Sand in your toes. Wind in your hair. Salt in the waves. Deep breath. Ah, paradise in Destin, Florida, at last. I took a trip with my best friend Riley and her family, and it was an absolute blast. Don’t waste the trip away only beach bummin’ — there’s so much to do and see in this Florida gem. Here are the 11 best things to do in Destin, Florida:
This post includes affiliate links, which means I may earn a commission from attached links. These come at no extra cost to you. All opinions are my own.
1. Just Chute Me parasailing
Okay, you know you’ve always wanted to fly hundreds of feet over the ocean hanging only by a harness. Alright, alright, probably not. I’ll be honest; I was a tad nervous. But I put on my big girl swim bottoms and sucked it up. And it was amazing—and I felt safe, too. I was worried it would be extremely jerky and downright terrifying, but it was anything but these. The ride was quite smooth even when they dipped us waist-high. And oddly enough, it was fairly quiet all the way up there. B & L could even see some sharks in the Gulf beneath their dangling feet. Just Chute Me also gave us the memory card from the camera they brought on the boat, which gave me these stellar shots below.
2. Crab Island
Swimming up to the entrance of a beach restaurant may seem like a mermaids-only type deal, but Crab Island offers exactly this and is one of my favorite things to do in Destin, Florida. Although not an actual island any longer, Crab Island is basically a waist-deep sandbar in the middle of the ocean. Okay, not quite the absolute middle of the ocean, but you definitely cannot just swim right over. This “island” boasts a restaurant, restroom access, bounce house type slides, paddle board rentals and frozen treat boats that swim around the parked pontoons (think ice cream truck on the ocean). Word to the wise: take care of your business beforehand because bathroom passes were $10.
Renting a pontoon to take out to Crab Island was perfect for a lazy day on the waves with our packed lunches and fun floaties. Our crew rented the boat for a half-day from Sunshine Watersports, and it even came with our choice of either two paddle boards or kayaks that day. We just couldn’t stop humming Little Big Town’s song about pontoons this week so much so that we just had to buy this song during our trip, too.
4. Paddle boards
Probably the most fun I had on vacation. Period. I was so kind to allow my friends to see me shake and wobble around to find my balance on my board, but once I got up, it was a blast (and a great workout!). I will one-hundred percent paddle board again! However, later in the week, I saw some guys paddle boarding in the ocean with yellow flag/medium waves. (Think turbulence and big waves.) Learning to paddle board on Crab Island is preferred better because the water is calm and clear.
5. Wave runners
For the adventurous folk! Sunshine Watersports also offered wave runners to take out on the bay, but fair warning: they may make you pass a boating test beforehand (plan to add about 30-45 minutes to your schedule if this is the case). This spot also offers 2 hour wave runner tours so you can see the marine life up nice n’ close.
6. Sunset cruise
Definitely a highlight considering we saw a school of 30 dolphins on our cruise!! While it doesn’t always happen that way, the time was well-spent seeing the beautiful ocean with a gorgeous sunset in the background. But if you’re like me, you probably think it would be smart to look cute for this outing because it’s a perfect family Christmas card moment, right?! By all means, brush your hair and paint your nails—I opted for this bright coral color from OPI. Bring a nice camera and put on a nice outfit, but consider pulling your hair back and not wearing a flowy skirt. Let’s just say there were lots of breezes. I definitely enjoyed the big boat atmosphere from Sunshine Watersports, but I also really enjoyed Screaming Eagle Sports. Instead of a big honkin’ boat, this was a speed boat that held around 10 people which allowed us to stop and see the dolphins, sharks and jellyfish.
7. The Track
So, you emptied your trunks of more seaweed and sand than you ever thought existed for the third day in a row. You’ve just showered, but it’s only 4 in the afternoon. Don’t worry; it’s possible to still take advantage of the day while still staying sand and seaweed free! The Track offers a nice alternative to riding waves or water sports with its 18-hole mini golf course, go kart track, bumper rides and other kid-friendly activities.
Don’t say this one three times fast! If you’ve ever wanted to feed, hold and/or nab a photo opt with a baby alligator, this is the spot to do it. This place also offers a full restaurant and huge gift store. The crew had mentioned the food was just okay for the price, but we did enjoy poking around the gift store. We may or may not have had too much fun with our plastic alligator grabber toys!
Nope, not just for a Fourth of July celebration. Check Harborwalk Village’s website and your condo/hotel listings for fireworks nearby you. Around the time I was in Destin, there were fireworks on a weekly basis, but double check on websites to find out more about your visit time.
I promise you this isn’t just a mall. It’s basically a permanent carnival with its airbrush tattoos, food trucks (yes, there’s alcohol-infused ice cream for the older folks!), countless restaurants, cute gift shops and a zip line all right along the pier. Oh, and most importantly, there’s a Starbucks. (May or may not have visited every single day of my trip there—oops.) And we even paid to have real parrots sit on our heads for a picture. As for shopping, Sunset Lifestyles offers an array of preppy southern attire (think Southern Shirt Company) while Aloha Surf Company provides a nice selection to the beachy surfer (or wannabe surfer!). And for you who just can’t stay away from touristy items, Del Sol’s merchandise appears fairly simple at first but changes color in the sun!
If you just thought about all the money you just put into this Florida vacation and the number of times you’ve eaten out (kids, no more sodas!), you probably want to save a few bucks. Hit up the Premium Outlets for stores ranging from Nike to Kate Spade to Saks to Polo.
Whether you’re a big beach person or you’d rather keep dry (and sand-free), there are many different things to do in Destin, Florida, to satisfy the wants of all the members in your traveling crew.
Did I miss one of your favorite things to do in Destin, Florida? Tell me about it in the comments.