Most Destin visitors come here for the beach. The gorgeous white sand competes with those at other Florida destinations farther south. However, if you stay on the beach, you’ll miss out on the other attractions. Swim in the warm emerald waters of the Gulf, take a swing on the world-class golf courses or cast a line off a pier or a boat. The activity will only help you gain a greater appreciation for Destin’s natural splendor.
Destin Boat Tours
Whether you’re looking for a pirate-themed cruise, a romantic sunset sail or a dolphin-spotting excursion, Destin has a boat tour for you. In fact, according to the Emerald Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau, Destin boasts the largest for-hire fishing fleet in the U.S.
If you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of the area’s resident bottlenose dolphins, consider booking a tour with Southern Star Dolphin Cruises or Olin Marler’s Charter Cruises – both of which come highly recommended by recent travelers. And though many of Destin’s boating excursions are considered family-friendly (there’s a reason it’s one of America’s Best Family Beach Vacations), the area’s pirate cruises are the real hit with youngsters. Along with treasure hunting, storytelling and water gun battles, young seafarers will also get to sail on a pirate ship replica. Buccaneer Pirate Cruise comes recommended by both the visitors bureau and past travelers. Many companies that offer daytrips and snorkeling excursions also offer sunset sails. Sail Away in particular is favorably rated by recent visitors.
Most fishing charters and boat tours leave out of Destin Harbor. Rates vary depending on the type of tour or cruise you’d like to take and the length, but can range from $30 per person for the entire experience to $120 per hour. For more specific information on fees, schedules and available tours, visit each company’s website.
You’ll have your pick of stunning shorelines in Destin and neighboring Okaloosa Island, but visitors suggest you make time for the Shores at Crystal Beach Park. Situated on the Gulf of Mexico, this beach park is frequently praised by visitors for its ivory sands and crystal-clear waters. Travelers also appreciate the cleanliness of the beach.
The Shores at Crystal Beach Park is home to a bevy of vacation rentals and cottages as well; if you’re traveling with a large group and don’t want to spend a small fortune on several hotel rooms, consider renting a house or cottage here.
The beach is open from dawn to dusk and offers a pavilion, restrooms, showers, picnic tables and limited parking. It’s free to access. For more information about all of Destin’s beach access points, visit the city’s website.
Crystal Beach Park
Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park
If you don’t happen to spot any dolphins in the wild, or just want to learn more about some of Florida’s marine creatures, you may want to pay a visit to the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park. Though it does feature daily dolphin and sea lion shows, the Gulfarium is no SeaWorld (it doesn’t boast large animals or rides). But even with its small size, the park is still a hit with travelers, especially those visiting with children.
When you’re not watching dolphins jump through the air, you can learn more about the gators, reptiles, penguins, sea lions and stingrays that call the park home. You can even interact with the dolphins (touch, feed, play and give behavior signals to the animals) and snorkel with the stingrays, if you’re willing to hand over a bit more coin for one of the park’s Animal Encounters.
Recent visitors recommended spending a few hours here if you’re interested in learning more about Florida’s marine life; travelers found the staff to be extremely knowledgeable and friendly. Some felt it was a bit of a tourist trap and expensive, but conceded that it’s an entertaining place to bring kids, even on rainy days.
Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park is located about 6 miles west of downtown Destin. The best way to get there is by car. The park is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m; the last admission is at 4:30 p.m. Admission for adults ages 13 to 61 costs $23.95; seniors 62 and older gain entry for $22.95; tickets for children between the ages of 3 and 12 cost $15.95. Animal encounters cost extra and can be reserved online prior to your visit.