Escaping winter in Destin, Florida
Now that the cold weather has arrived, you might be thinking about ways to escape it. Consistently rated among the best beaches in Florida and in the USA (and even the world), you can’t go wrong with a visit to Destin, Florida. Known for it’s emerald green yet totally clear water and white “sugar sand” powder soft beaches, Destin will give you the break from reality that you have been craving. If you have yet to make up your mind, let the beautiful scenery, amazing seafood, and endless opportunity for outdoor activities help you arrive to that conclusion.
If you are a fan of seafood, you will be in a foodie paradise. Obviously, the fare is as fresh as it gets, being right on the water. Part of Florida’s Panhandle (along the northwest of the state, bordering the Gulf of Mexico, and yes — because it looks like a panhandle), people here take seafood seriously. You will find some of the most interesting and unique ways of cooking seafood along the panhandle region.
At The Crab Trap, you can eat outdoors or inside. I’d recommend out, as this restaurant has the most beautiful views of the beach and the boardwalk below. There, watch beachgoers play volleyball or the waves roll in while you enjoy your meal. Directly below you is The Boardwalk at Okaloosa Island, with shops, a small spray park, and other ways to while away your time. Great restaurant with great food, fantastic service, location, atmosphere, and views. (crabtrapdestin.com)
Make sure you take the time to visit Okaloosa Island Pier after you eat; it’s about a block away. Not only the perfect spot to take a family photo, but you can also look for dolphins, fish, seabirds or other marine life. You can also go fishing as well, if you’d like.
Across the parking lot, in the same center, is the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park (gulfarium.com). It is a top Fort Walton Beach attraction, and perfect for families and animal lovers. This marine park houses animals such as seals, turtles, alligators, fish, snakes and much more. There are live shows at set times, and you can also sign up for animal encounters to feed penguins, snorkel with stingrays, and other options.
We were definitely looking to spend as much time as could outdoors. If you are looking for some outdoor adventure, book some time with Destin Snorkel & SNUBA Tour (destinsnorkel.com). Easily one of the coolest things we have done in a long time, this experience is part scuba, part snorkel, and perfect for almost any age and any level of swimmer.
Head over to the (save time to walk and shop) boardwalk, where you will meet your SNUBA professional and get your snuba-suit on. First, you will get a 30-minute orientation where you are shown how to use all equipment and explanations are given, as well as questions answered. After that, you are able to dive up to 20 feet, with the rest of your group and your SNUBA instructor swimming along with you. You can see quite a variety of ocean life, and it’s a really awesome experience to be completely submerged underwater for long stretches of time.
While you are in the area, head to Harbor Docks for lunch. This seafood restaurant staple has been locally sourcing food for more than 35 years, and you can really sense the pride and connection to the community.
For an interesting way to see some of the local landscapes, Destin Airboat Tour offers informative tours, views you won’t see many other ways, and the enjoyment of riding in an airboat (destinairboat.com). The six-passenger-capacity airboat’s owner and operator, Captain Frank, has been described as “a crusty Ozark mountain hillbilly with a sense of humor and love of nature.” He is also the proud owner of the only mobile, floating chapel I have ever seen, and should you be looking to get married, he can spirit you off to do so. In a floating church.
Some of the best food we ate while in Florida was at this “off the beaten path” place called Cafe Organic. The food was local when possible, organic, natural and delightful. The menu changes seasonally and based on what is available from the organic local farmers they work with. The owners, chiropractors, make all the food from scratch and also still practice, and host other events such as yoga and tai chi on the property. No, not in the restaurant, but next door.
There is also a food co-op for locals to participate in. These people are the embodiment of practicing what they preach (or “you are what you eat,” choose a saying you prefer, they both work). Vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, etc? No problem. (cafeorganicfwb.com)
Get outside and stay outside, if you know what’s good for you! Have you ever tried paddleboarding? Also called SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard), it is a great way to be outside and active. It’s not as easy as it looks, but as long as you have decent balance, you will be OK. Don’t really? That’s also OK, all the more reason to head out with the Paddle Tribe Company (paddletribecompany.com).
The Paddle Tribe Company is directly outside LuLu’s Destin, a beachfront restaurant that often has live entertainment in addition to it’s excellent food and scenery (Lulubuffett.com).
If you go
City of Destin, Florida
4200 Indian Bayou Trail
Destin, FL 32541