Disconnect in Destin
Summer has arrived—time to pack a bag and head for some down-time at the beach! We’re fortunate to be just a few hours’ drive from one of the most stunning beach communities in the world: Destin, Florida. Known for its brilliant white sand and blue-green water, Destin is the crown jewel of the beautiful beach towns that comprise the Emerald Coast. It is located on a peninsula separating the Gulf of Mexico from Choctawhatchee Bay. While the focus of any trip to Destin is the pristine beaches, you’ll discover a wide range of activities on and off the water for the whole family.
Known as the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village,” Destin is a top destination for fishing and other aquatic sports. Stop at the harbor and you will find an array of businesses that offer parasailing, scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing and all types of boating experiences, like dolphin tours on waverunners and glass-bottom boat cruises. For those into extreme water sport experiences, you’ll enjoy opportunities for kite boarding, windsurfing, kayaking, surfing and wakeboarding.
Off the water, you’ll keep boredom at bay with activities for the whole family. Kids and adults love to twist and turn through the water slides at Big Kahuna’s Water Park, featuring more than 40 water attractions. Another favorite spot is The Track Family Recreation Center, where you can race go-karts, play miniature golf or smash into each other in bumper cars.
Make plans to check out the Air Force Armament Museum, located at Eglin Air Force Base just north of Fort Walton Beach. You’ll tour vintage aircraft dating back to World War I, interactive displays for kids and weaponry exhibits. Best of all—entrance to the museum is free!
For many, the lure of the greens doesn’t mean the water, but rather the lush golf courses on the Emerald Coast. Destin offers an experience for every golfer’s skill level amid the unique beauty of the ocean, white dunes, wetlands and woodlands. Indian Bayou Golf Club, Destin’s oldest golf course, has 27 holes for all skill levels. Named “Best on the Emerald Coast,” Regatta Bay Golf and Country Club is an 18-hole championship course that has been rated by Golf Digest as one of the “Top 200 Courses in North America” and “Top 15 Florida Places to Play.” The newest course, Blackstone Golf Course, is family-friendly, with reasonable rates; they offer complimentary lunch at local restaurants after you play.
Shopping and Entertainment
Destin is known for an eclectic mix of shopping experiences, from funky souvenir places to fine antiques, to the nation’s largest designer outlet center. It is the rare person who leaves Destin without at least one visit to Silver Sands Factory Stores, lured by more than 100 designer shops that include Calvin Klein, Ann Taylor, Aeropostale, Michael Kors, Coach and Nautica.
Smiths Antiques & Interiors Market has been acclaimed as one of the “Best on the Emerald Coast” for 12 consecutive years in a reader’s choice poll in Emerald Coast Magazine. It is one of the largest antiques mall in the country, known for the quality of its antiques and gifts and unique selections for the home decorator.
If you want to take in the total Destin experience, stroll through HarborWalk Village, where you’ll enjoy wonderful shops and boutiques, restaurants and entertainment. During the summer, HarborWalk offers live music at Rock the Docks each Saturday night.
In Destin, you will find the perfect accommodations to fit every preference. If you are yearning for a romantic getaway right on the beach, you need look no further than Henderson Park Inn. This charming adults-only bed and breakfast was inspired by a New England Inn and features 36 uniquely-furnished suites. Most rooms include private terraces overlooking the spectacular white sand and Gulf waters. The beach location is tranquil and uncrowded, bordering the Henderson State Park’s 1.3 miles of unobstructed beachfront.
Henderson Park Inn has received numerous awards for its ambience and exceptional service including designation as “Destin’s Best Inn” from Southern Living Magazine and voted the “Most Romantic Inn” in all North America by a readers poll from About.com. Suite rates vary by season and suite selection. Amenities include a complimentary sumptuous breakfast buffet (the biscuits and gravy are to die for!) and a box lunch packaged for the beach. In the afternoon, you’ll enjoy lemonade and cookies and a complimentary happy hour at sunset on the veranda overlooking the ocean. The Beach Walk at Henderson Park Inn is the only fine dining restaurant in Destin located right on the Gulf, and its stunning view is complemented by the excellent cuisine. For more information, visit hendersonparkinn.com.
Locals recommend the rustic ambience of Dewey Destin Seafood, which overlooks Crab Island. You’ll savor some of the best fried and steamed seafood on the Gulf while sitting on the dock and watching boaters gather at nearby Crab Island to socialize in the shallow waters. A second location offers nightly specials overlooking the harbor. Harry T’s at HarborWalk Village has one of the best views of the harbor and is a favorite place to eat good seafood while watching the sunset. The Donut Hole has two locations for great breakfasts.
Cruise along the 20 miles of scenic highway 30A east of Destin and while away the hours at the charming beach towns along the way, including Grayton Beach, Watercolor, Seagrove and Seaside. A must-stop is Grayton Beach State Park, where you can view three coastal dune lakes, one of the rarest features in the world. The one-mile nature trail winds through amazing scenery of sand dunes, pines and oaks to one of the dune lakes.
For more information about Destin and the Emerald Coast, go to www.emeraldcoast.com.