Located along Florida’s panhandle, the emerald coast is a shiny gem attracting visitors from across the globe. Here is our guide to visiting Destin, Florida with kids in tow. We would like to thank Visit The Emerald Coast for sponsoring this post so we could bring new travel ideas to your family. This page contains affiliate links.
Where To Stay
We opted to stay in Okaloosa Island which was serene and slower-paced than Destin. While there are not many bars and restaurants within walking distance we enjoyed the quieter side of this popular destination.
The Best Things To Do In Destin Florida with Kids
That offer went swimming away within the first fifteen minutes as dolphins were abundant during our cruise. We probably saw twenty or more over the two and a half hours we were out.
Little ones also had the opportunity to steer the boat and take home a little treasure. The highlight for my daughter was feeding the seagulls off the back of the boat. She thought it was hilarious and belly laughed the entire time.
The boat itself is equipped with a bathroom and a concession area where guests could grab a drink or a snack to hold them over until they got back to port. Hand’s down one of the best things to do in Destin Florida with kids in tow.
Emerald Coast Science Center
The animal encounters happen throughout the day allowing guests to get up close and personal with some of the Science Center’s local residents. We absolutely loved their toddler room which had so much for little ones to explore. Be sure to look in the baskets around the rooms which often contains activities to keep little scientists busy. Another great perk is there is a playground right next to the Science Center in case you need the kids to burn off even more energy.
Read all about our experience at the Emerald Coast Science Center
Destin Fishing Museum
While we did not venture to Crab Island this trip, guests raved about their time there. First, let me define what exactly is Crab Island. Crab Island is not an island at all, but whether a completely submerged sandbar that allows guests to walk around in 1-4ft of water. No land whatsoever. It is the ideal location to pull up a boat and drop anchor. Many folks rent boats or take a shuttle to the “island”. Bring cash so you can partake from the food boats, floating restaurants, and other fun activities offered such as a floating obstacle course. Booze is allowed, however, it can’t be sold at Crab Island so pack a cooler.
We caught a great dolphin show that had my daughter wide-eyed the entire time. I love that the show taught the audience about the dolphins, how they care for them, and about conservation. Tip: It can get windy up by the dolphin show, if it is cool out you may want to bring a jacket.
US Air Force Armament Museum
Throughout the grounds, guests can get up close and personal with over 29 different aircraft, bombs, guns, and more. The history surrounding this museum is unreal as it is the world’s only world dedicated to the collection, preservation, and exhibition of artifacts and memorabilia associated with Air Force Armament and its platforms of delivery.
If you are lucky you will get to see the fighter jets in action from the nearby Air Base. The museum is closed on Sundays and federal holidays, so take note when planning your itinerary.
Oak Tree Nature Preserve
The only hang-up I have is my husband found a dog tick on him when we got home. To be fair we didn’t spray ourselves before our hike, but I would recommend it.
Wat Mongkolratanarm Buddist Temple
Bring cash as you will need to buy tokens before visiting the food booths. Everyone is incredibly friendly and helpful. I recommend getting there early as popular items tend to sell out fast. It’s hard to give a recommendation on what to get because everything we sampled was mouth-watering good.
Get the Thai tea, the fried plantains, the grilled pork, a noodle bowl, and top your meal off with a few warm sesame donuts.
Uncle Bucks Fishbowl
Be warned on weekends and rainy days there could be a significant wait for a lane as it is a popular Destin indoor activity. They do have a small indoor arcade, a restaurant, and a full bar.
Ross Marler Park
The playground was fenced in, with only two exits and the entire thing had rubber matting. NO MULCH! There were two play structures one geared at older children and another for toddlers. As if it couldn’t get any better, the play areas are shaded. The shades were not up during our visit but will during peak season.
I highly recommend swinging through here if you have a little one needing to burn off some energy. We did notice a few homeless folks hanging out in one of the shelter areas. As sad as it is, this is a common sight we saw across many of the public parks.
Where To Eat in Destin Florida with Kids
I have a confession, I am a bit of a seafood addict while I am visiting coastal towns. Coming from a city where fresh seafood is a rare find, I tend to indulge in the fresh and tasty treasures from the sea. Here are a few of the best spots to grab great seafood in Destin Florida with the kids.
Old Bay Steamer
From the host being annoyed that we needed a high chair to curt wait staff, it left a sour taste in my mouth. Everyone is entitled to a bad day, so I will move on. There were tons of great options on the menu and I felt the price was fair for what all you got in your steamers. I got a little steamer which quite honestly could have fed two people.
Doc’s Oyster Bar
Place your order inside and then find your table. We opted for waterfront dining which was relaxing. Be warned that throughout the course of your meal you may hear the fighter jets taking off from the air force base and see them zipping through the blue skies.
Right in the heart of Destin, you will find Boshamps. They have a great view of the harbor and outdoor seating available that is perfect for watching the boats passing by. We walked in and our mouth started watering because the smell was intoxicating. I would recommend the grilled fish or anything off the grill, just fabulous.
We opted for the one that overlooks Crab Island off of Calhoun. The fish sandwiches were so good, I ended up going back to get another because Sophie ate most of mine!
The pelicans are perched like statues on the old wooden posts and with a gentle sea breeze, it is a great spot to catch the sunset.
Coffee and Pastries
Hunting down a great cup of coffee is one of my favorite vacation treats. You will find great coffee and breakfast options here. It is small inside, but they do have high chairs and toys to keep little ones occupied. We got a slice of banana bread and two of their specialty iced coffee drinks and were hooked.
From an endless variety of croissants to handmade macaroons and cakes it is difficult to leave with only one item. I am grateful we were not going back to our condo, otherwise, I would have bought more pastries than socially acceptable.
For even more great family travel hacks check out this great post by YOLO Travel Experiences.
It should go without saying that each time you visit Destin Florida with kids you need to spend time enjoying the beach and those gleaming waters. Build a sandcastle, enjoy the sunset, and soak up the sun because life doesn’t get much better than on the beach!
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