Get ready to explore and create fun memories in Florida’s gem, Destin. Your unforgettable family vacation begins here in the heart of the “world’s luckiest fishing village”!
Destin isn’t just a beautiful beach destination. Undiscovered experiences abound in this treasure gem. Powdery soft, white sand beaches set the stage for relaxation, while a load of exciting attractions, countless water activities, and family-friendly spots ensure that the fun never stops.
The activities cater to all ages. The fun of taking dolphin cruises, frolicking in water parks, enjoying the view of boardwalks and savoring fresh and mouthwatering seafood.
Come along as we reveal the marvels of this coastal paradise, where family bonding is sweeter in the midst of adventures.
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Visit Family-friendly Attractions in Destin, Florida
HarborWalk Village is located on Destin Harbor. It offers pontoon boats, kayaks, paddle boards, and jet ski rentals. It also features the Mirror Maze, a dual zipline, video games, and a choo-choo train.
HarborWalk Village has an interactive rock climbing wall for kids, bungee trampolines, a shooting gallery, nightlife, dolphin and pirate ship cruises, glass-bottom boat tours, scuba diving, snorkeling, and parasailing opportunities for guests. It also hosts different themed events, weekly fireworks displays, and live music.
HarborWalk Village is a shopper’s paradise. It’s home to numerous retail outlets – surf shops, souvenir shops, boutiques, and gift shops that sell almost anything imaginable from trendy clothes, beach wear, jewelry, art pieces, and more!
HarborWalk Village offers some of the best dining options in Destin, Florida. The main draw to the dining scene in Destin is the “fresh from the water” local seafood served in different restaurants.
Try Harry T’s Lighthouse or Grande Vista Bar & Grille. They serve the freshest local seafood in Destin. Straight from the boat to your plate!
HarborWalk also features casual snacks and quick bites. There are coffee shops, sweet treats stores, ice cream shops, and fast food stores that sell sandwiches and fries!
Destin History & Fishing Museum
The Destin History and Fishing Museum in Destin, Florida, is a non-profit museum dedicated to preserving, documenting, and sharing the history of the town, and its diving and fishing history.
It features exhibits on how the fishing industry evolved from seine boats to modern boats, and the science behind why the sand is white on Destin’s beaches.
It has a new exhibit on the history of diving in Destin. It also houses over 100 fish mounts, all caught in Destin waters. The Mike Long Memorial Fish Wall features many of these mounts on a mural.
The museum features guided tours, scavenger hunts for kids, and hosts events throughout the year, including the annual Destin Fishing Rodeo, which is one of the longest running fishing tournaments in the US.
Its outdoor complex features the vintage seine boat Primrose, and the mullet boat Lil Jimmy.
There’s also the original Old Post Office, and the Footprints in the Sand memorial walkway. Admission is free for kids below 6.
Travelers and history enthusiasts on family vacations will enjoy visiting the museum, especially if they’re visiting Destin with kids.
The Track – Destin
The Track is a family fun park set right in the heart of Destin, Florida. It features five go-kart tracks, bumper cars, two mini golf courses, kids country rides, spinning coaster, blaster boats, over 50 classic arcade games, and more!
Reviews say the go-karts and arcade games are a blast with families who visit Destin with kids. There are also vending machines and fountain drinks available in the park.
The park opens from 9 am to 10 pm year-round, except during holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas).
Admission to the park is free. But every attraction or ride has a corresponding price point, which can be bought for a single ride or in value packs.
Emerald Coast Zoo
The Emerald Coast Zoo in Crestview is a small, family-operated zoo. It houses various animals like bears, giraffes, kangaroos, penguins, lions, wallabies, sloths, and a giant tortoise.
Visitors on a family vacation can come and have close animal encounters with some of them, such as holding a baby Florida alligator, feeding a giraffe, or hugging a boa constrictor. The zoo is praised for its courteous staff and the variety of animals it has.
This family-friendly attraction for tourists who visit Destin with kids offers several kiddie activities, including a fishing derby, face painting, and games.
The zoo also has an aviary, a gift shop, and a food court.
Sam’s Fun City & Surf City
Sam’s Fun City is a wholesome family entertainment center and water park located in Pensacola, Escambia County, which is an hour’s drive from Fort Walton Beach.
Sam’s Fun City features over 20 thrilling rides and attractions, including a Ferris wheel, a roller coaster, bumper cars, go-karts, an 18-hole mini golf course, arcade games, and laser tag.
Sam’s Surf City is the water park section of Sam’s Fun City, which features water slides, a lazy river, and kiddie wave pools.
Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone
This dinosaur-themed amusement park is located in Okaloosa County, Miracle Strip Pkwy SE in Fort Walton Beach. It’s a family entertainment and games center that you can visit even on a rainy day.
It offers fun activities for all ages, and features a race track, bumper boats, a 9-hole dino-themed mini golf course, and an 18-hole T-rex mini golf course.
It also features go-kart racing, laser tag battles, a 4D movie theater, a ropes course, and various computer games that kids love.
Buccaneer Pirate Cruise
The Buccaneer Pirate Cruise is a family-friendly pirate adventure located at HarborWalk Village in Destin, Florida.
The captain and crew entertain passengers with pirate-themed activities, storytelling, singing, and dancing.
Passengers can embark on a cruise aboard a 100-foot pirate ship and join the 1hr and 45-minutes pirate training, sword fighting, treasure hunt, water gun battles, and authentic cannon fire on the pirate ship.
This creates a unique and immersive experience.
Fudpucker’s Gator Beach – The World’s Greatest Alligator Park
Gator Beach is a family-friendly alligator park located at Fudpucker’s Beachside Bar & Grill in Destin, Florida. It’s one of the top-rated attractions in the area, and offers various unique experiences.
Gator Beach is free, which makes it a great option for families on a budget. It features a playground, a gift shop, and different live gators shows throughout the day, where visitors in Destin with kids can learn about these amazing creatures from experienced handlers.
You can buy food to feed the alligators. Animal encounters are fun and interactive. You can have a photo op with a baby alligator for a souvenir.
You can also play puzzles, arcade games, and mini golf. Gator Beach has a challenging mini golf course.
Fudpucker’s Beachside Bar & Grill offers a special menu for kids, which you and your family will enjoy.
Fat Daddy’s Arcade
Conveniently located on Highway 98, Destin, Florida, the arcade is easily accessible for both locals and tourists. It’s a family-friendly indoor arcade that families can go to on a rainy day.
It has over 120 games to choose from, including interactive video games, basketball hoops, kids country rides, and skee ball. There are also various prizes to be won, from candy and toys to electronics and gift cards. It’s an excellent spot for family fun activities.
Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park
The Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park is a marine park in Okaloosa Island. It’s home to over 30 species of marine animals, including dolphins, sea lions, penguins, turtles, seals, otters, and sharks. It has been open since 1955.
The park offers close animal encounters to guests, various educational and interactive exhibits, daily shows, and demonstrations. Guests in Destin with kids can learn about marine life at the park and see them up close.
Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park is one of the popular attractions in Fort Walton Beach for families and animal lovers.
The Gulfarium CARE Center is a non-profit rehabilitation center for sea turtles. It’s operated by the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park and is dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of injured and stranded sea turtles.
Let’s Hit the Beach!
Miramar Beach is a beautiful coastal town in Walton County. It’s known for its beautiful 2 km shoreline. It features vacation rentals, condos, beachfront properties, scenic roads, and shops. Beach activities include kayaking, paddleboarding, swimming, sunbathing, and building sandcastles.
Rent a bike or small scooter and explore the town. When you get tired, you can stop at one of the locally-owned restaurants or cafes for a snack or lunch.
Or lock up the bike in town and check out the many shops to find great souvenirs. There are mini-golf courses that are perfect for families in Destin with kids.
Santa Rosa Beach
Santa Rosa Beach is a town in Walton County, Florida. It’s 26-mile shoreline is home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches.
It also has art galleries, numerous high-end boutique shops, and state parks that offer hiking trails, picnic areas, and wildlife viewing opportunities,
Santa Rosa Beach is less touristy than Destin. You can take a dolphin watching tour, go horseback riding, or visit a water park.
There are no amusement parks in Santa Rosa Beach, but there are several water parks and water-related activities that families can enjoy, such as snorkeling and swimming.
Destin Beach is one of the most popular beaches in the United States. Like most Destin beaches on the Emerald Coast – soft, powdery sand, and clear, turquoise waters that you can see all the way to the bottom. There are palm trees, sea oats, and wildflowers in the area that gives the beach a tropical feel.
The waters off Destin Beach are perfect for swimming. No strong currents. The water is clear and calm, which is perfect for building sandcastles. It’s a pleasant destination that allows for some quiet time, and soak in the warmth of the sun.
Destin Beach offers a lot of water activities. It has a large harbor, which makes it a great place to go fishing. You can also rent a boat to explore the surroundings.
There are various fish species that can be caught in the Gulf of Mexico, including redfish, trout, and mahi-mahi.
The facilities are pretty clean. Better if there are food trucks that sell tacos or hotdogs, so you wouldn’t have to go farther away to grab a quick bite.
Norriego Point is a family-friendly beach in Destin, Florida. It has 2 access points for public beaches. There are shady spots under the palm trees if you need a break from the sun.
Also, there are designated picnic spots with tables and grills for visitors who bring their food. You can rent a kayak or paddleboard if you want to explore the waters at your own pace.
The jetties kind of isolate the waves and the sea creatures of the East Pass, making the beach a great place to swim with some protection – for kids, new swimmers, snorkelers, or those not wanting to fight waves and heavy currents.
Norriego Point is one of the best places to watch the Destin fireworks that go off on Thursday nights throughout the summer. It’s also during this time when shore fishermen can be seen on the harbor side trying their luck at a catch.
Explore Nature with Your Family
Henderson Beach State Park
Henderson Beach State Park is located on Emerald Coast Pkwy, Destin, Florida. It’s known for its pristine beaches, turquoise waters, coastal dune ecosystem, and various family-friendly activities.
Tourists in Destin with kids can take a relaxing hike on the park’s easy and pet-friendly trail, which winds through dunes and coastal scrub, and ends on top of the high dune overlooking the park and the remains of a bunker used decades ago by the military.
Henderson Beach State Park also offers public beach access, where families can swim in the waters for which Destin is known.
Families in Destin with kids can also watch for wildlife, enjoy fishing, or hook up an RV in any of the park’s 60 accessible campsites connected to the beach via boardwalk. It also features picnic pavilions, benches, and grills.
The Emerald Coast
Florida’s Emerald Coast is a gorgeous north Florida coastline known collectively as the Emerald Coast. It includes Destin, Fort Walton Beach, Miramar Beach, Santa Rosa Beach, the scenic Okaloosa Island, and other towns and cities in the Florida Panhandle.
Emerald Coast is known for its sugar white sand, emerald green waters, and countless water activities. You can relax on the white sand, swim in the Gulf of Mexico, or try fishing, snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, paddleboarding, and more.
Visitors can explore nature and enjoy some family fun at the parks and nature preserves of the Emerald Coast. Some of the top attractions include the Heritage Park and Cultural Center in Fort Walton Beach and the Oak Tree Nature Preserve.
The Fort Pickens Area of Gulf Island National Seashore in Pensacola Beach is a protected area that offers hiking, biking, camping, and fishing opportunities.
Other popular attractions in the Emerald Coast include the Big Kahuna’s Water & Adventure Park.
Destin Fishing Rodeo
The Destin Fishing Rodeo is an annual fishing tournament that takes place during October in Destin, Florida. The 31-day annual fishing tournament is free to anglers who fish aboard boats registered in the Destin Fishing Rodeo. A list of registered charter boats can be found on the tournament’s website.
Weigh-ins take place every day during the tournament at AJ’s Seafood & Oyster Bar. The tournament offers daily and overall prizes for the biggest fish caught in various categories, including amberjack, blue marlin, grouper, and red snapper.
Destin Harbor Boardwalk
The Destin Harbor Boardwalk is a bustling area with bars, restaurants, souvenir shops, boating, and other tourist attractions.
It offers a lot of dining options, with several seafood restaurants that include the Boshamps Seafood & Oyster House, and the Back Porch Seafood & Oyster House.
The BoardWalk is home to a variety of shops and boutiques. You can be sure you’ll find a lot: souvenirs, clothing, jewelry, antiques, beach gear, etc. Anything that suits your taste and budget.
The Thursday Night Firework Tour is a 45-minute boat ride through the Harbor and out into the Gulf of Mexico to set up for the fireworks. It’s a joint Harborwalk Village and Destin Harbor summer fireworks show that happen every Thursday night (9pm) from Memorial Day to mid-August, and on select holidays.
A Monday night fireworks display has been recently added. You should be in the docks or along the waterfront restaurants of Harborwalk Village to watch the fireworks.
The Gulf Coast
There are 5 US coastal states that have a shoreline on the Gulf of Mexico: Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. The Gulf Coast of Florida is located on its western side.
This region is the Florida Panhandle, which is bordered by Alabama, Georgia, and the Gulf of Mexico to its southern part.
The Emerald Coast is a coastal area in the Florida Panhandle that includes the counties of Escambia, Walton, Santa Rosa, Bay, and Okaloosa.
Okaloosa County comprises the towns of Cinco Bayou and Shalimar. And the cities of Niceville, Valparaiso, Mary Esther, Laurel Hill, Crestview, Fort Walton Beach, and Destin. These places are all part of the bigger Florida Gulf Coast.
The Gulf Coast of Florida is known for its beautiful white sand beaches, crystal-clear waters, and abundant local wildlife. It’s a popular destination for both offshore and inshore fishing, as well as numerous outdoor activities, including kayaking, paddleboarding, and snorkeling.
The Gulf Coast is also home to several state parks and nature trails that offer local wildlife viewing and a lot of exploration opportunities for nature lovers.
These include the Big Lagoon State Park, and the Jones Swamp Wetland Preserve and Nature Trail in Pensacola, Escambia County, which is under the Florida Gulf Coast region.
Southern Star Dolphin Cruise
The Southern Star Dolphin Cruise is in Destin, Florida offers a 90 minute family-friendly sunset dolphin cruise aboard the largest ship of its kind in the Destin Harbor.
The cruise offers a viewing experience second to none. The double-decker, glass-bottom boat provides shade, and there’s a full galley with food, beer, and wine. The success rate in finding dolphins is about 98%.
This prestigious cruise has hosted writers for travel publications and magazines. And has been featured on National Geographic’s “Earth Watch,” and CNN’s “Earth Matters”.
The Cruise is based in HarborWalk Village and is easily accessible from Destin, Fort Walton Beach, Okaloosa Island, Navarre Beach, and other nearby places.
Stay in Family-Friendly Accommodations
Jade East Towers
Jade East Towers is a beautiful 3-star condominium complex in Destin, Florida. It’s situated on a quiet street just steps from the Gulf of Mexico, making it the perfect place to spend an unforgettable family vacation in Destin Florida with kids.
Jade East Towers have 18 two-bedroom units and 72 three-bedroom condos with fully-equipped kitchens, spacious living areas, and private balconies with stunning views of the beach and the Gulf.
There’s a pool on the ground level of each tower, and both have plenty of lounge chairs and umbrellas for sunbathing. The hot tub is on the rooftop of one of the towers, and it offers stunning views of the Gulf of Mexico.
Jade East also features a state-of-the-art fitness center, a tennis court, a clubhouse with a game room, a lounging area, a business center, and bbq area. Henderson Beach State Park is just a 4-minute drive. The Track – Destin is just half a mile away.
Beachfront Retreat – “The Getaway”
Beachfront Retreat – “The Getaway” is a beachfront condo within a gated resort complex located in Destin, Florida. It’s a two-bedroom condo with ensuite bathrooms that can accommodate up to six family members. It comes with a balcony and a fully equipped kitchen.
“The Getaway” offers numerous amenities to make your beach vacation in Destin, Florida with kids as comfortable as it can possibly be. These include two swimming pools, a fitness center, a sauna, spa facilities, a game room, restaurant, a private beach and a kids’ pool.
The beachfront condo offers stunning views of the Gulf of Mexico. It’s near several key landmarks, including Destin Beach, and Big Kahuna’s Water Park.
Palazzo del Mar 11 Bedroom Holiday Home
Palazzo del Mar 11 Bedroom Holiday Home by Five Star Properties is a 5-star luxury vacation home located in Crystal Beach, Pinellas County. It’s an 11-bedroom beachfront vacation rental house with a private pool, a well-equipped kitchen with a dining area.
The wedding-friendly property offers free parking, which makes it a suitable choice for family events and special occasions. It’s 4.1 km from Destin’s beaches, and less than 10 minutes drive from Destin Harbor Boardwalk.
Palazzo del Mar is a spacious and luxurious option for family vacations in Destin, Florida with kids. The private pool and beachfront location add to the overall experience. Big Kahuna’s Water Park is just a 6-minute drive from the vacation home.
Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa
The Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa is a beachfront property with amenities that are perfect for couples visiting Destin Florida with kids. It features 3 swimming pools, golf courses, 15 tennis courts, and a full service spa.
The resort has a playground, a casual buffet, a gastropub, and a poolside bar. It also features live music, nightly entertainment, and kids’ programs.
The resort’s kids’ club offers supervised activities. It also has two family pools with shallow water and plenty of shade, and a playground. It also offers beach access.
Residence Inn by Marriott Sandestin at Grand Boulevard
The Residence Inn by Marriott Sandestin at Grand Boulevard is a 3-star hotel that offers comfort and convenience for travelers seeking a longer stay in Destin Florida with kids. It’s a family-friendly, pet-friendly, and unpretentious all-suite hotel located in Miramar Beach.
Situated along the captivating Emerald Coast, the Residence offers modern and spacious suites with fully equipped kitchens, an outdoor pool, hot tub, a sports court, and fitness center.
It offers free full American breakfast, a free grocery shopping service, an electric car charging station, on-site parking, a kitchenette service request for guests, and laundry and dry cleaning services.
The hotel also provides beach access to the white sand and vibrant attractions in Destin, Florida. Grand Boulevard is within walking distance, where you can shop, dine, or take a stroll.
Henderson Beach Resort
Henderson Beach Resort is a 4-star luxury seaside resort in Destin, Florida. The resort features 170 elegant rooms, five restaurants, a bar grill, an outdoor pool, a spa, a fitness center, a private beach, and a lazy river.
The resort also offers amenities that include a business center, laundry services, pet-friendly accommodations, on-site parking, etc. Destin Harbor Boardwalk is about a 10-minute drive from the resort.
Safety tips when visiting Destin with kids
Be prepared for the Florida heat and humidity. Pack light accordingly. Don’t forget to bring sunscreen and other beach essentials.
Keep your kids and your valuables close to you, and lock your car doors and windows when you’re not in it.
If you plan to enjoy the beautiful beaches and water activities in Destin, wear UV protection (lightweight, dark-colored) clothing and sunglasses.
Wear sunscreen. Stay hydrated and under a shaded umbrella to avoid sunburn.
Prioritize water safety. Familiarize yourself with the lifeguard positions and stick to swimming in designated zones only. It’s advisable to swim with a buddy and keep a close watch on your children at all times.
Have them wear life jackets. Watch over them especially when in the water, as even minor waves can knock them over.
Destin, Florida emerges as the perfect family playground, blending sun-soaked relaxation with activities. Building sandcastles on its shores is as exciting as the high-sea adventures, in the company of the people you care about the most.
Sunrises and sunsets become more beautiful if you’re not alone watching. The memories made in this coastal gem become a portrait of joy and togetherness, as Destin welcomes you to a haven where family bonds get stronger amidst the beauty of the Emerald Coast.
So pack up and immerse yourself in the magic of Destin – a destination where every moment becomes a cherished chapter in your family’s story.
When to visit Destin?
The best time to be in Destin is the time that works best for you and your family. If you prefer warm weather, summer (June to Aug) is the best time to go. Spring or fall (Sept to Nov) is a better choice if you prefer cooler temperatures and fewer crowds.
Winter (Dec to Feb) is the off-season. It’s easy to find great deals on accommodations and activities during this time. The holiday season brings twinkling lights, festive decorations, and special events.
Destin is open any time of the year. Prices for accommodations and activities are highest in summer and lowest in winter. So consider your budget when planning a family vacation in Destin Florida with kids.
How to get to Crab Island?
The famous Crab Island sandbar is submerged in water with depths ranging from 1 to 4 feet in most areas. Due to its location in the middle of the waters, the safest way for a family to visit Crab Island is by a pontoon boat, a water taxi, or a shuttle boat.
Crab Island is generally a safe and fantastic place for kids to enjoy. However, it’s not safe to swim to the island due to boat traffic and water currents. Renting a pontoon boat allows your family to safely reach the island without having to worry about swimming or navigating through the water.
Pontoon boats are easy to drive. Some people compare it to driving a car. They come with plush, comfortable seating, making it a relaxing and enjoyable experience for the entire family.
Renting a pontoon boat allows you to have your own private space at Crab Island. You can bring your own food, drinks, and water toys, and enjoy the day at your own pace.
Jet skiing is also a great way to explore the beautiful waters of Destin, Florida. They’re fun to ride. Just make sure you’re wearing a life jacket and protective gear as you go around.
Where is the best scenic drive in Destin Florida?
Scenic Highway 30A. This 24-mile stretch of scenic coast passes through between Destin, Florida and Panama City Beach.
This scenic drive offers breathtaking views of the Gulf, charming coastal towns, and lush natural landscapes. The highway connects several unique communities along its length.
Visitors in Destin with kids can explore 16 beach communities, each with their own personality and design. You can stop for a bite to eat, shop for souvenirs, or simply relax and enjoy the views.
The scenic drive also takes visitors through two of the most fantastic Florida state parks – Topsail Hill Preserve State Park and Grayton Beach State Park.
Why is Destin the world’s luckiest fishing village?
Destin’s unique geographic location gives it direct access to the Gulf of Mexico. It’s located near the 100-fathom curve, a major underwater drop-off that attracts fish from all depths. This alone makes Destin the world’s luckiest fishing village.
Destin’s waters are home to abundant fish populations, thanks to its mild climate, healthy ecosystem, and strict fishing regulations in place.
Destin has the largest charter fishing fleet (state and federally permitted charter boats) for commercial fishing in the nation, with over 125 vessels. This means anglers have many choices when it comes to booking a charter trip.
Destin has a strong fishing culture. It’s been a fishing community for centuries, and the locals are passionate about the sport. Destin-based charter captains are some of the most experienced and knowledgeable in the world. They know the best spots to fish and the best techniques to use to catch specific species.
What’s the best beach in Destin for families?
Henderson Beach is a beautiful stretch of white sand beach in Destin, Florida. It’s known for its warm, calm, and clear waters of the Gulf of Mexico, where swimming, fishing, and sunbathing are most enjoyable.
You’ll find seashells on the beach, including sand dollars, conchs, and scallops. Dolphins and manatees can also be seen swimming and playing in the water.
There are amenities like showers, restrooms, and a concession stand. And a boardwalk that leads from the parking area to the beach.
And because the beach is part of the Henderson Beach State Park, visitors can access the hiking trail and picnic areas. The park has campsites that include water, electric hookups, and access to air-conditioned and heated bath house facilities.