Destin, FL, really has it all. But the absolute best thing is the beach! Yes, there are beaches all over the world, but this beach is simply gorgeous. The sand is that really fine soft sand which just slips through your fingers and feels oh, so good to walk on. Which is good since there are about 75 yards of beach/sand before you hit the ocean.
Then there’s the ocean — wow! The water is crystal clear and an amazing shade of emerald green; hence the nickname The Emerald Coast. Can you tell I like the beach and ocean? No matter what kind of trips we take, we are always thinking about how we can get back to the water.
This beach is perfect for sitting with a beach chair and a good book. Or bring a blanket and sand toys for the kids and spend the whole day just hanging out enjoying the view, the sand, and the water. We visited months ago and still have sand in our car. Just the other day, my daughter pulled a handful of sand out of her sweatshirt pocket! But to us, it is a reminder of all the fun we had and the beauty of the beach.
We stayed at Camp Gulf RV resort where you are literally right on the beach. If you have pets you can’t camp in a beach spot, and a beach spot also means you don’t have any sewer. Having two dogs, we ended up in the second row and it worked out great. We had full hook-ups, and there were days when no one was staying in the beach spots, so it felt like we were right on the beach. We loved hearing the waves crashing day and night. www.campgulf.com
If you are more of a state park camper, Destin has that covered, too. Henderson Beach State Park is located right in Destin by the beach. It is a beautiful state park with nature trails, a boardwalk, a beach for swimming, and a playground. You are nestled back against the ocean with an abundance of trees and bushes surrounding you, so you would never believe that you are right in the middle of a city. The camping is not located right on the beach, but the beach is accessible via a short walk on the boardwalk. www.floridastateparks.org/park/Henderson-Beach
You can choose to never leave the campground and have a relaxing time enjoying the beach and ocean, but you would never know about all the hubbub going on in the city of Destin! I have to say, it’s a very cool city having more to offer then we were expecting. I definitely recommend checking it out! You can beach it all day and then go out to an exceptional restaurant for dinner. Diners can choose from Margaritaville to an Irish Pub and everything in between. www.margaritavilledestin.com
Or spend your day shopping at one of their many outdoor malls. Seriously, this area has everything you could want from shopping and dining. We really weren’t expecting that. www.destincommons.com
If you are looking for a quicker stop for eating and have kids who don’t like to sit through long meals, I recommend Mellow Mushrooms Pizza. It is a cute restaurant with unique pizza flavors and very family friendly. It is also located next to one of the many huge tourist gift shops. You can’t avoid stopping at one of those stores that sells three T-shirts for 10 bucks, right?! mellowmushroom.com/store/destin
And you can always find a restaurant on the beach. We took the kids and headed down the beach from Camp Gulf to find somewhere to eat. We had Google mapped it, and found a place right on the beach about a mile away. A mile seemed so close, yet it was oh, so far, when walking with young kids. But we finally got to the Surf Hut. We walked right up and got an outside table looking over the beach and water. It was perfect.
The kids could run around and play while we waited for our food. It had your normal tourist restaurant prices with a lot of seafood options. The kids’ menu came on a frisbee with the restaurant’s name on it, which the kids loved. surfhutdestin.com.
And, of course, they have water activities. You can rent a boat, go snorkeling, take a dolphin tour, rent a jet-ski, go on a fishing tour and anything else that you want to do on the water. This is a beach town and they deliver on beach/ocean activities.
However, keep in mind that it’s northern Florida. We were there in December, and the weather was a beautiful 65 degrees and sunny to mostly sunny with no rain for the three weeks we were there. But a lot of the activities were closed since it was the off-season. I would recommend going any time between April and November, if you want to be there during the main season.
One of the places we want to check out when we go back is Crab Island. It is located on the north side of the Destin bridge. It is an island turned sandbar where people come and anchor their boats so they can just hang out in the water. Yes, it sounds like it can be quite the party scene, but they also have a Crab Island Waterpark. This is an inflatable obstacle course for the kids to play on. Next time we are here we might have to rent a boat just so we can visit Crab Island. Crab Island
We really enjoyed visiting the Gulfarium. It is a small marine adventure park. They have dolphin, seal and sea lion shows. Since it is a small facility, no matter where you sit, you are up close and personal with the animals. The workers were super nice and answered any questions we had when looking at the animals. If you want to spend some money, you can also do their animal encounters and swim with a dolphin or sting rays, pet an alligator or feed a penguin.
Our favorite part was the dolphin show and the otters. And the kids loved being able to pick out a stuffed animal from the gift shop. I highly recommend adding the Gulfarium to your list of things to do in Destin. www.gulfarium.com
One day when we were hanging out on the beach, a guy came over and started to work on the sand. A few hours later he had made an amazing sand sculpture for a picture that the RV resort was going to take. It was unreal what he could do with the sand! The challenge was keeping the kids away from it so they didn’t accidentally run into it. We all enjoyed watching him make it. I then did some research and found that they actually offer sand building classes in the area. It was too pricey for us, but seemed like a really cool experience that I would love to do in the future. www.beachsandsculptures.com
One of the hidden gems we found was Baytowne Wharf. It is part of a gated community, but if you just tell the guard at the gate that you are going to the village they let you in. Our favorite part was the giant playground they had there. They also have concerts, ice skating, a ropes course, movie nights, and tons of dining and shopping options. You can go and participate in all of the activities or just enjoy a nice stroll around the village to check everything out. www.baytownewharf.com
And, of course, you have to end your day by watching the sunset over the Gulf. Grab your beach chair and a drink and find a spot to sit and watch as the sun “disappears” into the water. It is an brilliant sunset, and you have an unobstructed view of the sun going straight into the ocean. It is beautiful without any clouds in the sky, but is also very pretty when there are clouds and the colors are bouncing off them. We tried to watch the sunset every night while there.
We came to Destin for the chance to RV on the beach. We got that experience, absolutely loved it and are planning on returning soon. But we were also pleasantly surprised about everything else that the area has to offer!