Where in Florida can you enjoy the best Panhandle beaches
, fine dining and world class offshore fishing? Destin, Florida - a popular vacation spot with beautiful hotels and resorts that the whole family will enjoy.
Things to do in Destin
Fishing and boating, as well as other water sports are popular activities with the Destin Pass offering easy access to the Gulf of Mexico. You can also rent a personal watercraft or take a bird's eye view of the area with a parasailing charter.
Family amusement parks are plentiful in Destin and nearby Fort Walton Beach
with go-carts, miniature golf, thrill rides, and even bungee jumping.
The crystal clear waters of Destin offer superb conditions for diving and snorkeling with charters available. If conditions are permissible, you can snorkel around the bridge and jetty at Destin Pass. Birding is also a popular activity in the Panhandle, with opportunities to view wildlife
at Destin Pass and along Choctawhatchee Bay.
Fishing in Destin
Destin has been a long favorite of fishermen for years. Offshore fishing
is excellent with close access to deep water in the Gulf of Mexico. It's also the best place in Florida
to catch a big blue marlin. Dolphin (mahi-mahi), wahoo and sailfish are also caught here during late spring and summer. If you'd like to charter a boat to do some fishing in the Gulf, you'll appreciate the fact that the 100 Fathom Curve is closer to Destin than any other spot in Florida, making it the fastest way to get to the deep waters in the Gulf.
Cobia and kingfish are caught more inshore, as are bottom fish, such as grouper and snapper. The spring cobia run can be red hot with big fish over 40 lbs caught from small boats and even kayaks launched from the beach. Cobia fishermen follow pods of bait as they move down the beach and sight fish by casting live bait and large jigs to them.
Fishing in Choctawhatchee Bay often yields catches of trout, redfish, black drum and other assorted species. The bay is beautiful and a great place to spend the day on the water.
East Pass, which is also called Destin Pass, is at the western tip of the peninsula and is the only outlet of Choctawhatchee Bay into the Gulf of Mexico. The west side of Destin Pass is accessable to the public and offers a great place to view native birds and the pituresque sand dunes. The beach is remote and beautiful and offers a place to getaway from crowds.
The claim has been made that this pass was dug by hand but it appears on early maps of the French, Spanish and English surveyors, so this is likely not true. The East Pass must be dredged on a regular basis in order for it to remain navigable.
Fine Dining in Destin
The dining in Destin is as diverse as it is delicious; in fact several of the restaurants are listed among the top 20 of Florida. When you're in there, seafood is the natural choice, as Destin is touted as having the largest fishing fleet in Florida; but they have a little bit of everything including fine Italian, Mexican and Caribbean style, so choose what you like. It's not uncommon to see restaurants marquees inviting you to come in and enjoy the fresh catch caught the night before.
No matter your price range or personal style of dinner attire, Destin has it. Restaurants here range from fine dining venues that are elegant, have extensive wine lists and world renown chefs, to oyster bars over looking the Gulf where the recipes are well kept, generational family secrets and the beer is cold. They have everything from classical pianos playing to local bands and jukeboxes and something for every price range and budget.
Popular Destin Restaurants
- Perhaps one of the most recognized names in Destin is La Paz
. La Paz offers both boat-fresh coastal seafood and authentic Tex-Mex dishes, they have a large bar and live performances on the weekends. This location is one of 7; most are located in the Southwest part of the country. The menu consists of the typical Southwest fare such as tacos, quesadillas, tamales and guacamole but they also have a pretty extensive steak selection and seafood. The atmosphere is casual, but not straight-from-the-beach casual.
- When you're in the mood to go upscale, try the most award winning spot in Destin, the Marina Cafe
. Marina Cafe is located right on Destin Harbor, and every seat has a wonderful view of the water. The menu offers pasta, specialty hand tossed pizza selections, extensive fresh seafood, freshly prepared sushi, the finest cuts of meat anywhere including duck and lamb. They have an extensive wine selection and decadent choices for dessert. Dinner is served 5-10 p.m. and reservations are recommended.
- Also located right on the water in Destin Harbor is the Lucky Snapper
; you can actually sit and watch fisherman unload their catch, sometimes straight into the kitchen. They are open for both lunch and dinner, and if you get there in time, you can sit at the bar and watch one of the beautiful Destin sunsets. The atmosphere is casual and they are happy to host a party or banquet for you. They have several sandwich selections of burgers, chicken, Po-Boys, grouper and tuna. For entrees, there are several seafood selections as well as steak and chicken. Be sure to get one of their many t-shirts or other souvenir to remember your visit.
Seagar's Prime Steaks & Seafood
- Moving away from the water, try Seagar's Prime Steaks & Seafood
; it's located at the Hilton in nearby Sandestin. They are Florida's only AAA Four-Diamond restaurant and have a wine list with over 800 selections to choose from and a private dining facility for small intimate parties. When you come here expect the best, traditional elegance fine dining has to offer because that's what you'll get. They serve their Beluga caviar the traditional way, with capers, toast points, hard-boiled egg, onion and iced vodka. They offer tableside preparation of certain dishes, including Steak Diane, Dover Sole and a dessert of Bananas Foster; other menu selections include Grouper, Shrimp Tempura, Chilean Sea Bass and Seagar's Tuna Tartare, depending on the chef's choice for the night. They also have a small intimate Piano Bar for the enjoyment of their guests. Reservations are require and it's no wonder Seagar's put the 'fine' back in fine dining, everything they do, they do with style and class.
- Even the Italian cuisine is prepared with a seafood flare; Cafe Grazie
is a prime example of this. Located just 50 feet from the beach on Hwy 98; Cafe Grazie offers a special mix of pasta, pizza and seafood, all with a homemade marinara sauce in a causal family setting. The menu consists of traditional Calamari, Capri Italiano and pizza selections, but with twists such as their Crab Stuffed Portabello Mushrooms.
Places to Stay in Destin, FL
Destin is one of the premiere resort spots in Florida the new world class Emerald towers is not to be missed and the Inn on Destin Harbour offers a great view of the fleets return with their catch of the day. They also have regular hotels such as the Comfort Inn, Days Inn and Hampton Inn if your budget's a little leaner. If you're looking to mix a little business with pleasure the Palms of Destin Resort & Conference Center is available.
View Destin Hotels »
Destin History and Overview
The city of Destin can trace it's roots back to the 7th century A.D. when it is believed that the American Indians lived in the area. In 1693, the first known map of the East Pass was drawn by Don Francisco Tapia, who was commissioned to survey the coast of Florida and draw the map.
Destin is named for Captain Leonard Destin, who settled in Northwest Florida around 1845; he moved here from Connecticut and was a pioneer in the fishing industry. Under the 1984 laws of Florida, the city of Destin was originally chartered as a Municipality; the community of Destin has existed for over one hundred and fifty years and started as a humble fishing village. Today Destin is touted as the "World's Luckiest Fishing Village" and claims the largest, best equipped fishing fleet in Florida docks are in Destin Harbor. When you visit, you can play golf, tennis and of course do anything you can think of on the water, including snorkeling and diving.
Destin is also known to be a big resort town and one of the most spectacular examples is the new Emerald Grande at Harbor Walk Village; this 5-star resort is located oceanfront and is available for weekly rentals.
Even with an estimated 4.5 million people visiting the area, there are people who live in Destin year round, and according to a 2004 census, that number was reported to be just over 12,000 people.
By Beverly Martinez-Collins – PlacesAroundFlorida.com