The Exploress Travel Guide: A Day in Destin, Florida

Words by Samantha Deubel

Two Junes ago I got a call from my husband, who had freshly joined the Air Force. He announced that we were going to be stationed in Northwest Florida, despite us having put a full list of Northwestern U.S. Air Force bases on our “dream sheet,” which I’m pretty sure is an Air Force term for, “something no one reads.” Florida was the last place in the continental United States that I expected to move - it wasn’t even on my radar. 

Although it might not be what I dreamed up for myself, this little corner of the US is charming and fun, and there are some pretty awesome reasons to put it on your wanderlust list. 

First of all, breakfast! Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, so I’ve done a lot of breakfasting in this area! Here are a couple of my favorites:

The Donut Hole

This little breakfast place is a cute spot to get donuts, and some other really great food. They are one of the few diners in the area that does shredded, fried hash browns, which are my husband’s favorite (everyone else does “home fries” which are just little, diced, fried potatoes).  They’re great for serving up delicious, classic American diner food.

Capriccio Café  

I love this café! We went here once, off of a random Yelp recommendation, and almost didn’t go in because it looked so unimpressive from the outside. Luckily, as we were about to leave, a friend came out and said, “Hi!” I am so glad he did, too, because we ended up loving this place, and the espresso is SPOT ON. If you are looking for some delicious espresso, and a variety of stuffed crepes, this is the spot to be!

Another Broken Egg

And speaking of espresso, this is another great spot to grab a cup! The food is also absolutely delicious. They serve a wide variety of omelets - from local seafood, to your more traditional ham and cheese. Everything is just so good!

Harbor Docks

On our last anniversary my husband and I brunched here. Not only do they have amazing mimosas, but the seating looks right out onto the water. And there is nothing I love more than breakfast with a view. When you visit, be sure to try the key-lime French toast! Key lime pies and flavors are such a fun part of the local Destin culture; the citrus is super fresh and delicious.

After you’ve had an awesome breakfast, there are a couple of main attractions in Destin - the biggest and most popular one being the beach! The entire city of Destin is pretty much a beach, but I love to drive along Okaloosa Island to find one of the beaches away from the pier, because they are usually less crowded, and free (some beaches charge an entrance fee).

Kitty Hawk Kites

One of our favorite beach activities is kite flying! There is an amazing kite shop called Kitty Hawk Kites, where you can pick up anything from a tiny, pocket sled kite, to a full-fledged kite-boarding kite. They even have kite-boarding lessons! The wind is usually pretty good coming off of the ocean, so you have a pretty good shot at having a great experience!

Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park

Destin also has a pretty great Aquarium, called the Gulfarium. The last time I went, we caught the sea-lion show, and I was so impressed by everything the animals were capable of! If you like aquariums, the Gulfarium has a variety of animals and shows, and the staff are so friendly – they love to talk all about their animals!  

Finally, after a day of fun, it’s dinnertime! Here are a few favorite places:

Okinawa Japanese Steak and Sushi House

This restaurant is actually in an area called Fort Walton Beach, which is about ten minutes from Destin. It’s a great place to grab delicious sushi and they also have a hibachi grill, where the chefs make the food right in front of you! My 2-year-old son loves to sneak over and watch the chefs create flaming onion “volcanoes.”

Marina Café

Eat like the locals, this café is one of the most highly recommended date-night destinations in Destin. While I haven’t been there (yet!), the menu looks delicious! I can’t wait to try it for my next birthday.

McGuire’s Irish Pub

This fun pub has a giant double decker bus out front, and dollar bills all over the walls and ceiling, inside. The pub is a great place to cozy in and get some steak and ale pie, which I crave from the days my family lived in England. It’s a great place to kick back and relax - they even have live musicians, on occasion, so check their website for upcoming events!

What about you? Have you been to Destin? What are YOUR favorites? Comment below!