What to Do in Destin When You Aren’t Laying on the BeachBy Kara Chalmers
Take a break from the beach and cast a line in Destin Harbor. (Photo: Getty Images)
You can only take so much beach, even in Destin on Florida’s “Emerald Coast,” a stretch of shoreline known for its brilliant green water. While it’s lovely to relax on the soft, stark-white sand (it’s fine quartz, washed down from the Appalachian Mountains), there comes a time to get up and on your feet or out on the water.
Cast a Line
Destin is just as acclaimed for fishing as it is for tanning and swimming. The “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village” is home to Florida’s largest fishing fleet. If you’re into deep-sea angling, book a Destin fishing charter through Fish Destin. Offshore, you can reel in blue and white marlin or sailfish. Seasick much? Inshore trolling’s easier on the stomach and could yield king mackerel, dolphinfish, wahoo or tuna. In Choctawhatchee Bay and area bayous, redfish, speckled trout and flounder are there for the taking.
The details: Besides Destin fishing charters, try dropping a line from the Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier, the Destin Bridge or the beach. Henderson Beach State Park allows casting from parts of its coastline.
You Hook It, They Cook It
Say you’re lucky, and you’d like to eat the day’s haul. No kitchen at your disposal? Bring your catch to AJ’s Seafood & Oyster Bar overlooking Destin Harbor. The cooks will blacken, grill or fry it, and return it to you with a side of hush puppies and coleslaw. Pre-dinner, whet your appetite with the restaurant’s fresh Apalachicola oysters. Stay for the live music, offered every night. You can drive to AJ’s, or boat in and tie-off at its docks. If fishing’s not your thing, get on the water in Destin via AJ’s dolphin-sighting, snorkeling and sunset cruises. All come with free drinks.
The details: Looking for something a bit more upscale? The name says it all at The Craft Bar. This gastropub serves inventive fare, seasonal craft cocktails and a selection of rare artisanal beers on tap.
You Only Live Once
The length of coastline just south of Destin is home to 15 coastal dune lakes, a phenomenon only found in a handful of other places: Madagascar, Australia, New Zealand and Oregon. These picturesque lakes are perfect for fishing, kayaking and standup paddling. Best bets are Western Lake at Grayton Beach State Park, as well as the three lakes at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park, home to sand dunes higher than 25 feet.
The details: New to SUP? YOLO Board rents standup paddle boards and offers lessons and fitness classes, including YOLO yoga. Pick up a board at YOLO Board + Bike in Santa Rosa Beach or have it delivered for free.
Happy Trails to You
If you’ve had your fill of sand and surf, but not of flora and fauna, head about an hour east to Panama City Beach Conservation Park for 24 miles of trails to hike or bike and boardwalks over wetlands. There are 12 trails in all here, ranging from a half-mile to 11 miles.
The details: Don’t forget binoculars for birdwatching, and you might also glimpse an alligator or white-tailed deer.