Destin, Florida is home to white sandy beaches located along The Emerald Coast. If you have ever been to Northwest Florida then you know how The Emerald Coast got its name. The emerald green and blue water from the Gulf of Mexico looks like water in Hawaii or the Caribbean. The Emerald Coast spans from Pensacola to Panama City Beach. Some of the top rated towns along the Emerald Coast include Fort Walton, Destin, Miramar Beach, Santa Rosa, and a few others along 30A road. Keep scrolling to find the top things to do while staying in Miramar Beach or Destin, Florida.
– Adventure Center
Baytowne Wharf Adventure Center is a great place if you are looking for shopping boutiques, eateries, nightlife, and activities. They have zip lining, rock climbing, a ropes course, carnival games, a carousel and more. Baytowne Wharf is located within the gates of Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort so you can expect to go through a few security gates areas before entering. Parking is limited at Baytowne Wharf. As a result, there is an overflow lot about 0.5 miles from the entrance.
– Waterfront Dining
Locals often bring their own chairs and set up camp in the center of Baytowne Wharf to enjoy the live music. Surrounding the center area are multiple shops, ice cream, and restaurant’s. We ate at Hammerhead’s Bar and Grille which has a casual atmosphere with spectacular views. I truly thought this was one of the best spots to watch the sunset in Destin! We took advantage of their happy hour which included half off apps, drink specials, and $0.50 oysters. If you are in the mood for seafood then I highly recommend boom boom shrimp or blackened grouper. The best part about this restaurant is the waterfront dining, you can enjoy good food, listen to live music, and watch the sunset over the water.
*Tip: This this is a great spot to fish, watch the sunset, or capture a family photo
The Hub 30A
The Hub in 30A is a great place to visit if you are with a large group. There are multiple food options with something to please everyone. There are restaurants, various fast but healthy food options, food trucks, bars, and lots of seating options. Lastly, there is a stage at the front of The Hub where festivals are held and bands perform.
*Tip – Transportation: Drive a car or schedule a Uber/Lyft ahead of time. We had 14 people so we drove a friends car and took an Uber on the way there. However, we weren’t so lucky on the way home… We did not have service at The Hub (we even asked a worker for the wifi password) and still couldn’t find an Uber or Lyft available in the area. We ended up cramming 14 people in a 7 passenger car… Lets just say this made for a hysterical car ride home.
Drive, Walk, or Bike 30A
30A, also referred to as The Emerald Coast, is one of Florida’s best kept secrets. 30A is technically a road in South Walton County that spans for over 20 miles along the coast between Panama City and Destin, Florida. Seaside, Santa Rosa, and Rosemary Beach are some of the communities located within 30A. Here you will find some of the best beaches, emerald green water, and local shops and restaurants. 30A is more “low key” and less of a tourist trap and is usually filled with families rather than college kids.
You can spend your time soaking up the sun, walking along the beach, biking, or enjoying the sunset. No matter what your travel style is, 30A offers something for everyone in the family. The area gives off a fun yet relaxing vibe. Rumor has it multiple celebrities like Jimmy Buffet, Justin Moore, Faith Hill, Kenney Chesney, Luke Bryan, Sandra Bullock, Reese Witherspoon, and Tony Romo are frequent visitors to the area.
Destin Florida is home to some of the best beaches in the US. We stayed right on Miramar Beach and this is one of the most beautiful stretches of sand along the Emerald Coast. Below are the best beaches in Destin, Florida:
- Miramar Beach
- Hendersen Beach State Park
- James Lee Beach
- Crab Island
Anytime I am in Florida I am always searching for the best local seafood restaurants at a reasonable price. Specifically, I search for local dive bars, restaurants with a view, and happy hour specials. Below are a few fan favorites:
- Surf Hut – Great vibes and views, worth the wait, on the beach, awesome grouper
- Pompano Joe’s – Tourist spot, on the beach, great happy hour
- Poppy’s Hammerhead Bar and Grille – Dive bar feel, better prices, beautiful views, live music, great happy hour, awesome shrimp
- Bijoux – very expensive, formal dining feel, amazing food, exceeds expectations, $$$$
- Crab Trap Destin – worth the wait, water and beachfront, fun for the family, awesome crab
- Tops’l Tides Pool Bar – beachfront, can access from the beach, amazing coconut shrimp, quick and easy lunch when at the beach, great drinks
If you are looking to do some shopping there are plenty of options in the beach neighborhoods of 30A and near Destin, Florida. For unique boutiques check out Discover Scenic 30-A Guide for a list of all the shops along 30A. One of the most well known places to shop is Seaside where you will also find a farmers market and nearby restaurants. If you are looking for brand name retail or upscale shopping then check out Grand Boulevard at Sandestin located in Miramar Beach. Here you will find Pottery Barn, Lululemon, Anthropologie, Billabong, Altar’d State, Williams Sonoma, a variety of restaurants and more!
Excursions & Activities Near Destin, Florida
There are a plethora of activities to do in Miramar beach including pontoon rentals, parasailing, deep sea fishing, boat tours, and other water sport rentals. If you take a boat tour or rent a boat then I highly suggest visiting Crab Island on the north side of Destin Bridge. Crab Island is a great place to relax, snorkel, fish, and enjoy the crystal blue waters from the Gulf of Mexico. It is most popular because of the sandbar and although its a great place to hangout it often gets crowded during spring break.
Is Traveling to Destin, Florida Right For You?
There are many pros and cons when traveling to cities along the panhandle in Northern Florida. Most of those depend on the time of year you are traveling, how you are getting there, and where you are coming from.
– Destin Pros:
- Shorter Drive: The reason a lot of people travel to Destin or Northern Florida is because it is a shorter and easier drive for people coming from the north. It took about 15 hours from Michigan to Destin.
- Beaches: The white sandy beaches are said to be some of the best beaches in the world. At first I found that hard to believe, but Destin proved me wrong. The lack of shells leaves the beach to feel extra airy and fluffy.
- Dolphins: We saw dolphins everyday! One day we flew the drone above the ocean and saw a pack of 15-20 dolphins swimming roughly 100 yards off shore.
– Destin Cons:
- Weather: Most people travel during spring break, which usually lands on the last week of March or first week of April. Springtime in Destin can be a bit chilly with some weeks having a high of 65. The day time is usually pretty warm if you can find a spot away from the wind and into the sun. Just be prepared for cooler nights.
- Location/Transportation: We stayed in Miramar Beach and loved it but the condo complex we stayed at was not near any restaurants. We had to find a ride every time we wanted to go shopping or out to dinner. Finding an Uber/Lyft during spring break in Florida was nearly impossible as there was a shortage of drivers.
Things to Know Before Going to Destin, Florida
Eat Early / Put your name in: During spring break average wait times range from 1.5 to 2.5 hours. Most restaurants do not take reservations so I recommend going out to dinner early (between 4:30-5pm) or if you are willing to wait then put your name in and walk around the shops, get drinks/apps, or bring a cooler to the beach and watch the sunset while you wait.
Pack Layers: After the sun goes down the evenings can get a little chilly. During spring break the average evening temperatures are around 55-65 degrees. Bring layers/a coat for walking around or eating dinner outside.
Drive or Rent a Car: If you plan on flying or driving a RV to Florida- yes, my family actually packed 12 people in our RV and drove from Michigan, but thats a whole new blog post on its own lol. Anyways, we had to rely on Uber and Lyft for transportation. We quickly learned there was a shortage of drivers in the Destin area during spring break. This left us unable to reserve a ride most of the week. One thing I noticed about this area in Florida is most restaurants are not in a walkable distance, usually 15-30 minute drive to the best restaurants. Therefore, I highly recommend driving, renting a car, or preparing yourself to experience long wait times when trying to reserve a ride.
Do Not Stress About the Weather: All cities around Destin, Florida are not known for their scorching hot weather. I often checked the weather before our trip. For instance, I saw Miramar Beach had a high of 65-70 throughout the week. I was a little worried about the weather, but it turned out to be gorgeous. The UV index was 8-10 every single day, therefore you still get the sun without the extreme heat.
Happy Travels, Your Adventure Awaits!