The Ultimate Things to Do Guide to Visiting Destin, Florida - Gibson Beach Rentals

As a vacation rental company, we talk to guests all day long visiting the beautiful beaches in the town of Destin & Miramar Beach. So, we decided to put a post together to give you the locals insider knowledge into visiting the world’s luckiest fishing village with our Ultimate things to do guide to visiting Destin, FL.

Destin Fireworks

The Destin Fireworks are always on Thursdays. If you are looking for something family-friendly to do, this event in Destin is perfect for you! If you are coming from the Navarre – Ft. Walton Beach area, head into town early because you WILL be stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. You will not only be stuck in the local workweek traffic but the vacationers that want to be in Destin for the fireworks as well. Same goes for the tourists heading in from 30a- Miramar Beach. Prepare to be in Destin early to catch the show. The Emerald Grande puts on the fireworks show so being anywhere on the harbor would be a good place to watch. Boshamps, Marina Café, The Boathouse, etc would all be a great place to watch the fireworks. Again, you are going to want to get there early because of traffic and everyone wanting to get their seat for the show.

Take The Water Taxi

Everyone complains about Destin traffic, but visitors rarely know about the Destin Water Taxi. One of the ways I love to get around Destin is on the water taxi. $5 one way – it’s the perfect way to grab a cold beverage of choice and take in all of the breathtaking views of Destin. Check out their website to see where their pick up locations are located. It is a nice ride, and you can call them when you want to be picked up. If that’s not fast enough, you could always uber- either way, your car is in a safe place and the traffic is over with! Even if you don’t want to go anywhere specifically, the water taxi also does harbor cruises. Just contact them ahead of time!

Beach Bonfires

Smores are a perfect thing to knock of the to do list when visiting destin fl

Yes, you heard that right! While beach bonfires in Destin/ Okaloosa County are not allowed. From Miramar Beach to 30A/ Walton County beach bonfires ARE allowed with a permit. You may cringe to think about getting a permit, but they are actually pretty easy. If you don’t want to lug all of your stuff back to the beach in the evening to get set up for your beach bonfire, companies like La Dolce Vita also have a bonfire service where they provide the permits, chairs, fire, tiki torches, table, and your own attendant. It is 2 hours of pure bliss on the beach with your smores. An experience you will definitely want to plan for as you need to make these reservations 48 hours in advance.

Brunch!

Champagne Brunch on the Emerald Coast

You can’t visit Destin and not do brunch. Knock brunch off your things to do list by visiting these brunch spots in Destin that are near and dear to my heart: McGuire’s, Harry T’s, and 790 on the Gulf.

Mcguires

An oldie but goodie, you just cannot beat the brunch at Mcguires. While you don’t get the amazing gulf views that other places have to offer, you get great drink specials and amazing food. Mcguires is one of the best ‘bang for your buck’ places for brunch, lunch, and dinner.

Harry T’s

Harry T’s Lighthouse really does have breathtaking views of the Destin Harbor and the bottomless mimosas, with the purchase of an entree until 2 pm.

790 on the Gulf 

790 on the Gulf has amazing food and the best brunch spot in town. Bottomless Mimosas with amazing beach views, it doesn’t get much better than that, unless you try their crab cakes!

Things to do: Breakfast In Destin, FL

 

Where to eat breakfast in Destin? When you don’t want to cook and you want to bring the family out to eat there are 3 places that come to mind: here is a hint (it’s not the donut hole)  Crackings, the Pancakery, and Capriccio Café. Each unique in their own way and they are probably about 5-minute walking distance from each other.

Crackings

Crackings (formerly known as another broken egg) still lives up to the expectations of serving the best breakfast on the emerald coast. Locally owned by Destin natives this is one of our favorite places to have breakfast with a friend, and even the kids. From the Crawfish eggs toufee’ to the lobster gouda grits this is they have it all!  

The Pancakery

The Pancakery  These owners are transplants from the New Orleans area, but they have been in Destin long enough to become a local favorite. You would think it would be every 8-year old’s dream because they serve whipped cream on top of their chocolate milk, but their smiley face pancakes aren’t bad either. I personally like the Red, White, & Blue Pancake.

Capriccio Cafe

Capriccio Café does not only have Destin’s best cup of coffee, but their crepes are top-notch as well. You actually can’t go wrong with anything on their menu. If you want to indulge in sweets, they have that – If you want something healthy, they have that too.

Things to do: Lunch In Destin, FL

There is so many great places to have lunch in Destin, it’s tough to pick just 3. Here are our favorite 3 lunch spots in Destin: the Boathouse, Pepitos, and The Back Porch.

The Boathouse

The Boathouse is Destin’s hidden gym. Located behind the red door most people don’t know that it is there. It has great food (I am a big fan of the grilled cheese, the gumbo, and the boiled peanuts) but they have a fish of the day sandwich, and of course, their oyster selection that is also to die for.

Pepitos

Pepito’s – while it is not your Destin seafood restaurant, it is a great place to have a good bite to eat authentic Mexican style. Their queso is amazing, and their margaritas are even better. We haven’t had anything bad on the menu yet!

The Back Porch

The Back Porch – When you want to experience authentic Destin Food: the Back porch restaurant is the place for you. It is located on the beach, with a menu that is sure to please every member of your party. From their Back Porch Mahi to their Crab Stuffed Shrimp each item on the menu is more delicious than the last. This restaurant is an Emerald Coast staple and should definitely be included on your itinerary.

Sushi in Destin

You can’t come to the world’s luckiest fishing village and not eat fresh sushi! It’s top notch here in Destin, and you won’t want to miss out on an amazing dinner opportunity.

Harbor Docks

Hands down our absolute favorite Sushi restaurant. Harbor Docks serves sushi for lunch Thursday-Sunday but have sushi on the menu every night starting after 5. I highly recommend sitting at the Sushi Bar, because while Harbor Docks is one of my favorite restaurants, the restaurant tends to get slammed with sushi orders making you have to wait forever when you sit at an actual table. It’s a great place to sit and watch the fireworks (on the patio) but you won’t be disappointed by anything on the menu. My favorite is the back-down roll and the TNT.

Camille’s

In the same group with Harbor Docks, you may even see some of the same Sushi guys behind the bar. Instead of being located on the harbor, Camille’s is located in Crystal Beach. I recommend this place for more of a date night. While kids are most definitely allowed in the restaurant, it is more of an intimate location and a walk on the beach after dinner makes for an unforgettable evening. (Backdown roll and TNT are also served here as well)

Mcguires Sushi

There isn’t much that Mcguires doesn’t have their name on, but their sushi definitely doesn’t disappoint. They have the best deals going on (check out their happy hour menu) and if you have a non-sushi lover in the group, they can order from the full Mcguires menu – keeping everyone happy! The Destin Roll, Ultimate Spicy Tuna Roll, and the Rainbow Roll are all favorites here.

Things to do: Dinner in Destin

When you think about Destin, the world’s luckiest fishing village – you mainly think about seafood. Fresh, Gulf of Mexico Seafood. All of our dinner selections have just that! My 3 favorite dinner restaurants are Dewey Destins, Harbor Docks, and Brotulas.

Dewey Destins

The name of this restaurant says it all. Dewey Destins is Destin Fl local through and through and is the place for Destin Seafood. Tourists are learning to put this local favorite on their itinerary more and more. What most of the vacationers coming to the Emerald Coast do not know is that they actually have 3 locations, 2 of them located in Destin and no more than 10 minutes apart. The 3rd is on the Navarre Sound. The food is great at all locations, and you will have some of the freshest and best seafood you have ever eaten.

Harbor Docks

Harbor Docks isn’t just known for their good Sushi. They really do have such an incredible menu, from steaks to the freshest gulf seafood I am always a fan of their food (did I mention they have great sushi?!) Enjoy a nice night with a cold cocktail on the patio overlooking the Destin Harbor to experience what the best of Destin has to offer.

Brotula’s

If you haven’t been to Destin in a while – Brotula’s restaurant took the place of the Fisherman’s Wharf. Located on the Destin Harbor, they have some of the best food, EVER. For starters take the Sauteed Mussels, and Mamas Garlic Bread – the ultimate combination. Topped off with your favorite Seafood steamed or grilled by the bucket, if you don’t eat here at least once you are seriously missing out!  

Things to do with your kids on the Emerald Coast

The Track – Destin

One of our favorite Destin hot spots, is of course, The track! they not only have the best Arcade in town, but the rides that they have attract the entire family. Gokarts, bumper boats, bumper cars, and even some thrill rides are sure to leave the whole family smiling.

Thrills Arcade & Laser Tag – Miramar Beach

Thrills Arcade is located in Miramar Beach in front of the Seascape resort, it is a nice place to go to because not only does it have an arcade, but it has Laser Tag as well. The arcade is pretty big and newer to the Destin/Miramar Beach area. Something to surely have the whole family laughing as they battle each other in a laser tag battle.

Goofy Golf – Ft. Walton Beach

Located in Ft. Walton Beach, Goofy Golf has been around since 1958 and is my favorite putt-putt course on the emerald coast. With 2 separate courses at the same location this fun, yet challenging course Is the perfect way to add a little friendly competition to your family vacation.

Big Kahunas – Destin

You can’t go around Destin without noticing the Emerald Coast’s Largest Waterpark. Big Kahunas is fun and cost-effective. Little ones under the age of 2 get in free. There is an addition called buccaneers cove, which is perfect for kids the age of 3-7. There is a lot of shade, and seating in the park. 2 lazy rivers and plenty of slides can keep the fun going for hours on end! They do have lockers for rent if you don’t want to lug all of your stuff around the park with you all day.

The Buccaneer Pirate Ship

The Buccaneer Pirate Ship is a perfect ride for kids of all ages. They do a wonderful job of putting on a show. Your kids (and you) get to sail the Gulf looking for Blackbeard’s treasure. While searching the kids get to undergo lots of activities such as face painting, water gun, and sword fights. Once they find Blackbeard’s treasure which actually is in the middle of the gulf, the whole gang gets to pull it out of the water and take home one piece of the treasure as a souvenir. Don’t forget to check out the gift shop on board to get the rest of your pirate ensemble. I recommend booking these ahead of time as it is really popular with the littles!

The Southern Star Dolphin Cruise

The Southern Star is one of Destin’s best Dolphin Cruises. Hop on board and they give you a little history lesson while you tour the Destin Harbor. You then either head out to the east pass (if it’s not too rough) or the Choctawhatchee Bay to get up-close encounters with dolphins and other marine life. Usually, the place you are staying with has some sort of promotion going on with them, making it even more affordable. Definitely book your cruise ahead of time, they do their cruises at specific times so you don’t want to be stuck at the harbor forever!

Things To Do: Destin Night Life

The Boathouse

It’s not just a great lunch spot, The boathouse is also one of the best places to listen to live music. Don’t let the dollar bills and questionable undergarments hanging from the roof let you think this isn’t the place to be. In this chill environment on the Destin Harbor, with the live music and good drink prices, you are sure to have a good time. Since it is also a restaurant, it is even kid-friendly. Don’t keep them out too late. 😉

Tailfins

Tailfins is another great location for the night out on the Destin Harbor. They have live music, acoustic usually outside on the harbor, and a band usually plays on the roof bar, which is the third floor. You can check out who is playing by going here!

AJ’s Destin

Aj’s is a Destin, FL staple. They are a big crowd-pleaser because they usually have live music going on outside, the upstairs bar with a DJ (or live music), and its great for gamedays too because of the jumbotron. Usually, everyone starts out at the smaller bars and then all join together at the end of the night at Ajs. The party goes on all night long at Aj’s on the harbor with this bar closing at 4 a.m.

The Village Door

The Village Door is a great place for nightlife in its new location in front of the Seascape resort located in Miramar Beach. Friends and family of all ages can join in for dinner, enjoy You can check out their event schedule here.

Nearest Airports

VPS the Destin/FWB Airport is the closest airport – it’s a smaller airport and located just around the Shalimar, Valparaiso area. 25 minutes away from Destin.

PNS Pensacola Regional Airport is about an hour away from Destin and since it is larger than VPS you can usually get some pretty good deals coming from larger cities.

Panama City Beach Airport is also about an hour away from Destin and another destination that may receive cheaper fares.