Beach, beach, and more beach! If you crave sun, sand, surf, and endless ocean breezes, visit this Floridian hotspot. It’s known as the Heart of Florida’s Emerald Coast, offering gorgeously warm Gulf waters, tons of natural splendor, and a reputation for being the "world’s luckiest fishing village."
The northwest Panhandle city harbors world-class resorts and rentals, some of the best shopping and dining anywhere, as well as an array of world-class golf courses, kid friendly water parks, and stellar coastal spots for snorkeling or scuba diving off of. Charter a boat to try your luck at deep sea fishing, or simply cast a line off a pier or a boat. The possibilities are endless on this this peninsular paradise.
We want you to have a really relaxing weekend getaway, so we put together an example itinerary for you to follow to have a great trip. Here are eight of our favorite things to do on a weekend getaway in Destin.
Put These 8 Fun Activities In Destin On Your Weekend Itinerary!
Friday Evening: Arrival
Whether you're flying into Destin from another state or driving from a nearby city, take the guesswork out of your first evening in town. After checking into your Destin vacation rental, take a walk on a gorgeous white sand beach and having dinner at a beachfront bar while watching the sunset and getting your relaxed, beach personality back! Here's what we recommend doing on your first evening in Destin.
1. Take a walk at Henderson Beach State Park
Stretch your legs out after the trip with a walk along a beautiful beach. Along with an all-around super relaxed atmosphere, the most appealing things about this Destin favorite is that the fact that it boasts miles of sugar-white sand beaches made up of pure Appalachian quartz that remain super cool even in the hot summer sun—all while providing the pristine waters around with a light emerald glow.
The spot’s truly a welcome change of pace to the typical crowded and hotel-backed beaches closer to the resorts. It is safe, clean, and easily accessible—basically, a true oasis filled with nature trails, campsites, and spots for grilling or picnicking at.
2. Have dinner at Fudpucker’s
It’s a beachfront bar and restaurant with a fun, eclectic atmosphere that’ll keep adults and kids alike super entertained. The youngsters will adore the huge playground and video game room on site, as well as the chance to paint their own wood chips to be displayed or by going crazy by getting a henna tattoo. Don’t worry, parents, it’s only temporary!
What’s more is that the entire space overlooks Gator Beach, which makes it especially beautiful when it rains. Plus, the waters below are home to several live alligators! Eeek! Don’t forget to visit Fudpucker’s Key West Club after the sun sets to listen to live music from Black-eyed Blonde.
Saturday: Relax All Day
Sleep in - you've earned it! Assuming you're going back home on Sunday, this is the day to really rest and relax. You might want to spend the day at Henderson Beach State Park (and we don't blame you at all if you do.) If you'd like to see a little more of Destin, or would like to break up your beach time with some fun activities, then put these spots on your list.
3. Visit the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park
Want to learn more about Florida’s best marine creatures? Then pay a visit to this adventure park, where you’ll find daily dolphin and sea lion shows that are always a hit with the little kiddies. You’ll also get the full dish on all things gator-related, as well as discover fun facts about all the other reptiles, penguins, and stingrays that call the park home sweet home.
Touch, feed, play, and give behavior signals to a variety of sea creatures. And if you’re looking to go crazy (and willing to hand over some money), try snorkeling along with the stingrays via one of the park's Animal Encounters.
Much like its other Floridian neighbors, Destin is home to a variety of scenic golf courses, with four out of the nine total championship golf courses and country clubs in the Emerald Coast region located in and around town.
You don’t have to venture far to perfect that swing, so head on over to Kelly Plantation Golf Club, which is set along the Choctawhatchee Bay and is highly lauded by locals and visitors alike. It’s built on the former site of a turpentine plantation, featuring an 18-hole course that sits beside miles of waterfront, bayous, and magnolia and palmetto trees. Other "must-play" courses, include Regatta Bay and Sandestin, both also travelers and critics’ favorites.
5. Indian Temple Mound
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it’s one of the most famous archaeological sites in all of Florida. Back in 1883, it was examined by the Smithsonian Institution and has since then been excavated nine times.
The entire museum offers several hands-on displays that are incredibly popular with the young ones, so bring them along to experience the bliss of centuries gone by with lessons on how to grind corn on a grinding stone or how ancient people actually made stone tools. This is a great option for a rainy day, too.
6. Take a boat tour
Whether you're looking for a romantic sunset sail, a dolphin-spotting excursion, or even a pirate-themed cruise, there’s a boat tour fit for both you and the family. According to the Emerald Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau, Destin has the largest for-hire fishing fleet in the entire country. So go ahead and catch a glimpse of the area's resident bottlenose dolphins with Southern Star Dolphin Cruises or Olin Marler's Charter Cruises. The area's pirate cruises are also a real hit amongst travelers, as they include everything from treasure hunting and water gun battles, to storytelling and sailing lessons that’ll have young seafarers making delightful memories on a real-life pirate ship replica-- try Buccaneer Pirate Cruises.
And for those looking for sunset sails or snorkeling excursions, there’s always Sail Away, which is a particular favorite amongst recent visitors. Most fishing charters and boat tours leave out of Destin Harbor.
Sunday: Keep That Vacation Spirit
It's your last day in Destin and the last thing you want to do is think about going back. Here are a few things you can do that will help you keep that vacation spirit!
7. Go fishing
This once sleepy little town stays close to its roots as the "World's Luckiest Fishing Village” by hosting an array of sea creatures-- which means that anglers of all sorts have ample hot spots to reel in some really good ones. Test out your luck at any one of the many beaches, piers, jetties, or even on the Destin Bridge, where local fishermen often catch bluefish, king mackerel, pompano, channel bass, flounder, among other varieties.
Those who truly love fishing should head on over in the fall to see and participate in the Destin Fishing Rodeo, where contestants can compete for the most impressive catch of the day. There’s also that annual Destin Seafood Festival to eat your way through, so get ready for fish, fish, tasty sides, and even more fish!
This is one of the best possible ways to start your Sunday morning, because it is so quiet on the water and you'll become deeply relaxed - a good way to start the week back in "real life."
8. Treat yourself to some shopping
When you’ve had your fill of sun, sand, and surf, why not treat yourself to a little retail therapy over at one of Destin's array of shopping complexes?
From charming boutiques to outlet malls or open-air complexes, the Emerald Coast has got it all. Try out the Destin Commons, HarborWalk Village, or even Downtown Fort Walton Beach and the visitor-favorite Silver Sands Premium Outlets. Shop till’ you drop, y’all!
This article was written by Pamela Chan.