Destin with Kids: 30 Awesome Things To Do in Destin, Florida

Paddleboarding  is just one of many fun water activities in Destin. Photo by Jennifer Swope
Paddleboarding is just one of many fun water activities in Destin. Photo by Jennifer Swope
8/10/23 - By Jackie Jones

Destin, Florida may have a reputation as a party spot for spring breakers, but this city on the Florida Panhandle is actually brimming with kid-friendly activities. Families love the impeccably clean and clear waters of the "Emerald Coast," the unofficial nickname for the 100-mile stretch of beach along the Gulf of Mexico. Yet, the fun doesn't stop at the sand. The greater Destin, Florida area offers plenty in the way of interactive museums, amusement parks, animal adventures, and great restaurants, making it a go-to Florida vacation destination for those with children in tow.

Here are 30 of the best things to do with kids in and around Destin, Florida, including delicious Destin restaurants and great Destin, Florida resorts, hotels, and vacation rentals. For more family adventures in the Sunshine State, check out our Florida Family Vacation Guide.


Things To Do in Destin, FL: Henderson Beach State Park
What will you spot on Henderson Beach State Park's nature trail?

Things to Do Outdoors with Kids in Destin, Florida

1. Hit the Beach

Duh, right? Travel along Highway 30-A in Florida and you will see mile after mile of beautiful coastline (this scenic drive definitely rivals Highway 1 in California). Not all beaches are public, however, so pick your spot wisely. My family loves the white sands of Miramar Beach in Destin and Ed Walline Beach in Santa Rosa Beach. Both offer free parking, though it is limited. Your best bet is to head out early.

Henderson Beach State Park has a nice playground and nature trail, along with access to the Gulf waters. Parking here is plentiful but costs a fee. Even in January(!!!) we were able to enjoy a few days playing in the water, though the beaches get considerably more pleasant, as well as crowded, as the summer months approach.

RELATED: 10 Best Florida Beach Vacations for Families

Fun Things To Do in Destin, Florida with Kids: Little Adventures.
Go fishing with Little Adventures. Photo by Jennifer Swope

2. Go on a Little Adventure

If you've ever found yourself paying for an activity that your kid just had to do, but got bored with it within 10 minutes, then Little Adventures is for you. Destin-Fort Walton Beach offers FREE, expert-led classes at three outposts for kids of all ages and skill levels. Fishing, surfing, and snorkeling are just some of the fun offerings available. When you're ready to take the adventure to the next level, you can book excursions or activities that fit every price range, interest level, and age group. Local moms are available for live chats directly on the website to help you choose the right adventure for your family.

Things To Do in Destin, FL: snorkeling
Destin's artificial reefs are great places to go snorkeling. Photo by Jennifer Swope

3. Snorkel in Destin's Artificial Reefs

There are more than 100 man-made reefs in the greater Destin area, making it an ideal spot for snorkeling and scuba diving. The Destin jetties, located next to the HarborWalk Village shopping center, is perhaps the city's most famous location. Visitors have reported seeing sea turtles, crabs, and even an occasional manatee here. Visibility is always best at high tide.

4. Go Boating

The Gulf has some of the most beautiful water you'll ever see. It's blue and clear and almost unreal with the bright, white sand. And what better way to explore this body of water than by boat. Island Watersports has a fleet of pontoons, some with double-decker slides, available for for four-, six-, or eight-hour rentals. On our day on the water, we saw gorgeous fish and even a manatee! There are several locations to pull the boats up to the beach or anchor nearby to snorkel and swim in the surf.

Fun Things To Do in Destin, Florida with Kids 
Unleash your inner pirate on the Buccaneer Pirate Cruise. Argh! Photo courtesy of the cruise

5. Ride on a Pirate Ship

Ahoy, matey! The Buccaneer Pirate Cruise is sure to delight your little swashbucklers. Expect plenty of lively entertainment aboard the 100-foot vessel, from pirate stories and face painting to treasure hunts and water-gun battles. Cruises last about an hour and 45 minutes. If your family is more into sea life than scallywags, Destin offers plenty of dolphin-watching excursions and glass-bottom boat tours as well.

Things To Do in Destin: Big Kahuna's Water Park
Splash and slide at Big Kahuna's Water Park. Photo courtesy of the park

6. Big Kahuna's Water Park

Open March through Labor Day, Big Kahuna's is a Tiki-themed water park with 40 different rides, slides, and pools. Older kids love the Kowabunga Racer, a four-lane drag strip plunging five stories downhill. Little ones enjoy Buccaneer Cove, a giant splash pad with a pirate motif. There's also a lazy river, a wave pool, and a mini golf course.

7. The Boardwalk at Okaloosa Island

With restaurants, shopping, and public beach access, The Boardwalk is definitely worth a stop while on Okaloosa Island. Rockin' Tacos features a full Mexican food menu, including its popular gator tacos. And grab some gelato from Pino Gelato before taking an evening walk on the beach. Each week there's live music and other events to entertain the entire family.

RELATED: 21 Best Family Beach Vacations for Summer Travel

Fun Things To Do in Destin, Florida with Kids
Soar above the Village of Baytowne Wharf on a zip line.

8. The Village of Baytowne Wharf

Without a doubt, my daughters' favorite thing to do in Destin is visit the Village at Baytowne Wharf. This outdoor mall has got it all. The Baytowne Adventure Zone has a ropes course where brave kids (and parents!) can climb three stories to "walk the plank" and ring the bell at the very top. Kids also flip for the Euro Bungy trampolines and the Baytowne zip line, which soars 300 feet above a lagoon in the middle of the shopping center.

Pro tip: Be sure to check the Baytowne Wharf calendar before visiting, as the village hosts regular fun events such as concerts, Mardi Gras parades, magic shows, and a pop-up ice skating rink in the winter.

9. The Track

A family can easily spend hours at The Track, a Destin amusement park with attractions for kids of all ages. For teens and tweens, there's Hurricane 360, a spinning, swinging thrill ride 40 feet in the air. For the little ones, there's a carousel, flying airplanes, and a small Ferris wheel. Did I mention there are also bumper cars, blaster boats, a large arcade, and a mini golf course? Whew!

Note: Like many Destin points of interest, The Track scales down its operations significantly during the winter. Be sure to call ahead to find out which rides are open.

10. Wild Willy's Adventure Zone

Wild Willy's is a dinosaur-themed amusement park with a treetop ropes course, a giant arcade, laser tag, and three go-kart race tracks. The real highlight here, though, is the park's 18-hole "T-Rex Island" mini golf course, featuring animatronic dinosaurs that move and roar as you practice your short game.

Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park: Things to do in Destin, Florida with kids
View fish, sea turtles, alligators, and more at Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park. Photo courtesy of the park

11. Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park

This half-outdoor aquarium in Fort Walton Beach offers tons of wildlife viewing, including sea turtles, alligators, and otters. Kids can get up close with sea urchins and starfish in the Gulfarium touch tank. The free dolphin and sea lion shows are also a highlight—just prepare to get wet if you sit in the front! For an extra fee, the marine park offers several animal encounters, from snorkeling with sting rays to feeding penguins.

12. Gator Beach at Fudpucker's

It's no secret that Florida loves its alligators. You can learn more about these fierce reptiles at Gator Beach, an animal park dedicated to them next to the Fudpucker's Beachside Bar and Grill. Catch one of the park's daily shows, feed an alligator, and have your picture taken holding a baby gator (we did this on my birthday and my kids loved it). Bonus: Fudpucker's is a family-friendly restaurant with an on-site playground and an adjacent arcade. Admission to Gator Beach is free, though you will have to pay for the extras.

Fun Things To Do in Destin, Florida with Kids: Emerald Coast Zoo 
See the wallaby at the Emerald Coast Zoo. Photo courtesy of the zoo

13. Emerald Coast Zoo

Located about 45 minutes outside Destin, Florida in Crestview is the Emerald Coast Zoo. This modestly priced wildlife center features plenty of animals like lions, macaws, kangaroos, and bears. The zoo also offers a ton of animal encounters. My daughters loved feeding the giraffes and going for a ride on the dromedary camels. Next time I visit, I am determined to try the sloth-petting experience!

14. Go Shopping

Who knew Destin was such a premier destination for shopping? The Destin Commons outdoor mall is especially family-friendly, with colorful murals, a small playground, a mini train that circles the area, and several shops that cater to kids (Build-A-Bear, anyone?) If you're on the hunt for bargains, head to the Silver Sands Premium Outlets, which houses an Old Navy outlet, Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5th, and a Disney Store outlet, to name a few.

Indoor Activities for Families in Destin, Florida

The weather in Destin, Florida can be a bit unpredictable, with sunny skies one moment and thunderstorms the next. Good thing there are plenty of fun indoor activities!

RELATED: Best Places to Visit in the South, USA with Kids

Fun Things To Do in Destin, Florida with Kids: Urban Air
Urban Air is a great place to spend a rainy day. Photo by Diana Kim

15. Bounce Around

Kids can bounce their hearts out at Urban Air trampoline park, then ride the Sky Rider zip line, battle each other on the dodgeball court, and challenge themselves on the climbing walls.

16. Go Bowling

For a less strenuous sporting activity, hit up one of Destin's bowling alleys. Uncle Buck's Fish Bowl and Grill boasts an underwater-themed bowling atmosphere, while Hurricane Lanes has more of a traditional vibe, with 26 lanes and six pool tables.

17. Destin History & Fishing Museum

Destin, Florida is known as "the world's luckiest fishing village" because of its access to the Gulf of Mexico and the large variety of fish species that live there. This museum highlights the experiences of local anglers, including those that participate in the annual Destin Fishing Rodeo (a major local event which includes plenty of great eating and drinking).

Now, I know a fishing museum doesn't sound like it would be particularly fun for a kid, but this spot does it right. There are plenty of interactive stations, cool vintage photos, and animal exhibits. We always leave with plenty of coloring and activity pages—all sea-life themed, naturally. 

Fun Things To Do in Destin, Florida with Kids: Rock Paper& Scissors 30A
Let kids' creativity run wild at Rock Paper & Scissors 30A.

18. Channel Your Inner Artist

Hands down, one of the best kids' art studios I have ever visited is Rock Paper& Scissors 30A in Santa Rosa Beach. The staff is especially patient and friendly. We love going during the walk-in open studio hours, offered Mondays through Saturdays. Kids get to pick a project (there are usually about six choices) and materials. Examples include 3D canvas paintings and wooden animals and cars. The studio also sells plenty of take-home kits and art supplies.

19. Go Roller Skating

Black-light roller skating with some old-school pop music? Yes, please! Fort SK8 Family Fun Center, a longstanding family-owned roller rink in Fort Walton Beach, has everything you need when the weather takes a turn and your family needs to blow off some steam. Along with its 11,000-foot skating floor, Fort SK8 has a large arcade and a snack shop.

The Gulf Restaurant: Things to do in Destin Florida with kids
Kids can play volleyball or cornhole while waiting for their food at The Gulf Restaurant. Photo by Jennifer Swope

Destin Restaurants Kids Will Love

20. Yes, You May Play!

Every parent, at some point, has struggled to get their kid to just sit at a restaurant. Well struggle no more! The Gulf Restaurant is an outdoor eatery made of shipping containers located on Okaloosa Island. With cornhole lanes, a volleyball court, a dock, and plenty of outdoor space, kids and kids-at-heart may roam and have fun while eating delicious, seasonal fare.

Over in Destin and serving coastal cuisine, Lulu's opens out to a view of the water with a sand lawn for kids to play on. Don't miss out on a paddleboard excursion with Destin Paddle, located right behind the restaurant

21. Seafood Rules

It's no surprise that the world's luckiest fishing village has some terrific seafood restaurants. If you find yourself in HarborWalk Village, East Pass Seafood & Oyster House is a great stop for raw oysters and fried favorites, like hushpuppies and shrimp. 

Boshamps Seafood & Oyster House serves up Southern-style seafood with sides like cheese grits and greens with bacon. Located on the Destin harbor, this casual spot has been a local favorite since the 80s.

Slick Lips Seafood & Oyster House, at the Village of Baytowne Wharf, is another laid-back eatery that fish fans will especially enjoy.

And if you are looking for a special-occasion restaurant, head to Ocean Club in Sandestin. Don't be intimidated by the white tablecloths; the restaurant has a kids' menu and is quite family-friendly. We love to go on nights when there is live music and dancing!

Fun Things To Do in Destin, Florida with Kids: Pizza by the Sea
Pizza plus ocean equals heaven! Photo courtesy of Pizza by the Sea

22. Pizza, Please!

Who doesn't love pizza night? And Pizza by the Sea, with four locations around Destin, takes it to a whole new level. This local gem is really good, with lots of dietary options including a crunchy cauliflower crust. Another great spot for pizza is Roberto's Italian Pizzeria in Sandestin. Customers loving watching sports on the restaurant's 15 big-screen TVs while noshing on pizza.

23. Sweet Treats

Sometimes you just have to indulge that sweet tooth, and Pecan Jack's in Santa Rosa Beach is the perfect place to do it. This family-owned business has tons of gourmet candies and nuts, but the real star of the show is its artisan ice cream. I love "The Elvis," a chocolate concoction with marshmallows, peanut butter, and banana.

Speaking of fancy flavors, Smallcakes offers delicious classic cupcakes, as well as specialty and seasonal treats. Gingerbread cupcakes? I'm there.

Want a sweet treat for breakfast? Parlor Doughnuts has a shop in Fort Walton Beach, serving up gourmet doughnuts with flavors such as caramel bliss and dreamsicle. Kids will beg for one of every flavor.

Fun Things To Do in Destin, Florida with Kids:  Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa
Stay steps away from the sand at Hilton Sandestin Beach. Photo courtesy of the resort

Destin, Florida Hotels & Resorts on the Waterfront for Families

24. Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa

Stay steps away from the sand at one of Destin's oceanfront resorts, Hilton Sandestin Beach. It has more than 600 rooms (some with bunk beds for the kids!) and three pools, as well as a toddler splash area. There are also seasonal drop-off kids' programs.

25. The Island Resort at Fort Walton Beach

The only boutique beach resort on Okaloosa Island, The Island Resort features 600 feet of private beach, two swimming pools, and Misty the Mermaid. Misty visits the pools weekly to meet and play with young guests. 

26. The Henderson Beach Resort

Families that stay at The Henderson Beach Resort receive free access to Henderson Beach State Park. The hotel also has a family pool with a splash pad and a lazy river, family crafts (for an extra fee) on Fridays and Saturdays, several on-site restaurants, bike rentals, and a kids' club.

27. Embassy Suites by Hilton Destin Miramar Beach

This hotel across the street from the beach only has two-room suites, making it perfect for families. There's also an outdoor pool, free breakfast and parking, and an on-site restaurant.

Fun Things To Do in Destin, Florida with Kids: Emerald Grande at HarborWalk Village
Rent a condo at Emerald Grande at HarborWalk Village for spectacular Gulf Coast views. Photo courtesy of Emerald Grande

Destin, Florida Vacation Condo Rentals for Families

Many visitors to Destin, Florida choose to stay in condo rentals via Airbnb or Vrbo. Local property managers are also happy to accommodate families.

28. Emerald Grande at HarborWalk Village

If you are seeking that stunning view of the Gulf Coast, know that all units at Emerald Grande have balconies. Plus, visitors enjoy easy access to HarborWalk Village's restaurants and shops.

29. TOPS'L Beach & Racquet Resort

TOPS'L Beach & Racquet Resort is in a quieter, gated community in Sandestin with a premiere tennis club and three restaurants on site.

Fun Things To Do in Destin, Florida with Kids
Be in the center of the action when you stay at The Village of Baytowne Wharf. Photo courtesy of the village

30. The Village of Baytowne Wharf

Want to be in the middle of the action? Rent a condo at The Village of Baytowne Wharf. You won't be staying on the ocean, but you'll have access to a pool, a fitness center, and all of the fun happenings taking place at the shopping center.

This article was originally published in 2021 and updated in 2023 with additional reporting by Jennifer Swope. 

This article contains some affiliate links, which means we might earn a small commission if you book a hotel or activity. There is no extra cost to the reader. We only recommend hotels and services that we have personally used or have thoroughly researched.

Places featured in this article:

Boshamps Seafood & Oyster House

Embassy Suites by Hilton Destin Miramar Beach

Emerald Grande at HarborWalk Village

East Pass Seafood & Oyster House