As you plan your next getaway, consider exploring lesser traveled spots, where the crowds and prices may be tamer. Hidden gems, like Destin, Florida and its beaches offer lots of opportunities for fun and memory-making.

The Basics

Destin is a small beach community along the panhandle of Florida. Here, you find white sand beaches, nature reserves, golf courses, and locals living a laid-back ocean lifestyle.

When to Go

The most popular time to visit are the shoulder seasons. In April and May, then again in October and November, the climate isn’t too hot, the seawater is warmer, and beaches are more populated.

If you prefer to beat the crowds, winter and summer are best. In July and August, before hurricane season, the ocean is a pleasant reprieve from the hot sun, and afternoon showers won’t spoil the entire day. As summer progresses, there’s a risk of storms foiling your trip.

Related: Lake Tahoe may be better suited for a summer trip if heat isn't your thing.

During winter, the high temperatures are still in the 60's, making for pleasant golfing experiences and nature hikes. But the ocean won’t be as warm or calm. Palm Springs may be more of your style if you're craving sunshine and warmer weather during the winter.

Airport Options

The Destin Executive Airport (DTS) is the closest airport to Destin. Pensacola and Panama City have larger airports that may offer cheaper flight options for visitors. At 50 or more miles from Destin, you will have to rent a vehicle or hire a rideshare. Small side excursions to see more unique beaches can add adventure to your drive.

Things to do in Destin, Florida

Just a couple of miles long and barely a mile wide, Destin still packs plenty to do.

  • Crab Island, Destin – Not really an island, but a sunken sand bar, this popular spot lets you spend time in the water while socializing with other visitors. You'll need a boat, kayak, or jet ski to get there.
  • Gator Beach – See and learn about Florida’s state reptile at Gator Beach. No admission charges mean you can bring the entire family on a budget. Photos with the gators, gator food, and more are available for purchase.
  • Henderson Beach State Park – Experience the Florida coast as it naturally occurs without crowds. There are plenty of trails, sand dunes, and nature to experience in this 200-acre park that requires a small entrance fee.
  • Dolphin Cruises – The Gulf Coast waters are known for their dolphins. Plenty of companies offer day cruises to see these playful creatures as they swim near the boats.
  • Helicopter Tours – Get high above the sea to discover why the area is called the Emerald Coast. From the air, you’ll witness the entire coast and see the contrast of emerald waters against white sand beaches.

How to get around Destin

While the city is small enough to walk from the many hotels in Destin Beach, Florida, there are faster ways to get around. Bicycle rentals let you cruise the beaches, or Destin Harbor Boardwalk, as you exercise. Most start at around $20 per day.

Low-Speed Vehicles (LSVs) are popular. Starting at around $100 per day, you can quickly get around and are privy to park in LSV-only parking areas.

If you plan to spend time outside Destin, renting a car might be worthwhile.

How to get around Destin

With so many dining options, the hardest part will be picking which of Destin’s best restaurants to visit. A few unique eateries:

  • Louisiana Lagniappe – Creole-style dishes and fine dining with a casual atmosphere make this 30-year old staple a must-visit. 
  • AJ’s Seafood & Oyster Bar – Located at Destin Harbor, AJ’s serves ultra-fresh seafood. Try the firecracker shrimp and check out the oyster sampler platter.
  • Pepito’s Mexican Restaurant – For south of the border flavors on the coast of Florida, head here after a long day on the beach. Snag a margarita for happy hour, and indulge in a seafood enchilada.

While Destin is less known than the top travel destinations, this Florida panhandle city is a great spot for couples, solo travelers, and families to experience fun in the sun.

For more tips on traveling like a pro, check out our guide: “How to be an Expert Traveler.” 

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