My first memory of Florida is visiting Destin as an escape from the gray skies of Pittsburgh. Seeing the emerald waters meet the blue sky told me everything I needed to know: Life on the Panhandle was something to envy. Even if you’ve only got a few hours to spare, do as the locals do by grabbing a sub from our local grocer Publix and enjoying it on the beach.
Your first time in Destin will leave you wanting more, though you can make a memorable trip out of a 3-day stay. Stay on or near the water as much as possible, but don’t be hesitant to explore the inshore waterways and nature preserves where tranquility has resided for centuries.
Dress for beach days, with long sleeves for winter.
If you only have time for one thing, make it Henderson Beach State Park.
Touch down in Destin and do your best to get down to the beach ASAP. You’ll want to experience the Gulf shores like a local, and there’s no better way than with watersports. Learn how to wakesurf while cruising around on a luxury boat.
Catch your breath back on shore, but for only a second. Hang ten with a local instructor and learn how to surf the waves off of Okaloosa Island—then dry off with a stroll around Henderson Beach State Park back in Destin.
Day two is what many longtime locals and visitors would consider your true introduction to Destin: a visit to Crab Island. This popular sandbar hanging out between the Destin Harbor and the Gulf is yours to explore via a floating tiki bar.
Take a break from the business of the Gulf and get down to business on the Choctawhatchee Bay. In-shore fishing is a great way to unwind while seeing yet another serene side of Destin.
One last day in Destin means soaking up the splendor of the Gulf as much as possible. Golfers should schedule an early tee time at one of the nearby courses then head back out onto the water. A private catamaran is yours to enjoy on a swimming and snorkeling tour around Crab Island.
Enjoy your final sun-soaked hours strolling the boardwalk or munching on salty eats in the beachside bars. When you’re all packed up, wave goodbye to Destin from the topside of a sunset cruise.