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The 20 Best Things to Do in Destin, Florida for First-Timers


Destin is a city that is located in the Panhandle of Florida, conveniently situated in the Gulf of Mexico. It's known for pristine sandy beaches and tons of tourist activities. If you're considering a trip to Florida, Destin is one of the premier destinations. While you're there, here are the 20 best things to do for first-timers.

Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park

20. Visit Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park

1010 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE, Fort Walton Beach

This is one of the most popular attractions in Destin. At the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, you'll find attractions that will thrill everyone in the family. The park maintains a grand assortment of marine life including stingrays, alligators, dolphins, tortoises, sharks, and more. There are even touch tanks set up with starfish and hermit crabs to help you get up close and personal. You can even swim with the dolphins at this amazing marine park.

Dolphin Sunset Cruise

19. Take a Dolphin Sunset Cruise

500 Harbor Blvd #104, Destin

Destin offers some of the most picturesque sunsets of any place in the world. One of the most breathtaking views you can imagine is from the new catamarans that take you around the sights of Destin Harbor. The Dolphin Sunset Cruise takes you on a tour of the Luckiest Fishing Village, homes of the rich and famous and other sites on the Destin Harbor.

pontoon boat

18. Rent a pontoon boat

214 Harbor Blvd, Destin

Destin Water Fun offers new pontoon boats that are available for rent. You can sightsee in the harbor on your own with boats that can seat up to 12 persons. They're perfect for large groups and families. You will need to have a Florida Boaters Permit to legally rent the boats but that's not a problem. If you don't have one you can simply pay the $3 and take the 20-minute test and you're set to go. The boats are available for half and full-day rentals.


17. Take a catamaran sailing trip

1201 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE, Fort Walton Beach

Moby is a company that offers some amazing tours of Crab island aboard their catamaran sailing ship. You'll have your own guide and the cruises are large enough to accommodate up to six persons with customized tours of the beautiful bay and gulf waters. Tours of Destin Harbor, as well as fishing tours, are available and your dog is even welcome to come along.

round of golf

16. Play a round of golf

12958 US-98, Miramar Beach

If you're a golf enthusiast then you'll love Golf Garden. This is a 9-hole executive course that is located in Destin. This is a family-friendly course that is open to golfers of all levels of proficiency from beginners to professionals. This is a par-29 course that is ideal for working on your short game.

Wild Willy's

15. Visit Wild Willy's

1306 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE, Fort Walton Beach

Wild Willy's is the ultimate fun park. Here you will find plenty of fun and exciting activities for the entire family. There is laser tag, go-karts, and miniature golf. This is one of the most popular attractions for visitors who come with their families.

1306 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE, Fort Walton Beach

Big Kahuna's

14. Visit Big Kahuna's Water Park

1007 US-98, Destin

Big Kahuna's Water Park has been a main attraction in Destin since 1986. It's a great way to cool off on hot afternoons with more than forty water attractions. There is also miniature golf and multiple thrill rides available for your recreational fun.

a magic show

13. Catch a magic show

10 Harbor Blvd #234, Destin

First-time visitors to Destin will love the Maximum Magic Show that is presented by Noah and Heather Wells. It is held at HarborWalk Theater in Destin. Each show lasts for a full 75 minutes and is filled with mentalism, special effects, comedy, and illusions. The audience is also invited to participate in the activities.

Indian Temple Mound Museum

12. Visit Indian Temple Mound Museum

139 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE, Fort Walton Beach

The Indian Temple Mound Museum is a must-see for all first-time visitors to Destin. This famous attraction is also referred to as The Fort Walton Mound. It is an archaeological site. It is estimated that the mound was constructed by the Pensacola culture around 850 BCE.

Buccaneer Pirate Cruise

11. Book a Buccaneer Pirate Cruise

100 Harbor Blvd Unit B, Destin

Enjoy the whimsical pirate cruise while you're in Destin. You'll be taken on a cruise to search for undiscovered treasures aboard the Buccaneer Pirate Ship. While onboard there will be activities for people of all ages with pirate-themed activities. Participate in pirate training, water gun battles, sword fighting, authentic cannon fire, a treasure hunt, singing, dancing, and much more.

Uncle Buck's FishBowl and Grill

10. Eat at Uncle Buck's FishBowl and Grill

4251 Legendary Dr, Destin

Uncle Buck's FishBowl is a great place to have dinner or get a snack, but it's also a bowling alley. This is a great place to work on your game or to just have a great time with family and friends. The environment is novel with sharks that hang from the ceiling over the tables. You're also welcome to take your food to the bowling lane as long as you keep it off of the main activity areas. Even the bowling balls have cute little sea creatures imprinted on them.


9. Go Parasailing

Destin offers a few different outfits that will set you up for the parasailing adventure of your life. Even if this is something that you've never done before, qualified and competent staff will prepare you for some of the most beautiful views of the ocean and the beach that can be had.


8. Take a Kayaking excursion

10 Harbor Blvd #66b, Destin

Destin is home to several businesses that specialize in Kayak rentals. There are one and 2 seat versions available so you can paddle yourself around Crab Island and explore the bay and harbor on your own terms. You'll get a workout but kayaking is great physical exercise and you'll see a lot of beautiful sights while you're exploring some places that are not readily accessible by foot.

History Museum

7. Visit the Destin History and Fishing Museum

108 Stahlman Ave, Destin

The city of Destin and the surrounding community has a rich history that is interesting to learn about. The Destin History and Fishing museum is filled with exhibits that tell about the history of the fishing industry that helped to build the town. Learn about how a small fishing town that was labeled the luckiest fishing village transformed into one of the most famed vacation destinations in the state of Florida. It's fascinating how the city of Destin has evolved since the early days of its incorporation.

Grayson State Park

6. Take a trip to Grayton Beach State Park

357 Main Park Rd, Santa Rosa Beach,

When you're in Destin, you're not far from the Grayton Beach State Park. This is another popular tourist attraction for those who are visiting the city of Destin. Grayton Beach State Park is one of the most amazing public recreation areas in the state. It's situated between Destin and Panama City Beach. The area chosen is an unincorporated stretch of ground that is the sister park to the famed Deer Lake State Park. There are long stretches of sandy beaches and there are also numerous hiking trails where you explore to your heart's desire.


5. Eat at Dewey Destin's Seafood & Restaurant

9 Calhoun Ave, Destin

If you're a seafood lover or just a history buff, you absolutely must eat a meal at Dewey Destin's Seafood and Restaurant. This restaurant is in the founding father's family to this day. Leonard Destin traveled from New London Connecticut in 1885. They encountered a hurricane as they reached Cape Canaveral and of the three ships they came with, two of them were lost in the storm. Leonard's father and brother were also lost at sea. When the remaining Destin made it to land, he established a new settlement on the beautiful shores of the town that would get the nickname the luckiest fishing village. This restaurant is owned by the Destin family.

Harborwalk Village

4. Spend the day at HarborWalk Village

10 Harbor Blvd, Destin

No visit to Destin is complete without visiting HarborWalk Village. This is a harborside condominium resort that is a little over three miles from Big Kahuna's Waterpark. If you need a place to stay, the resort offers condominiums with one to four beds with views of the water and balconies. The kitchenettes come with microwaves, dishwashers, and fridges with daily housekeeping provided. There is also free Wi-Fi for guests and washers and dryers. You don't have to stay in the condo's to go to the village but all guests are charged a resort fee. There are tons of shops, restaurants and lots of fun activities to immerse yourself in. There is also a spa available for a surcharge as well as on-site dining at the resort with a bar and grill, a coffee shop, an indoor swimming pool, an outdoor pool, a fitness center, two hot tubs, and available beach chairs and umbrellas.

Village of Baytowne Wharf

3. Visit the Village of Baytowne Wharf

9300 Baytowne Wharf Blvd, Miramar Beach

Miramar Beach is not far from Destin and it is the home of the Village of Baytowne Wharf. Here you will find an assortment of galleries for a day of musing with plenty of places to eat and wonderful boutiques for shopping. The Village is situated on the shores of the Choctawhatchee Bay which is located in the northwest portion of Florida. The nightlife activities in the Village of Baytowne Wharf are nothing short of spectacular. There is a constant offering of special events and outdoor festivals available throughout the year. You'll also find the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort if you're interested in checking out the accommodations or just using the amenities.

Destin Commons

2. See the Destin Commons

4100 Legendary Dr, Destin

The Destin Commons is another of the more popular attractions in the city. You'll marvel at the amazing landscaping, but even better than that, there is so much to do that you'll probably need to book the entire day for your shopping adventure. You'll find a multiplex that is filled with a variety of art murals as well as fountains for a coin toss. There is also an IMAX theater where you can enjoy AMC features movies with Dolby Cinema, but you'll need to purchase tickets in advance because they sell out fast. There is also an open-air shopping center that is the home of a huge selection of famous brand name retailers and there are also a lot of great casual dining places to catch a quick bite or enjoy a sit-down meal.

Seafood Restaurant

1. Have a meal at the Beach Restaurant The Surf Hut

551 Scenic Gulf Dr, Destin

The Surf Hut is a laid back restaurant that offers a variety of food choices including classic seafood main dishes, barbecue ribs, and more. The frozen drinks are refreshing and the atmosphere is relaxing and laid back. The restaurant also offers great views of the ocean while you enjoy your meal. The restaurant offers an outdoor area for guests to enjoy their meals and pets are welcome in this part of the establishment. Did we forget to mention that they make some of the best burgers in town as well? There are menu choices for everyone at the Surf Hut so check it out and enjoy the views of the Gulf of Mexico.

Liz Flynn

Written by Liz Flynn

Liz Flynn has worked as a full-time writer since 2010 after leaving a career in education. She finds almost all topics she writes about interesting, but her favorite subjects are travel and food. Liz loves the process of researching information, learning new things, and putting into words what others who share her interests might like to read. Although she spends most of her time writing, she also enjoys spending time with her husband and four children, watching films, cooking, dining out, reading, motorsports, gaming, and walking along the beach next to her house with her dog.

Read more posts by Liz Flynn

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