Florida's panhandle coast is speckled with tourist hot spots, but none shine more as a family destination than the city of Destin. Famous for sugar-white sands, water sports, and diverse onshore activities, there's something for every family member to love about Destin. We have a must-do attractions list ranging from lazy beach day to adrenaline-junkie fun. Be sure to add these 17 things to do in Destin Florida to your trip itinerary!
The Best Things To Do in Destin Florida Beaches
A trip to Destin isn't complete without a day at the beach. It's a popular Florida beach city! Many waterfront lodging options are available, but even if you don't have beachfront access, there are still plenty of great options for guests yearning for the perfect beach day.
1. The Boardwalk at Okaloosa Island
Okaloosa Island is a part of the Destin Fort Walton Beach area. The two regions are frequently grouped together because they're a few minutes drive apart. Half county park and half an entertainment destination, The Boardwalk is a great place to park for a beach day.
The Boardwalk offers a kid's playground, splash pad, sand volleyball courts, and a spectacular fireworks show every Wednesday during the peak season. After you've worked up an appetite on the beach, check out the popular dining spots on The Boardwalk and local boutiques. The Crab Trap restaurant offers award-winning seafood and is best known for its crabcakes! My favorite part about The Boardwalk is the free parking, so you can stay all day to play.
2. Henderson Beach State Park
Wade in warm Gulf waters, enjoy beautiful campsites and get in touch with the real Florida. What makes Henderson Beach State Park truly special is the undeveloped shoreline. Pristine beaches await families who want an escape from the tourist side of Destin. Fishing, swimming, geocaching, and pet-friendly trails are some of the most popular attractions at Henderson Beach State Park. Admission is $6 per vehicle, but the views are priceless.
Onshore Things To Do in Destin Florida
Check out Destin's onshore activities if you need a break from the beach. I love to break up our family vacation with things to do in Destin Florida beyond the beach because kids crave the entertainment factor. Whether it's a rainy day or you want to diversify your trip, the family will love these inland attractions!
Learn about marine animals and local conservation efforts when you visit the kid-friendly Gulfarium. It's an indoor and outdoor attraction that features local marine wildlife. Kids love the touch tanks, shows, and aquarium exhibits. Plus, it's stroller-friendly!
Don't miss the daily animal shows. The dolphin show is the most popular, and the stadium-style seating fills up quickly. Watch the dolphins interact with the trainers, performing adorable tricks, and learn about their lives at the Gulfarium. Kids love the dolphin Gulfarium show.
4. Emerald Coast Zoo
Located inland, about 30 minutes from central Destin, the Emerald Coast Zoo is an adorable destination for young animal lovers. Get close to sloths, kangaroos, giraffes, and bears – to name a few. It's a family-owned zoo that cares for the rehabilitation of rescued wildlife.
5. The Emerald Coast Science Center
Inspire creativity and stimulate the imagination when kids visit the Emerald Coast Science Center, where STEM comes to life! This interactive family museum is the perfect rainy-day activity to entertain little ones. Guests can even meet the collection of birds, reptiles, and small mammals named after a famous scientist.
6. Destin History & Fishing Museum
Believe it or not, Destin was once a sleepy fishing village founded in the 1830s. The Destin History & Fishing Museum preserves the past and honors the area's most significant fishing accomplishments. See a reel once owned by Ernest Hemingway, vintage photos of Destin, and 100 feet of wall space depicting the Gulf floor (which kids love to check out).
Outdoor Things To Do in Destin Florida
The Destin portion of the Gulf is known for calm waters and shallow depths, making it perfect for various outdoor activities. Snorkeling, boating, and fishing are Destin's most popular outdoor activities.
7. Boating to Crab Island
You may have been to Florida beaches, but have you been to a sand bar? Crab Island is one of the most popular Destin attractions. It's a famous sand bar where people boat to and enjoy all day long. Find floating obstacle courses, bars, and good times. The water depth varies from 1-4 feet deep, and the only way to access Crab Island is by boat. The local boat rental companies expertly navigate guests in the right direction.
8. Snorkeling in Destin
Norriego Point is a famous snorkeling spot off the coast of Destin. You'll likely see fish, crabs, or maybe even a sea turtle or two swimming below the surface. There's also snorkeling available at Henderson Beach State Park, where marine life has adapted to artificial reefs.
If you want to try diving, get a taste of it with SNUBA. It's a hybrid of diving and snorkeling. With SNUBA, you can explore up to 20 feet deep for up to 30 minutes at a time, which means you can feel like you're part of the local underwater ecosystem and get great up-close views.
9. Destin Fishing
Did you know Destin was once called the “World's Luckiest Fishing Village“? That means you're sure to find a good catch in Destin. The edge of the Continental Shelf is only 20 miles offshore, and it's a gathering place for blackfin tuna, grouper, amberjack, and king mackerel.
Pick from fishing off the pier, a paddleboard, or the harbor. Local fishing charter companies book excursions year-round and offer various experiences for anglers of all skill levels. During peak season, securing a fishing excursion before your trip is best!
10. Tide Pools in Destin
Tide pools are an isolated pocket of seawater that collects from the tide coming in. In Destin, The Norriego Point Tide Pools form from rocks and are roped off for guests to enjoy. Walk along the shallow water and look for hermit crabs, starfish, and fish.
Can't-Miss Festivals in Destin
Destin always has fun things to do, no matter the time of the year. Great year-round weather makes Destin an excellent city for festivals. Seafood festivals, music events, and family seasonal fun await visitors depending on the month you visit.
11. 30A Songwriter Festival (January)
The 30A Songwriter Festival features over 250 singer-songwriters in a four-day festival. The event spans over 30 venues in total. The talent lineup changes yearly, but it's full of star power and worth checking out.
12. Smoke on the Coast BBQ & Fireworks Festival (July)
There are even more things to do in Destin Florida during the summer holidays. Celebrate everything Americana at the Smoke On The Coast BBQ & Fireworks Festival, held yearly over the 4th of July weekend. Enjoy live music, BBQ samples from local chefs for only $1, and fireworks to end the night.
13. Destin Seafood Festival (October)
Over 60,000 guests attend the famous Destin Seafood Festival each year. It's a free event that showcases fresh seafood, art, and live music. The festival features over 100+ Florida vendors and is a local favorite. Don't miss the VIP tickets, which buys you food and beverage. Cheers!
14. Destin Boat Parade (December)
Get into the holiday spirit with the Holiday On The Harbor Destin Boat Parade. Local boat owners decorate their vessels with lights, trees, and holiday cheer. Line up along the harbor to enjoy the festivities, grab a drink from a local restaurant, and finish the evening with fireworks.