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Why Go To Destin

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 1850s, Destin used to be a sleepy fishing town until a bridge connected the skinny peninsula with Florida's mainland. With a baseline population of 13,000 residents (which inflates to 25,000-plus during the summer), this town retains an intimate, friendly atmosphere. Midwestern and Southern families flock to Destin's beaches each summer for the city's trademark bright white shores, made up of pure Appalachian quartz. This unique sand not only stays cool in the summer heat, but with the sunlight's reflection, it also gives the waters an emerald tint. Golfers traverse seaside bunkers, while kids splash in the water parks. More adventurous visitors snorkel and scuba dive off the coast or charter a boat to try their luck at deep sea fishing. After all, casting a line is an integral part of this peninsular paradise.

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Rankings

The U.S. News & World Report travel rankings are based on analysis of expert and user opinions. Read more about how we rank vacation destinations.

Best of Destin

Destin Travel Tips

Best Months to Visit

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 (expect highs in the mid-70s and 80s). If you visit any earlier, you risk cooler weather and chilly water. A summer trip will put you among 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 high 80s in summer, while winter temps fluctuate between the low 40s and 60s. Some travelers do visit in the winter offseason when rates drop, but they miss out on the area's top activities.

Weather in Destin

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Average Temperature (°F)
61
42
63
44
68
50
76
58
83
65
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74
89
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90
74
87
70
80
59
69
48
63
44
Jan
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Average Precipitation (in)
0.16
0.17
0.24
0.18
0.16
0.13
0.2
0.28
0.28
0.27
0.13
0.2
Jan
Feb
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Apr
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Jun
Jul
Aug
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See details for When to Visit Destin

Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center

What You Need to Know

  • Keep the top down Summer beach traffic in this small community can consume hours. Renting a convertible will let you enjoy the sun even when you're stuck in gridlock.
  • Park it To avoid the parking lot that is U.S. Route 98, leave your wheels at the hotel. Without the car, the only line you'll encounter is at the bar.
  • Avoid hurricane season Destin is not immune to the threat of hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30. Keep an eye on the weather if you're planning to visit during these months.

How to Save Money in Destin

  • Fly here, fly there Three medium-size airports (Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport, Pensacola International Airport and the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport) are within a reasonable driving distance of Destin. Explore your flight and rental car options at all three airports.
  • May Day May is the best time to visit Destin, when room rates drop and daytime temperatures linger in the 80s.
  • Use two wheels instead of four Avoid the region's trademark traffic by hopping on a bike instead of in your car. You'll save on gas and parking fees.

What to Eat

You've likely heard restaurants described or categorized as "farm-to-table," but what about "Gulf-to-table"? In a city with a nickname like the "World's Luckiest Fishing Village," it should come as no surprise that Florida's marine creatures are the backbone of the city's dining scene. In fact, at any given time, there are 20 different kinds of fish to sample. But if you prefer land mammals and vegetables to sea creatures, Destin has you covered there, too.

Marina Café, which features fresh seafood, steaks, pastas, sushi and wood-fired pizzas, is lauded not only for its menu but also for its spectacular views of Destin Harbor. If you're looking for a more casual atmosphere that doesn't sacrifice taste, the Dewey Destin restaurants serve up a full menu of seafood favorites alongside a bit of history: Dewey’s great, great grandfather, Leonard Destin, founded the town in 1835. If you don't mind the drive, FOOW in Santa Rosa Beach (about 25 miles east of Destin) is another favorite among travelers and critics, in part for its beachside location overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. AJ's Seafood & Oyster Bar is yet another mainstay with several locations in the area.

Prefer to catch your own dinner? Several Destin restaurants participate in the "you catch it, we'll cook it" philosophy, meaning they'll cook your cleaned fish any way you like it with the sides of your choice. You can find a complete list of Gulf-to-table eateries willing to cook your catch on the visitors bureau's website.

When you need a break from Destin's seafood menus, visitors say you should head to McGuire's Irish Pub. It has its fair share of Irish dishes, but it also offers steak and hamburgers, not to mention tours of its brewery and live music.

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Safety

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 (like 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.

Getting Around Destin

The best way to get around Destin is by car. Driving enables you to visit any of the 13 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 Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport (VPS). The Pensacola International Airport (PNS) and the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP) also serve the area, but are located more than an hour away. You can rent a car from any of these airports.

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Photos

Destin
Destin
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When you're not admiring the beryl-tinted waves from the shore, being out on the water on a boat is the next best thing.

Romona Robbins Photography/Getty Images

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