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The Emerald Coast is one of our family’s favorite places to visit. The beaches are fabulous and there are countless things to do in Destin, Florida. We’ve visited twice in 2 years on the road, which says how much we love it!
We stayed in Destin for an entire month and we were lazy for the first 3 weeks. We didn’t do much other than spend time at the beach and the pool. And that was OK by us! Hanging out at the beach or heading out on the town we always have fun in Destin, FL. Things to do range from hanging at the beach, going out on the water, eating at yummy restaurants and more! Without further ado here is our list of Things To Do In Destin, FL:
Table of Contents
- Things to do in Destin Florida
- Destin Attractions
- Where To Eat
- When To Visit
- Where to Stay
Things to do in Destin Florida
If you want you can literally do nothing, but beach it. Swim in the ocean, play in the sand, and hit the swimming pool for a few hours every day. To be honest I can’t think of a better family vacation!
A beach vacation can be all about focusing on your family and deepening your family bond since you aren’t running off to a bunch of activities. Instead you are taking life slow and enjoying that non-rushed feeling.
What I love about the Emerald Coast is when you are at a resort, condo or RV park on the beach, you don’t even realize all of the hustle and bustle that is going on out on Hwy 98 and all the attractions Destin has to offer.
Tips for having a great beach vacation:
- Buy some breakfast food to have ready so you don’t have to rush out in the morning and so you don’t have hungry kids.
- Sit out on your balcony or head out to the beach to sit and enjoy your coffee while the kids either play, eat breakfast, watch TV. No seriously, let them watch TV or do their own thing while you take in the views and enjoy your morning coffee!
- After everyone has eaten breakfast head down to the beach and build sand castles. They have the perfect sand for it! You may have to mix in a little water if it has been dry, but once you get the right consistency you are good to go! Swim in the water, play frisbee, just hang out.
- Head back for a nice slow relaxing lunch. If it was hot out, take some time to relax in your room or RV. Play a card game, watch a movie, read a book as a family and enjoy the fact you have no where to be!
- Head out to the pool (if where you are staying has one) or else head back down to the beach!
- As a family, cook and prepare dinner and then eat it outside.
- Finish the night up by watching the sunset and going for a walk on the beach.
- Go to bed and wake up the next day and repeat steps 1 – 8 again!
If you are a mover and a shaker and you start twitching thinking about doing one of the beach days, do it anyways. It will be good for you and your family 🙂 But do not fear, there are plenty of Destin Florida attractions for families to keep you busy! Here are our recommendations:
We had a great time on the cruise. I wasn’t sure at first how it was going to go. Four kids on a boat, but from the minute we walked onto the boat they started entertaining the kids and it didn’t stop until we docked about 90 minutes later. We don’t even know where they took the boat since we were so in to what was going on 🙂
They did everything from squirt gun fights and sword fights to having the kids swab the deck (which they loved! I need to buy one of those mops!) to face painting and pulling a real treasure chest out of the ocean, like for real! Plus they “shot” the cannon twice. It was a great time and I would recommend it for kids ages 3 and up! And if you have any pirate gear make sure to dress up. It makes the experience even better. My Mom has an awesome pirate costume so she wore it on the ship and fit right in! Actually, she almost got a job!
Check out the Pirate Cruise for more information.
You see all the advertisements for the Dolphin Cruise and my first thought is always: how are they going to guarantee you see a dolphin? I don’t believe it. I was wrong. We saw so many dolphins! It was crazy!!! Some of them were playing together in the waves while others swam right next to the boat. It was a really cool experience. Again I wasn’t sure about brining kids on another boat, this time it was for 2 hours. We came prepared: lots of snacks, treats, and drinks. You can bring all your own stuff on the boat, including alcohol. Plus they have a snack bar if you want to buy anything.
While on the boat they had food we could feed the seagulls. The seagulls took chips right out of your hand! They also have a glass bottom, but to be honest we never really saw much through it. The highlight for the kids was getting a chance to drive the boat! We saw a ton of dolphins and a beautiful sunset. The kids had a lot of fun and since we had the snacks everyone was great the whole time! Another one to add to the list.
Check out the Dolphin Cruise for more information.
They had dolphins, tortoises, sharks, sting rays, alligators, birds, and more! Plus they have a touch tank where you can pet hermit crabs and hold starfish. And if you want you can pay and sign up to help with the animals or swim with the dolphins and sting rays.
We also enjoyed watching the dolphin show! Since it is a smaller facility you are able to get a close seat for the shows. They offer shows throughout the day so you could spend all day there if you wanted to see all of the shows.
They had an obstacle course area for the kids to play plus a sandbox area. They have a snack stand where you could get popcorn, drinks, and much more. I loved that it was right on the water so as you were walking around you were able to look out over the ocean as well.
For more info on the Gulfarium, check out their website at https://www.gulfarium.com/.
This is not your typical bowling alley! This is an underwater experience! You can choose to eat your dinner at the restaurant; where you sit at a table with sharks hanging from the ceiling, or you can eat while you bowl. Whatever works for you!
The bowling area gives you the feel of being underwater – from the sights and sounds, it is an underwater experience! We had a lot of fun and it was great with the kids since they had bumpers and also a bowling ball ramp so the kids could roll the ball right down it. We loved the extra touch of the bowling balls being covered in sea creatures too! The food was good, the drinks awesome, and the atmosphere was great! If you are looking to get out of the sun and into the air conditioning or looking for something to do at night when it gets dark out Uncle Bucks is the place for you!
This is an outdoor mall that makes shopping so much more enjoyable than having to be inside walking from store to store. At Christmas they have an awesome tree and holiday display. There is also an outdoor play area for the kids to play. There are a lot of great stores and restaurants so you can eat, shop, play, and/or people watch!
Hiking in Florida! Not quite the same as hiking to the top of a mountain in Yellowstone but it was still a fun hike. In the Emerald Coast you can hike at the following parks: Henderson Beach State Park, James Lee County State Park or John Beasley Beach Park. Or you can just go for a nice walk on the beach.
Looking for a FREE Destin Attraction that you can do every night?! We highly recommend making it a nightly ritual to get a glass of wine for the adults and some juice boxes for the kids and heading out to see the sunset out over the water. It was amazing how every night the sunset looked different and amazing. After watching it one night it seemed impossible that it could be any prettier and then it would amaze us again!
When you are staying on the Emerald Coast, make it a priority to see the sunset every night! You won’t be disappointed! Even if there are clouds – the sky still changes to an amazing color.
There’s quite a few other things to do in Destin Florida with kids that we didn’t get to, remember we were lazy and totally beached it for 3 weeks 🙂 Depending on when you are coming make sure to check the schedule. Their prime season is from May to September. So in the off season things may not be open. Here are a few other things you can do on the Emerald Coast:
Looking for some go cart fun, arcades, and miniature golf? This is the place for you! Mom and Dad will have a blast riding the go carts right along with the kids.
What to see what Destin looks like from up above?! Jump on a beach helicopter ride and get an aerial view of the amazing Destin beaches and blue water.
If you have never gone parasailing we highly recommend it. All of our kids love it and it is another great way to get a different view on the beach and ocean. With how clear the water is in Destin I bet there is a good chance you could see some dolphins or sting rays in the water while you are up there!
Going out on the ocean in a boat is no joke. But if someone in your group has some experience driving a boat you may want to look into this option. My recommendation is to stay close to the shore :).
Want to learn about the history of the area? Then check out the Indian Mound Museum where you can learn about the Native Americans that lived in the area and see a variety of artifacts found here as well.
Visit this museum to learn how a small fishing town turned into a huge vacation destination. It really is quite amazing.
Want more ideas on things to do in Destin, Florida?! Check out this great post from 365AtlantaFamily: https://365atlantafamily.com/things-to-do-in-destin-fl/
Where To Eat
It’s hard to categorize a restaurant as a thing to do in Destin with kids, but we absolutely loved LuLu’s! Any time the kids have somewhere to play while we wait for our food is a great restaurant and LuLu’s has that and more!
There is a nice sand/beach area that has 2 containers filled with kids sands toys. Plus a palm tree for them to climb on, cornhole, and hula hoops! While the kids played we were able to sit at our table and listen to the live music. Their food selection is awesome with a focus on food allergies. With a town filled with seafood it is nice to have an option where they are on top of food allergies and give you lots of options.
When you are done eating they have some great desserts including a Krispie Kreme bread pudding or natural homemade popsicles! The kids loved the root beer and sea salted caramel flavor. And so did we!
You know we love our sweets and when we couldn’t find a local donut place we headed out for Cupcakes! As you can see they were super yummy and the kids loved them. I did too! They had lots of great flavors and I had to stop myself from coming here every day to try a different flavor.
There are a variety of restaurants on the beach so depending on where you are staying you can look into what is in your area. We loved walking down the beach to a restaurant for happy hour and appetizers or dinner or lunch.
We really enjoyed The Surf Hut. We were also told that the The Back Porch was a great spot! We will have to save that one for the next time we are there.
When To Visit
The Emerald Coast is an amazing vacation destination. We have never visited during prime time (May to September). So we can’t speak for what it is like during that time. But I have heard it gets busy but the weather is beautiful.
We have always visited in the off season and we do we miss out on some activities (that aren’t open) but we love that it is less busy and that the weather isn’t super hot. We have been there in November and December and normally had weather in the 60’s with sunshine making it feel much warmer.
Where to Stay
This is one of our favorite campgrounds in all of North America. Seriously, it is so cool to be so close to the beach! Our RV spot was literally 20 yards from the beach. Yes, there was a row of RV’s in front of us for most of the time, but it didn’t matter. (We couldn’t stay in those spots because pets aren’t allowed in those sites).
There is a couple rows of RV spots that are right by the beach. If you are someone who prefers not to have sand in your RV everyday. There are also spots that are farther back and away from the beach. Some of these spots are closer to the pools at the campground.
There are 2 pools and if you go in November they put a big tent over the back pool so that you can still swim even if it is colder outside. Being in North Florida it does get colder in the winter months.
Every day we opened our door to the smell of the surf, the feel of the ocean breeze, and stepped out into beautiful white sand. Yes, we slept with sand in our bed and I don’t think we will ever get all of the sand out of our car. But we don’t care. It was worth it!
If you aren’t going to be traveling in an RV we recommend the Holiday Inn Fort Walton Beach. We were able to tour the hotel and spend a day swimming in the pool. The facility is amazing! It is very new, clean, and comfortable.
They offer a kids room that has bunk beds and an Xbox in the room! Plus the rooms have an amazing balcony that looks out over the pool and the ocean. Here is the view:
The kids LOVED swimming in the pool. It has a zero entry end, which was great for our little ones and also has a lazy river! Plus there is a hot tub and an indoor pool if the weather is cooler when you are there. We loved that you could walk right out to a beautiful beach too. So you could spend your morning at the beach, head in to eat lunch at their restaurant and then head out to the pool in the afternoon.
This hotel is perfect for families but would be great for couples as well! Click here to check out the Holiday Inn Resort Fort Walton Beach!
We stayed at Camp Gulf, which is in Miramar Beach. We love this campground because of how close the sites are to the beach. We definitely recommend checking this campground out! We’re total beach fans!
If camping isn’t your thing, find a great hotel (like the Holiday Inn Resort Fort Walton Beach).
Also, be sure to check out our Florida Road Trip as this is a stop on the route!
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Disclosure: A big Thank You to the Emerald Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau, area attractions, and restaurants for hosting us. All opinions expressed are our own. Truth.