Just this week, I’ve had two different friends ask about recommendations for the Destin, Florida area. We’ve been vacationing there for 15 years, so have grown to know the place pretty well, this year alone we were there 3 times. Plus we have good friends who live there and some that are native, so we get all the inside scoop!
Destin itself is 11 miles from east to west. The City of Destin lies between the Gulf of Mexico on the south and the Choctawhatchee Bay on the north, which is a pretty narrow strip of land, which is probably why it is spread out so wide. But also included in this ‘area’ is Ft. Walton Beach, attached to Destin by a couple of bridges and a strip of land, San Destin Resort area, and a beautiful stretch of a two-lane scenic highway called 30a.
Each area has it’s own loveliness and special qualities so starting to the west and moving east, the areas are as follows:
Fort Walton Beach
Fort Walton beach is home to Eglin Air Force Base.
It has an adorable little “old Florida” downtown complete with the original “Goofy Golf” and these yummy little coffee and food trucks on the corner of hwy 98 and hwy 85. To stay beachside in Fort Walton Beach, my recommendation is to stay on Okaloosa Island, which is actually between Destin and Ft Walton Beach. There are several beach front hotels and restaurants in this area: The Island, several Marriott brands, along with other chain hotels. This area is also close to the Pier and the Gulfarium https://www.gulfarium.com/ and if you stay at the Island https://www.theislandfl.com/, the pier and all of the restaurants surrounding the pier area are within walking distance, including the super yummy, right on the beach Rockin’ Tacos https://www.rockintacos.com/. I’ve never stayed in this hotel, but after reading through hundreds of reviews, I think the key is to get a renovated room. The words I keep seeing are “good location” and “dated”. The other hotels beach side in the area are (named in location order not preference order) are: 4 points Sheraton, Holiday Inn Resort, Hilton Garden, Hampton Inn, Best Western, Courtyard and Fairfield Inn & Suites.
If I had my druthers, I would stay at the Emerald Grande at Harborwalk Village. It’s a little out of my price range, but if you can afford it you are right there in all of the action! Shopping, tour boats, the harbor, boat/jet ski/ paddle board rentals, the jetty, my very, very favorite beach in Destin (accessed by water taxi from here), my favorite restaurant in Destin http://www.destinseafood.com/, and many, many other restaurants (including Margaritaville, McGuires & Whataburger)… Their webpage description says ” Emerald Grande at HarborWalk Village is Destin’s shining jewel overlooking some of the most marvelous turquoise water and sugar sand beaches in creation.” I would have to agree with that. Now granted it is at the WAY other end of Destin from the Silver Sands Outlet Mall, but it has many of it’s own little boutiques. https://www.emeraldgrande.com/
Just a little east of the harbor, turn right at the Target, is a little penninsula called “Holiday Isle”. This “must go over a speed bump to get in” little community has several condos beachside, along with some spectacular vacation homes. Most are available to rent. There is also a gated community “Destin Pointe” at the far end of the island with rental homes and condos and walking access to my very favorite beach in Destin. Holiday Isle is filled with families that walk to and from the beach accesses on the Isle if they aren’t occupying a beach front home or condo. There are also marina slips available at some of the homes, as well as a couple of restaurants close by for walking. La Paz https://www.lapazdestin.com/, Bric & Brac http://www.bricabracdestin.com/ & Mello Mushroom, are a couple of them. I love the lack of traffic and the quiet area of Holiday Isle. We’ve stayed here several times over the years. Either VRBO or Holiday Isle dot net are where we have rented from. https://www.holidayisle.net/
Miramar Beach and all of the public access and private accesses all the way from Henderson State Park to the Silver Sands Outlet is a family friendly fun place to park it for a week. Any of the houses or condos are in good locations and close to everything. The nice thing about the area close to the east end of Miramar Beach is you can walk to the beach, the restaurant, church, coffee, ice cream, etc. And you can let your teen age kids walk, without worry. There are a couple of hotels right on the beach. Embassy Suites https://embassysuites3.hilton.com/en/hotels/florida/embassy-suites-by-hilton-destin-miramar-beach-DSIESES/index.html?SEO_id=GMB-ES-DSIESES is the one I usually recommend. Although technically this one is across the street. it’s worth the walk. This is a stones throw from the Silver Sands Premium Outlets, https://www.premiumoutlets.com/outlet/silver-sands a big bonus there! It’s also close to the quaint little cottages that we stayed in when we first started going to Destin the Sea Cabins. https://www.oceanreefresorts.com/destin-rentals/sea-cabins Such fond memories of those. Affordable, pool, laundry, grills and just old Florida quaint. The Beachside Inn and Henderson Beach Resort are two more hotels, if you prefer that rather than a condo or home. They are more on the west side of ‘old 98’, but none are that far apart. Maybe 5-10 minutes drive. Fun restaurants in this area: Pompano Joes, Cpt Daves, and The Surf Hut (owned by the friend of a friend… and I highly recommend the Spicy Pickles and the Taco Trio!!). Don’t forget to get your specialty coffee at the Bad Ass Coffee Company and your souvenirs at Alvin’s Island.
Tomorrow, I’ll move west from Destin and talk about San Destin and the 30a area.