Favorite Things To Do, Places To Shop And Where to Eat In Destin Florida
Updated: Apr 17, 2021
As a family that used to both visit Destin FL for many vacation getaways and live here as locals, we often get asked what are our favorite things to do, places to eat and where to shop in the area. Other than just hanging out at the sugar white sand beach or just chilling at one of our 5 Destin beach houses Zula Beach, Zula Dreams, Zula Life, Zula Breeze, and Zula Cabana, there is so much to do in Destin, Florida!
So we made a list of recommendations for you to enjoy too!
For full list of excursions options check out this link.
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Things To Do In Destin Florida
Big Kahuna Water Park
If you are visiting Destin in the heat of summer and looking for a water park to cool off check out Big Kahuna’s water park! They have over 40 water attractions to choose from including water slides, tube slides, wave pool, lazy river and even mini golf. Great way to escape the summer heat and enjoy the cool water while sliding down the waster slides!
Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park
If you like dolphins, and exploring other sea creatures, this is the place for you!
The facility is relatively small so you are able to get a close seat for the shows. They offer shows throughout the day so you could spend all day there. Other than dolphins they also have tortoises, sharks, stingrays, alligators, birds, and more! They have a touch tank where you can pet hermit crabs and starfish. You can also pay extra and sign up to help with the animals or swim with the dolphins and stingrays.
Dolphin Sunset Cruise
If you’ve never done a dolphin cruise before, Destin is the place to do it! There are so many dolphins in this area you are almost guaranteed to see some while taking this tour. The tour is usually about 2 hours long and some dolphins come really close to the boats and play in the water right next to you! It is such a great experience!
Destin is known to be the luckiest place to fish, so taking a fishing trip is highly recommended! There are many different options for fishing trips from kids friendly ones, to more adult party style, private trips or semi private, day trips or night trips and so on. So be sure to check-out the different options and pick the fishing trip that best suits your needs.
The great thing about fishing in Destin is there isn’t a bad season – you can go all year long! Depending on the season, you may be catching different kinds of fish. Here is a high-level look at the fish you can find in each season.
Winter: Snapper, Triggerfish, Tuna
Spring: Snapper, Amberjack, Cobia
Summer: Snapper, Mahi Mahi, Marlin.
Fall: Snapper, Shark, Sailfish
If you are here in the fall be sure to check out the Destin Fishing Rodeo!
If you or your kids like magic tricks, go and see a magic show while in Destin, FL! We really liked the local family friendly Maximum Magic Show and they offer a 10% discount if you book online with coupon code "Magic10". This is a great way to do something away from the heat or the sand and it is very entertaining!
Wild Willy Adventure Zone
Looking to get away from the sun, then head to Wild Willies where you can play arcade games, see a 4D movie, play laser tag, mini golf and ropes course. With so many fun activities you’ll find something to do away from the beach. Our kids love this place and ask to go again and again every time we go to Destin. This is such a great activity if you are looking to get away from the beach for a bit and do something different. Don't forget to bring closed toe shoes as flip flops are not allowed on the ropes course.
The Pirate Cruise is so much fun for the kids! For the entire 90 minutes duration of it, you are going to be entertained and barely notice where the boat is going! You can expect gun squirting fights and sword fights, face painting and pulling a treasure chest out of the ocean and even shooting the cannon! It is a great time for the family. If you have any pirate gear make sure to dress up. It makes the experience even better!
If you’ve never done Parasailing before, we highly recommend you try it at Destin! Parasailing It’s another great way to check out the beautiful beach view and you might even be able to see some wildlife like dolphins and stingrays from up above the clear water of the gulf coast while you are up there! This is a great activity for both adults and kids. just sit back and relax and enjoy the view!
If you like to be on the water, you can rent 1 or 2 seater kayaks to explore the harbor and bay, and even paddle yourself out to Crab Island, if you’re up for it! You might even see dolphins and other wildlife while kayaking the area. This is a great active and fun way to enjoy the great views and wildlife of the emerald coast and away from the crowds!
Stand Up Paddle Boarding
Love paddle-boarding (SUP) or want to try it out? Destin beaches are perfect for paddle boarding because the water is much calmer and warm in this area! Rent a stand up paddle board and take it to the beach (on a not too windy day) or to the bay area. You can even paddle to crab island and grab a drink (or two)! You can rent a paddle board for 1hr, 4hr, 8hr, full day or even for a whole week. Who knows, maybe you'll even get to see some wildlife and catch a few waves!
Renting a boat and going to Crab Island is probably one of our favorite things to do in Destin! Crab Island is a sandbar out on the water that has a floating restaurant. It’s like a food truck on the water! The water is about waist high and after putting your anchor down on your rented boat you can hang out on the boat or spend hours jumping off the boat and into the clear turquoise water and enjoy the vibe. Insider tip: Go early, this place can get pretty crowded in high season.
Take a ride on the banana boats! This is a one hour trip where they take your private group (4 people min, 6 people max) out in a boat and pull you behind on the bouncing banana inflatable! A great opportunity to cool off, have some laughs and excitement, enjoy the water adventure and potentially see some wildlife while you’re out. Riders must know how to swim!
Catamaran Sailing Trip
If renting a boat is not your thing, you can also let someone else be the captain and go on a sailing trip (up to 6 people). They can also take you to crab island or you can trust the crew to take you places they recommend based on the current sea level and condition. There are great stops for snorkeling and just hanging out on the sailboat and jump into the water is super fun.
A Destin helicopter tour is the absolute best way to see the Emerald Coast in all of its glory. Buckle up and let the professional pilots take you on an exhilarating ride of a lifetime! Cruise up and down the beach and see marine wildlife like dolphins, sea turtles, or even sharks! From the sparkling waters to the beautiful Destin bridge and Oyster Lake, a helicopter tour is an exciting and informative way to see the area!
If you’re looking to get away for a quick round of golf, there are a variety of golf courses in the area. We really like Golf Garden as it is family friendly, has a 9 hole & 18-hole courses and also have a 10 acres driving range and is even lit for night play!
Gator Beach - Exhibits + Bar & Grill
Gator Beach is located below The Big Deck at Fudpucker’s. This place gives you the chance to see over 100 live alligators, in an up close and personal environment. But, you’ll not only be able to see the gators, you’ll be able to feed them as well. That’s right – you can feed the live alligators at Fudpucker’s Gator Beach in Destin any time during normal business hours. They also have a baby alligator tank and offer daily shows and tours.
Uncle Buck’s Fish Bowl & Grill
This is not your typical bowling alley! This is an underwater experience! Custom bowling balls
with octopus, mermaids, camouflage and more! “Dock” wooden lanes feature underwater scenery of sea turtles, sharks, stingrays and other saltwater species! Hand painted murals and fish hanging from the ceiling brings everything together for a deep sea dive like no other. You can also eat at their grill restaurant and order your food & drinks right to your lane. They don’t take reservations so make sure to arrive early and register, they’ll text you when your lane is ready but you have to physically be there to get on the list.
Looking to go scuba diving or get a diving license? Emerald Coast Scuba is a PADI certified and offer up to 5* lessons and certification. We got certified with instructor Sean who was such a great teacher! They even have a Young Seals program for 8-11 years old to learn all about the skills, equipment and environment related to scuba diving. There’s so much deep water wildlife to see in the clear water of the emerald coast so if diving is something you want to do/learn, Destin Florida is the place to do it!
You can also check out Crazy Family Adventure blog for more recommendations for things to do in Destin.
Where To Shop In Destin Florida:
Destin Florida is a great place to shop! Since so many people come to Destin, Florida on vacation each year, the shopping and dining areas keep growing and growing! Here are some of the places we like to go shopping at:
A great area to walk around with lots of shopping and dining options. There’s a large AMC movie theater, Huge Bass Pro shops with a fish tank (always a hit with the kids), lots of clothing stores like H&M, Forever21, Francesca’s, Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister, Express and much more! There are also many restaurant options in that area as well as so many events that going on here during the holidays and summer time. Plus, this is just a short few minutes from our beach houses in Crystal beach.
Village of Baytowne Wharf
A great area for dining, shopping and nightlife. There are also lots of activities and festivals that go on here. there is also an adventure land playground, carousel, adventure zone, arcade & laser tag and live music performance. The village is not on the beach so if you are looking to get away from the beach for a while this is a great place to go.
The HarborWalk Village is loaded with restaurants and shops and is the place where a lot of the water activities in Destin (Pirate cruise, Dolphin cruise, pontoon rental) take off from. They also have a variety of different events & activities available at the Destin Harbor Boardwalk including climbing wall, concerts and live music, weekly fireworks, mirror maze, bungee trampolines, laser maze, escape room, and much more! You are guaranteed to have a great time at the Harborwalk.
Silver Sands Premium Outlet
Looking to shop? Silver Sands Premium Outlet is a great place to do exactly that! With stores like Nike, Saks Off 5th, Tory Burch, Calvin Klein, Columbia, Old Navy & Gap, American Eagle, Adidas, Michael Kors, Carters and much much more! There’s also restaurants, kids play area and lots of parking!
Where To Eat In Destin Florida:
There are so many great restaurants in Destin, Florida! We love coming to Destin for the beaches of course, but we also love to come here to eat out! Here are some of our favorite places to grab a yummy meal at:
This is a chef run local restaurants that offers high quality take out food. This is seriously our favorite place to eat as they have so many yummy options from fresh & hot Beignets (you gotta try them!!!), breakfast sandwiches, pizzas by the slice and amazing baked goods. This is a family run business and they really do everything with so much love and passion! We love picking up and taking it to the beach where we can enjoy it with the best view of the gulf. I mean, can you really top this view paired with fried sugary sweets??? This is a must!
This fun beachfront restaurant features great Caribbean style seafood options! We really like their reggae rolls and their garlic crusted fresh grouper. Since this place is right on the beach, we love going here for during the sunset to enjoy the beautiful view and the chill vibe of this place.
The Surf Hut
This laid-back beach front restaurant offers great seafood dishes, burgers, and cocktails with the best views of the gulf. We love this place because they have great vibe and food, and also have a great sand play area so you and your family can enjoy beach games while you wait for your food, or just chill with a beautiful colorful drink and watch the view. We love their frozen margaritas and the fish tacos as well as the fresh catch of the day and the captain platter with fried fish, shrimp, scallops, oysters and a cup of gumbo! You can even get a big drink in a bucket that you can later let the kids play with, but I do warn you- you will get tipsy after drinking that whole bucket yourself (don't ask me how I know).
Aegean Greek Restaurant
Augean is a great place to grab some Mediterranean food! This authentic Greek place features some really yummy dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We really like their Spanakopita, Greek Souvlaki, Gyro, and Mousaka. Happy hour is everyday 6pm-8pm where they offer discounted dishes.
First Watch is one of our favorite places for breakfast! This health-minded coffee chain has great breakfast, brunch and lunch options like omelets, pancakes, french toasts, fresh orange juice and fresh and healthy fruit shakes. Our personal favorites are the avocado toast and breakfast tacos, and the kids love their cinnamon french toast & chocolate chip pancakes. They of course also serve fresh brewed coffee to help you wake up! The rustic farmhouse design of this place also makes me extra hungry. We love coming here for late morning brunch!
Real Thai Fusion
Thai food is one of our favorites Asian food restaurants so we hit this local authentic place pretty often! This small family owned restaurant in Miramar beach features traditional Thai cuisine dishes so if you like Thai food, you seriously gotta try Real Thai Fusion. Some of our favorites dishes are the Papaya Pok Pok salad, Tom Kha soup, green curry and the Royal Pad Thai of course! Also make sure to try the Mango Sticky Rice or the Fried Banana for dessert! We visited so many Thai restaurant cross the US, and this one is our family's favorite so I highly recommend you try it while visiting Destin. **Note: Closed on Sundays
Fuji Sushi & Seafood Buffet
We really like Asian buffets because when the kids and us are super hungry, and don’t feel like waiting for our food to be ordered and prepared so we go to Fuji buffet where everything is already pre-made and we can just pick whatever we feel like eating! They have a large selection of sushi and seafood appetizers, lots of main dishes options, and desserts! They even have a made to order noodles station. We always eat too much when we go here because everything is super yummy so just don’t plan on going to the beach after eating here!
Mama Clemenzas European Breakfast
If you feel like having a more upscale European flare breakfast, head to Mama Clemenzas! They offer a range of European-inspired breakfast dishes and are only open Wednesday- Sunday 8am-1pm. The duck waffles are so good and the white chocolate french toast is like something out of this world! I also love their crab cakes and seafood breakfast eggs. Even your pups are welcome there!
And as a bonus, show them this coupon for a free glass of wine or a cappuccino.
Osaka Japanese Hibachi & Sushi Bar
Food + entertainment = always fun times! We really like to go to Osaka Hibachi because not only we love the food, we also get to see it being made while being entertained! So if you like Hibachi or want to try it for the first time, Osaka is a family friendly place we really like to go to!
Boshamps Seafood & Oysters House
Looking for a great beachfront seafood place to get oysters? Boshamps is a great laid-back place to get lunch or dinner and drinks! We really like the vibe of this local family friendly restaurant and the seafood is fresh and yummy! They have live music on weekends and so many great cocktail options. We really like to come here and get a cocktails and the oyster platter and enjoy a beautiful evening with friends or family.
Mimmo’s Ristorante Italiano
If you are looking for a great Italian food for dinner, Mimmo’s is great! The food, drinks, service are all very good and the wood & stone accents are just so beautiful and elegant. They have both indoor & outdoor seating. This place is very popular so it’s best to make a reservation ahead of time. Their garlic rolls are delicious and the risotto & gnocchi and veal marsala are some of our favorites! They also have a variety of pastas, pizzas, salads and calzonas!
Destination Little Donuts & Cups And Cones
Looking for something sweet? Destination Little Donuts have a huge variety of donuts! You can choose from the options they have on display or you can make your own. They make it all fresh to order so you just choose from the display and they will make it for you on the spot! This is a great place to try really interesting and good looking donuts! They also offer ice cream and coffee drinks. Once you're done getting all sugared-up, you can continue to walk around Destin Commons area for more shops and restaurants options.
Grayton Beer Brewpub
Like local breweries? Grayton is a great local beer pub to check-out! Great craft beer paired with great food. We really liked their beer selection and the grouper sandwich, seafood platter and their fish tacos are really good! Fun atmosphere too!