With Pensacola Beach an hour’s drive west and Panama City Beach the same distance to the east, the cozy coastal town of Destin, Florida is the perfect staging point for an exploration of the Sunshine State’s Emerald Coast. But this is not just a spot to anchor for the night. Destin delivers endless sugar sand beaches in every direction, terrific campgrounds and countless opportunities for fun in the sun by land and by sea.
The fishing industry was king in Destin for over a century. Then, in the late 1970’s, tourists began to discover this little gem along the Emerald Coast. Today, Destin’s locals still believe they live in the “world’s luckiest fishing village,” but they welcome visitors who want to borrow that luck for a spell. So head to Destin, park the rig and step out onto sand so pure it crunches under your toes. Breathe in that cleansing salt air and take a stroll on white sand beside a jade crystal seascape. Then cast a line and, who knows, you might just head home with a fish tale of your own to tell.
WHAT TO DO IN DESTIN
If you have kids and they love the water, this is paradise. And, if you are a kid at heart yourself, Destin is like a beach trip to Neverland.
AJ’s Water Excursions – Fishing charters, kid-friendly pirate ships, snorkeling trips and sunset cruises. Call 850.837.2222 for rates and reservations. Owned and operated by AJ’s Seafood & Oyster Bar. 116 Harbor Blvd.
Boogies Watersports – Everything you need for fun on the water, but the standout here is the glass bottom dolphin cruise. 850.654.4497.
Dockside Rentals – Get behind the helm of a center console fishing boat or “party barge” pontoon boat. Located at the Dockside Ale House, 288 Harbor Blvd. 850.428.3313
Emerald Coast Scuba – Dive local reefs and shipwrecks. Scuba and swim classes also offered. 503 US-98. 850.837.0955.
Fly High Parasail – If this is on your bucket list there is no better place. Gets a gull’s eye view of the Emerald Coast. 850.499.4546.
Telluride Sports – Getting around beach towns is often easier if you think small. Rent scooters, bikes or kayaks. 850.217.6092. 2931 Old Scenic Hwy 98 East.
The Track – Go-karts, gooney golf, bumper boats and an arcade. Everything you need to help the kids play all day and sleep hard at night. 1125 US-98. 850.654.4668.
GETTING TO DESTIN
From the east or west, head across US-98. From the north, take FL-20 to the Mid-Bay Bridge (toll required), cross Choctawhatchee Bay and pick up US-98.
BEST TIME TO VISIT DESTIN
The weather is beautiful year-round, though it can get downright steamy in the summertime. Destin is also beginning to get significant Spring Break spillover from both Pensacola and Panama City, so, if you’re not into crowds of rowdy coeds, avoid coming here in March.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Before you book any trips, excursions or rentals, stop by the Destin Chamber of Commerce, 4484 Legendary Dr, to pick up coupon books and a menu mag. Both will help you save time and money.
This is a pedestrian-heavy town. Expect stop and go traffic and disregard for crosswalks, even on main highways.
Public beach parking is available along the 4600 block of Old Highway 98, but some local RV parks also offer private beach access.
Highlands Hammock State Park
Highlands Hammock State Park One of the original examples of “Real Florida” still shines By E. Adam Porter Highlands Hammock State Park, just west of Sebring in Central Florida, is one of the Sunshine State’s original state parks and a shining example of what...
Rainbow Springs State Park
People have been returning to what is now Rainbow Springs State Park for 10,000 years. One trip and it’s easy to see why. You could put a picture of the park in the dictionary next to “idyllic” and no one could argue. To say this nearly 1500-acre natural...
Henderson Beach State Park
Destin, Florida, on the northern end of the Gulf of Mexico in Florida’s Panhandle, is a haven for vacationers looking for exciting water sports and family fun. And, if you would rather slow it down and relax your days away, there is no better spot in...
Help! I’m a Creative Writer
“I want to be a creative writer, but I need creative writing help.” I hear some version of that phrase at least once a week — often spoken as a whispered lament, as if asking for creative writing help was somehow shameful. It’s definitely not, and I would...
Biloxi: Explore Beyond the One-Armed Bandit
We are standing on Biloxi Town Green. A row of casinos and a huge neon guitar block our view of the beach, but we are not looking in that direction. In front of us is the Katrina Memorial, a granite monument to the lives lost when one of the worst natural...
Estero Island: Waterfront Fun on Fort Myers Beach
A Florida sunset paradise, the thriving island community of Fort Myers Beach on Estero Island, on Florida’s southwest coast, offers fine dining, island style shopping and endless opportunities for outdoor adventure and water sports fun. Plus, Estero Island...
A Lasting Commission from LtCol Faircloth
One of the highlights of my writing career was the day I got a call from LtCol H. Spencer Faircloth (Ret.). Spence wanted my help writing a book about his extraordinary life. He didn’t land at Normandy on D-Day. He was still a kid, back home in Georgia,...
Horrific Tragedy in a Beautiful World
On Easter morning, while millions around the world gathered in worship and celebration, a handful of religious fanatics came together to murder Christians, to murder families enjoying a holiday vacation… to murder at least 45 children. The speculation as...
A Higher Call
“A Higher Call” by Adam Makos is an honest, intense, and expertly crafted book. It is, without reservation, one of the best historical books I have ever read. An exceptionally detailed, exquisitely rich picture of life both during and after World War 2. It...
7,670 and counting
I was at the grocery buying an anniversary card, because that’s what you do when the Hallmark next door has vanished without a trace. The cashier snuck a peak at the card and her eyes went wide. “Happy Anniversary! How many years.”“Twenty-one.”“Wow. Uh … I...
Writer & Editor: The Perfect Team
I work with some terrific editors who understand the subtle difference between directing a writer and correcting their work. Both are important; and both are vital to a successful story. But the secret to that success lies in understanding when and where...
Spell Check Two-Step
In their preschool years, of my boys’ favorite shows was a PBS educational cartoon called Super Why. The four main characters in the show, the “Super Readers,” are storybook characters with reading-based super-hero alter egos. One of the characters in the show is...