Over the past few years, my husband and I have decided to take a family vacation to a different beach location around the southeastern part of the United States each year. Our kids absolutely love the beach, and it’s the perfect way for the two of us to rest and relax, too.
This year, we took a road trip to Destin, Florida, a beautiful coastal town in the Gulf of Mexico. One of our friends had recently traveled down to the Emerald Coast and said it would be exactly what our family of four was looking for. Turns out she was right! Destin quickly climbed its way to the top of our favorite family vacation destinations.
The Right Location is Key
My friend had mentioned that renting a condo was the best way to go if we were planning on staying in Destin for more than a few days. I decided to look into the best vacation rental companies online and found great reviews for Emerald Coast Vacation Rentals and Sales. They were extremely easy to work with, and after a few days of searching I found the perfect two bedroom two bath condominium. It was right in our price range and the best part? Drum roll please! Beach front property.
When we arrived, the place looked just like the pictures had, which was a big relief. We have been on so many trips where our hotel or rental just doesn’t quite look the same in person as it did online. There was plenty of space for the four of us and the views couldn’t be beat. I’d suggest staying as close to the beach as possible. It was nice not to have to lug all of our beach toys, boogie boards and umbrellas very far. We also got to know some of the neighbors throughout our stay, which was a pleasant surprise.
Beaches that Can’t be Beat
Destin’s beaches were unlike any we had seen before – which is really saying something. The sand is soft and clean and the water is crystal clear. Although we had been to some nice large, state beaches in the past, Destin’s can’t be beat.
We visited a few beaches throughout the trip, mainly the one that was just outside of our condominium. It was extremely quiet and peaceful, which was a huge plus. Besides our own backyard, Henderson Beach State Park was one of the best. It was massive, so we didn’t have to worry about the kids running into other families spaces’. My son loved being able to frolic around and play catch and frisbee with his dad.
Another major pro to Destin’s beaches was how clean they were. There was hardly any trash in the sand and I don’t recall seeing any in the water. We were free to swim and walk around without having to worry about broken glass or other sharp objects getting in the way.
My daughter loves all things ocean, so we couldn’t pass up the opportunity dolphin and whale watch. We were told that Destin is full of pods of dolphins and that nearly everyone is able to spot them at least once while visiting.
We didn’t want to take our chances on missing the sight, so we decided to take a dolphin tour at sunset with Dolphin Cruises. The tour was an hour and a half long and took us around Destin Harbor and even into the Gulf of Mexico. My husband and I were able to have a complimentary drink on board and the kids had a blast searching for dolphins as we sailed along. Because we went at sunset, the views were even more breathtaking. Not to mention the fact that we saw at least a dozen dolphins during our trip!
As we were arriving back on land, we could see fireworks being set off from the beach, which definitely added to the excitement for the kids. I know that Dolphin Cruises also offers sunset tours which would be another relaxing way to see the water and some fireworks in the evening.
One of the other activities that my daughter was really interested in was snorkeling along the Coast. The cool part about the water in Destin is that it has a beautiful turquoise color and is completely clear. Even in fairly deep water, you can see close to the bottom of the ocean floor where lots of creatures like to call home.
We decided to take a Destin snorkeling tour with Flipper’s Adventures on the third day of our trip. It easily the highlight of the trip, especially for my daughter. My kids had never been snorkeling before, but the crew at Flipper’s Adventures were able to turn them into professional snorkelers in no time. They provided all of the necessary equipment, which was a relief because we weren’t sure where to find the gear otherwise.
Underwater we were able to see lots of colorful fish that swam right past us! We also caught a glimpse of crabs and starfish near some large rocks, which was a really neat sight to see. There were tons of shells and sea glass on the sea floor, too.
Overall, this snorkeling tour was high on our list of to-do’s and I’m glad we made the time to go.
For the Thrill Seekers
I’m terrified of heights, but my husband on the other hand couldn’t wait to try parasailing. My daughter and I opted out of flying, but were able to come out for the ride while my husband and son flew together with Just Chute Me.
My son is eight years old and hadn’t done anything even close to parasailing before. He’s a little scared of heights, but the parasailing crew was very friendly and comforting and made sure he was ready before they took off. I was glad that they were able to fly together, too, because it made for some great family pictures.
The guys loved the excursion! They started off flying a little lower than normal, but were able to tell the captain they wanted to go a little higher once my son was ready. My husband said that the views were spectacular and that he was able to see the entire Destin skyline and the miles of beaches that wrap around the city. In his words, “Parasailing Destin is a must!”
Ideas for a Beach Break
We were on the fence about going to Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park because we weren’t sure it’d be anything different from the water parks and zoo’s that we have in our area. Gulfarium is an interactive park where people can participate in activities like feeding, swimming and petting dozens of animals and sea creatures.
We ended up going toward the end of our trip when the kids were beach-ed out and we’re glad we did!
The kids loved getting the chance to see all of the animal encounters, especially the interactive ones. The family favorite was feeding and petting the African penguins. The cuddly creatures were really funny and had lots of personality, too. Although the kids had seen penguins at our zoo, Gulfarium gave them the chance to try something new.
Fresh and Tasty Seafood
It was no surprise that the food on our Destin trip was out of this world! Seafood is my favorite, so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on all of the fresh fish that I knew there’d be. I came to find out that Destin is known as “The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village” and I now know wh
Shrimping, crabbing and fishing boats line the horizon, so nearly all of the seafood in restaurants is caught right there in Destin. My favorite place that we dined was Dewy’s Destin because there was something for everyone to eat. It’s American food and seafood, so the kids were happy that it wasn’t just fish on the menu.
We also checked out Bruster’s Ice Cream because of the rave reviews it got online. I couldn’t agree more with the five star rating – this was some of the best ice cream we’d ever had! It was a bit of a drive from the condo, but well worth the trip.
I’d recommend Destin, Florida to any family or couple looking for a fun filled beach vacation that won’t disappoint. There is so much to do here that we couldn’t squeeze everything into one stay. My kids haven’t stopped talking about the trip since we’ve been back, so we will definitely be back for more in the coming years!
Here’s a list of everything that we loved and the activities we can’t wait to do next time:
Snorkeling with Flipper’s Adventures
Check out all of the beaches: Henderson Beach Park, Beasly Park, James Lee Park
Just Chute Me Parasailing
Dolphin tours and sunset cruises with Dolphin Cruises
Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park
Walk the Destin Harbor Boardwalk
Shopping at Destin Commons
Jet skiing along the Coast