Destin is just west of SoWal Beaches and calls itself "the world's luckiest fishing village", but more recently it has been the epicenter of the Emerald Coast’s development boom.
Within a couple of decades, the town transformed from a sleepy fishing village to a modern and bustling tourist town. Its working harbor, once modestly lined with fishing wharfs, is now lined with high-rise condos, restaurants and luxury yachts. Yet despite the rapid growth, Destin has still maintained its unique charm and reputation as a world-class fishing destination.
Its roots as a fishing village go back more than 150 years. The town’s namesake, Leonard Destin, was a fisherman from Connecticut who stumbled upon the area on a long trip out to sea. He found the harbor hospitable and the fish plentiful and ended up settling there with his family. His descendants still live in Destin today.
Because the city is nestled on the East Pass, the Choctawhatchee Bay’s main connection to the Gulf of Mexico, it’s an ideal area for boating, fishing, kayaking, and beach combing. A hotspot for both locals and visitors is Crab Island, a shallow sandbar inside the East Pass where people on boats, tubes, kayaks and paddleboards enjoy playing in the clear water and on the white sandy bottom. The coves of Noriega Point are great places for swimmers and snorklers to explore, with a great view of boats dodging in and out of the harbor from the beach.
The harbor in Destin is a bustling hub where charter fishing boats bring in a daily bounty, much of it served at the local restaurants just a few feet from the docks. Harbor Docks is just one of the many restaurants in the area that serves locally sourced fish almost exclusively. Dewey Destin’s, which is owned and operated by the Destin family, has a location both on the harbor and the bay. Both are good spots for a fish sandwich with a great view. Many locals pick the Red Door Saloon as their favorite dive and the Burrito Del Sol taco stand across the street as their favorite late-night food spot.
Harborwalk Village always has something happening with its abundance of shops, restaurants and frequent events. The centerpiece of Harborwalk is the Emerald Grande, a massive luxury high rise that has become an unmistakable landmark of the city. Much of the harbor is now connected by a newly completed boardwalk that lets you explore the expansive waterfront. Here you can find a place to book a fishing trip, rent a jet ski or have a great meal, all within walking distance of each other.