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DESTIN
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The 11 best things to do in Destin

Beaches, water parks, and a super retro arcade are all waiting for you in Destin, Florida.

Megan duBois
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Megan duBois
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The Florida panhandle has plenty of beach towns, but none are more beautiful, or eclectic than Destin. The stunning coastline leads out to crystal clear blue-green waters, which is where the name the Emerald Coast comes from. Each day the sandy beaches are filled with locals and tourists looking to soak up a little vitamin D before heading to the nearby restaurants, boardwalks or back home.

For those looking for something more than a beach vacation, consider one of the many other activities around Destin. For the gamer, try your hand at a retro arcade game, or bring a group of friends to try to get yourself out of an escape room. Learn about the history and culture of Destin at a local museum or historical site. And of course, there’s plenty of places to just kick back and relax. These are the 11 best things to do in Destin.

Best things to do in Destin

Crystal Beach
Photograph: Shutterstock

1. Crystal Beach

For a beach day like no other head to Crystal Beach. This is by far one of the most sought out beaches in the area thanks to its soft white sand and perfectly clear waters. Take a book to read under a shady umbrella, take a dip in the ocean, or take a walk up and down the shoreline. No matter what you do here, the day will be beautiful and you’ll forget all about the emails and phone calls from work.

Henderson Beach State Park

Beach access and a sand dune hiking route can be found at Henderson Beach State Park. The quiet beach park is ideal for those looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy a quiet day without a lot of tourists around. The best way to experience the park is the pack a picnic lunch from a local restaurant and enjoy it while taking in the views of the ocean. You can also camp overnight at the park, you just need to make a reservation to do so.

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Big Kahuna’s Water & Adventure Park

If the beach isn’t your thing but you still want to cool off in the water head straight for Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park. The massive water park is filled with slides, pools, splash pads, and a Hawaiian-themed mini-golf course. While the food here isn’t gourmet, there are plenty of theme park-type snacks to indulge in like nachos and funnel cake sticks. And let’s be honest with all of the walking and lugging up of floats, you’ll work off the calories from those snacks.

Destin Harbor Boardwalk

The Destin Harbor Boardwalk is home to plenty of shopping and restaurants for when you need a break from the water. It’s also a hub for plenty of other activities like parasailing, dolphin cruises, fishing excursions and snorkeling tours. You could spend days here and not be able to do everything. Most of the activities are held year-round, but be careful because after October through April, the waters where some of these activities take place can be cold.

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Buccaneer Pirate Cruise

Argh, matey! Step aboard a pirate ship for a two-hour pirate-themed cruise. The family-friendly cruises take you out into the waters of the Emerald Coast as you sing, dance, and participate in pirate-themed activities. Kids will love taking part in pirate training, which includes sword fighting, water gun battles, a treasure hunt, and authentic cannon fire. Adults can choose to participate or sit back with a cup of grog while they watch their little buccaneers.

Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park

Just steps away from the ocean you can learn about various marine life at Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park. The quaint park is known for its animal encounters and shows, which feature favorite creatures like dolphins, sea lions, otters and penguins. Each show is set so visitors can see all of the shows in one day and not miss anything if they arrive at opening time. Throughout the year the park hosts a variety of events including homeschool week and weekends where kids enter the park for free.

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Destin Commons

Destin Commons is an expansive outdoor shopping mall, with all of your favorite shops and fast-casual restaurants. Enjoy everything from the latest movie to hit the box office, classic car shows and yoga classes. In 2022, Destin Commons will be opening City Food Hall, which will offer plenty of places to enjoy a meal, craft beer and cocktails and nightly entertainment. This is going to be the new hot spot in town.

Destin is nicknamed “The world’s luckiest fishing village,” and the Destin History and Fishing Museum explains why. Each of the exhibits focuses on the fishing culture and history in the town. Each room has plenty to look at including a fishing rod that belonged to Ernest Hemingway, a 1925 fishing boat, and an interactive scavenger hunt that takes place throughout the museum.

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Crab Island

9. Crab Island

Crab Island is a sandbar in Destin Harbor that’s become the weekend hangout for boaters and party people to chill in the shallow water and warm sun. The sandbar, which was once an actual crab-shaped island, can only be accessed by boat, but don’t worry if you don’t have one because they are available to rent at the nearby marina. This is a great place to meet other people who live in Destin or are traveling through the area because everyone is a friend at Crab Island.

Trampoline parks have been a huge trend over the past few years. Who doesn’t love bouncing up and down across a huge floor of trampolines before finally falling into a foam pit? At Urban Air Trampoline Park in Destin you can take your friends for a round of laser tag, an indoor ropes course, a virtual reality experience, climbing wall, and ninja course. No matter what you choose to do, you’ll be ready for a break and lunch when your done.

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Spend an afternoon at Fat Daddy’s Arcade, where you can try your luck at over 120 different arcade games. There are classics like Pac-Man and Big Buck Hunter Open Season, and newer games like Fruit Ninja and Jurassic Park. To play any of the games you’ll need to put money on a card instead of pulling out coins at each game. After playing here, you’ll never want to go back to your game console at home.

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