Destin Beaches Florida: Places To Stay & Things To Do We Love (2024)

With an 11 – 12 hour drive (or 710 – 790 miles from Plano, TX depending on the route you take) you can load up the station wagon or minivan and drive south towards the Gulf Coast.

It’s a little closer than the 30a beaches and Panama City, which are also great spots for Texan travelers to head to for white sandy beaches and clear water.

You could spend hours researching Destin beaches in Florida, but look no further, as we’ve done all the work for you. We have ideas for Restaurants, places to stay, and things to do that we really love.


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Orange Beach, the Gulf Shores, and Pensacola are a little closer, and of the three, Orange Beach and Pensacola are the most family-friendly.

Destin itself is flanked by one of the famous Destin beaches, Fort Walton Beach and Okaloosa Island, which are also very popular places to stay and allow you to enjoy Destin itself without the hustle and bustle.

More: Your Ultimate List of Road Trips from Dallas

(Plano Moms uses affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission if you purchase through links in this post. Full disclosure)

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Possible Driving Routes

The South option via the I-45 and East on I-10 is the longest route and most Moms avoid that option.

Going East on the I-20 to Shreveport and south on the I-49 via Alexandria and stopping at Baton Rouge for the night to break up the drive and then East on the I-10 to Mobile and then to Destin.

On our last trip, we stopped in Baton Rouge and stayed at the Residence Inn Baton Rouge Towne Center at Cedar Lodge, which was in walking distance to a number of great restaurants and a Starbucks.

Breakfast was also included and we enjoyed a suite with it’s own kitchen to use.

Load up your Roadtrippers App , to plot some good stopping points and places to eat for the drive.

If you take this option, a great place to stop is the Infinity Space Center, just across the border from Louisiana to Mississippi and also a visit on the USS Alabama Battleship in Mobile.

You can also take a route to include New Orleans and stay there overnight on the way there.

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Some Moms also like to go East on the I-20 and past Hicksburg go south on the I-49 via Hattiesburg to Mobile and then east onto the Destin beaches.

When is the best Month to go to Destin, Florida?

During the School vacation periods and especially at weekends, traffic can be very congested. Spring Break is a popular time to go but early in the month of March, the weather may be too cool to enjoy the water.

Many travelers who are staying for a week, arrive and leave at weekends, so try to time your trip around that. Allow a little extra time to get somewhere, even if it’s less than 2 miles away.

Also check college spring break schedules!

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The Summer is the most popular time but the best places to stay get booked well ahead of time.

A Destin, Florida vacation doesn’t require a ton of planning. It’s entirely possible to just spend a full week enjoying the sand, sun, and water with tons of great beach access.

But there are tons of opportunities to have fun as a family – particularly for the adults eating great seafood or embarking in a few adventurous activities.

Air and Water Temperatures in Destin, Florida

MonthAvg. HighAvg. LowRainfallWater Temp

You can also Fly and Rent a Car

The Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport (VPS) is the closest airport to Destin. It’s located just 16 miles away in Valparaiso. Airlines flying into VPS include Allegiant Air, American Airlines, Delta, Silver Airways, and United Airlines.

Pensacola airport is a 90 minute drive and both American and Southwest fly directly in less than 2 hours. The Car rental pick-up can get very busy, so try and book a skip-the-counter option or rush there once you deplane.

When flying home, allow extra time due to the airport size being smaller if it’s crowded during the Summer and if flying Southwest, they may not have the self-check-in machines available to tag your own bags and take them to the bag drop. You may have to line up to check in with an agent.

Where to Stay in Destin, Florida

Destin lodging offers all types of options – Condo-based lodging in resorts and a large range of luxury hotels with amenities.

Things to Consider

  • Proximity to the Destin Beaches by Foot or by Car
  • Water amenities at the resort if you’re renting a Condo
  • Does the hotel have a heated pool, especially before late March or April when the temperatures can still be a little cooler?
  • Look for something beach side to stay as the roads are busy. Some condo complexes have walkway bridges so you can avoid crossing the main highway.
  • Be sure to check if beach towels are provided or if you need to pack your own and bring them with you.
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Downtown Destin and Miramar Beach (best for families) are the most popular areas to stay in.

Outside of that, Fort Walton, Navarre Beach, Santa Rosa Beach, Seaside and Watercolor are also popular choices but very different – quieter for sure.

Seaside is quiet and quaint and colorful and extraordinarily beautiful but more expensive for lodging.


is our booking site of choice and we start with filtering by those with Premier Hosts. Look at the maps carefully to see if the property is beach side or bay side.

Our Top Picks for Vrbo properties in Destin, Florida

Edgewater Beach Condominiums

Address: 291 Scenic Gulf Drive, Destin, Fl 32550

It’s a great property and the location is hard to beat. (They’re across from a grocery store and several restaurants, plus the outlet mall is within walking distance as well 👍)

Dolores, Plano TX

Destin Gulfgate

Address: 1180 Scenic Hwy 98, Destin, FL 32541

This summer will be our 9th summer there. We love it.❤️ It only has 11 floors.

All condos face the beach, private underground parking, private beach with beach set up and right across the street from the racetrack.

Also walking distance to the Back porch and water toys.

Sarah, Plano TX

Spacious. Not too expensive. Not too fancy, it’s just what you need.

Literally steps to the beach.

I’m pretty sure it’s the closest big condo from deck to sand on that strip.

And the deck to cook right by the pool is 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻

Lisa, Frisco TX

Destin West Beach and Bay Resort

Address: 1515 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548

We stayed at the Destin West Beach and Bay Resort, on Okaloosa Island. They have a beach and a bay side with a walkway across the highway between the two.

It has a lazy river, heated pools and hot tubs and outdoor grill areas with some grass. There’s also a cute play area for really small kids in a shaded spot.

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Grayton Beach

A quiet village in the area of South Walton, just to the West of Destin – very close to the action but giving you a bit of serenity in a very artsy and cultural area.

Shoreline Towers on Holiday Isle in Destin

They are renowned for their amenities. You can enjoy a soothing sauna, a lap around the pool, a game of tennis or shuffleboard, a grill-out, and a picnic overlooking the lake. Shoreline Towers is one of the select few resorts to offer such exceptional amenities.

If you’re wanting a Hotel, we recommend looking at these options, with reviews on Tripadvisor

Sandestin Golf

Address: 4000 Sandestin Blvd S, Miramar Beach, FL 32550

You can stay on the beach or marina side. They have a bus you can catch back and forth. You can also, rent a golf cart. It’s renowned as an amazing location.

We stayed in San Destin Resort last year

It’s across the street from the beach. And we loved it!! I wish we had known about that place since the past 10 years that we’ve gone. That resort has a whole private gated community full of hotels, condos, houses for you to stay in.

It also has a lot of perks. Private beach (its not ridiculously packed like the rest in Destin) super clean, the community has it’s own restaurants so you can just walk if you’d like. Each day you stay you get a free kayak (1hr) or bike ride. There’s ALOT of fun activities to do there with the family as well! No need to go far.

Michele, Plano TX

Book a Hotel in Destin, Florida

Planning for your Arrival in Destin, Florida

As you arrive, take note of the nearest grocery stores. Our favorite is Publix, but it gets very busy on Saturday afternoons as new guests arrive. Be sure to check what condiments and food items are available in your condo so you don’t overbuy. You may want to bring some items with you from home, like foil, cooking oil etc. We love using our Yeti to bring some refrigerated items with us.

Instacart for Publix or curbside pick up at Walmart are also good options if you have a grocery list ready and pre-order.

Places to Eat in Destin, Florida

We recommend going to eat our early, especially during peak travel seasons.

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Ali’s Bistro is a more high-scale Italian eatery, with white tablecloths, excellent food and a nice friendly vibe.Situated in Fort Walton Beach, to the west of Destin.

Address: 171 Brooks St SE, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548

Brotulas has some of the best Seafood in Destin and a huge patio overlooking the marina. We loved it!

Address: 210D Harbor Blvd, Destin, FL 32541

Another fine dining option is Vue on 30a, right on the beach.

Address: 4801 W County Hwy 30A, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459

Fatboys – newly opened and great for freshly made burgers and wings. They offer gluten free buns and meatless options too.

Address: 104 Harbor Blvd, Destin, FL 32541

I loved Great Southern cafe for lunch

Address: 83 Central Square, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459

The Donut Hole for breakfast.

Address: 6745 US-98, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459

We ate twice on our last trip at Soi Bistro – their Sushi and Sashimi options were delicious.

Address: 234 Miracle Strip Pkwy SW, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548

Things to do around Destin, Florida

Gulfarium is a huge favorite and can get very crowded, so aim to get there as it opensand expect to spend a few hours there to take in as many demonstrations and shows as possible. It’s right by the shore too.

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Address: 1010 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548

Opening Hours: 9am – 5.30pm open daily.

Pricing varies with infants age 2 and under free, Kids (age 3-12) are $15.95/$17.95 and Adults are $23.95 – $25.95.

Their Dolphin and Sea Lion show is really good. The Sea Otters and Stingrays are a huge favorite for our family. You can book experiences ahead of time also.

We have a hook up for discounted rates on your tickets!

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The Gulf Breeze Zoo has over 800 animals and offers unique animal encounters and a safari train ride for the littles.

Address: 5701 Gulf Breeze Pkwy, Hwy 98, Gulf Breeze, FL

If you’re on the Fort Walton Florida Beaches side, you really should check out Topsail Hill Preserve State Park and the John Beasley Park.

Go Shopping in Alvins Island Store or head to the Silver Sands Outlet Mall (great to head to if it rains or in the evening when it’s a little cooler)

Be sure to get your sunset pictures. Many families like to do photoshoots on the beach and find a local Photographer to book ahead of time.

We love to spot an eagle ray. You can rent a Pontoon and look out for them along the shores of the bay.

Book one of these Bestselling Tours and Activities

We loveTripshockbecause you can book online and they usually discount ahead of time.Having tickets before you go means avoiding disappointment when you get there if it’s sold out!

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For tons of ideas of Things to Do and see which ones other travellers love, try Tripadvisor

Booking ahead and also finding old-fashioned paper coupons for discounts is a good move.

Some of the excursions and things to do can get a bit pricy otherwise. Jet skiing and other water sports can also be booked ahead of time.

We also love the variety and good prices you can find if you book through Tripshock for things to do in Destin, Florida.

Book a Crab Island Water Shuttle

Crab Island is a popular spot – in the middle of the bay. It’s a sand-island only accessible via boat or jetski. It’s a popular party spot!

Choose from some of the best Destin Beaches in Florida

Destin, Florida is renowned for its stunning beaches and crystal-clear waters, attracting millions of visitors each year around the Emerald Coast.

Here are some of the best Destin beaches:

  • Henderson Beach State Park: Located centrally in Destin, Henderson Beach State Park offers pristine white sandy beaches and natural dunes. It features over 6,000 feet of shoreline, nature trails, picnic areas, and camping facilities.
  • Crystal Beach: Crystal Beach is a popular beach destination known for its beautiful emerald green waters and really grainy white sand beach. It’s a family-friendly beach with convenient access points, beachfront rentals, and a laid-back atmosphere.
  • Miramar Beach: Just east of Destin, Miramar Beach offers a more secluded and tranquil experience. The beach boasts picturesque views and a wide stretch of sand ideal for walking or sunbathing. Water sports enthusiasts can also enjoy activities like paddleboarding and kayaking.
  • James Lee Park: Situated on the eastern end of Destin, James Lee Park is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. It features a the wide James Lee beach with gentle waves, making it perfect for swimming and snorkeling. The park has picnic areas, showers, and ample parking.
  • Grayton Beach State Park: Although a short drive from Destin, Grayton Beach State Park is worth a visit. This pristine beach offers a peaceful and unspoiled environment, surrounded by sand dunes and coastal forests. Activities like fishing, hiking, and birdwatching can be enjoyed here.
  • Norriego Point: Located at the western end of Destin Harbor, Norriego Point is a beautiful beach area known for its calm waters and panoramic views. It’s an excellent spot for sunbathing, picnicking, and swimming. Boaters often anchor near the point and enjoy the shallow waters.
  • Okaloosa Island: Just west of Destin, Okaloosa Island boasts a stunning stretch of beach along the Gulf of Mexico. The beach is well-maintained and offers various amenities like beach volleyball courts, picnic areas, and beachside bars. It’s also home to the popular Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park.

Remember to check local guidelines and conditions before visiting any of the Destin beaches. Additionally, be mindful of sea turtle nesting season restrictions and practice responsible beach etiquette, such as cleaning up after yourself and respecting the natural environment.

The Destin beaches are pretty with beautiful white sand and there are tons of space where you can set down your beach chairs (many condos offer these for use when you get there) or you can pay to rent chairs with umbrellas on public beaches.

Some condos have their own stretch of beach and the owner can provide you with beach passes to use.

Take some quiet time in a green space or park when you’re not visiting one of the many Destin beaches. Legion Park, (behind Ace Hardware at the end of Geronimo St. in Miramar Beach) has bench swings under trees, a playground, bathrooms and it’s right on the water.

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If you’re on the west side of Destin, the Fort Walton Beach Landing is on Brooks St, just south of Hwy.98. The park has a playground, gazebo, picnic tables, benches and oak trees.

The Trackhas 5 go-kart tracks, blaster boats, bumper cars, arcade machines, 2 mini-golf courses and the skyflyer.

Address: 1125 Highway 98, East Destin, FL

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Other things to do in the area

Drive 90 minutes to Pensacola NAS. You can watch the Blue Angels practice for free and they fly up the beach a lot.

Also at the NAS visit the lighthouse (tallest on the gulf), Ft Barrancas (first shots of the civil war), and the Naval Air Museum.

Drive down towards the 30a from the Destin beaches and stop in Seaside, where the Truman Show was filmed. This white and blue cutesy town is a great place to walk around, shop in the Seaside store and enjoy a nice lunch on the shore. Avoid the cyclists – there are a ton of them!

We used and love Tripshock to book and charter a private fishing boat, a Pontoon or shared fishing experience – we recommend booking ahead of time, offering Bay fishing, Inshore or Offshore fishing experiences.

You could catch marlin, shark, amberjack, grouper, snapper, king mackerel, trout, flounder, pompano, cobia, tuna or mahi mahi.

Parasailing is very popular as is scuba diving and snorkeling. If you book with Tripshock, it’s a discount of $20 per person!

Dolphin tours and excursions are possible too!

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Boat rentals are available to get out into the bay and to visit Crab Island for part of a day. We rented a pontoon, took out a cooler with us and loved slowly navigating our way around the bay and escaping the Destin crowds.

We saw a lot people taking out Jetski’s and Waverunners too!

One thing that little kids would definitely enjoy is the Buccaneer Pirate Cruise – a pre-booked adventure with pirate stories, treasure hunts, sword fights, gun battles and more!

Have we missed anything??? Let us know your favorite places to stay, eat and things to do in the comments!

  • Our best Tips to enjoy Orange Beach, Alabama
  • More Travel Ideas
Destin Beaches Florida: Places To Stay & Things To Do We Love (2024)


What is the best beach to stay on in Destin Florida? ›

These places are best for beaches in Destin: Henderson Beach State Park. Crystal Sands Beach. Jetty East Beach.

Which is better Destin or Miramar Beach? ›

Destin is pretty busy….. can always drive in there for things to do, but for more relaxation, Miramar. We are big fans of SanDestin resort in Miramar. It's its own little world. There are tons of rentals on and off the beach.

How many days should you stay in Destin Florida? ›

Destin, Florida is a popular vacation destination for families looking to enjoy the sunshine and white sandy beaches. Located on the Emerald Coast, Destin offers a wide range of activities and attractions that can easily be enjoyed over a 4-day period.

What beach is better than Destin? ›

Fort Walton Beach: This location offers a more relaxed experience compared to Destin, featuring attractions like the Air Force Armaments Museum, Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier, and Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park.

What is the best month to go to Destin Florida? ›

The best time to visit Destin is in April and May when the water is warm, the sun is shining and the temperatures are comfortable (expect highs in the mid-70s and 80s). If you visit any earlier, you risk cooler weather and chilly water. A summer trip will put you among the crowds and the peak prices.

What is the number one beach in Destin Florida? ›

1. Henderson Beach State Park. Located in the heart of Destin, Florida, Henderson Beach State Park is a pristine oasis that epitomizes the beauty of the Gulf Coast.

Where is best part of Destin to stay? ›

Crystal Beach is one of the most popular in Destin vacation beach rental neighborhoods. Crystal Beach is an approximately 300-ft. stretch of white sandy beach highlighted by the backdrop of cozy cottages and high-rise vacation homes. It is located directly on Scenic Hwy 98 or 'Old 98' as known by locals.

Is Miramar Beach as crowded as Destin? ›

If you visit outside of primetime/high season, Memorial Day to mid-August, then the beaches will be less crowded. The advantage of Miramar Beach is the limited number of high-rises compared to say, mid-Destin. During primetime there will be more families, i.e. children.

Why is Miramar Beach famous? ›

Miramar Beach is one of South Walton's most fun-filled and diverse beach neighborhoods. Enjoy everything from antique shopping to beach volleyball, or spend your days and nights exploring a wide variety of dining options.

Can you walk on Destin beach at night? ›

After the sun sets, the beach is a whole new playground!

Bring a bucket and some red flashlights (the red light protects local sea turtles) and search for ghost crabs scurrying across the sand.

What's the cheapest month to go to Destin Florida? ›

November-February (Winter Months)

If you're looking for the cheapest time to visit Destin, Florida, consider visiting between November and February. These months are during the off-season, which means lower prices for hotels, airfare, attractions, and more.

What month is hurricane season in Destin Florida? ›

Hurricane season begins June 1 and runs through November 30. There are things to do prior to an expected storm and after. It is suggested that the Hurricane Information Guide be printed, studied, discussed with family members and kept at hand to prepare for possible storms or hurricanes and to assist you after a storm.

Why is Destin so popular? ›

Known as the “World's Luckiest Fishing Village,” Destin boasts the widest variety of fish species in the area, direct access to the Gulf of Mexico, and the nation's largest commercial fishing fleet.

Is Santa Rosa Beach better than Destin? ›

Santa Rosa Beach boasts a more laid-back and serene atmosphere, with fewer bustling crowds than Destin. Its pristine beaches, picturesque dune lakes, and charming local establishments create a tranquil retreat for those seeking a quieter escape.

Can you swim in the ocean in Destin? ›

The lifeguards actively patrol the 7 miles of Destin beaches from March to October of each year. We encourage everyone to swim near a lifeguard and heed their advice on water safety conditions. Rip Current Information provided by the National Weather Service. View the National Weather Service Rip Current Risk Map.

What is the least crowded beach in Destin Florida? ›

Princess Beach

This little-known gem is located on Okaloosa Island just west of the Destin bridge. Princess Beach is one of the more secluded beaches along the Emerald Coast. If you're looking to escape the crowds on other beaches, Princess Beach is the spot for you.

Is Destin and Miramar Beach the same? ›

A coastline of white-sand beaches and turquoise water awaits visitors to Miramar Beach, 15 minutes east of Destin on Florida's Northwest Coast. As one of the South Walton area's most diverse beach neighborhoods, Miramar Beach is a family-friendly destination with something for everyone.

Is Orange Beach or Destin better? ›

Destin vs Orange Beach FAQs

Destin has also earned the coveted Blue Wave Beach status for its exceptional beauty and cleanliness. However, Orange Beach also has its own charm with a murkier greenish-blue waters and a relaxed vibe, especially if you're looking for a more laid-back vacation.

Where is the best clear water in Destin Florida? ›

Visit Crab Island

Located next to the Destin Fishing Harbor with surrounding restaurants and family friendly activities, the shallow lagoon-like crystal clear water is definitely a vacation highlight!


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