Destin Travel Guide
Nicknamed the "World's Luckiest Fishing Village," Destin has grown into one of the most popular vacation spots on the Florida panhandle. Founded in the 1830s, Destin used to be a sleepy fishing town until a bridge connected the skinny peninsula with Florida's mainland. With a baseline population of 12,000 residents (which inflates to 40,000-plus during the summer), this town retains an intimate, friendly atmosphere. Midwestern and Southern families flock to Destin ... continue»
The best time to visit Destin is in April and May when the water is warm, the sun is shining, and the temperatures are comfortable. If you visit any earlier, you risk cold weather and chilly water. A summer trip will put you amongst the crowds and the peak prices. Although you might consider late summer and early fall, the temperatures can be sweltering and accompanied by rain. Average highs reach the low 90s in summer, while winter temps fluctuate between the low 40s and 60s. Some travelers do visit in the winter off-season when rates drop, but they miss out on the area's top activities.Read More Best Times to Visit Destin»
Encompassing an area of about eight square miles, Destin really isn't a difficult city to maneuver. There are 12 public access points for visitors wanting to spend a day on Destin's clean white sand or in the gulf's emerald green waters. The main road in this city is U.S. 98—also commonly known as the Emerald Coast Parkway—which runs the length of the Gulf of Mexico coast and is lined with attractions, restaurants, and lodgings. Most attractions are on this south side of the peninsula. Destin's city center is on the westernmost tip of the peninsula.
A number of golf courses, such as the Kelly Plantation Golf Club, dot the peninsula. One of the most popular clubs is the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, which also has lodging and attractions along the gulf and bay sides.
At the western end of the peninsula is the Destin Harbor, just south of the city center. A good collection of boutique hotels and restaurants surround the harbor.
East of the city are a few shopping spots like Destin Commons, an alfresco shopping mall complete with a movie theater, retail shops and restaurants. Even farther east is the Silver Sands Outlet Mall, which boasts of discounted high-end goods and wares.
Sitting just south of Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport, Destin Bridge is a great place to troll for the catch of the day. There are plenty of bait-and-tackle shops along the harbor to provide all the equipment you need.
Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier
Along the southern coast of Fort Walton Beach Park (just off of the Miracle Strip Parkway), the Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier offers direct access to the Gulf of Mexico. From mid-October through mid-March, the pier is open daily from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., and during the summer 24 hours a day. Non-fishing visitors 6 and up must pay a $2 entrance fee, while fishing rates range from $4.50 to $7.50.
There are plenty of opportunities to take to the seas and enjoy some deep-sea fishing, including both private and group charter boats. Recent travelers highly recommend Olin Marler Fishing and Dolphin Cruises and Swoop Deep Sea Fishing. While private charters will cost slightly more, there is no guarantee that you will be able to get the full fishing experience on a group charter. It's best to do some research before making reservations. For more information on charters—including prices and fishing conditions, visit Fishdestin.com.
Destin is very safe, but still; it's always best to use common sense. Lock your car doors and make sure valuables are secured. Also, in order to avoid health complications, such as sunburn and heatstroke, drink plenty of water and apply sunscreen throughout the day.
If you're hitting the beach, make sure that you learn about the flag system, which is used on all of Destin's beaches. A green flag means that swimming conditions are safe, a yellow flag represents a medium hazard such as strong undercurrents, and a red flag means that conditions are dangerous. Two red flags show that swimming is prohibited, while a purple flag warns swimmers that there are marine pests (such as jellyfish) in the water. Before jumping in, always make sure that a lifeguard is present.
The best way to get around Destin is by car. Driving enables you to visit any of the 12 beach access points, and despite the traffic, is the preferred mode of transportation. Recent travelers agree, moving slowly in your own vehicle is better than being stranded at a bus stop. In fact, most vacationers drive to Destin instead of flying into Northwest Florida Regional Airport (VPS), also known as the Okaloosa Regional Airport. The Pensacola Gulf Coast Regional Airport (PNS) and Panama City-Bay County International Airport (PFN) also serve the area but are more than an hour drive away. You can rent a car from any of these airports.Getting Around Destin»