Destin Family Vacation

Your Ultimate Guide to Fun, Sun & Memories!

Posted on 5/24/2024

It's that special time of year again when many of our esteemed Ocean Reef Resorts guests create magical memories during their traditional family beach vacation along the sugary shoreline. Destin, with its award-winning beaches, has been acclaimed multiple times as a Favorite Family Beach Vacation Destination by Southern Living Magazine and other prestigious publications. Since 1982, Ocean Reef Resorts has been blessed to offer fine, distinctive Destin vacation rental accommodations to generations of families, earning a stellar reputation for quality and service. For those of you who have yet to experience such hallmark beach vacations, here is a look at what you may begin to enjoy.

Top Family-Friendly Beaches in Destin

Top Family-Friendly Beaches in Destin

Nearly all of our Ocean Reef Resorts guests reserve a condo or home right on (or very close to) their own beautiful beach, but there are some great parks to visit along the jewel-toned Gulf of Mexico.

James Lee Park is located in Destin on Scenic Highway 98 near the pristine, privileged Destiny residential enclaves. This lovely public beach park has a long promenade with covered picnic areas, restroom facilities with showers, and plenty of access points down to the beautiful beach beside it. It is centered upon an enchanting golden Gulf-front Americana-styled restaurant that resembles a seaside pavilion from the early 1900s. This popular beachfront restaurant, The Crab Trap, serves seafood entrees, tasty appetizers, fried baskets, sandwiches, burgers, gumbo, bisques, and craft cocktails. There is plenty of free parking available.

Henderson Beach is the largest public Gulf-front shoreline located on the south side of the Emerald Coast Parkway at the Super Walmart. It spans from the Silver Shells luxury towers near Downtown Destin to the western edge of Crystal Beach. The pure white quartz crystalline shoreline stretches over 6,000 linear feet of sensational seascape, with nearby sugary dunes that soar up to thirty feet tall. Besides the beautiful beach, there are golden sea oats, wild rosemary bushes, scrub pines, and small oaks. A nature trail meanders through the park, providing adventurers a close look at abundant wildlife and nature. This trail is also pet-friendly, so well-behaved dogs are allowed on leashes, with receptacles provided for waste bag disposal. Boardwalks offer direct access to the beach, but dogs are not allowed there. However, four large and two small pavilions feature picnic tables and charcoal grills for a fun beach barbeque. Admittance is only $6 per carload.

Adventures and Delightful Diversions

Destin Adventures

Seascape Resort: Besides luxuriating in the glowing waters of the Gulf, our Ocean Reef Resorts guests enjoy complimentary discounts for beach recreation rentals at the Seascape Resort, where many of our outstanding vacation rentals are located at Majestic Sun, Ariel Dunes I, and Ariel Dunes II. The La Dolce Vita (LDV) group offers a big floating waterpark offshore for fun, refreshing frolic for ages 10 and up. They also provide special reduced rates for beach recreation rentals, a championship golf course, and a pro tennis center.

HarborWalk Village: The captivating Americana-styled crown jewel of Destin, known as HarborWalk Village, has loads of dockside restaurants, bars with live bands, free outdoor concerts, fun festivals throughout the year, and exciting seasonal firework celebrations. LDV also offers pontoon boat rentals here, allowing many of our Ocean Reef Resorts guests to save money while cruising over to enjoy the fun at Crab Island's giant boat party. You've surely seen this frolicking boat party scene when traveling across the Destin bridge. Guests also enjoy discounts on a fantastic two-hour treasure hunt sailing adventure aboard the Buccaneer Pirate Ship with a rollicking costumed crew. The big mast sail ship heads out on the treasure hunt with the crew, who have sword fights, engage kids in water gun battles, sing, dance, and provide a secret trip down to the captain's private treasure chest chamber.

Fudpucker's Restaurant & Bar: You may want to have a safe adventure tour of alligators at Fudpucker's Restaurant & Bar in Destin. They have over 100 at "Gator Beach" on a big pond with no admission costs. From a safe distance, you can feed them from cane poles, watch shows with informative trainers, and even hold a baby alligator for a fun photo op moment. Besides the gators, you can enjoy excellent seafood, tasty appetizers, burgers, and favorite drinks.

The Track Family Fun Park: The Track Family Fun Park in Destin offers entertainment for all ages. It includes five Go-Kart racing tracks, Kid's Country rides, Blaster boats, Bumper cars, a soaring "SkyFlyer," a "Spinning Coaster," two miniature golf courses, and a three-level family race track with single and double Go-Karts.

Big Kahuna's Waterpark & Adventure Zone: Destin's iconic Big Kahuna's Waterpark & Adventure Zone offers waterfalls, Lazy River tube raft rides, a huge wave pool, an abundance of unique slides, and water pipeline chutes. It also features a lavish miniature golf course with lush tropical landscaping and a "Skycoaster" that will whip you up at 60 mph to 100 feet in the air!

Relaxation & Leisure

Destin Accommodations

Beach Days: The bright, shimmering beaches beside the glittering Gulf are the number one attraction in Destin. They are composed of pulverized white quartz crystal, shaved off the Appalachian Mountains during the last Ice Age eons ago. The white sand reflects light and illuminates microscopic natural plankton that glow in emerald green, peridot, and turquoise colors. Enjoy bringing a picnic basket with tasty goodies and a cooler for ice-cold drinks. You may enjoy body surfing when the waves are high, and the fine, sugary shoreline is perfect for building sandcastles. The cool sand does not burn your feet, but sunglasses are required here due to the brilliance of the sun's reflection. And remember to use adequate sunblock because the tropics have more heat rays than elsewhere!

Family Friendly Dining & Cuisine: There are a wide array of great restaurants available in Destin, but a few favorite family dining destinations include the aforementioned Fudpucker's, Lulu's, Boshamps Seafood & Oyster House, Pompano Joe's, and Say Cheese.

  • Fudpucker's: Besides the free gator shows, Fudpucker's has kiddie cocktails, and the restaurant's vibrantly colored building encourages kids to add their own graffiti.
  • Lulu's: This bayfront restaurant and bar near the Mid Bay Bridge has its own beach, playground, and live entertainment. Not to mention a fun, inflatable adventure park right next door! This lively, friendly place is owned by Jimmy Buffett's sister, Lulu, and is a lot of fun.
  • Boshamps Seafood & Oyster House: Both kid and pet-friendly, this place sits above Destin's bustling marina with its own beach where the kids can play and a giant tiki-styled pavilion overlooking the sparkling harbor.
  • Pompano Joe's: Located right on the beach off Scenic Gulf Drive in Miramar Beach, it is a vibrantly colored Floridian restaurant and bar with wide breezy open portals of windows overlooking the gorgeous Gulf. It has a kid's menu, waiters that sometimes perform magic tricks, and a great daily Margarita Happy Hour for adults.
  • Say Cheese: A new restaurant at HarborWalk Village, Say Cheese offers a wide variety of some of the best-grilled cheese sandwiches you have ever eaten. They also have specials, including a Dirty Southwest special with pulled barbeque pork over mac n cheese, a Dude Melt Sloppy Joe with melted cheese, a Philly Melt with Swiss cheese, and a S'mores Melt with peanut butter, chocolate chips, and marshmallows.

Accommodations with Abundant Amenities

Ocean Reef Amenities

Ocean Reef Resorts offers a wide variety of vacation rental options, ranging from cozy cottages to spacious beach villas and luxurious condominiums. You can choose any size or type depending on how many are joining you for a fun beach vacation. Many of our properties feature private swimming pools and hot tubs. Quite a few are located in world-class, exclusively gated beach resorts like Destiny, Amalfi Coast, Edgewater, Mainsail, and Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort. These amazing resorts border the beautiful beach and have lavish, sparkling swimming pools. Some also boast lushly landscaped championship golf courses, tennis courts, and hot tubs.

Whether you are considering a private home, condo, or resort destination, our easy-to-use Ocean Reef Resorts website lists all the amenities included at each property. This ensures you can find the perfect vacation rental to meet your needs and preferences. Explore our extensive selection and start planning your unforgettable beach vacation today!

Related Article:

Top 4 Kid-Friendly Resorts

If you're planning a beach vacation with kids, it's important to find accommodations that are kid-friendly. We want to make planning your Emerald Coast vacation as easy as possible, so we've identified the top four kid-friendly resorts in Destin for you.

Beach Vacation Planning Tips

Before planning your vacation, it's important to know that rental rates in Destin change throughout the year. The highest rates are during the high season of summer, from late May until early August when families flock to the sugary shore. Rates are lower in the spring and fall, which is a lovely time to visit. The temperatures range from sunny 70s during the day to 50s at night with very little humidity. There is less traffic this time of year with fewer crowds, and the Gulf remains warm enough for swimming until mid-November but with substantially lower rental rates than in summer.

Rates are at their absolute lowest during the winter months, which run from December through early March. Temperatures this time of the year average 60 during mostly sunny days and sweater weather 40s at night. Restaurants and bars are uncrowded with no wait times. Golf, tennis, and experiencing spectacular sunsets that occur right over the Gulf this time of year are popular pursuits. Seasonal festivals, outdoor concerts, and firework extravaganzas abound for Christmas, New Year's, and Mardi Gras.


How do most people travel to Destin? Most people who visit Destin travel by car, as it is within a reasonable driving distance from several major cities. For example, it is a six-hour drive from Atlanta, Georgia; a five-hour drive from Birmingham, Alabama; and approximately seven hours from Nashville, Tennessee. The Destin area is also served by three major airports with non-stop flights from many American cities, making it convenient for those traveling by air.

Which airports serve the Destin area? The Destin area is served by three major airports with non-stop flights from many American cities. The Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport Northwest Florida Regional is the closest, only about fifteen minutes away by car. Airlines include Allegiant Air, American, Delta, Southwest, Sun Country, and Xtra Airways. International travelers can use the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport in Panama City Beach, which is about an hour away from Destin. Additionally, the Destin Executive Airport (DTS) provides services for private aircraft and is conveniently located in the heart of Destin, offering another option for travelers.

How can I save money on accommodations in Destin? Renting one of our Ocean Reef Resorts properties instead of a hotel or motel can save you money. We offer a wide array of vacation rentals, including private homes and luxurious condominiums. They are all comfortably furnished and beautifully appointed and include full state-of-the-art kitchens. Families and friends can rent a place for a week and split the total cost per the number of bedrooms used, reducing overall shared rental costs significantly. Additionally, having a kitchen allows you to save money by preparing meals instead of dining out all the time.

What amenities are included in Ocean Reef Resorts properties? Our properties are comfortably furnished and beautifully appointed, with full state-of-the-art kitchens. Many properties also feature furnished beach balconies, private swimming pools, hot tubs, and access to lavish resort amenities such as championship golf courses, tennis courts, and more.

What are some off-season benefits of visiting Destin? Visiting Destin during the off-season, from December through early March, offers several benefits. Rental rates are at their lowest, temperatures are mild, and restaurants and bars are uncrowded with no wait times. Popular activities include golf, tennis, and enjoying spectacular sunsets over the Gulf. Additionally, there are seasonal festivals, outdoor concerts, and firework extravaganzas for holidays like Christmas, New Year's, and Mardi Gras.

Come to Paradise for Your Family Vacation!

If you are new to us, we would be happy to help you join many other families who have made a tradition of enjoying a vacation along the Emerald Coast. You, too, can choose your own favorite beach home away from home! Many of our current guests actually book their favorite one the same day they leave, creating a beloved treasure trove of hallmark family memories they will never forget. After all, isn't that what life is really all about?

Our friendly and professional Ocean Reef Resorts team can help you reserve the perfect Destin Vacation Rental to suit all the needs of your family group. Our website provides detailed descriptions, vivid property images, a seagull's eye view of each location, a list of amenities, seasonal rental rates, and available calendar dates. After your preview, our Ocean Reef Resorts vacation planners can help you book your favorite and answer any questions about your stay with us. We look forward to serving you soon because we know you are going to have a wonderful stay. Enjoy!

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