Destin, commonly known as the world’s “luckiest fishing village,” is a sunny southern locale in the Florida Panhandle. It’s one of the most popular stops for visitors in Okaloosa County, which welcomed a record-breaking 7.5 million tourists in 2021.
Situated alongside Fort Walton Beach and Okaloosa Island, Destin makes up a large part of Florida’s Emerald Coast.
This 100-mile stretch of wind-swept white sand coasts and clear, jewel-toned Gulf waters boasts a cornucopia of activities for couples, families, and solo travelers alike.
Destin has a little bit of everything, from thrilling watersports and jaw-dropping amusement parks to quiet seaside cabins and quirky local shops.
It’s also a short drive away from other gorgeous locations, like Miramar Beach and Sandestin Beach Resort, where you’ll find the quaint Village of Baytowne Wharf.
As you plan your upcoming beach vacation, this guide of 35 things to do in Destin, Florida will help you hunt down some of the Sunshine State’s best hotspots.
1. Henderson Beach State Park
There is no shortage of beach parks in this quaint coastal town.
Henderson Beach State Park is one of the most popular beach access points in Destin, Florida, and features more than a mile of white, sandy shorelines along the Gulf of Mexico.
Henderson does have a small entry fee because it’s a protected site, but the vast majority of beach access sites are open to the public.
2. See the city from the air on a zipline
Ziplining is a must if you’re bringing an adrenaline junkie on your Florida vacation.
HarborWalk Adventures will send you on a 1,000-foot zipline trip, traveling100-feet above the ground! This zip line is the tallest in Destin and offers a stunning view of the coast, the waves, and the city beyond. Try an evening ride for an incredible sunset view.
Baytowne Adventure Zone is another family-friendly zipline adventure location that includes golf, a tower climb, a tugboat adventure, and a ropes course.
3. Shelling on the beach
Seashells are in massive abundance on the shores of nearly every beach, appearing in a vast range of sizes and colors.
Shelling can offer tourists souvenirs without a high price tag and open the door to some hands-on scientific learning as you explore the tide pools and wind-swept dunes.
You may want to consider snagging a copy of Florida’s Seashells: A Beachcomber’s Guide to help you identify which of the 287 species you’ve uncovered.
4. John C. Beasley Park’s reef
John C. Beasley Park houses an artificial reef brimming with sea life, making it a fan-favorite Destin tourist spot for avid snorkelers.
Beneath the crystalline waters close to shore, you can see schools of colorful wrasse, spadefish, and grouper swimming through the repurposed concrete ecosystem.
If you’re fortunate, you might catch a glimpse of the Gulf’s more elusive species, including dolphins, stingrays, manatees, and sea turtles.
5. Destin Harbor Boardwalk
The Destin Harbor Boardwalk, which opened in 2012, spans a quarter-mile across the ocean and is a perfect place to capture stunning views, family vacation pics, or a summertime selfie.
You’ll find a hub of activity with restaurants, souvenir shops, and local watersports rentals, offering visitors the opportunity to experience the majestic wonders of the waterfront.
6. Destin History & Fishing Museum
For folks interested in the history and fishing industry of this once-quiet little village, the Destin History & Fishing Museum has a lot to offer.
Be prepared to take in 4,000 square feet of antique tackles, catch mounts, and artifacts showcasing the lives of the earliest pioneers who settled in the area around 1830.
One of the most exciting exhibits is the history of The Destin Fishing Rodeo, a world-renowned 31-day fishing tournament that attracts avid anglers from across the globe.
Destin offers plenty of camping options, from primitive sites to full-amenity RV hookups.
Henderson Beach State Park, for example, has 60 tent and RV campsites that you can reserve up to 11 months in advance. It’s a popular choice for hikers, nature enthusiasts, and beach bums who still want the convenience of modern amenities within walking distance.
If sleeping outdoors isn’t your idea of a good time, consider a beachfront home or cabin rental for a cozy stay near the coast.
8. Off-Shore reefs and wrecks
Experienced SCUBA divers and enthusiastic anglers won’t want to miss Destin’s rich array of artificial reef and wreck sites, including the impressive 380-foot Thomas Hayward Liberty Ship.
These off-shore dives are more likely to host octopi, eel, nudibranch, shovelnose lobster, and the behemoth whale shark, a gentle giant that can reach an average length of up to 33 feet!
Destin’s Tourist Development Department recently outlined its 5-year plan to invest in making Destin the dive capital of Florida, with particular emphasis on deep sites for scuba diving.
They have a budget of $8 million to invest in large, seafaring vessels that the team will sink to create high-interest, challenging dives.
9. The Track
There are many go-karting destinations in Destin, Florida, but nothing beats a day spent on The Track.
With five raceways, including the three-story Wild Woody, even the most experienced kart racer will be delighted by the challenging tracks and breakneck speeds.
Kiddie Karts are ideal for first-time drivers, while the Rookie Track offers a more independent experience for bigger kids.
The Destin location is also one of only two locations where drivers can test their skills on the Slick Track. It has a specially-finished surface that will leave you on the edge of your seat as you slip through the curves.
10. Urban Air Adventure Park
Urban Air Adventure Park is the perfect place for families to test their athleticism in a massive complex built for competition.
High-flyers can take a shot at conquering the wall-to-wall APEX trampolines or practice their aerial acrobatics in the DropZone.
Other attractions include a ropes course, laser tag, virtual reality experiences, climbing walls, and more!
11. Banana Bart’s
Is it a vacation if you don’t have souvenirs and gifts to bring home?
Banana Bart’s is a locally-owned gift shop housed in a bright yellow building.
Rather than your standard tourist fare of magnets and shot glasses, you’ll find a curated, eclectic mix of tropical decor, unique knick-knacks, and gorgeous jewelry.
It’s been a staple on Harbor Boulevard for nearly four decades, enticing returning tourists with a new selection of wares each time they visit Destin.
12. Jet skiing
In Destin, one of the best things to do is to get out on the open ocean with a jet ski and let the land become just a dot on the horizon.
There are plenty of jet ski rental locations dotted throughout the village, but all have the same basic legal requirements before they let you drive away on their wave-skippers:
- At least 16 years of age
- A photo ID
- Boater safety course certification
- A temporary boat course certificate, unless you were born before January 1, 1988, or are a resident of Florida with a permanent Boating Safety card
This watersport may be too much for small children, but older teens, adults, and solo adventurers will likely have a thrilling time on the ocean. Not to mention, seeing Destin from the water will offer an entirely new perspective on this beautiful city.
With a location close to the famous Crab Island, Wet-N-Wild Watersports is your go-to destination for parasailing, pontoon boat rentals, and dolphin tours.
One of their best services is the guided jet ski tours, where you’ll be treated to a 1.5-hour exploration of Crab Island’s natural marine habitats.
Your guide will lead you to the areas where dolphin pods, sea turtles, and stingrays are most often spotted, giving you an awe-inspiring glimpse into the bounty of Destin’s marine ecosystems.
14. Escape Zone 60
Escape Zone 60 is a fun and immersive experience for puzzle lovers of all ages.
You and your team will race the clock as you search for the clues you’ll need to escape thrilling themed rooms, like a zombie apocalypse and a cabin crime scene.
With a success rate of only 30%, you know you’re in for a challenge and plenty of family fun!
15. Big Kahuna’s Water Park
Big Kahuna’s Water Park is a wonderland of aquatic fun, including water slides, tubing adventures, and attractions to keep you cool in the Florida heat.
Test your courage as you face the five-story Jumanji slide or enjoy the waves and currents of the not-so-lazy Humunga river. For the little ones, Buccaneer Cove, Pleasure Island, and Fun Fountains offer plenty of splashing action in low-depth pools.
Once you’ve had your fill of water, head to Adventure Park, where you’ll find a 54-hole putt golf course with massive animatronics and entertaining auditory commands.
16. Clear kayaking
Ready for a new perspective? Try your hand at coasting over the emerald-green waters in a transparent kayak.
As you slice your paddle through the cool, clear water, you’ll watch the seabed come alive with ocean inhabitants and tropical plants.
It’s one of Destin’s best activities for outdoorsy types who want to level up their kayaking experience and get a rare glimpse of nature at its finest.
17. Indian Bayou Golf & Country Club
Anyone who enjoys a good golf session will love playing 18 holes at the Indian Bayou Golf & Country Club.
This hidden gem of Destin has one of the best ratings for country clubs in the state, thanks to their top-of-line amenities and stunning greens.
Morning tee times start at 7:40, so get there early to beat the afternoon heat. Once you’ve wrapped up your game, unwind with a light lunch at the on-site restaurant.
18. Deep-sea fishing
Are you an avid angler to snag a red snapper, reel in a red drum, or conquer a king mackerel?
Of all the things to do in Destin, deep-sea fishing is an absolute must. It offers some of the best year-round, off-shore access along the Gulf Coast and is also home to the most extensive fleet of fishing charter boats in Florida!
Before settling on a vacation date, check out what’s biting so you can visit during your preferred species’ peak season.
19. HarborWalk Marina
HarborWalk Marina provides some of the most stunning views of the Destin waterfront alongside shopping locations, watersports rentals, fishing docks, and nightlife hotspots.
You’ll want to keep an eye on the event calendar because there’s always something happening in HarborWalk Village, located at the heart of the Marina.
Visit on Thursday from 6:30-9:00 pm for the All-American fireworks display or catch a movie under the stars during a Dive-In Movie at the Pool Deck.
It’s always 5:00 somewhere at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville!
Settle in for a fiery pile of Volcano Nachos or hand-dipped Landshark Lager Fish & Chips in a tropical-colored paradise adorned in tikis.
You can’t visit Margaritaville without partaking in its salty-rimmed namesake, and with a menu of eighteen different flavors, you’re sure to find one that’s too good to share.
21. Bike rentals
Cruising over the sparkling sand on a beach bike will put your weekend treks around your hometown trail to shame.
A beach bike has larger, waterproof tires that can traverse the salty shoreline without damaging the hardware. Some even come with an electronic pedal assist that takes the work out of your relaxing two-wheel cruise.
Check with the bike rental shop for two or three-seater bikes so that you can bring the kids along for the ride.
22. Two-Bit Stable beach horse riding
Seahorses aren’t the only horses that call Destin home!
At Two-Bit Stable, you’ll meet a cadre of well-trained and sure-footed equine adventurers known as the “Beach Bums.” These gorgeous animals receive special training from the time they are still little colts and fillies to work with guests.
If you have any reservations about whether or not these horses are well taken care of, you’ll be glad to know that they are loved and thoroughly pampered when they’re not escorting visitors along the shoreline.
For a truly breathtaking experience, head out at sunrise to watch the watercolored sky come alive over the crystalline waters.
23. East Pass Jetties
Combine rock-climbing and near-shore fishing into one at the East Pass Jetty, a popular fishing honeypot accessible from Osteen Beach Access.
After you make your way over the treacherous rocks, some with straight drops surpassing 20′ onto the sandbar below, you’ll find a rich reward in the form of trout, flounder, mackerel, bluefish, and more.
Be aware of the weather before you head out– Storm conditions cause waves that crest well above the jetty and have swept people out to sea.
24. The Island Pier
The Island Pier, previously known as the Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier, stretches out 1,262 feet over the water. It’s a favorite haunt for pelicans, eager to snatch your catch if you’re not being vigilant.
Whether you want to catch a glimpse of sea turtles or spend your day putting your angling skills to the test, The Island Pier is the place for unforgettable memories.
25. Destin Sandcastle Lessons
Sandcastle building is an art and a science, at least in Destin!
Book a class with Destin Sandcastle Lessons, and you will learn how to create incredible sand structures from experts who have grown up on the coast and spent years perfecting their craft.
Your teachers will show you the secret formula for achieving the perfect sand consistency, walk you through the tools of the trade, and mentor you as you practice your burgeoning building skills.
You won’t have to worry about a rainy day spoiling the fun, either, as Destin Sandcastle Lessons offers full refunds in the event of bad weather.
26. Timberview helicopter rides
For vacationers who want a bird’s eye view of the Destin area, there’s no better way than skimming through the clouds on a Timberview helicopter tour.
Your whirlybird pilot will cruise over Destin Commons as you take in the picturesque village below before heading further off-shore.
As you glide over the crystal-clear waters, you’ll have an incredible top-down perspective of the flora and fauna below.
Timberview offers several tour packages and has a 4-guest capacity.
27. Mattie Kelly Park and Nature Walk
Mattie Kelly Park and Nature Walk features a 10-acre wetland reserve with bayou beach access, a pier, and pavilions for picnicking.
As you stroll across the boardwalk, keep an eye on the sky to see herons, osprey, and native Floridian bird species.
Keep in mind that there are no restrooms, so you won’t have to interrupt your sightseeing for an emergency trip back to town.
28. Crab Island
Just beyond Marler Bridge is Crab Island, one of the most popular things to do in Destin. More than 1,000 locals and visitors congregate here during peak months when it’s packed to the gills with lounging sunbathers sporting a cold beverage and a smile.
One of the most beloved aspects of Crab Island is the boat vendors and mini-shops, where you can buy tasty snacks, inflatables, and sunny-day essentials like sunscreen without ever leaving the water.
Crab Island sometimes hosts marine life; you may spot the occasional stingray or dolphin. However, this area has been more populated in recent years, meaning critters tend to stay far from what was once familiar waters.
29. Destin Dinner Cruise
Why eat on land when you could do it on a luxurious yacht instead?
Aboard the Solaris, you’ll enjoy a three-course fine dining experience, live music, a full bar, and a dance floor as you drift lazily through the Choctawhatchee Bay.
For a truly panoramic view of your surroundings, head to the observation deck and watch the sky transform from fiery orange to the inky black of twilight as the sun sets below the waves.
Surfers of all skill levels can catch some of the most radical waves on the Gulf Coast at Crystal Beach.
It’s the perfect setting for newbies to try bodyboarding. Get ready for hours of giggles as the waves carry you across the water before planting you safely in the soft sugar sand.
More advanced surfers will find a nice balance of big Kahuna crests and ankle-slappers, but those looking for more juice will want to head to the East Jetty. During the winter, waves can tower up to 10 feet tall!
31. Dolphin Sunset Cruise
Book a ticket for the Southern Star Dolphin Cruise, a glass-bottom ship with an awe-inspiring view of the seafloor.
As you make your way through Destin Harbor and East Pass, watch the horizon as dolphins perform aerial acrobats against a sunset backdrop.
The friendly, sociable marine mammals are known to come right up to the boat and say hello to the visitors onboard!
32. Gator Beach
Gator Beach is your all-access pass to safely interact with the closest thing to a living dinosaur on this side of the Mesozoic Era.
The waters of Gator Beach are stocked with hundreds of alligators, which you can feed from a safe distance. There are also live shows where professional gator guides will teach you about this incredible creature.
Don’t forget to visit Pearl, an incredibly rare albino alligator. Due to her condition, every part of her body is pure white, including her eyes.
The best part, though, is the Crocodilia Discovery Zone. Every year, a new clutch of hatchlings takes up residence in the exhibit until they are old enough to join their scaly-skinned kin in the water.
Parasailing involves strapping into a harness with an attached parachute while a boat pulls you through the water.
Once the wind catches your chute, you move from the sea to the sky, floating high above the water as the salty wind whips around you.
While it’s not for the faint of heart, thrillseekers will enjoy this adrenaline-pumping joyride.
34. Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park
The Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park is perfect for animal-obsessed youngsters to learn about animals and have once-in-a-lifetime encounters under the watchful eye of experts.
For only $25 per person, you and your family can touch dolphins, swim with stingrays, feed harbor seals, pet penguins, and beyond.
If you’re brave enough, you can get up close and personal with the swamp’s most vicious predator– the American alligator– while they’re still in their small, cute stage.
35. Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone
Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone contains many attractions for the whole family, including a trampoline zone, go-karting tracks, and a hologram area that can give you and your family interactive thrills.
Heat things up with a game of mini-golf or laser tag, then cool off with a cup of Mogo Yogo’s frozen yogurt, complete with all your favorite toppings.
Bumper boats are available, as well, and are a perfect in-between for those who want to enjoy the water but don’t want to get wet.
With so many things to do in Destin, it’s hard to squeeze all the fun into a single vacation!
Tourists return year after year to while away lazy summer days on white beaches and enjoy all the beauty the Emerald Coast offers.
When you’re ready for your Destin, Florida getaway, don’t forget to book accommodations at one of AvantStay’s Destin seaside properties for a clean, cozy space to recharge for the next day’s adventure.