Best Attractions and Activities for Vacations and Travel In Destin, Florida

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Attractions Are Expanding

Destin, Florida and much of the Florida Panhandle and nearby Emerald Coast experienced a business decline in 2010 after the BP Oil rig disaster that spilled millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. However, in later 2011, many hotels and resorts bounced back and reported increased visitors. One, Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort just east of Destin is expanding, with a Ferris wheel, video game arcade, and a larger marina in 2012 (Reference, the Wall Street Journal, March 21, 2012). This report is enormous and includes a village inside: the Village of Baytowne Wharf, Sandestin.

The village within the report is a mixed use property that contains condominiums and other vacation rentals set conveniently close to boutiques and other shops in a color coordinated community. It also sits near the Choctawhatchee Bay, where many water activities can keep adults and children entertained. The village supports many forms of food service that include catering, fine and casual dining, and coffee boutiques. For adults, several taverns present the opportunity for an interesting nightlife. It even sports its own lagoon. However, this golf and beach resort is just one of many places to enjoy around Destin, Florida.

Many people have heard about or visited Sea World in Orlando, but the Gulfarium, right outside Destin and on the Gulf Islands National Seashore is the oldest sea life education and entertainment center in America. Dolphins and sea lions perform in three shows every say, but also meet visitors in an interaction section. Kids love it, but so do adults! A group of penguins is interesting to watch and visitors can feel wild birds in another sector. Exhibits of salt water fish and sharks complete the venue that is one of the most popular with visitors and locals.

HarborWalk Village in Destin on the waterfront is another village offering entertainment, shopping, and special events. You can find small shops; boat, pontoon and jet ski rentals; fishing, water adventures, festivals, dolphin cruises, nightlife, fireworks, and concerts in an amphitheater on the waterfront.

Water Temperatures

Weather stations and reality companies report that from November through February, Destin area waters at the Gulf of Mexico average in the high 50s to 60s Fahrenheit. March through May often see the 70s and June through September reach the mid- to high-80s. Some sources show an average of 90 degrees in August. Overall the temperature is pleasant. Air temperatures highs range generally from 70 to 90 degrees, winter having the lowest.

Transportation

The Fort Walton Beach Airport is located on the main thoroughfare, Highway 98. Highway 98 through Destin and the Emerald Coast is usually busy, but three taxi cab companies and a limousine firm provide effective means of travel. There are also bicycle shops for bike rentals and several destinations make for an easy walk.

Blue Heron in Destin, Florida
Blue Heron in Destin, Florida | Source

Popular Destinations

show route and directions
A markerChoctawhatchee Bay -
Choctawhatchee Bay, Florida, USA
[get directions]

B markerBaytowne Wharf Village FL -
Baytowne Wharf At Sandestin, 9300 US Highway 98 W, Destin, FL 32550-7268, USA
[get directions]

C markerGulfarium -
1010 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE, Gulf Islands National Seashore, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548, USA
[get directions]

D markerHarborwalk Marina -
66 Harbor Blvd, Destin, FL 32541, USA
[get directions]

E markerSilver Sands Designer Outlet Stores - Over 110 Stores -
10562 Emerald Coast Pkwy, Destin, FL 32541, USA
[get directions]

2012 was he 20th Anniversary year for this center.

Pensacola Beach

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White Sands

The white sands are made up of quartz crystals that were carried by waterway from the Appalachian Mountains to the Gulf of Mexico, 125 miles east Destin. The sea level rose and the quartz sands made a new shoreline. White sands replenish daily all the way to Pensacola Pass (ref.: OSU Geology Dept.). The beaches are popular places for outdoor weddings.

Beach Wedding

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Emerald Waters and White Beaches

My favorite part of Florida is the Emerald Coast with its particular emerald-colored Gulf waters and comfortable climate across the four counties of Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, and Bay. A full 100 miles of coastline extends in this region from Gulf Breeze just east of Pensacola Bay to Panama City just east of St. Andrews Bay.

The waters around Pensacola and across the Emerald Coast depicted in two ways in the film Contact, starring Jodi Foster. We see a crayon drawing drawn by her character as a child, but we later see a part of space-time to which she has traveled depicted in the colors of the Gulf of Mexico for the adult character to use as a point of reference in a strange place. Interestingly, this part of Florida has experienced its share of captivating UFO sightings.

Deep-sea and other types of fishing bring many of the 4.5 million yearly visitors (ref. Chamber of Commerce) to Destin and several fishing tournaments are popular over the 100 miles of the Emerald Coast.

Accommodations run from vacation rental homes and condominiums to luxury reports to less expensive hotels like Sleep Inn and Comfort Inn. RV and Tent Camping are available at Henderson Beach State Park near the white sand beaches at 17000 Emerald Coast Parkway Destin, Florida 32541. Over a mile of beaches and boardwalks are ADA wheelchair accessible, with 60 campsites within a nature preserve of many native plants and wildlife species. Dozens of outdoor activities are provided to day visitors and campers.

The Emerald Coast

show route and directions
A markerDestin FL -
Destin, FL, USA
[get directions]

B markerGulf Breeze -
Gulf Breeze, FL, USA
[get directions]

Western end of the Emerald Coast.

C markerPanama City Fl -
Panama City, FL, USA
[get directions]

Eastern end of the Emerald Coast.

D markerHenderson Beach State Park -
17000 Emerald Coast Pkwy, Destin, FL 32541, USA
[get directions]

HISTORICAL ATTRACTIONS

US Navy Blue Angels

A-4F Skyhawk Blue Angels flight demo team execute a "Fleur-de-Lis."
A-4F Skyhawk Blue Angels flight demo team execute a "Fleur-de-Lis."

Golden Knights Paracute Demo Team

A jump at one of the Annual Elgin AFB Air Shows. The Gold Knights have a Gold and a Black Division and the US Army also has a parachute group called the Black Daggers.
A jump at one of the Annual Elgin AFB Air Shows. The Gold Knights have a Gold and a Black Division and the US Army also has a parachute group called the Black Daggers. | Source

Elgin Air Force Base

Elgin AFB is to the north of Destin, and not only Elgin AFB, but 6 other US military bases are located in this 100-mile stretch of Florida coastline.They include:

  • US Naval Air Station Pensacola, where the Blue Angels demo team work and all naval aviators begin training;
  • Hurlburt Field;
  • Tyndall Air Force Base and its F-22 Raptors;
  • Coastal Systems Station-Naval Surface Warfare Center and its US Navy Experimental Diving Unit and training centers; and
  • Corry Station Naval Technical Training Center.

No wonder people might see UFOs here!

Elgin AFB is one of the largest military bases in America, with a massive land area that is Elgin Reservation, on which there are many species of endangered plants and animals live. Preserving them is daily work for staff of Elgin AFB. In addition, the base also maintains a no-kill animal shelter. The base adopted a stray cat recently and called him Bumblebean.

This military base offers an array of outdoor activities. Its outdoor program is one of the largest worldwide. There is wildlife viewing, children's water safety, diving classes, deep sea fishing, camping facilities, boat slips and more. Reservations: Call FAMCAMP at (850) 883-1243.

Hunting and fishing are also offered. Contact the Natural Resources Division (Jackson Guard) of the Environmental Management Directorate Division at the website below.

An annual Air Show at Elgin AFB provides entertainment and historical presentations, along with family activities. Nearby, military history museums add the back story of the bases on the Emerald Coast and their involvement in settling and defending Florida and the nation.

Location of Historic Military Installations

show route and directions
A markerElgin Air Force Base -
Eglin AFB, Eglin Blvd, Eglin AFB, FL 32542, USA
[get directions]

B markerHurlburt Field -
Hurlburt Field, Eglin, FL 32544, USA
[get directions]

C markerTyndall Air Force Base -
Tyndall AFB, FL, USA
[get directions]

D markerElgin Air Force Base -
Eglin AFB, Eglin Blvd, Eglin AFB, FL 32542, USA
[get directions]

E markerCoastal Systems Station -
Coastal Systems Station Heliport (NBV), Panama City Beaches, FL 32407, USA
[get directions]

F markerCorry Station -
Naval Hospital of Pensacola, 6000 U.S. 98, Pensacola, FL 32506, USA
[get directions]

Employment Market

The largest numbers of jobs available in the Destin area are in IT (Information Technology) and are well paid.

The second highest demand job cluster is among Heathcare Professionals and the third is among Engineers, both clusters also well-paid.

Higher Education

  • Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University - World's Leader in Aviation and Aerospace Education -- Embry-Riddle is rated number one in Aviation and Aerospace Colleges in America. It provides training for a variety of high demand air and space related degrees. This is particularly noteworthy int he advance of privatized space travel and he first private spaceship flight to the International Space Station in early 2013.
  • NWF State College -- Northwest Florida State College is a public State College accredited for the Bachelor and Associate Degrees.
  • Pensacola State College -- A public State College, one of eleven colleges and universities in the city of Pensacola.
  • Troy University -- Located nearby in Troy, Alabama. Accredited to award he Associate, Bachelor, Master’s, Education Specialist, and Doctoral Degrees
  • UF - REEF - Research and Education Engineering Center -- Master's and Doctoral Degree programs in Mechanical Engineering, Aerospace Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Industrial and Systems Engineering. University of Florida at Shalimar FL.
  • University of West Florida -- University of West Florida (UWF) is one of eleven universities located in America's oldest settlement, Pensacola, Florida. Just a few miles from Destin.

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Comments 6 comments

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York

Those sparkling turquoise waters make me want to dash down to the panhandle of Florida! Destin is definitely on our "to do" list with our boys - the drive is long from western NY, but worth it for the sun and white sand!


SquidooLens profile image

SquidooLens 4 years ago

I love the white sands.. Thinking for a summer escapade to this place.


HawaiiHeart profile image

HawaiiHeart 4 years ago from Hawaii

Very informative post. I love to travel but have yet to make it to Florida. Great list of attractions!


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

The Panhandle is one of my most favorite places in the world, the temperature being pleasant most of the year. I think it would be a good place to retire. Thanks for all your comments!


mperrottet profile image

mperrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

I've camped at Henderson Beach State Park a few years ago, and am anxious to go back. The panhandle is one of my favorite places. Nice hub!


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 4 years ago

I would be more apt to book a ticket and fly to Florida, if New Jersey didn't feel exactly like Florida!

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