Destin and nearby Okaloosa Island are perfect locations for a family vacation. This area is packed with things for families to do: amazing beaches, seaside entertainment, incredible marine life, recreation centers, and much more!
April through July sees a very busy summer season for these Florida holiday destinations. Large crowds flocking to Destin each year and just an 8-minute drive away lies the famous Okaloosa Island and its sugary white beaches. One thing both of these destinations have in common is that they have so much for families to enjoy, check out our recommendations below.
Big Kahuna’s(opens in a new tab) is an exciting waterpark located in central Destin. From lazy river floats to speed slides, wave machines to theme park rides, this water playground has something for all the family. Enjoy an adrenaline-filled day and cool off from the Florida heat while having fun together at one of the best Destin attractions for families.
Gator Beach at Fudpucker’s
Located in downtown Destin and one of the highest-rated Destin family activities, Gator Beach(opens in a new tab) is an educational center that offers guests the opportunity to see live alligators up close.
The park also has a number of shows during the day called ‘Fact or Fiction’, which is an interesting and entertaining way to learn about these scaly reptiles. Guests can also pay a small $15 price to hold and take a photo of a live gator with one of the park’s trained staff. A unique experience for you and the family, so don’t miss out!
Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone
Are you ready for this one? Wild Willy’s(opens in a new tab) is a one-stop-shop for all things adventure. Grand Prix karting tracks, 18-hole crazy golf, 4D movie experience, laser tag, and more! They also have a golf putting course for those kids. This family paradise is situated closer to Okaloosa Island, so spend the day here, eat at one of the on-site restaurants, then relax on the beach after a day of excitement!
Rent a Pontoon Boat
Why not take advantage of the beautiful weather and stunning scenery and hire a pontoon boat for the day? Visit the area’s most pristine sandbar, Crab Island, and spend your afternoon snorkeling and exploring the stunning National Seashore coves. Take the family, bring a picnic, and enjoy a relaxing day surrounded by the area’s picturesque scenery. We’d recommend taking inflatable toys to splash around in the water with and a large cooler with you to keep your drinks cold during the summer heat.
Good to know: Crab Island Watersports takes safety precautions very seriously with all boats expertly maintained, lifejackets provided for all those on board, and an important safety training briefing before you and your family head out for a day’s fun!
Fishing From the Shore
You don’t have to pay for a charter fishing trip to catch fish in the area! Destin is known as the ‘World’s Luckiest Fishing Village’ thanks to its easy access to abundant sea life and the harbor’s deep drop-off. There are numerous spots to fish including piers, boardwalks, and the beach itself. The Gulf of Mexico’s warm waters attract all types of fish from red snapper, grouper, tarpon, bonito, and more!
Why not try the Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier, Blue Dolphin Beachwalk, Emerald View Beachwalk, or the Seashore Beachwalk. All have parking options, restaurants, and plenty of opportunities to catch some fish!
Emerald Coast Science Center
As family activities in Destin, FL go, the Emerald Coast Science Center(opens in a new tab) has to be up there. Voted the Best Place to Take Kids 2021 by both Emerald Coast Magazine and VIP Destin Magazine, you know you’ll have a blast. Located in Fort Walton Beach, this science center has something for both adults and children.
They have a range of outdoor interactive exhibits including a boat that you can climb aboard and learn how it floats and how radio communication works. Another great exhibit they have available is the Dino Dig Pit where you can grab your tools and go some digging for dinosaurs! They also have a robotics lab, a sea turtle sanctuary, and a chance to explore the final frontier in their space section (good to know, on the first and third Thursday of each month the center puts on a planetarium evening(opens in a new tab) – book in advance as it’s very popular!).
The Track Family Recreation Center
This awesome family fun park(opens in a new tab) in Destin is a great place to spend the day with your herd. Famous for its go-karts and exciting race tracks, it’s a safe and fun day out for both the kids and the parents!
Not only will you be able to race on the track together, but the park also has a number of other attractions to keep everyone entertained. Blaster boats, kids country rides, mini-golf, and bumper cars are among the fun activities on offer as well as an on-site arcade.
Beaches for Kids
What’s a trip to Destin and the surrounding areas without a trip to the beach? Destin and Fort Walton Beach are lovely but in the busy summer months, the beach can become crowded. But fear not, there are plenty of other beaches near Destin just as, if not more, beautiful.
- John Beasley Beach is a must-visit. Situated on Okaloosa Island, it’s one of the area’s largest beaches and doesn’t disappoint.
- James Lee Park is a short drive from Destin (although we’d recommend jumping in a taxi to avoid parking hassle) and all bring your swimming costume, towels, and whatever you need to have fun on the beach for the day!
- Henderson State Park is James Lee’s neighbor and is hailed for being one of the most natural beaches in the area. Guests can enjoy the walk through the varied flora and fauna before relaxing on the white sandy beach itself. You can also rent fishing gear here!
Places to Eat
Last but certainly not least, restaurants. After a fun-filled day out, you’ll need to fill those rumbling stomachs and there are many different options to choose from. So here are our suggestions for the best restaurants in Destin for families:
- The Back Porch(opens in a new tab): As a Gulf Coast landmark, this restaurant has over 6,000 amazing reviews on Google and counting. Renowned for its seafood dishes, guests can enjoy local oysters, shrimp, scallops, calamari, crab, and a variety of fish dishes! And fear not, they have an extensive kids’ menu that has non-fishy items.
- Moe’s Original Bar B Que(opens in a new tab) is another kid-friendly restaurant that has some award-winning goodies for you to try out. With both meat and seafood on offer, their signature sauces and in-house bbq expertise will leave you feeling satisfied!
- Brotula’s Seafood House & Steamer (opens in a new tab)is a locally-owned, family-friendly restaurant located in Destin itself. Rated very highly within Destin’s restaurant options, Brotula proudly serves locally caught seafood and whipping it up into tasty dishes—check it out for yourself!
- And for something sugary to satisfy that sweet tooth, don’t leave without visiting the Donut Hole(opens in a new tab). Alongside their famous donuts, they also have an extensive breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu among an unforgettable selection of baked goods!
As you can see, Destin is a great place to enjoy the sun, sea, and sand with your kids. But there’s more to keep your young ones entertained than just the beach.