Destin, Florida

A- Overview:
Get ready to experience the natural beauty of Florida’s Emerald Coast, where the sand is as fine as sugar and the Gulf waters are aquarium clear and emerald green. These unspoiled surroundings foster life-long memories of family vacations and unforgettable getaways.

Located in the Florida Panhandle, the City of Destin has a rich historical heritage dating back to American Indian inhabitants as early as the 7th century A.D. Just a glimpse of the Old Destin Post Office Museum, located across from the library, gives evidence of what the town looked like in the 19th Century. The city is known as the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village”, and one of the largest and most elaborately equipped fishing fleets in the state of Florida docks at the Destin Harbor. However, fishing is just one of many wonderful things to see and do in this tranquil but exciting Panhandle town. Recreational opportunities abound, including golf, tennis and a variety of water sports, such as diving and snorkeling. The 100 Fathom curve draws closer to Destin than any other spot in Florida providing the speediest deep-water access on the Gulf.

No visit to Destin is complete without a visit to watch the playful dolphins dance. These amazing animals display mesmerizing grace and unabashed playfulness as they tumble and twirl within the breeding ground of the shallows along the Santa Rosa Sound and Destin Harbor. Free dune-side seating is provided courtesy of Mother Nature. Why not bring a camera for an unforgettable memory? If you prefer, sightseeing cruises are offered at the marina, offering visitors another way to get up close to the dolphins.

Destin has a moderate climate year round due to its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico and its western Florida location, making anytime of year good for visiting. The city is one of many in the area to host a multitude of visiting spring-breakers in late February and during the entire month of March. It’s an event for the young and the young at heart.

For a day of family fun, you may want to visit the Big Kahuna’s Water & Adventure Park. This large water themed park offers more than 40 exciting water attractions and includes three tropical mini golf courses, two wild and fast go-kart tracks and three high-thrill rides.

No matter what time of year you visit, Destin has some wonderful and unique annual events to experience as well. From the Mullet Toss, to concerts in the park, to a holiday boat parade, there is something to make you smile, make you laugh, and make you want to come back for more. So take a break from the daily routine, sit back, sip a cool drink and enjoy the warm Florida sun, Destin style.

B- City Information:
Population: 11,119

Elevation: 25 feet above sea level

Land Area: 7.5 square miles

Location: Located on the Gulf of Mexico in the Florida Panhandle

Time Zone: Central Time Zone (when it’s noon in Panama City, it’s 1:00pm in New York City and 10:00am in Los Angeles

Weather:

Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec

Average temp. (°F)
49.1
52.4
58.5
64.6
72.3
78.7
81.2
80.8
77.4
67.1
58.6
51.4

High temperature (°F)
61.3
65.0
70.9
77.7
84.3
89.8
91.4
91.0
88.4
80.4
71.5
63.8

Low temperature (°F)
36.9
39.7
46.1
51.4
60.2
67.5
71.1
70.7
66.4
53.8
45.7
39.0

Precipitation (in)
5.9
5.3
6.6
4.2
4.4
6.2
9.1
6.9
6.5
4.3
4.7
4.5

Climate:

Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec

Days with precip.
10
9
9
6
7
10
14
13
9
5
8
9

Wind speed (mph)
9.0
9.3
9.8
9.5
8.6
7.6
6.9
6.7
7.6
7.9
8.2
8.8

Morning humidity (%)
82
82
84
86
87
84
86
87
85
82
82
81

Afternoon humidity (%)
65
61
62
60
62
61
65
66
63
57
61
65

Sunshine (%)
48
53
61
63
67
67
57
58
60
71
64
49

Days clear of clouds
8
9
9
10
9
7
4
6
10
13
11
9

Partly cloudy days
7
7
8
9
11
15
17
15
11
9
8
7

Cloudy days
16
13
14
11
11
8
10
10
9
9
11
16

Snowfall (in)
0.1
0.1
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0

Local Seasons:

Destin has a very moderate climate year round due to its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico and its western Florida location. Winter and summer are the two busiest times of year, although late February and the entire month of March become quite crowded when thousands of spring break students hit the area. In the winter, people from the north enjoy coming south for the warmer temperatures and numerous activities the city has to offer. Even in January, the temperature averages a comfortable 50 F., with highs in the mid 60’s F. Summer is busy as many people visit the area for its relaxing atmosphere, entertainment, and proximity to the beach, not to mention temperatures averaging a very comfortable 80 F. Perfect for a day of watching dolphins display mesmerizing grace and unabashed playfulness as they tumble and twirl within the breeding ground of the shallows along the Santa Rosa Sound and Destin Harbor. Of course, just watching the boats go by while sipping on a cool drink at the beach and working on that perfect tan is another viable option. The fall tends to be less crowded and offers a great opportunity to enjoy Destin’s serenity. Fall is still warm enough for a nice day at the beach with a good book or a run in the sand. No matter what time of year you are visiting, this wonderful Florida city is alive with a multitude of things to do and see.

Getting There:

By Air:

The Okaloosa County Regional Airport
1701 Hwy 85
North Eglin AFB, FL 32542
850-651-7160

The Okaloosa Regional Airport (VPS), situated on Eglin Air Force Base, provides essential scheduled commercial air passenger service for a large proportion of the Northwest Florida area. It is served by most of the major airlines connection carriers. It does not provide service for private aircraft, due to its location on Eglin Air Force Base.

Car Rental and Shuttle Service

In addition to the airlines, the Okaloosa Regional Airport offers five car rental agencies:

Avis

800-331-1212

Budget

800-527-0700

Hertz

800-654-3131

National/Alamo

800-227-7368

Enterprise

850-729-5700

Dave’s Bayside Airport Shuttle

850-581-1505

AAAA Express Shuttle Service

850-609-3100

Getting There:

By car

From Interstate 10; highways 85, or 285 to U.S. 98 and drive east about 10 miles. Destin is located on U.S. 98.

By Train

Destin is not serviced by Amtrak

By Bus

Destin is not served by a national bus company

Getting Around:

Free Local shuttle bus service for tourists and residents June – September

Hours of Service: Every day: 8am – 10pm
850-833-9168

National Holidays:

New Year’s Day, January 1

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the third Monday in January

President’ Day, the third Monday in February

Memorial Day, the last Monday in May

Independence Day, July 4

Labor Day, the first Monday in September

Thanksgiving Day, the fourth Thursday in November

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, December 24 and 25

New Year’s Eve, December 31

C- Attractions/Things To Do:
Dancing Dolphin Watching

Dancing dolphins display mesmerizing grace and unabashed playfulness as they tumble and twirl within the breeding ground of the shallows along the Santa Rosa Sound and Destin Harbor.

Daily dune side seating is compliments of Mother Nature.

Dolphin Cruises

Emerald Magic

Harborwalk Marina

346 Mountain Dr.

Destin, FL 32541
850-837-7741

Hours: Call for cruise schedule

Admission Charged
Two-hour narrated cruises aboard the Emerald Magic highlighting dolphins and other wild things. Smoke-free cruise with tropical drinks.

Southern Star

Harborwalk Marina

346 Mountain Dr.

Destin, FL 32541
850-837-7741

Hours: Call for cruise schedule

Admission Charged
Enjoy a relaxing cruise aboard the motor vessel Southern Star cruising the pristine waters of the world’s most beautiful beaches known as a natural habitat for dolphins, seabirds and a variety of marine life.

Big Kahuna’s Water & Adventure Park

1007 Highway 98 E.

Destin, FL 32541

850-837-4061

Hours: Vary by season, call for additional information

Admission Charged
Oversized water park offers more than 40 exciting water attractions. Includes three tropical mini golf courses, two wild and fast go-kart tracks and three high-thrill rides.

Old Destin Post Office Museum
Stahlman Ave. (across from library)
Destin, FL 32541
850-837-8572

Hours: Vary, call for additional information

Admission Charged

This little white building houses memorabilia detailing the 19th-century settlement of Destin. It includes photographs of past days and is a tribute to the early beach communities of the region. Although its open hours are minimal, the museum is an interesting glimpse into the beginnings of a community that has transformed itself into one of the top resort areas in the Southeast.

The Track Family Recreation Center

1125 Hwy. 98 E
Destin, FL 32541

850-654-4668
Hours: Always call ahead to confirm before you make a special trip, as closing times are approximate due to weather and crowd levels.

Admission Charged
This action-packed recreation center features everything from the ultimate in go-cart tracks, like the Wild Woody three-tiered go-kart/roller coaster hybrid, to big fun for little tykes at Kids Country. Challenge your friends to miniature golf, Bumper Boats, or test your courage at the bungee jumping tower.

Mango Maddie’s Pontoons, Inc.

314 Highway 98 East

Destin, FL 32541
850-650-7352
Hours: Open: March – October

Admission Charged for rentals
Rent a pontoon and be your own skipper. Also offers private guided sunset cocktail cruises.

Snorkel Destin

392 S. Shore Dr
Destin, FL 32550
850-654-4655

Hours: The Reef Runner departs three times daily, Mon – Sat. Call for reservations.
Admission Charged
Enjoy a scenic boat ride to Destin’s premier snorkeling area where an incredible underwater excursion awaits. Mask, fins and snorkel are provided.

Kokomo Snorkeling Adventure

500 Hwy. 98 E
Destin, FL 32541
850-837-9029

Hours: Trips available daily, call for additional information

Admission Charged
This three hour adventure offers snorkeling in the bay for shelling and around the jetties in Destin Pass to enjoy the sights of this underwater fairyland. Snorkeling gear and instruction included, if needed. Sunset cruises are also available.

Nearby Attractions

Emerald Coast Science Center

139 Brooks St
Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548
850-664-1261

Hours: Weekdays, 9am – 4pm, Weekends, 11am – 4pm. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday and the Fourth of July

Admission Charged
A child’s fantasy museum of science; it stimulates the imagination with exhibits such as a reflecting Castle of Mirrors, “adult-sized” bubble makers, a literally hair-raising Vandergraph generator, an electrifying Illuma Storm and more.

Gulfarium

1010 Miracle Strip Pkwy. SE
Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548
850-244-5169
Hours: Vary by season, call for additional information

Admission Charged
One of America’s oldest marine parks (1955), Gulfarium is home to Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, California sea lions, Peruvian penguins, Ridley turtles and more. Dolphin stars Princess and Delilah delight with feats from comedic soccer games to 18-foot (540cm) leaps toward the clouds.

Indian Temple Mound and Museum

139 SE Miracle Strip Pkwy.
Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548
850-833-9595

Hours: Vary, call for additional information

Admission Charged
The 6,000-piece exhibit, showcasing America’s largest collection of Southeastern Indian ceramic artifacts, journeys through 10,000 years of four prehistoric tribes. One of the largest Indian mounds discovered along saltwater (1400 A.D.) stands guard beside the museum.

Island Golf Center, Fenway Park Batting Cages, Lost Lagoon Golf
1306 Miracle Strip Pkwy.
Ft. Walton Beach, FL 32548
850-224-1612

Hours: Vary by season, call for additional information

Admission Charged

Enjoy some fun outdoor activity with miniature golf, batting cages and more.

Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier
1030 Miracle Strip Pkwy.
Ft. Walton Beach, FL 32548
850-244-1023

Hours: Vary by season, call for additional information

Admission Charged

Enjoy great fishing directly from the pier. Rental equipment is available.

U.S. Air Force Armament Museum

Hwy. 85 (outside main gate Eglin AFB)
Eglin AFB, FL 32542
850-882-4062

Hours: 9 am to 4:30 pm, daily. Closed on all federal holidays.

Admission Free
The Air Force Armament Museum is the only facility in the U.S. dedicated to the display of Air Force armament. A wide variety of bombs, missiles, and rockets are exhibited. Visitors can also view a variety of historical Air Force planes, from a B-17 World War II bomber to an F-4 Phantom II jet. A 32 minute movie, “Arming the Air Force,” a history of Eglin Air Force Base and its role in the development of armament, is shown continuously throughout the day.

The Zoo – Gulf Breeze

5701 Gulf Breeze Parkway

Gulf Breeze, Florida 32563
850-932-2229

Hours: Open daily, weather permitting, 9am-5pm, Closed the day before Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving day, Christmas Eve day, but open that night for ZOOlights, and closed Christmas.

Admission Charged

A wildlife experience awaits you with over 700 animals surrounded by botanical gardens. Get a close look at bears, tigers, rhinos and zebras. Photograph the colorful birds, watch playful primates and see sleek otters slip through water. Take a ride on a camel or on the Safari Line Limited, a train ride through over 30 acres of free-roaming wildlife. In addition, there are reptile demonstrations, face-to-face giraffe feedings as well as a petting zoo for children.

Beaches:

Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier and Beach
1030 Miracle Strip Pkwy.
Ft. Walton Beach, FL 32548
850-244-1023

Located on Santa Rosa Island across the bay from Fort Walton Beach, this is a 40-acre park with a fishing pier. The pier area is frequented for surfing and fishing, as well as people-watching and light dining.

Beasley Park

1550 Miracle Strip Pkwy (Hwy 98)

Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548

Admission Free

Situated on the largest stretch of public beach on the Gulf side of Okaloosa Island, 22-acre Beasley Wayside Park includes showers, picnic pavilions and a 400-seat restaurant, a beach club, children’s playground, beach volleyball and plenty of fun for everyone. Beasley Park is a County Park which is located between Fort Walton Beach and Destin on Okaloosa Island. There’s plenty of parking, handicap access, and restrooms.

D- Family Fun Attractions:
Dancing Dolphin Watching

Dancing dolphins display mesmerizing grace and unabashed playfulness as they tumble and twirl within the breeding ground of the shallows along the Santa Rosa Sound and Destin Harbor.

Daily dune side seating is compliments of Mother Nature.

Southern Star

Harborwalk Marina

346 Mountain Dr.

Destin, FL 32541
850-837-7741

Hours: Call for cruise schedule

Admission Charged
Enjoy a relaxing cruise aboard the Southern Star, cruising the pristine waters of perhaps the world’s most beautiful beaches. The Destin shore area is known as a natural habitat for dolphins, seabirds and a variety of marine life.

Big Kahuna’s Water & Adventure Park

1007 Highway 98 E.

Destin, FL 32541

850-837-4061

Hours: Vary by season, call for additional information

Admission Charged
Oversized water park offers more than 40 exciting water attractions. Includes three tropical mini golf courses, two wild and fast go-kart tracks and three high-thrill rides.

Kokomo Snorkeling Adventure

500 Hwy. 98 E
Destin, FL 32541
850-837-9029

Hours: Trips available daily, call for additional information

Admission Charged
This three hour adventure offers snorkeling in the bay for shelling and around the jetties in Destin Pass to enjoy the sights of this underwater fairyland. Snorkeling gear and instruction included, if needed. Sunset cruises are also available.

Beasley Park

1550 Miracle Strip Pkwy (Hwy 98)

Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548

Admission Free

Situated on the largest stretch of public beach on the Gulf side of Okaloosa Island, 22-acre Beasley Wayside Park includes showers, picnic pavilions and a 400-seat restaurant, a beach club, children’s playground, beach volleyball and plenty of fun for everyone. Beasley Park is a County Park which is located between Fort Walton Beach and Destin on Okaloosa Island. There’s plenty of parking, handicap access, and restrooms.

Gulfarium

1010 Miracle Strip Pkwy. SE
Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548
850-244-5169
Hours: Vary by season, call for additional information

Admission Charged
One of America’s oldest marine parks (1955), Gulfarium is home to Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, California sea lions, Peruvian penguins, Ridley turtles and more. Dolphin stars, Princess and Delilah, delight with feats from comedic soccer games to 18-foot (540cm) leaps toward the clouds.

U.S. Air Force Armament Museum

Hwy. 85 (outside main gate Eglin AFB)
Eglin AFB, FL 32542
850-882-4062

Hours: 9 am to 4:30 pm, daily. Closed on all federal holidays.

Admission Free
The Air Force Armament Museum is the only facility in the U.S. dedicated to the display of Air Force armament. A wide variety of bombs, missiles, and rockets are exhibited. Visitors can also view a variety of historical Air Force planes, from a B-17 World War II bomber to an F-4 Phantom II jet. A 32 minute movie, “Arming the Air Force,” a history of Eglin Air Force Base and its role in the development of armament, is shown continuously throughout the day.

The Zoo – Gulf Breeze

5701 Gulf Breeze Parkway

Gulf Breeze, Florida 32563
850-932-2229

Hours: Open daily, weather permitting, 9am-5pm, Closed the day before Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving day, Christmas Eve day, but open that night for ZOOlights, and closed Christmas.

Admission Charged
A wildlife experience awaits you with over 700 animals surrounded by botanical gardens. Get a close look at bears, tigers, rhinos and zebras. Photograph the colorful birds, watch playful primates and see sleek otters slip through water. Take a ride on a camel or on the Safari Line Limited, a train ride through over 30 acres of free-roaming wildlife. In addition, there are reptile demonstrations, face-to-face giraffe feedings as well as a petting zoo for children.

E- Events & Entertainment:
Events

Late February

Spring Break

Held when colleges break for spring, usually late February – March

Events held throughout the area.

March

Spring Break

Held when colleges break for spring, usually during the entire month of March

Events held throughout the area.

Hog’s Breath Annual Cobia Shootout Tournament

Usually held in late March
850-837-5100
Weigh in from 6pm until 8pm nightly at Hog’s Breath with food, drinks and entertainment. Cash prizes include random daily drawings.

St. Patrick’s Day Celebration

Destin Commons Center Court

Held on March 17

850-337-8700
Enjoy a festive Irish Bagpipe concert. The fountain flows green and children wearing green receive St. Patty’s Day treats.

April

Emerald Coast Volleyball Week

Usually held mid-April

850-243-2555
Four player volleyball tournament held over 5 days each year at Sundestin Beach Resort in Destin.

Musical Echoes

Usually held late April

850-243-4405
This 3 day annual event features music and dance performances by Native American artists, seminars on flute making and playing, and an outdoor market with Native American art, beadwork, clothing and more.

June

Mattie Kelly Concerts in the Park

Kelly Plantation Park

Held during the last three weeks of June
850-650-2226
The Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation presents its annual summer concert series featuring locally and nationally recognized artists. Bring a lawn chair and a picnic dinner and enjoy an evening of music for all ages.

Sand-sational Summer Sand Fest

Destin Commons Center Plaza

Usually held mid-June

850-337-8700
Enjoy sandcastle building by a professional and watch as he/she creates a spectacular work of art. Families are invited to join in the sand activities.

October

AJ’s Annual Shuck-Off

Usually held early October

850-259-3958

Oyster shucking competition held at AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar in the Destin Harbor. Participants compete for prizes including an all-expense paid trip to the National Championships in Maryland.

AJ’s Annual Mullet Toss-Off

Usually held in mid-October
850-837-1913
Mullet tossing competition held at AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar on the Destin Harbor. Participants compete for prizes from local merchants.

26th Annual Destin Seafood Festival

Morgan Sports Center
Usually held early October over a 3 day weekend

850-837-6241
Enjoy an arts and crafts expo, foods from local restaurants, and fun activities for the entire family.

Destin Crab Trap Triathlon

James Lee Park

Usually held early October

850-864-2416
The Crab Trap Triathlon consists of a 400 yard swim, a 10 mile bike ride and a 3 mile run.

Registration is limited to the first 400 participants.

Destin Festival of the Arts

Henderson Beach State Park
Usually held late October

850-650-2226
The Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation presents a juried fine arts show representing artists from around the country. The event features a children’s activity tent, student art exhibit, live entertainment and bistro cafe.

November

Annual Holiday Doggy Parade

Usually held in mid-November

800-337-8700
Bring the family dog to Destin dressed for the holidays for a parade down Main Street of Destin Commons.

Destin Commons Tree Lighting and Santa’s Arrival

Usually held in mid-November
850-337-8700
Welcome Santa to Destin at the annual lighting of the 40-foot tree. Enjoy a parade, holiday goodies and more.

Annual Edwin Watts Golf Regional Golf Show

Usually held in mid-November
850-267-8117
Golf’s major manufacturers display their latest products at the Edwin Watts Regional Golf Show. There are opportunities to try out the latest equipment on the driving range and special appearances by touring professionals and other VIPs. In addition, there are daily giveaways, contests, clinics, tournaments and more.

December

Sounds of the Season

Destin Community Center

Usually held in mid-December
850-650-2226
The Mattie Kelly Foundation presents its annual “gift” to the community. The event features a guest conductor, the Community chorus and more.

Annual Holiday on the Harbor

Destin Harbor

Usually held in mid-December
850-837-4242
This event introduces the holiday season by lighting up the Destin Harbor in a festive reflection of holiday lights surrounding the water. Boat cruises and other festivities take place during the event.

Annual Christmas Parade

Usually held in mid – December
850-837-4242

Parade route begins on Highway 98 at Main Street and ends at Stahlman Avenue.

Chalk Drawing with Santa

Morgan Sports Center

Usually held late December

850-650-1241
Children of all ages may visit with Santa and participate in decorating the pathway into the Children’s Park. Chalk is provided.

Annual Sandestin Boat Parade & Stroll

Events Plaza at The Village of Baytowne Wharf, Destin Harbor

Usually held in mid-December
850-837-4242

Festively-decorated boats parade from the Choctawhatchee Bay to the Baytowne Marina. Stroll through the Village both before and after the parade to enjoy the sights and sounds of the holidays. For the best view, catch the parade from the Village boardwalk. After the parade, enjoy a celebration with live holiday music, merry-making, caroling and arts & crafts for kids and adults. Open to public. Subject to change based on weather.

Rockin’ Village New Year’s Eve Celebration

Events Plaza

Held December 31
850-650-2226

Admission Free
Enjoy live music in the Events Plaza all night long leading up to the annual firework’s extravaganza over the lagoon at midnight. Make sure to gather the family and ring in the New Year with the Village’s magical fireworks show.