What is Destin, Florida, Most Known For?

Destin: Sun, Sand, and Splendor Await!

Posted on 3/22/2024

Destin, Florida, boasting a rich and unique history spanning over 175 years, only began to emerge as a coveted beach vacation destination in the early 1970s. Since then, Destin has seen significant growth, including the development of numerous world-class beach resorts, acclaimed championship golf courses, and beautiful beachside communities. This expansion was complemented by the addition of restaurants featuring welcoming beach bars, diverse shopping experiences, and engaging venues hosting vibrant festivals and fireworks celebrations.


Destin's "Beach Towns"

Beach Towns Near Destin

Beginning in the early 1980s with Seaside and continuing into the 2000s, modern picturesque coastal villages emerged east of Destin along the now-famous Scenic 30A. Now, it is a renowned beach vacation destination among tourists and a playground for the rich and famous! What used to be known only as Destin is now also known as Crystal Beach, Frangista Beach, Miramar Beach, and Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort. "Destin's" enchanting coastal villages along Scenic 30A a few miles away towards the east include: Dune Allen, Santa Rosa Beach, Blue Mountain Beach, Grayton Beach, WaterColor, Seaside, Seagrove Beach, Watersound, Alys Beach, Seacrest Beach, Rosemary Beach, and Inlet Beach.


Ocean Reef Resorts

Our local Taylor family founded Ocean Reef Resorts back in 1982, so we have long had the privilege of introducing this special pristine paradise to others! When we first started out, the fishing village of Destin primarily only included the development around the marina and Holiday Isle with a two-lane road (Highway 98) that ran along the Gulf over to the then new Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort. Since that time, we have been providing distinctive privately owned beach homes and condo vacation rentals to literally generations of visiting families who make traditional visits here. Dazzling Destin is now known across the nation for its sugary white shoreline and the emerald-toned Gulf waters, but its history had only a little to do with this blessed beauty. Its beaches have been heralded in Forbes, Southern Living, and other publications as having the most beautiful beaches in America.


A Rich Heritage

Destin's Rich Heritage

Destin was initially settled in 1845 by Captain Leonard Destin, who had discovered the abundant cornucopia of fish that could be caught close by in the Gulf and expansive bay. He was from Connecticut but built a home here with his new wife and started a thriving fishing village. Over time, it became known for charter fishing trips for visiting anglers. Then, it evolved into a highly popular beach destination due to the pristine white sand beaches and jeweled Gulf waters.


A Unique Location

Destin was a remote location for most of its existence since it resembles an island three to five miles off the mainland. It is actually a long peninsula off the Florida Panhandle with the open Gulf of Mexico to the south and huge Choctawhatchee Bay towards the north. It is just west of Panama City Beach and only about 45 miles east of Pensacola, Florida. Alabama otherwise borders the Gulf front "panhandle" of Florida and, contrary to popular belief, is located in the Central Time Zone, not the Eastern one. Many visitors to Destin come from metropolitan Atlanta, only about five hours away by car, four hours coming, and six hours back due to the time change. We enjoy telling our eastern guests that they get an extra hour for their vacation stay here but lose the hour when they return home!


Destin is now well-known for its bright, beautiful beaches, great fishing charter adventures, championship golf courses, along with shopping and dining destinations. Here is a look at each one.


World-Renowned Beaches

The beaches are composed of pure white quartz crystal shaved off of the Appalachian mountains during the last Ice Age and then pulverized into a shimmering, sugary form through tidal action for thousands of years. The pure white quartz crystalline sand is so fine it squeaks if you brush your feet against the surface, and it is cool to the touch. This is quite refreshing during the summer, and the sun reflects microscopic natural plankton from the white sand in the crystal clear waters, which glow in jeweled tones from peridot to emerald green and turquoise. Usually, you must travel to exotic places in the Caribbean to find such waters, but they are found here in Destin along what is now aptly known as "The Emerald Coast."


"The World's Luckiest Fishing Village"

Fishing Charters began in Destin in the late 1870s when adventurous folk arrived by steamboat to stay at cottages built on the bay near the original Destin docks. The business grew exponentially due to catches of Red Snapper, Spanish Mackerel, Cobia, Grouper, Mahi-Mahi, and Amberjack. Game Fish became popular, so Destin became known nationally as "The Billfish Capital of the Gulf of Mexico" by the 1920s for Swordfish, Sailfish, and Blue Marlin. By the mid-1950s (only ten years after electricity was introduced to Destin!), it became known as the "World's Luckiest Fishing Village," with one of the largest commercial fishing operations in the nation. Today, Destin Harbor is home to the largest private charter fishing fleet in North America. The golden Americana-styled HarborWalk Village was built there in the mid-2000s, and this locale serves as host to the famous Destin Fishing Rodeo that has been around for 75 years. It also features wonderful dockside restaurants with bars that have live music, specialty shops, outdoor concerts, family amusements, fun year-round festivals, and vibrant seasonal firework extravaganzas. There are also pontoon rentals, watercraft, fishing charters, dolphin sightseeing excursions, sunset dinner cruises, and even a treasure hunt adventure on a masted pirate ship with a rollicking crew. Ocean Reef Resorts guests receive complimentary discounts for many of these delightful pursuits.


Championship Golf Courses

Golf is quite popular among some of our guests, and there are now well over a dozen championship golf courses in the area, with the first being established in old Destin called Indian Bayou. "Golf Digest" magazine's top fairway courses for play include the waterfront fairways at the Kelly Plantation, Regatta Bay, Emerald Bay, and Seascape. Ocean Reef Resorts guests receive special reduced rates for golf and tennis at the Seascape Resort. Four championship golf courses were listed at Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort which spans across 2,400 acres of forested grounds dotted with natural lagoons from the Gulf all the way over to the bay. These award-winning golf courses include The Links, Bayside, Raven, and Burnt Pine.


World-Class Shopping

Popular shopping as well as dining destinations are well-known in Destin, and quite a few may be found at the Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort. The lush, tropically urbane town center known as Grand Boulevard features great restaurants with friendly bars, fashion boutiques, fine clothiers, specialty shops, and galleries. A state-of-the-art Multiplex Theater there features a unique VIP Observation lounge inviting guests to drink and dine while enjoying new movies. The enchanting Village of Baytowne Wharf is also a Sandestin focal point. This beguiling village was inspired by the architecture found in the French Quarter of New Orleans, which straddles a lagoon with a long wharf that shoots out into the big bay. People gather there to experience magnificent sunsets right over the bay during the summer. Baytowne Wharf has wonderful restaurants with bars that play live music, family amusements, outdoor concerts, fun festivals throughout the year, and exciting seasonal firework celebrations. The famous Silver Sands Premium Outlets is also nearby in Miramar Beach, which is a fashion mecca offering amazing bargains on a wide array of world-class designer goods. Another popular shopping and dining destination is in the idyllic retail village of Destin Commons, located at the intersection of Highway 98 and the Toll Bay Bridge road. This captivating place features pedestrian and pet-friendly avenues lined with Royal Palms, which meander through the village connected to a myriad of fine clothiers, fashion boutiques, shoe stores, jewelers, along with many specialty shops. The Mediterranean-styled turret towers, a classic fountain, a geyser plaza where kids can enjoy some refreshing fun, restaurants with bars, and an AMC Multiplex Theater provide a setting for a delightful experience.


Premier Vacation Rentals

Here at Ocean Reef Resorts, we have hundreds of upscale, comfortably furnished vacation rentals to choose from in Destin, Miramar Beach, along Scenic 30A, and in Panama City Beach. They include everything from giant Gulf-front villas that can accommodate big beach reunions to luxurious condominiums of all kinds to charming cottages for romantic holidays. Many are located in beach resorts or prestigious gated communities with awesome amenities. Our state-of-the-art Ocean Reef Resorts website has detailed information to get whatever property suits your group best. You can see vivid images of each property, a bird's eye view of each location, and the seasonal rental rates and calendar days that are still available for making reservations.


Year-Round Fun

The summer season is the most popular time to visit for family beach vacations, so rental rates are at their peak. They are lower in spring and autumn with the lowest rates available from November thru February. Besides bargain rentals, this time of year is known for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, and Mardi Gras festivals, along with spectacular sunsets that occur directly above the Gulf. Spring Break is popular for college breaks, but Destin is more a "family town" than a "party city," the gorgeous azalea bushes are in full bloom. Autumn is a great time to visit not only for lower rental rates but also because the dry, sunny temperatures are usually up to 80 degrees, beaches aren't crowded, and the Gulf water is still warm enough for swimming. Wine, art, beer, seafood, and fishing festivals all occur during this fun season.


Easy Airport Access

Now that "you too are in the know," join other families and friends who create magical, memorable, fun-filled memories at the beach. If you don't take the drive down, which is only four hours from Atlanta, seven hours from Nashville, and nine hours from Houston … you can fly! Destin is near the Northwest Beaches International Airport in Panama City Beach (1 hour away) and the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport (30 minutes away). It is served by American, Allegiant, Delta, Southwest, and Sun Country Airlines. The Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport in Panama City is served by Air France, American, Delta, Korean KLM, Qatar, United, and Virgin Air.

Related article: Top 3 Destin Airports


Explore here on our Ocean Reef Resorts website now and see dazzling images along with vivid videos of Destin and The Emerald Coast. You will be truly impressed with the stunning seascape, brilliantly bright beaches, and glowing jewel-toned Gulf. Many of our esteemed guests have found their favorite "beach home away from home" and book another reservation there for the next year as soon as they leave. For this reason, you should book your own reservations as soon as you can if visiting during peak seasons. You, too, can find your favorite place in the sun to start your own traditional visit to the beach. Talk to your family and friends ASAP to see who wants to share a place at the beach! See you on the sand soon.

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