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Destin, Florida is rich with history and culture. We love a good museum, and the great thing about Destin, Florida, is that there is no shortage of them. Whether you’re a lover of history, science or culture there is something for everyone to see. From visually stunning exhibitions to interactive and educational programs, the Emerald Coast is not just all about beach life (although we do love our beaches). Here are some of the top museums in Destin, Florida. If you’re looking at spending some recreational time away from the beach, we recommend you visit one, if not two, or all of these Destin museums.

Air Force Armament Museum Foundation

The Air Force Armament Museum is located on the Emerald Coast of Florida’s panhandle. As part of Florida’s rich military culture, this museum is home to over 29 impressive aircraft, with many being from the World War 2 era. In addition to an extensive collection of aircrafts, the museum has exhibitions of several hundred pieces of armament including gun collections, bombs and missiles, from early aviation warfare up to the worlds most advanced armament systems. The fastest plane and biggest bomb are housed at the foundation.

This museum has fun and interesting interactive exhibitions where you can absorb some classic war history from the different eras of World War 2, Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf war. Admission is free and is a must see for any military and aviation enthusiasts.

Location: 100 Museum Drive, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida 32542
Contact: 850-882-4062
Hours: Monday – Saturday, 9:30AM – 5PM

Emerald Coast Science Center

This vast family friendly science center is a truly fun filled and hands on experience. The Emerald Coast Science Center has dozens of interactive educational and explorational activities that are perfect for a family outing. Voted “Best place to take your kids” in 2021 by Emerald Coast magazine, the Emerald Coast Science Center is the epitome of “something for everyone”. For the animal lovers, you will see a variety of small reptiles, birds and rodents among others, including parrots, parakeets, guinea pigs, snakes, degus, rats, hedgehogs, geckos and bearded dragons. All animals have names inspired by geniuses, historical and present figures alike. You can meet Newton, the bearded dragon, named after Sir Isaac Newton, English physicist and mathematician, known for his role in the Scientific Revolution. The center’s animal experts teach you about the various species and how to safely interact with them.

For those with an interest in the big open sea, in a new Marine exhibit, you can climb aboard a boat and get an inside look into the engineering of boat building. While you enjoy this epic high seas adventure, learn how radio communication is made possible and get insight as to how a boat stays afloat.

Science whizzes will feel right at home. In the DREAMS Lab (design, research, engineer, art, mathematics, science) you’ll find numerous interactive kits to learn about different science topics. In the Chemistry corner, enjoy visual demonstrations and turn into a mad scientist with hands-on experiments. To top off all these experiences, be sure to see the Robotics and Dinosaur exhibits, also with fun and informative interaction.

Whether there is a future astrophysicist, marine biologist or chemical engineer in the family, the Emerald Coast Science Center strives to inspire and grow a scientifically engaged community. There is a good chance to unlock some hidden interest that someone in your family may have!

Location: 31 SW Memorial Parkway, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548
Contact: 850-664-1261
Hours: Monday – Saturday, 10AM – 4PM

The Zoo Gallery and Shop

Looking for a little less history and a little more art scene? This boutique art gallery and its passionate owners present a selection of many quirky and original art pieces in their gallery shop. From pottery to jewelry and even furniture and clothes. You’ll be fascinated and curious as you set your eyes on all the fantastically artisan and strange artifacts that have been handcrafted.

Chris and Roxy, college sweethearts and the gallery’s owners, shared a passion for art and pursued their shared dream of collecting and exhibiting all of their favorite pieces. The gallery also promotes work from artists across the country.
This gallery sure does stand out from the rest with its unusual and visually stunning unconventional art. There is something interesting in every corner. A visit to this gallery may present the perfect opportunity to pick up a unique and quirky gift for someone special.

Location: 500 Grand Boulevard, Building K, Suite 104, Miramar Beach, Florida 32550
Contact: (850) 837-9233
Hours: Monday – Sunday, 10AM – 6PM

Destin History and Fishing Museum

Destin History and Fishing museum’s principal mission is to inspire and educate you. This non-profit organization is dedicated to preserving and teaching us about the history of the early pioneers from 1830 and the fishing industry’s origins in Destin Harbor. At this Destin museum you can learn about the longest running fishing tournament in the United States, which has anglers coming from all over the world to compete in the Rodeo.

Historically, Destin is referred to as “The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village”, and during your visit to this museum you will receive a clear insight as to why that is. With well documented exhibits, you learn the scientific reasons behind the Emerald Coast’s perfect white sand as well as exploring the ocean’s 75 species of fish and how they came to be. You’ll be blown away by the different fish mounds of which the museum has over 100.

One of the awe-inspiring highlights is a collection of fishing artifacts including a handcrafted fishing rod used by Ernest Hemmingway. Just outside of the museum you will find the museum Heritage Park, where you can find restored historic boats, one of which is the Primrose. This was the last seine boat used by the first fisherman in Destin.

This museum is a must for avid fishing enthusiasts or as an informative family outing to learn more about the Emerald Coast’s history and fishing culture.

Location: 108 Stahlman Ave Destin, FL 32541
Contact: 850-837-6611
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 10AM to 4PM

Heritage Park and Cultural Center

The Heritage Park and Cultural Center has a long standing tradition of interpreting and presenting the history of Fort Walton Beach community and the North West Florida area. The center is made up of several museum exhibitions where you can see carefully preserved artifacts that tell stories of occupation in Destin from 12,000 BC through the 1950s. All museums are approximately 1 minute walk from each other.

At the Indian Temple Mound museum you see interpretive exhibits depicting 12,000 years of human occupation. Considered one of the finest prehistoric collections in the Southeastern United States, this museum is home to some of the oldest known ceramics and over 1000 artifacts of stone, bone, clay and shell. You can even see artifacts from European explorers and local pirates.

The prehistoric Fort Walton Mound is considered to be one of the largest prehistoric earthworks on the Gulf Coast. It stands 12 feet tall and measures 223 feet across its base, with an estimated 200,000 basket loads of earth to create the structure. The temple mound was designated as a national historic landmark in 1964.

A school is another historic site of great importance to Florida heritage, representing the first of its kind in the area. The Camp Walton Schoolhouse was the first school in what is now known as Fort Walton Beach. The two-room structure was built of pine and oak by local citizens in 1911, and served local children of the county as their educational campus until the 1930s.

In the Civil War exhibit you can observe a large diorama of what a typical war campsite was like for soldiers. You will find this exhibit behind the Camp Walton Schoolhouse on the same site. This center is a true heritage gem and well worth a visit to learn about Florida culture and history from its roots.

Location: 139 Miracle Strip Parkway SE, Fort Walton Beach, Florida 32548
Contact: 850-833-9595
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 10AM – 3PM

Man In The Sea Museum

Lastly, we had to sneak this captivating museum onto the list, though it is a little outside of Destin, here you will discover the world under water. This museum showcases the advancement of underwater technology as they have collected and preserved equipment and documentation that gives us great insight into the diving world.

See an impressive collection of historic machinery used over the years for underwater exploration and the special diving suits that have aided divers in moving unhindered through the ocean water. You will be able to climb into SEALAB I, a metal habitat structure that was developed and built by the US Navy in the 60s. The experiments from these deep sea structures helped advance the science of deep sea diving as they tested human endurance, physically and psychologically.

We often see or hear more news about advancements in space exploration, however the sea holds many secrets still undiscovered by man. Some have said, the more we explore the oceans, the less we understand. Learn about the mysteries of the sea and the journey that man has been on so far, diving into the depths of the sea since the 1700s.

This museum is located just one hour from Destin. It is well worth the journey, and you will probably find some other cool sites to see on your way there.

Location: 17314 Panama City Beach Parkway, Panama City Beach, Florida 32413
Contact: (850) 235-4101
Hours: Wednesday – Saturday, 10AM – 4PM

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