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Traveling for a family vacation is so much fun! All those fantastic memories will last a lifetime, but let’s be honest, it can also be a bit of a pain to coordinate everything. In fact, it can be downright exhausting! 

Visitors to the Destin area share some things in common. They want to have a great time on a Florida beach in the Destin area and introduce the kids to all sorts of new things like a dolphin cruise, taking in the sights on a pontoon boat, and exploring, but also want to relax. That’s where we come in. 

Put yourself in our capable hands and we’ll make sure you and the kids all have a great vacation in Destin FL! No matter how long your stay on Florida’s Emerald Coast, the crew at Destiny Water Adventures has your water and beach fun covered. 

You want to make the most of your vacation time, and we want to help you do just that. So, we’ve put together a quick list of fun things for you and the family to experience during your Florida vacation.

ideas for family vacation in destin fl

Why Visit Destin?

So, why visit Destin in the first place? Florida is full of brilliant and beautiful places where you can have lots of fun. So what makes Destin different? There is so much to do in Destin, whether you want to spend a week relaxing on a sandy beach or out and about doing all kinds of activities, Destin has something for you.

Sugar White Beaches and Emerald-Hued Waters

One of the most striking things about Destin is its ocean waters and sand. Walking onto the beach will feel as though you are stepping straight into an influencer’s Instagram post. But no filters will be needed in Destin. 

There are a number of different beaches in Destin and its surrounding areas, so you should be able to find one close to where you’re staying. In Destin, there is pretty much a beach for every kind of vacation. Whether you want to spend seven peaceful days relaxing in the sunshine, looking for some unique wildlife, or parasailing and water skiing across the waves. There is something for everyone along the beautiful Destin coastline.

Miramar Beach

Miramar beach is a great spot for some seaside activities. Due to its size, you will be able to parasail or jet ski without bothering anyone else too much. You can still relax and take it easy here, but this is definitely the place for some ocean thrill-seekers. 

Miramar is also a great spot for ecotourism. There are lots of trails and opportunities to see some natural wildlife. At first glance, the beach might seem overrun with resorts and very modern, but you will find plenty of opportunities to disconnect and find some peace and quiet too. 

If you’re up for exploring, the South Walton County coastline has some amazing coastal dune lakes. These are a number of lakes, both freshwater and saltwater, that have their own distinct ecosystems. These are fascinating spaces where you can see all sorts of wildlife. This is a really amazing place and you can even sneak some learning into your family holiday. If you have children, they will love seeing all of the wildlife and the beautiful scenery and you can take this opportunity to teach them some fun and exciting facts. 

Henderson Beach 

Henderson Beach is 30 feet of beautifully soft sand and strikingly blue waters. This is a great spot if you enjoy being by the ocean but still being active. There are plenty of hiking trails around the area as well as plenty of natural wildlife. You will be able to see tropical fish, dolphins, and maybe even some sea turtles!

Henderson Beach is actually a state park full of exciting natural wonders but you can still have lots of fun. You can go swimming, camping, fishing, and even hold parties and events. This is also a spot where lots of people get involved in geocaching.

Geocaching is when people leave items hidden around the world for other people to find. The people who find the items can then leave their own item when they take the one they find and record the coordinates. It is essentially a big treasure hunt that the whole world can get involved with. Florida is a popular place for geocaching so you should have some pretty good luck finding something. Just make sure you know the rules beforehand and don’t leave anything where geocaching is banned as it isn’t allowed everywhere. 

James Lee Beach

James Lee beach is a huge stretch of white sands and turquoise waters. This is one of the best spots for relaxing and taking it easy. There are chair and umbrella rentals as well as a great crab restaurant. 

This is also a great spot for families as there are shaded pavilions, picnic areas, and plenty of parking and restrooms. The water is also very shallow and clear so will be much safer for small children.

Crab Island

Crab Island is somewhere to visit for a day out as it is only accessible by boat. The island is a sandbar that is surrounded by shallow waters. You will be able to rent your own boat to take you to the island or arrange a trip with a charter company. This is a great place for shallow water activities such as paddle boarding and water volleyball. 

This is a great spot if you want to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city. Crab Island is a wonderful escape and will allow you to immerse yourself somewhere more chilled. But just remember that it might still be busy with other holidaymakers who are looking to do just the same.

There are some bars and attractions in and around Crab Island, but they will make you feel as though you’re somewhere far away and tranquil. 

Topsail Hill Preserve State Park

The Topsail Hill Preserve State Park is really something to behold. It is more than three miles of beach secluded behind huge sand dunes. This is a very relaxing place where you can go for a walk, rent a canoe or kayak, or even try catching some fish. 

World’s Luckiest Fishing Village

If fishing is your thing then Destin is definitely a spot to check out. It is known as the “world’s luckiest fishing village” due to its huge number of saltwater fish. You will be able to find plenty to catch (and hopefully release so the waters don’t get too empty). This is primarily because the Gulf of Mexico draws close to Destin in comparison to other areas of Florida, so you will have better access to wider ocean waters. 

Destin is renowned for its fishing. You can take so many different types of fishing trips in the area. No matter your skill level or experience, you can find a way to kick back and enjoy being near the ocean. You can spend a whole day out on a rental boat, head off on a themed cruise, or just find a quiet spot where you can make the most of being so close to the Gulf of Mexico. 

destin white sand beaches

World-Class Resorts and Rentals

One of the things you expect from any Florida vacation spot is an excellent place to stay and Destin is no different. You will be able to find some of the most amazing and exciting resorts to take the whole family to. Or you can check out some more private and secluded rentals if you want to enjoy the weather and beaches without lots of rowdy families. Whatever you’re looking for, Destin will have it for you. 

This is another great feature of Destin. There are so many different rentals to choose from, all of which are to a stunningly high standard. The area is full of 5-star suites that will make your stay stylish and luxurious. 

But, if that sounds a little too pricey, there are also plenty of places that are more affordable but still beautiful. You won’t find yourself having to cram into a tiny motel that hasn’t seen a housekeeping service in years. No matter where you go, there will be somewhere lovely to stay.

Family Events

Destin is a great place for families. There is so much to do that you won’t have to be concerned about keeping your kids entertained. They can paddle in the ocean, head out on a Crab Island adventure tour, explore the water park, or check out the Adventure Zone for tons of arcade games and mini-golf. 

This is a great option for when the sun has become a little too much. A lot of people enjoy spending all day on the beach but this isn’t particularly healthy all the time, especially if you will be in Destin for a whole week or more.

There are times when it’s best to get out of the sun and cool off in the shade. The arcades are a great way to cool everyone down while still keeping them entertained. If you’re a parent, you can also take some time off from worrying about them being in the ocean or covering them in sunscreen every five minutes. It might not be why you’re on vacation but giving your kids a few hours to play some arcade games just might be the perfect respite. 

Plenty of Nature

Despite being a city, there is plenty of wildlife to see in Destin. This includes crabs, turtles, dolphins, and more. There are also plenty of fish swimming around. So you can see them in their natural habitat and appreciate their natural beauty without catching them if fishing isn’t your thing.

A lot of people head to places like Destin for the resorts, waterparks, and hotel suites but you can still enjoy the natural beauty of the area. This is especially true if you head out to somewhere like Crab Island or just stroll down to the beach. 

You will be able to see so many wonders of the natural world just a few steps from your rental. This will definitely be something to behold and remember. Your children will be much more likely to remember the time they saw a dolphin or a turtle than when they went to a waterpark. (Although the waterpark should definitely still be visited).

Top Destin Area Family Vacation Ideas

destin area family vacay ideas

Pontoon Boat Rentals

Our Pontoon boat rentals are very affordable. They also include life jackets, a cooler, and a Bluetooth stereo. You and the family can float around Choctawhatchee Bay enjoying the beautiful weather. Look for dolphins and other marine life or go to Crab Island – a sandbar that used to be an island – and enjoy one of many floating restaurant options, as well as an inflatable water park!

If you’d like someone to captain your boat, we have that option available too. This way, you all can enjoy tubing behind the pontoon boat!

All of our pontoon boats are top of the line. We keep them up to date on repairs because we know what a bummer it is to be out on the water with your family and have to stop the fun to take care of technical or mechanical issues. The boats are designed for 10 -12 people so there’s lots of room and everyone can join in on the fun! Click here for more info on our highly rated pontoon boat rentals. 

Crab Island Visit

visit crab island

How do we describe Crab Island? Well, it’s not an island at all, it’s a sandbar that used to be a man-made island. The water is between one and four feet deep in most places, and at high tide, it’s an unbelievably beautiful shade of blue-green.

Crab Island is a convenient five-minute boat ride from our pontoon boat rental area in Fort Walton Beach. You can also rent a jet ski if that’s more your speed (pun intended)! Once you’re there, drop anchor and wade or float around. Play some frisbee or volleyball or enjoy some food and drink from one of the floating restaurants.

A trip to Crab Island is one of the most popular destinations on the Emerald Coast of Florida, and once you arrive, you’ll see why. Snorkeling, relaxing, deep-sea fishing, and looking out for dolphins and other marine life are some of the top Florida vacation activities here. If a day on the water, away from the resort is what your family is looking for, Crab Island is for you. 

The best time to visit with your family is during the week, at high tide. You’ll be able to enjoy the beautiful scenery and crystal-clear water without too many crowds. We know the inside scoop around here as locals, and we’ll help you rent a boat and get to Crab Island in style.

Dolphin Cruise Tour

Are you kidding me?! Dolphins in their natural Florida habitat?! That sounds like the best part of a Destin beach vacation! Destiny Water Adventures offers 90-minute guided dolphin tours on a two-person jet ski, and we charge per jet ski, not per person, which is a bonus.

Drivers of jet skis need to be at least 16 years old, and if the water is calm, you can take kids as young as four out for a ride. Our crew knows the best times to spot Dolphins in Destin. We provide a local tour guide who is familiar with where the dolphins like to hang out and at what time, so the chances of you seeing dolphins playing in the surf are really high!

Approximately 40,000 dolphins are living in the Gulf Coast, so the Destin – Fort Walton Beach area is the ideal place to be if you are interested in these fascinating creatures. Since the water is warm year-round, the dolphins don’t migrate from the Gulf area of Florida, but the best time to see them is from early spring to late summer, as this is when female dolphins from other areas come to the Emerald Coast to mate.

Other options for dolphin viewing are on pontoon boats, from the beautiful beach, or from the upper floors of hotels or a nice Airbnb. The best way to see the dolphins, up-close and personal, is on the water. Swimming with dolphins is not only dangerous, but it’s also against the law. We recommend traveling out to explore using either a jet ski or pontoon boat.

Water Sports

It’s important to make sure you’re going to the right place for water sports. Not every beach is appropriate as there might be a lot of families with young children or people who just want some peace and won’t appreciate you riding around in a jet ski. Jet skis can be pretty antisocial due to their noise and their speed can make them dangerous for swimmers and other people in the ocean.

But other than that, you can enjoy other water sports such as canoeing, kayaking, water volleyball, water skiing, paddle boarding, or parasailing. There are so many ways to make the most of being so close to the ocean, whether you want to slowly and quietly paddle through the waters or fly high up above them. 

Deep-Sea Fishing

Fishing is one of the most popular activities in Destin. This includes deep-sea fishing. You can rent or charter a boat and spend time hanging out on those crystal clear waters. Even if you don’t manage to catch anything, you will have spent the day bobbing on the water and enjoying the beautiful scenery (and hopefully beautiful weather).

Track Family Recreation Center

This is a great day out for the family once you need some time away from the sand and the direct sunshine. The Track has arcades, a go-kart racetrack, and SkyFlyer which is a horizontal zipline that will give you a great view but at a very fast pace, so it’s not for the faint of heart. 

Big Kahuna’s

Big Kahuna’s is an awesome water park that will allow your kids to have even more fun once they get tired of the ocean. Big Kahuna’s has tons of waterslides and is a lot of fun. As an adult, relaxing on the beach or calming floating in the ocean might sound like a dream, but it can get boring pretty quickly for little ones. So taking them to Big Kahuna’s can be just the thing. 

Harborwalk Village

The Harborwalk Village is great if you’re looking for something more sociable. The village contains hotel suites but also hosts loads of events. This includes surfing lessons, a circus, lots of restaurants, shops, and bars and it’s also where you can take off for cruises. 

Seasonal Events in Destin

seasonal destin fl events

Unlike a lot of other vacation areas, Destin isn’t just a hub for the summer. You can enjoy the fun of Destin all year round. Check out some of the great events going on throughout the whole year. 

Spring in Destin

The summer might be the time of year most people go on vacation but the weather during the spring is still very sunny and beautiful. Springtime is also usually outside of Florida’s hurricane season which usually runs from June to November. Of course, hurricanes have been known to occur at earlier times in the year, but spring is a great time to avoid the potentially dangerous weather without having to go on vacation during the cooler months.

One of the best events that happen during the spring is the Music Echoes Native American Flute Festival. The festival features a range of Native American tribes showcasing their music, dances, and holding seminars. This is a fantastic opportunity to experience and learn about Native American cultures or celebrate your own tribe’s culture.

Summer in Destin

Summer is the time of year when most people vacation in Florida. This is the best time of year for the high heat and sunshine and enjoying all of the local attractions. If you have young children or just enjoy some period costumes, the Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival is a great summer attraction.

There is plenty to do at the festival (some of which isn’t kid-friendly so you might want to find a babysitter for the pub crawls). It’s a festival of general silliness and fun for everyone, 

Destin in the Fall

You might not consider heading to Florida in the fall but there is still plenty to get involved with. As with a lot of other activities in Destin, the main events in the fall center around fishing and seafood. If you’re a fan of seafood, the Destin seafood festival is definitely something to check out. This is a free festival that highlights some of the best seafood from the area. It also includes lots of other things such as local artists, small businesses, and music.

Another great fishing event in Destin is the fishing rodeo. Now, you might be thinking that “rodeo” is a bit of a strange term to be used as, no, you won’t be riding any fish. Instead, this is a fishing tournament where keen anglers try to catch the best and biggest fish. When you watch someone try to reel in a large fish, it does look pretty similar to watching someone try to stay on the back of a bronco, so the term “rodeo” suddenly becomes much more understandable. 

Destin in the Winter

Winter is still a sunny and warm time of year in Florida but it still isn’t the most popular time of year for a vacation. That said, there are still some fun things to do. This can include the New Year’s Day Pelican Plunge. This event involves people jumping into the ocean to raise money for a charitable cause. 

Nearby Destin Tourist Locations

If at some point you want to venture further afield, there are lots of great tourist attractions around Destin as well. 

Seaside

No, we’re not telling you to check out the beaches again, there is a place near Destin that is actually called “Seaside”. Seaside is a charming city with some really delightful architecture. There are rows of pastel-painted buildings, plenty of delightful restaurants and shops, as well as, of course, the ocean. 

If you’re a movie fan, you might even recognize Seaside as the location of the iconic Jim Carrey film The Truman Show. Make sure to have a wander around this beautiful city (just make sure to look for any hidden cameras!)

Walton County

Walton county does include some coastal areas but it is more inland than other places around Destin. This is a great spot for a drive if you find yourself in need of some greenery and nature after all that sunshine and sea.

Fort Pickens

Now, this is one for the history buffs. Fort Pickens is an abandoned fort that was originally built in 1834 and was used until 1947. It is now open to the public where you can explore the grounds and learn about its history.

Celebrity Houses Nearby

If you need something to entertain yourself, then checking out some celebrity horses is a silly and fun thing to do. Destin and its surrounding areas are home to some pretty big celebrities including Tim McGraw, Keith Urban, Faith Hill, and Jessica Simpson.

Where to Eat Near Destin Florida

where to eat in destin fl

After all that water and beach activity, you’re going to be hungry! If you’re on vacation in our beautiful area, you are going to need a helping hand figuring out which restaurants are going to be able to offer you a delicious, friendly, and hassle-free dining experience. Check out this post for our special kid-friendly list of Destin restaurants. Here are our top picks for dining out in the Destin – Fort Walton Beach resort area:

Flounders Chowder House at Pensacola Beach

800 Quietwater Beach Road, Gulf Breeze

Sandy volleyball court and kid’s play area …This is obviously a family-friendly spot with fun in mind! They’re known for their full seafood menu, sushi, and famous key lime pie.

Fudpucker’s Beachside Bar and Grill

20001 Emerald Coast Parkway, Destin

An alligator farm and a graffiti wall. Not to mention the non-alcoholic kiddie “cocktails”. This place was made for families on vacation!

Lucy Buffet’s Lulu’s

4607 Legendary Marina Drive, Destin

This restaurant has so many offerings for those with dietary restrictions, we just couldn’t leave it off our list. Gluten-free, dairy-free, shellfish-free, vegetarian, whatever your diet requirements, Lulu’s will be able to meet your needs.

Say Cheese

10 Harbor, Destin

Grilled cheese is a kid’s favorite, and this place offers all sorts of variations on the classic! There are three different bread types to choose from, and all sorts of ingredients from spinach and artichoke to barbeque chicken. Check it out! It’s the perfect post-beach meal for your tuckered-out family.

Red Bar

70 Hotz Ave, Grayton Beach, FL 32459

The Red bar in Destin is a pretty special spot in Destin. It was sadly destroyed in a fire in 2019 but has since been rebuilt and is already reopened. The Red Bar is right on the beach so you can spend all day sunbathing and then stroll just a few feet up the bank to grab a beer and relax right on the ocean. 

Make That Destin Family Vacation One to Remember!

memorable florida vacation plans

Destin Florida and the Fort Walton Beach area is a beautiful destination for a family beach vacation with so many things to do and places to see!  Come and relax at a family resort or visit one of the many gorgeous beaches in Destin

Shop at Destin Commons or enjoy the green during a round on the golf course. Oh, btw. Traffic can be nuts down here, so make sure you read this post about how to navigate or avoid traffic in Destin. This can help you time your daily activities the best you can. 

You’re sure to have the wonderful family adventure of your dreams on your Destin vacation. The crew at Destiny can’t wait to see you on Florida’s Emerald Coast!

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