Some of our Ocean Reef guests are not aware of the relatively new and exciting developments along Destin's Harbor. The Harbor has changed drastically in the past few years and there are lots of things to do. We thought we'd let you know about one of them.
First of all, it's hard to miss! Driving across Okaloosa Island approaching Destin from the west or boating in from the Gulf of Mexico to the south, the first thing you see is the charming boat anchored HarborWalk Village. Nestled beneath the towering Emerald Grande you'll find a new version of what looks like a fantasized original version of old Destin complete with a light house, docks, marinas and of course, a harbor walk. This magical, storybook village offers waterfront dining, harbor side shopping and fun nightlife entertainment. Since it is right next to the Destin Harbor Marina, home to the largest private charter fishing fleet on the Gulf, there is lots to do! World class fishing excursions, dolphin sunset cruises, sailing, diving and water sports are yours for the asking. Fishing boats unload their fresh catches daily with loads of bountiful fish. There are rentals available for jet skis, party pontoon boats to nearby Crab Island as well as boards for YOLO and wind surfing.
Besides offering restaurants, shops, bars and nightlife, the village shoots off fireworks over the harbor every week. Seasonal festivities are hosted throughout the year. The most popular of these includes the New Year's Eve celebration, Mardi Gras, the Cobia Fishing Tournament, Memorial Day, Independence Day, the Destin Seafood Festival, Oktoberfest, Winefest, the Destin Fishing Rodeo and Christmas festivities.
There is a big array of restaurants, enough to savorily satisfy everyone's pallet, but most specialties are devoted to serving fresh seafood. From tantalizing appetizers to decadent desserts with delicious main entrees in between, you can feast until your heart's content. Each restaurant provides its own unique ambiance from casual to more refined. Most are pretty laid back though as far as “dress” is concerned. This IS Florida after all and “Resort Casual” is usually worn as the current clothes du jour.
The HarborWalk restaurants include the following:
Grande Vista is located poolside at the Emerald Grande which has a sweep around deck with vista views of HarborWalk Village below, the marina, the Destin Bridge, Crab Island, Choctawhatchee Bay, East Pass and the shimmering Gulf of Mexico beyond. The ambiance here provides a comfortable club type setting with a fireplace, sitting areas, a beautiful white paneled ceiling and lots of old Destin photos from years past. The menu includes everything from gourmet burgers to seafood entrees.
Harry T's has a delightful waterfront location beside the HarborWalk light house which has outdoor as well as indoor dining with spectacular sunset views. This restaurant is a legend of sorts which builds its atmosphere around the history of a colorful early 1900s Destin pioneer, Harry T. He was originally a circus trapeze artist billed as “The Flying Harry T” before settling down and building a boat house on the harbor where he entertained greatly. Memorabilia from his circus days abound here including a giant stuffed giraffe named “Stretch”. They specialize in seafood combos and platters. A gift shop is available too for “T” shirts and souvenirs.
The Crazy Lobster is also right on the harbor and is known as “The Home of the Steamed Seafood Bucket” which is quite a feast. Outdoor dining is available and live entertainment is often featured. There is a large bar area featuring over twenty brands of exotic beer as well as a wall of four big screen TVs for the enjoyment of sporting events.
The Dancing Iguana is HarborWalk Village's newest opened restaurant and is situated on a point next to the Destin Bridge at the entrance to the harbor. It is the perfect place to watch the promenade of boats entering and exiting the marinas, with awesome sunset views towards the west. A large outdoor patio with a New Orleans styled court yard, overlooks the scene, complete with a beautiful, lighted fountain and open flamed gaslights offering a romantic setting. Chef specialties include coastal Mexican cuisine with hints of Cuban and even Argentinean flavorings. Their bar boasts one of the largest Tequila collections in the entire state of Florida with over 120 brands represented. Can you say Margarita?!
If you are in the mood for succulent, sweet and spicy barbecue look no further than The Shed (Now Closed). This is the place to be for big racks of ribs and big BBQ sandwiches. The restaurant overlooks HarborWalk Village and the marina. Besides great food they feature live Rhythm & Blues entertainment on a big indoor stage. Have fun with the crowd at their big bar which has a giant ten foot wide movie screen along with fifteen HD TVs tuned to every sporting event. During the games they offer buckets of domestic beer and well drink specials.
Jutting out above the harbor is the original and iconic Lucky Snapper (Now Closed) which has been serving seafood there for decades. The outdoor deck along with the open air indoor seating provides front and center views of the harbor. Most of the menu is seafood although there are a few beef and chicken dishes as well. Entrees come with delicious hush puppies as well as the choice of two southern comfort food side dishes.
If you feeling like having a daiquiri, the ultimate favorite Southern beverage, then you have to try Jester's Mardi Gras. They feature fifteen different types as well as some pizza on the side. Jester's is an off shoot of the famous original, which is a landmark in New Orleans and known for their long tradition of hospitality. This place is obviously in high season during Mardi Gras but continues the party going year round.
Mingled among the restaurants and bars are the wonderful shopping venues. A wide assortment of retail establishments are available in this waterfront setting. They include four galleries that feature local artists both indoors and outside on the promenade. There are clothing shops for casual and more formal attire, as well as boutiques that feature swimwear, designer sun glasses, cosmetics, jewelry, unique gifts and souvenirs.
Coming events at HarborWalk Village include the following:
Mardi Gras festivities will be held on Saturday, February 26th from 2pm on. There will be a dazzling display of floats, colorful costumed characters, street performers, live musical entertainment and lots of beads.
On Sunday, February 27th there is a special Sunday Snowbird Concert between 2 and 4pm. Music will be provided by the Northwest Florida State College Show Choir.
On “Lundi (Monday) Gras”which is March 7th, King Cakes and cocktails will be offered to visitors by the village merchants.
Fat Tuesday is a huge celebration here in the South and the village bars will be rocking. Outdoors, live musical entertainment will be provided along with crazy, costumed street performers. Free Red Beans and Rice will be doled out to the appreciative revelers.
No matter what time of the year, we know that all of you as our Ocean Reef guests will enjoy your visit to HarborWalk Village which is nearby many of our private Destin vacation rentals. As the Mardi Gras revelers say, “Let the good times roll!”