The vast majority of our Destin tourists come down for a fun family vacation to visit the Star of the Show, which is THE BEACH!
This is not surprising since the award-winning shimmering white crystalline shoreline overlooking the dazzling jewel-toned waters of the Gulf are quite an allure. However, those who have experienced the water itself will quickly tell you it’s not all about the beach. Although Destin is a long peninsula, it is a lot like an offshore island with “water water everywhere.” The serene, beautiful Choctawhatchee Bay to the north spans across three to five miles from the mainland. The glorious Gulf of Mexico extends as far as one can see into the horizon on its southern shore. The Destin Marina wraps around the point at HarborWalk Village, extending from the residential communities of Holiday Isle and under the bridge into the bay. This is where the popular party rendezvous destination of Crab Island is located where folks anchor their boats in the shallow crystal clear water, picnic, party, and frolic about with everyone there. The Destin area is also blessed to be home to rare precious Coastal Dune Lakes. These heavenly bodies of water are found hardly anywhere else on the planet. They have creek-like estuaries that cut through dunes into the salted Gulf, creating a magical water composition thru ongoing tides that flow in and out. This provides a perfect environment for abundant wildlife, a wide variety of fish, waterfowl, animals, and indigenous plants.
You can experience all of the above through the classic style of kayaking! There is something quite beautiful and ethereal about quietly skimming across some serene water on a kayak where you are truly one with nature. Waters on the bay, harbor, and the coastal dune lakes are perfect for this as the surfaces are usually quite placid.
You may explore forested shorelines on the Coastal Dune Lakes and watch Great Blue Herons or Snowy White Egrets fish along the shores. You might even try fishing yourself since these lakes are known for their underwater bounty. You may catch Bream, Bass, Catfish, Redfish, and Speckled Trout. You must have a fishing license beforehand and can easily get one at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com; a non-resident fee is only $17 for a three-day permit.
The best places for kayaking are located at Topsail Hill Preserve, Grayton Beach State Park, and Deer Lake. Topsail will not let you bring your own, but they do rent them for use on Campbell Lake, which is encompassed by an old-growth forest near the towering Gulf-front dunes and features an enchanting almost primordial setting. Kayak rentals are $35 for half a day and $55 for a full day.
You may bring your own kayak to Grayton Beach State Park and only pay the $5 park entry fee for the day. They have rented kayaks in the past of $35 for four hours and $50 for eight hours. There is also direct access to the park’s lake in old Grayton Beach right down from the famous Red Bar with no fees to launch. Grayton Beach State Park is quite a natural treasure since they were just named the Best and Most Beautiful Beach in America in a famous extensive national study conducted annually by Stephen Leatherman, aka “Dr. Beach.” The park encompasses almost 2,000 acres, including the beautiful beach, sugary dunes, pristine wetlands, and the exotic forested coastal dune lake that spans 100 acres. Scenic 30A crosses Western Lake on a narrow isthmus connecting Grayton Beach to WaterColor with rolling sugary dunes next to the beach on one side and the forested shoreline on the other. Deer Lake State Park is fairly remote and only has a $3 Honor Fee to enter. Kayaking is allowed on the lake if you have one and may be launched in designated entry points. You may also launch it right at Scenic Highway 30A but would have to parallel park off to the side of the road.
The Choctawhatchee Bay and Destin Harbor are also easily available for kayaking with launch points located at Haugen Park and Legion Park in Miramar Beach and Hogtown Bayou, Cessna Landin, Thomas Pilcher Park, and the Kellogg Property in Santa Rosa Beach. The lovely brand new Leonard Destin Park on Calhoun Drive in Destin also has a free kayak launch and is direct across from Crab Island for frolic and fun.
Read more: Complete History of Captain Leonard Destin
The Gulf can also be a great place to kayak when the surf is low, and amazingly enough, sometimes the water’s surface can be as smooth as glass. There are many public beach access points all along Scenic Highway 98 in Destin and Scenic Gulf Drive in adjoining Miramar Beach. You may bring a kayak with you to launch all along this route.
Kayak Rentals are available around HarborWalk Village in Destin and include a wide variety of watercraft with one or two-seaters available. One of the newest, most popular kayaks are completely clear, so there is a full 360-degree view of the water beneath you and all around. You may see fish swimming below you in the crystal clear emerald toned waters, and it gives you a sense of floating across the sparkling surface while marveling at the sensational underwater scenery. Many times pods of dolphins may be spotted too since they often like to follow the boats above or beside them! Top favorite kayak rentals in this location include Destin Kayak Rentals, Emerald Coast Rentals, Luther’s Kayak Rentals, and La Dolce Vita. Rental rates range from $65+ per day and $175 to $275 per week. The weekly fees include free delivery and pickup costs. It should be noted that Ocean Reef Resorts guests receive special discounts through our complimentary Reef Rewards program for kayaks and other rentals. Down along Scenic 30A, popular kayak rental places include The Rental Shop 30A, Tygar Jon’s Beach Rentals, and Yellowfin Ocean Sports, all of which are located in a convenient centralized location in Santa Rosa Beach.
Ocean Reef Resorts has distinctive vacation rental homes available near the Gulf, bay, and the coastal dune lakes along Scenic 30A. Many of our vacation homes are right on the Beach or are lakefront properties with their own docks. Enjoy planning your next kayak adventure by checking out our user-friendly website, which shows aerial views of individual locations, detailed descriptions, vivid property images, seasonal rates, and calendar dates available to make your reservation. Enjoy a magical new adventure that may hook you for life!