Destin vs. Sandestin

No, they are not the same place.

Posted on 4/7/2022

Destin and Sandestin share a similar name; however, one is a long-established historic coastal fishing village, and the other is a relatively new world-class resort. Many of our Ocean Reef Resorts guests already know this, but newcomers may not. Although they are relatively close to one another along Florida's highly acclaimed Emerald Coast, Destin is located in Okaloosa County, and Sandestin is in Walton County. Here is a closer look at each dazzling locale:


Destin's history six goes back over 150 years ago when Captain Lenard Destin discovered it due to its cornucopia of fish. This blessed location is a short distance away from a vast underwater canyon that gives it the closest proximity to deep water fishing on the entire Gulf of Mexico. His family began to establish a thriving fishing business after the Civil War in 1865. Another captain named Billy Marler went to work for Leonard Destin, and they became best friends. The fishing fleet was expanded to over 100 boats in the course of a few years. After Leonard Destin passed away in the mid-1870s, Marler realized the tourist potential for this burgeoning operation and established fishing camps in the 1890s on the bay near Moreno Pointe. This started with a few rustic cottages on the water but gradually expanded as angling adventurers arrived in droves. It became famously known as "The World's Luckiest Fishing Village" and now harbors the largest private charter fishing fleet in all of North America.

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History of Destin

By the 1970s, the shimmering crystalline white shoreline overlooking the jewel-toned gulf was discovered by others, and it became a premier destination for family beach vacations. Exclusive residential communities as well as luxurious gulf front residential towers sprung up throughout the area and beside Destin's harbor on Holiday Isle. Destin also became a popular destination among avid golfers as gorgeous championship courses were built here in gated residential communities. Golf courses in the area include Indian Bayou, Regatta Bay, Kelly Plantation, Emerald Bay, and Seascape golf clubs. The growth fueled the creation of shopping, dining, and drinking establishments. Over 100 restaurants are located in Destin featuring American, Barbeque, Cajun, Caribbean, French, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Mediterranean, Mexican, Seafood, and Southern cuisine. Many have received outstanding awards of excellence for gourmet fare.

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Shopping is also a popular pastime in the area. The popular center of Destin Commons is a retail village that provides an idyllic shopping experience. It has a charming Disneyesque European-styled look with pedestrian-friendly avenues lined with Royal Palms, turret towers, a classic fountain, and a geyser plaza where kids are invited to frolic during warm weather. These avenues connect to a wide variety of fine clothiers, fashion boutiques, shoe shops, specialty shops, restaurants with casual bars, and an AMC Multiplex Theater. It is anchored by a big Bass Pro Shop and a Belk's Department Store.

Destin Harbor

The captivating golden Americana-styled crown jewel of Destin known as HarborWalk Village was established on the bustling marina in recent years. It offers a wide array of waterfront restaurants with friendly bars that have live music, unique family amusements including a long Zip Line, free outdoor concerts, fun festivals throughout the year, and sensational seasonal firework displays. Ocean Reef Resort guests receive special reduced rates for pontoon boat rentals, sunset dinner cruises, dolphin sightseeing excursions, fishing charters, and even a treasure adventure aboard a pirate ship with a rollicking costumed crew.


Sandestin Resort

Sandestin is an exclusively gated premier resort community in neighboring Miramar Beach, which spans 2,400 lushly landscaped forested grounds dotted with natural lagoons. They stretch from the dazzling jeweled waters of the glowing gulf to Choctawhatchee Bay's wide, serene expanse. This privileged residential enclave is a wonderful world of its own, with over two dozen "neighborhoods" that vary in architectural style, location, and ambiance. They include Mediterranean villas, opulent single-family homes, coastal townhomes, condominiums, and luxury beachfront residential towers.

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Sandestin has an interesting history since this expansive parcel was originally going to be developed in the 1950s as a "Forest by the Sea" by wealthy Winthrop Rockefeller but was shelved after he later became Governor of Arkansas. In the 1960's Walt Disney learned about this land and seriously considered buying the awesome parcel for his new proposed Disney World. A few years later, he selected the property near Orlando, deeming it a more centralized Florida location for tourists. In 1970 owners of the Indianapolis Speedway attempted to buy the land to build a "Seaside Race Track" however they lost out to Evans and Mitchell Industries from Atlanta, whose ownership ended due to financial difficulties. The entire parcel was held by Chase Manhattan Trust until it was sold to a Dutch corporation called Lakeland BV. They purchased it to establish a fabulous new planned development named Sandestin Beach Resort. They borrowed the "San" from Santa Rosa Beach, its unincorporated neighbor towards the east, and Destin, of course, from the original. By 1974 the Links Golf Course was completed along with much of the Bayou Village, the Augusta Villages, as well as a Sheraton Hotel on the bay, which became known as the Bayside Inn. Local entrepreneur Peter Bos who helped manage the resort for the Dutch corporation acquired Sandestin in 1981 and sold a beachfront parcel on the gulf side to Hilton Hotels in order to help finance the deal. Hilton immediately began construction of their luxury hotel on the beach. A celebratory concert was held there for a Grand Opening with performances by the famed Beach Boys with over 12,000 fortunate participants in attendance.  Read more: History of Sandestin

Baytowne Wharf

Today the wonderful world of Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort includes four championship golf courses, fifteen professional tennis courts, a yacht marina with over 200 slips, a fitness center, and a spa. The enchanting Village of Baytowne Wharf was created to look like the French Quarter of New Orleans and straddles a lovely lagoon beside the marina. This magical place is home to an array of great restaurants, bars with live music, specialty shops, family amusements, outdoor concerts, fun festivals throughout the year, and vibrant seasonal firework extravaganzas. A long wharf juts out into the bay beside the yacht marina, where residents and fortunate visitors may enjoy a magnificent sunset right over the water during the summer months. Romantic, magical full moons rise out of the bay at other times of the year. Sandestin also features a lavish tropical town center that parallels the Emerald Coast Parkway known as Grand Boulevard. Royal Palms and lush tropical plantings line the boulevard, which connects to fine restaurants, friendly bars, fashion boutiques, fine clothiers, galleries, a liquor wine shop along with a Publix grocery store. A Multiplex Theater located there includes a special VIP dining room and bar where you can watch new film releases. Other restaurants, grocery stores, wine shops, and bargain shopping for world-class designer goods at the famous Silver Sands Premium Outlets are also conveniently close to Sandestin.

Sandestin Guests

Ocean Reef Resorts provides many fine distinctive vacation rentals of all kinds in both Destin and Sandestin, as well as many other places in Northwest Florida. We have been hosting generations of happy beachgoers with gracious accommodations for four decades. Enjoy using our friendly website to check out Destin and Sandestin vacation rentals, along with many others. You will find complete details, vivid images of each rental property offered, satellite location views, seasonal rental rates, and dates on the calendar that can be used for your reservation.

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