjoy the lovely views of the Choctawhatchee Bay while driving over, especially at sunset.
Just be forewarned: you must pay a toll in cash to get over this bridge. Currently, the toll fare hovers around $4 per vehicle.
5. Destin Harbor Farmers’ Market
Destin residents really are spoiled. Not only do locals have access to America’s greatest beaches, but they also get to enjoy three fabulous farmers’ markets every single week. If you’re in town on the weekends, you owe it to yourself to visit at least one of these markets to see the wide array of fresh foods, plants, and artistic goodies for sale.
Two farmers’ markets (one in Niceville and the other in Sandestin) are open between 9 AM – 1 PM every Saturday. The Farmers’ Market in Rosemary Beach Community, however, is open from 9 AM – 1 PM every Sunday. For more info on vendors and locations, visit the Destin Harbor Farmers’ Market Facebook page.
6. Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park
Big Kahuna’s might not be as famous as Typhoon Lagoon or Aquatica Orlando, but it certainly deserves a spot on any list of Florida’s best water parks. Indeed, with over 40 different rides, Big Kahuna’s is definitely the largest water park on the Panhandle well-suited for travelers of all ages. Whether you’re into super-fast slides or super-chill lazy rivers, you’ll have a wonderfully wet time at this cool Destin destination.
There are many different ticket options available, but a one-day adult pass to Big Kahuna’s costs about $45 per person. Always check Big Kahuna’s website before visiting as park hours change depending on the weather and time of year.
7. Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone
Only a 20-minute drive west of Crystal Sands, Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone is a fantastic place to bring the kids. Inside this complex’s 17,000 sq. ft. main building you’ll find loads of fun activities from a 4D movie and laser tag to arcade games galore. Once you’ve cooled off inside the main building, consider playing a round of mini-golf, jumping on bungee cords, or walking through Wild Willy’s 60-foot ropes course.
Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone has varying hours depending on the day, but it’s usually always open between 12 PM – 9 PM. Ticket prices depend on what activities you book, so visit Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone’s website for a pricing guide.
8. Destin Commons
Only a 5-minute drive from Henderson Beach State Park, Destin Commons is a hotspot for shopping, dining, and entertainment. Believe it or not, there are close to 100 different stores and restaurants to choose from here as well as an AMC Movie Theatre, a Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen, and a 16-lane bowling alley.
On top of all that, Destin Commons has a wonderful splash pad and play area outside perfect for parents traveling with little ones. For more information on specific store times and special events, click on this link to Destin Commons’ website.
9. Baytowne Adventure Zone
Officially located within the Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort, Baytowne Adventure Zone brands itself as the premier ziplining destination on the Panhandle. As you’ll soon discover, the star attraction here is the original 40 ft. high, 300 ft. long zipline experience simply known as Sandestin’s Zipline.
If ziplining is a bit much for you, there plenty of other ways to get your heart pumping in Baytowne. Just a few other activities available here include rock climbing, rope courses, and bungee jumping over trampolines.
Baytowne is usually open weekdays from 3 PM – 8 PM, Saturdays from 12 PM – 9 PM and Sundays from 3 PM – 8 PM. Prices vary depending on what activity you’re scheduling, so visit Baytowne Adventure Zone’s webpage for more info.
10. The Track Family Fun Parks
If your family has a need for speed, then get ready to put the pedal to the metal on one of The Track Family Fun Parks’ five go-kart tracks. Looking for even more fun? Just a few other attractions at The Track include a thrilling 360° ride, a few mini-golf courses, bumper cars, and an arcade station.
Typically, The Track is open between 12 PM – 4 PM every day with extended hours on Fridays and Saturdays. Find out more about payment options on The Track’s website.
Best Things To Do In Destin, Florida At Night
One fun way to cap off your Destin day is to work with a local bonfire rental service. Many reputable companies such as The Bonfire Guy rent everything you need to have a successful s’mores beach session with friends and family. There are many different packages and add-ons available, so be sure to check out The Bonfire Guy’s official website for details.
Another interesting nighttime attraction in Destin is nighttime golfing. Yes, some of the area’s premier golf courses like The Golf Gardens offer fully lit golfing experiences after dark. Just keep in mind these packages are usually only offered in the summer season, so ask your preferred golf course for more info.
Most Romantic Things To Do In Destin, Florida
Cruising is always a relaxing & romantic tourist attraction, especially in Destin. For a stereotypically romantic evening, consider booking one of the many sunset cruises offered around town. For easy reference, here’s a quick list of the best-reviewed sunset cruises in Destin as reviewed by Yelp users.
Since dolphins are so abundant in the Gulf, you’ll also find an abundance of companies offering dolphin-sighting tours in Destin. Consider taking one of the many glass-bottom boat tours for a comfortable dolphin viewing experience. To help you on your quest for a dolphin-sighting tour, here’s a quick Yelp list of the top dolphin cruises in and around Destin.
Where To Stay In Destin, Florida
As briefly mentioned above, Destin has a reputation for its high-end hotels. That doesn’t mean, however, you need to fork over your wallet to afford a few nights here. Below are two exceptionally reviewed hotels suited for everyone’s budget.
The Henderson – A Salamander Beach & Spa Resort
Feel like splurging on a Destin dream? Look into The Henderson – A Salamander Beach & Spa Resort. This 4-star is the ultimate in luxury with an on-site spa, two pools, a beachside restaurant, and a private access beach. Although this four-story resort is ideal for couples, there’s also a children’s play area for families.
Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Destin
Folks looking for a highly reviewed mid-range hotel might be interested in the 3-star Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Destin. A short walk north of Henderson Beach State Park, this Fairfield Inn offers many perks including continental breakfast, free parking, and access to a pool.