The bright blue skies and sunshine-soaked days make summer the best time to visit Florida for many people. A Destin vacation isn’t complete without sun, sea, and sand but there’s plenty of other day trips, events, and activities you can choose from to take your trip to the next level! Check out our recommendations below, there’s something for everyone.
Day Trips From Fort Walton & Destin
Whether you’re on vacation in Fort Walton or Destin or you’re a resident looking to get a change of scene and explore your surroundings, there are plenty of fun day trips in the area suited to the balmy climate of summer. As temperatures shoot up, most people want to head straight to the beach but you can also explore local cities and fishing towns.
The sugar-white sand of Princess Beach is not its only draw, its secluded location nestled behind sand dunes makes it a great place spot to avoid the crowds on other Okaloosa Island bays. Take a book and kick back on the idyllic beaches — you can spend the day reading, dozing, and swimming.
Heading east up the coast will take you to Grayton Beach. This bohemian neighborhood full of creative people and Hemingway-style houses will take you back in time. Pastel-colored houses border streets made from crushed oyster shells and the towns are peppered with small boutiques and galleries. Grayton Beach often appears in the lists of top places to live in the US as well as one of the country’s prettiest and most pristine beaches.
For those looking to go further afield, the old fishing town of Apalachicola is a 3-hour drive from Fort Walton and Okaloosa Island. Once upon a time, this quaint town was the third-largest port in the Gulf of Mexico. These days the old-fashioned charm lives on and the sense of maritime history is evident in the surroundings. As an excellent day trip option for seafood lovers, the town is home to several world-class restaurants that serve up plates of fresh oysters, shrimp, and more. Get your culture fix as you stroll around admiring the 900 historic homes and venture into one of the town’s many art galleries.
Florida Caverns State Park
Spend the day exploring the caves of this state park in Marianna, Florida. Just a 1 ¾ drive from Fort Walton makes this destination the ideal day trip for all ages. Meander through the limestone stalactites, stalagmites, flowstones, and draperies. These cool spaces offer the perfect respite from the warm temperatures of a Florida summer. After exploring the caves, spend the rest of the day enjoying the rest of the park. Other activities include cycling, hiking, scuba diving, horseback riding, and swimming in the turquoise waters of the Blue Hole lagoon.
Indian Temple and Mound Museum – Fort Walton
A beach break is the perfect remedy to the stress of a busy life, but when you’re vacationing with kids, you often need a range of activities to keep them entertained. The Indian Temple and Mound Museum in Fort Walton is a great activity for adults and children alike. Learn about the Emerald Coast before the European invasion and understand more about Native Americans’ way of life. Exhibits recount the stories of 12,000 years of history through artifacts such as ceramics, pottery, and artwork. Have the chance to explore archaeological processes with a visit to The Mound, a National Historic Landmark. It is a platform mound built between 800-1400 CE by the Pensacola Culture and likely served ceremonial, political, and religious purposes.
Rent a Pontoon Boat
Rather than enjoying the view of the ocean from the beach, enjoy it from the water! A pontoon boat gives you the freedom to explore the bay and discover small coves and inlets that are not easily accessible by car. What’s more, double-decker pontoon boats come with a slide and shaded area to keep kids entertained. There’s plenty of spots to visit on your boat, check out our guide to making the most of a pontoon boat rental and get in touch to reserve a boat.
Goofy Golf – Fort Walton
Miniature golf is guaranteed fun for everyone! Goofy Golf in Fort Walton has 2 courses with 17 holes each and a shared 18th hole called “Snakes Mouth”. The venue opened in 1958 and has been popular with both locals and tourists ever since. This is the perfect budget activity after a morning on the beach.
Gulf Fest – July 31st
There’s a new music festival in town, Gulf Fest. Taking place on the final weekend of July, the event will feature a lineup of local and national artists and a special guest band A R I Z O N A. Expect great live music, camera-worthy sunsets, and delicious food from the food truck fair.
Burgers, Bourbon & Beer Festival – 18th September
Yet another new festival to grace the streets of Destin is Burgers, Bourbon, & Beer. Bid farewell to summer with a visit to this gourmet food festival. Watch the vendors fire up their grills and produce their best burgers in an attempt to win the prize of People’s Choice Best Burger. Get your judging hats on and get tasting! What a way to forget about the end of summer blues.
Emerald Coast Poker Run
The Emerald Coast Poker Run is a must-attend event of the Florida summer calendar. It’s the event people look forward to all summer and the show stopper of Boat Week. This charity poker run involves numerous types of boats filling the bay’s waterways as they try to get around all the checkpoints first. The participants dress up and make the most of a day of fun and competition. All proceeds are donated to the Emerald Coast Foundation and are distributed to local children’s charities. You may just want to watch the hilarity, but if you want to participate, get in touch to reserve your pontoon boat as soon as possible.
Rock the Docks
If you’re looking for evening entertainment without breaking the bank, head over to the HarborWalk Village stage every Saturday evening throughout July and August. Enjoy the excitement of live music in the heart of Destin. Check out the performers on the calendar(opens in a new tab) and enjoy a concert under the stars.
Summer on the Emerald Coast will make you never want to leave. This is a snapshot of everything the area has to offer and you’ll find plenty more to do as you stroll around the streets of Fort Walton, Okaloosa Island, and Destin.