25 Family things to do in Destin, Florida. Family activities and places to explore while visiting the area. Including a fun list of things to do when rain is in the forecast. Plus a Destin, Florida, 4 day itinerary. Free Printable.
The beach has been calling our name for quite some time now. Being landlocked for the past five years has been a bit hard on this New England girls’ soul.
We were finally able to make the 10 hour drive from Arkansas to Destin, Florida! Even though it’s a far cry from New England beaches, let’s face it, there is nothing like warm emerald green water and a salty breeze to revive your inner self.
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When you’re new to the area it can be a bit hard to navigate. You have the must visits like the beach, boardwalks and other family activities. But finding them or even figuring out parking and traffic patters while on vacation, is no fun.
So I’m here with a list of must see destinations in Destin, Florida. Along with family activities and a few other tips along the way.
Destin, Florida + 25 Family Things To Do
The beaches in Florida are absolutely beautiful! The crashing waves and teal blue water make them irresistible and our #1 stop when visiting the area.
Henderson Beach State Park
Henderson Beach State Park is easy to get to with plenty of parking. This state park opens at 8am, however, there is a small fee per vehicle to enter. There are also several ramps leading down to the beach area making it easy for strollers, coolers and anyone needing a ramp. For more information visit Henderson Beach State Park-Website.
- Easy parking (price per vehicle)
- Nature trail
Miramar Beach Regional Access
Miramar Beach Regional Access is also a great beach to bring the family. It has its own parking available in front of the beach area along with additional parking on the north side of Scenic Hwy 98. At the center entrance you’ll find public restrooms and a ramp for easy access down to the beach.
- Easy parking
James Lee Park
James Lee Park is located next to the Crab Trap Restaurant in Destin, Florida. This beach area offers 166 public parking spaces, restrooms and a playground area.
- Easy parking
Eglin Beach Park- DoD Personnel
Located west of the Destin Bridge is Eglin Beach Park. This gorgeous beach area located on Okaloosa Island is open to all DoD personnel with proper ID, during the summer month. Small fee per vehicle to park.
- Easy parking
Boardwalks & Villages
After a morning at the beach there is nothing quite like a quick shower and finding a boardwalk or village to spend the afternoon. To stroll around, take in the sites, find a souvenir or two and a great spot for a family dinner.
The Village of Baytowne Wharf
The Village of Baytowne Wharf was one of our favorite spots to visit. With its quaint boutique shops, restaurants and family atmosphere, it really is a must see when visiting Destin, Florida.
This village is packed with entertainment for the entire family. Be sure to catch the firework display every Tuesday during the summer months, right over the lagoon at 9:15pm. Or a family movie on the village lawn Sunday evenings during the month of July.
The Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island
The Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island is located right over the Destin Bridge at 1440 Miracle Strip Parkway, Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Enjoy the day on the white sand beaches and then make your way to the boardwalk for a little shopping and dinning.
During the summer months you can enjoy Pirate Shows, movies on the beach, fireworks, beach luau’s and live music. So head over to The Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island-Website for more details.
The Island Pier- Also a popular place to visit is The Island Pier located next to the boardwalk. This long pier is 1,262 feet long and is perfect for fishing the day away or watching the sunset. You might even get lucky with spotting some sea life such as dolphins or sea turtles.
The HarborWalk Village
The HarborWalk Village is another spot to enjoy shopping and dinning. It’s also a great location to look into jet-ski rentals or fishing charters. Walking towards the end of the boardwalk you’ll see Destin Bridge and sitting just on the other side is the famous Crab Island. A popular spot to park your boat on a sand bar and enjoy the day on the water.
Other activities include zip-line, rock wall, free fall and more.
*note- Parking and traffic can become very difficult depending on the time of day. If you’re interested in checking the area out but not interested in the price of parking, you can park at the Destin Community Center for $5 (paid through an app) and take the crosswalk over to the village and boardwalk.
Places of Interest
Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park
You can spend an entire day at the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park. Here you can catch one of their many shows happening through out the day and discover and learn about dolphins, sea lions, penguins and more.
They also offer animal encounters with dolphins, stingrays, seals, sea lions and a few other animal friends. So if you were hoping to touch and feed a dolphin, then this place is for you.
Gator Beach – Alligator Show
Gator Beach is located at Fudpucker’s Beachside Bar and Grill. However, you don’t need to eat in the restaurant to enjoy the alligators at Gator Beach.
Walking up the steps you’ll see the alligators to your righthand side. You’ll want to go through the front door and to the right. You’ll wave to the hostess at the restaurant and continue through the double doors behind them. Outside you can either take the stairs in front of you or take the ramp that you’ll see around the corner. Either way will bring you right down to see the alligators.
It’s best to plan your trip around one of the Gator Beach showtimes at 12:00, 2:00, 4:00, and 6:00. During the show you’ll learn a few things about these interesting animals (they can hold their breath between 4-8 hours!) and watch a feeding. You can even buy your own bait and feed them using something similar to a fishing pole.
Before you head out, stop by gift shop by the front doors and grab yourself an alligator souvenir. This isn’t a long trip but it is free and fun for the kids.
Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park
If you’re needing a bit more thrill and adventure then jumping over the waves at the beach, you should check out Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park. At the waterpark you’ll find waterslides, wave pools, lazy rivers and more. Try your luck at the Honolulu half pipe and see just how good your surfing skills really are. Or free fall down the 70 foot Jumanji slide.
Have younger kids in the group? They’ll love Buccaneer Cove, complete with play area and slides just the right size for them. –View Park Map
OUT ON THE WATER
Crab Island isn’t an island at all but a sand bar located on the south side of Choctawhatchee Bay. With warm emerald green waters from the Gulf, and a sand bar that is only waist deep at high tide, it’s no surprise that everyone on the water wants to be at Crab Island.
How to get there
Rent a pontoon- If you’re familiar with boating then you can rent a pontoon at a local marina and make your way over to Crab Island. You may or may not need a boating license depending on your age, but it’s always best to take a free Florida boating and safety education course.
Crab Island Shuttle Boat- If renting a pontoon isn’t in the cards you can still enjoy an afternoon at Crab Island by taking a Crab Island Shuttle Boat. These tours last 2-3 hours (depending on your ticket purchase) and you’ll be able to pack a cooler and floaties and relax the day away in the waters of Crab Island.
Buccaneer Pirate Cruise
Little ones can learn how to be a pirate on the Buccaneer Pirate Cruise. This 1.5-2 hour cruise takes the kids on a journey though pirate training, songs, sword fights and treasure hunting, all aboard a proper pirate ship.
Below deck you’ll find souvenirs, snacks and special drinks for adult pirates over the age of 21.
Looking for a birds eye view of the area? Check out Gilligan’s Parasailing where you can soar above the Gulf at heights of 400 feet! Up to three people can fly at one time and if mom or dad decide this adventure is better suited as an onlooker sport, you can come along in the boat (for a small fee) and enjoy the sites from below.
Mini Golf & Go Carts
As the sun starts to set on a hot and humid day in Florida, the lights from the nearby attractions turn on making it a perfect atmosphere for some family adventures. You can take your pick from several different mini golf courses and go kart tracks or just try them all.
- The Track Family Fun Parks- Mini golf, go karts, blaster boats, bumper cars, spin coasters, kiddy rides, arcade and more.
- Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone- Mini golf, go karts, bumper boats, tree top challenge rope course, laser tag, arcade and more.
- Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park- Tropical mini golf with three unique courses, 100 foot sky coaster, waterpark and more.
- The Golf Garden of Destin- Mini golf, 9 hole Executive Golf Course, 10 acre driving range with target greens and more.
You’ll find great shopping all around Destin as you visit different boardwalks and villages, but if you’re in need of some serious retail therapy, we have you covered.
Destin Commons- Head over to Destin Commons, an open air shopping center that’ll have everything you’ll need for your beach vacation. Including a Bass Pro Shop for the hunters and fishermen in your life.
Silver Sands Premium Outlets- Silver Sands Premium Outlets hosts 110 of your favorite designers at great outlet prices. Come shop the day away at this open air outlet mall, complete with a covered children’s play area.
Rainy Day Activities
You can’t exactly choose the weather on vacation and you shouldn’t let rainy or extremely hot days ruin your fun. So let’s talk about some indoor activities that are cool, dry and packed with adventure.
-Blacklight mini golf, Laser tag, Arcade and Trampoline Park
- Destin Laser Tag- Laser tag and blacklight mini golf.
- Rainforest Black Light Golf and Arcade- Rainforest themed blacklight mini golf and arcade.
- Thrills Laser Tag and Arcade- Temple of Doom themed laser tag and arcade.
- Urban Air Adventure Park- Trampoline park with playground obstacle course, climbing hill, warrior course, ropes course and more.
- Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone- 4D movie experience, laser tag, arcade and VR experience.
- Cloak and Dagger Escape Rooms- Village of Baytowne Wharf
*Note- There are other escape rooms in there area but they might be a little dark for a family adventure. Feel free to do a bit more research and find what fits your family.
- Uncle Buck’s Fish Bowl and Grill- Underwater bowling experience with ocean themed atmosphere. Price per lane! Lane can accommodate 6-8 people.
- Hurricane Lanes- Bowling, arcade and pool tables.
- AMC Destin Commons 14- Movie theater with stadium seating and IMAX movie experience.
Tips for a better vacation
-Go to the beaches early to find easier parking and less crowds.
-Traffic in this area is very heavy as the day progresses. Plan accordingly. A trip that took 10 minutes at 8:30am can take up to 30 minutes at noon.
-When planning your day try to do things that are close in proximity. Or do a morning activity and one later in the afternoon.
-There is a $4 toll when crossing the Mid-Bay Bridge. Be sure to bring cash if you’ll be crossing that area.
-Vacationing is expensive! Pick up donuts and croissants at the local Publix grocery store. Better yet, grab a strawberry salad and chicken salad sandwich for the beach as well.
Destin Florida Itinerary- Example
Enjoying a weekend or a much needed vacation to the beach is easy to do with clear blue water and entertainment for the entire family. And even if the weather gets a bit drizzly you’ll be ready with a few indoor activities everyone is bound to love.
So pack the sunscreen, or possibly an umbrella, and enjoy the adventures that await you down along the emerald coast of Destin, Florida.
Best Wishes ~ Sara
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