Fine Gulf Coast Sand Between Your Toes Is Guaranteed in Destin, Florida

Caroline de Braganza
That feel's good!Gabriela Motta/Pixabay

With 1,300 miles of coastline, Florida is a great destination for your summer vacation.

Although the weather is hotter, you can take a dip in the ocean or walk barefoot on the beaches to cool off!

Today we make our way to Destin Beach, one of the Top 10 “Most Popular Beaches in the United States”, boasting 226 days of sunshine, and known as the world’s luckiest fishing village. More fishy stories later!

This is a family-friendly destination with lots to explore—glorious beaches with cool white sand, nature trails, and top-notch shopping and dining.

Henderson Beach State Park

A great place to escape the crowds for a welcome change of pace. The park is 3 miles east of downtown Destin on the Emerald Coast Parkway.

This clean oasis offers nature trails, with a mile-long beach of fine Appalachian quartz sand which stays cool in the summer sun.

The park has over 300 parking spaces, beach wheelchairs, covered picnic pavilions, restroom facilities, grills, accessible campsites and parking.

Depending on your method of transport, admission fees range from $2 to $6. The park is open from 8 am to sundown every day of the year. The park rangers and staff have a vast knowledge of the territory and offer helpful tips to visitors.

With so many stunning shorelines on offer in Destin and neighbouring Okaloosa Island, you’ll be spoilt for choice of which beaches to visit.

Other beaches you can visit are:

  • Shores at Crystal Beach Park
  • June White Decker Beach Park
  • Norreigo Point Beach Park
  • James Lee Park—a county beach park with over a quarter of a mile of beach near the Walton/Okaloosa County line

Click here for details of Destin's wonderful beaches and nature trails.

Crab Island

This is a popular underwater sandbar rather than an island. Because of strong currents, you can only access by boat.

Although known for its party atmosphere, the sandbar is great fun for families too. You can treat the kids to a Crab Island Adventure Tour, which includes inflatable water slides and other water toys.

Visit at high tide for the best experience and bring floats to use in the water. You could take your own food and drinks, but you can buy refreshments from the floating vendors. (Take cash, as some don’t accept credit cards.)

You can travel to the sandbar on the Crab Island Shuttle Boat, which has a glass bottom to add another dimension to the journey. A round-trip ticket costs $40 per seat—that includes parking and around two hours docked at Crab Island.

Boat tours

These are plentiful in Destin. For a more luxurious cruise to Crab Island, you can try one of the many providers such as SunVenture Cruises or Crab Island Cruises.

You can delight the family as they watch dolphins in their natural habitat.

AJ’s Water Adventures offers dolphin cruises and sailing and snorkeling adventures. Knowledgeable guides and affordable prices.

Another operator, Southern Star Dolphin Cruises, leaves from Harbor Walk Village. They offer ecotours and sunset dolphin cruises with glass-bottom boats and convenient facilities and vendors.

Destin Harbor Boardwalk

This is where the city of Destin began. The boardwalk stretches a quarter mile along the waterfront. Entry is free, but you’ll have to pay to park in the many parking lots nearby.

Although the venues can be touristy, the boardwalk still keeps a family-friendly atmosphere. Enjoy a relaxing stroll with the family, with exceptional views of ships sailing in and out of the harbour.

With plenty of shops and restaurants to check out and adventures to book, such as parasailing and jet skiing excursions, or places to rent kayaks and paddleboards, the Boardwalk will thrill you.

Click here for what’s on offer.

Gator Beach

A fun-filled day’s outing for the entire family with free entry and on-site parking.

The park is home to hundreds of alligators of all ages, a few measuring up to 6 feet, and they host gator shows at noon, and 2, 4 and 6 p.m. daily where you learn more on the animals.

(Note: Extra activities cost money, such as feeding the gators which costs $4 or taking a photo with an alligator costs $10.)

Gator Beach is part of Fudpucker's Beachside Bar & Grill, a great family-friendly restaurant.

Destin History & Fishing Museum

Nothing wrong with a smidgeon of education on your summer break.

Here you’ll learn about Destin’s beginnings, its native inhabitants, its roots in the fishing industry, and how it became an official city in 1984. Many of the museum’s staff members have lived in Destin for years and know the ins and outs of the region.

Admission is affordable at $5 for adults, $4 for military members and anyone older than 55, and $3 for students. Admission is free for visitors younger than 6. Children can engage in scavenger hunts and guided tours are on offer.

Click here for more info.

Big Kahuna Park

Worth a visit with the family—if you can afford it.

Big Kahuna Park is pricey for a water park of its size. Adults and children over 48 inches tall pay $48.99 each!

The water park is open from mid-May through August, and features over 40 attractions, including slides, water rides and the Honolulu Half Pipe with a wave simulator.

Water rides are closed between September and early May, but you can enjoy Big Kahuna's Adventure Park, home to a mini-golf course and other thrill rides. (Adventure Park tickets sell separately.)

The park can get crowded and lines can be long. The park does not allow outside food and drink, so food prices run high.

Click here for more info.
Destin HarborAlex Grichenko/

(Image: Creative Commons Licence)

The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village

Destin lives up to its reputation where local anglers often catch pompano, channel bass, bluefish, king mackerel and flounder, among other varieties. You can cast off at any of the city’s jetties, beaches, seven piers or the Destin Bridge.

During the summer, Okaloosa Island Pier is open to visitors 24 hours a day.

If you want to test your skills on open waters, you’ll find vessels for deep sea, inshore and bottom fishing at Destin Harbor.

You can book charters and fishing cruises here.


For summer fun with your family, Destin is an ideal destination.
Sunset at Destin BeachDarius Smiley/Pixabay

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Published essayist. Follow me for local news that impacts our lives, plus stories on public and mental health. Through writing, I also share my passion for music, politics, our environment and social justice, and hope you find value in my words.


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