Destin lies on the Florida panhandle, on what is called the Emerald Coast. This coast is named for the beautiful emerald colored water! Yes, this is the same Gulf of Mexico waters you see at the Yucatan beaches!
It is known for beautiful white sand beaches, that consist almost entirely of quartz particles, and clear shallow water perfect for swimming with kids.
On a warm summer day, the waves are gentle and perfect for wading with little kids. Read on for all the details on how to get to Destin Florida, things to do with kids in Destin and more tips from our many trips to Destin!
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Destin for a Family Vacation Spot
Destin is a very popular vacation spot. We have noticed that many vacationers come from Georgia, because it’s not too far of a drive. However, people come from all over the southeastern United States.
The weather in Destin is pretty good year round. Winters will have you mostly in the 60’s and summers are of course hot, with temperatures in the 90’s. However, that breeze from the ocean makes even the heat quite tolerable.
When people refer to the Destin area, they may be talking about any of the beaches between Pensacola and Panama City Beach. So going from west to east they may refer to: Fort Walton Beach, Destin, Miramar beach, Sandestin, and even Seaside and Rosemary Beach (which are really their own entities).
All of these beaches lie off of the Highway 98. Note that in Destin itself, the highway splits and the new modern highway is inland, while the “Scenic Highway 98”, also called Scenic Gulf Drive is right by the beach. This road has only one lane in either direction, which means it has a tendency to get quite traffic-y during peak summer times.
We highly recommend Destin with kids! There are enough things to do with kids in Destin, but also just relaxing on the beach is a great family activity.
Getting to Destin from Houston
Flying to Destin, Florida
To get to Destin, Florida from Houston, Texas you can either fly or drive. Your airport options for flying are Pensacola International Airport, which is about a one hour drive from Destin, or the small airport at Fort Walton Beach.
If you are searching flights, note that the airport code for Destin-Fort Walton Beach airport is VPS. Don’t ask me why!
Another thing to note, is that Panama City Beach is a major Spring Break destination, meaning that flights to this airport may be more expensive in the spring.
Driving to Destin
To drive into Destin, Florida it is approximately 10 hours drive from Houston. Most of the drive is on the I-10 East.
If you are planning on taking a road trip with kids- read my guide on our road trip with a baby and toddler. This was a road trip to Destin!
Driving from Houston, will have you passing by Lake Charles, driving through Louisiana (but bypassing New Orleans). Then continuing into Mississippi and then Alabama. Note that there is always traffic near Mobile, Alabama! Finally you’re on to Florida.
The coastal road on the Florida panhandle is the 98. To get from the I-10 to the 98 you have several options. I suggest checking Waze for traffic updates and choosing the fastest route when you are getting there.
One more thing to note: many rentals in Destin are rented weekly from Saturday to Saturday. The beach road mentioned above goes down to only one lane in certain places and this means traffic on summer weekends. Take a dose of patience with you!
Our Flight and Drive Combo
On the way back from Israel, we stopped in Houston and went on a family beach trip to Destin, Florida. The last time we were there, was quite a long time ago, way before Little N was around to show us how to REALLY have fun at the beach.
Little N and D took a flight on Southwest for this part of the journey (to avoid having to drive with a one year old for 10 hours). Meanwhile the rest of the family drove with all of our STUFF.
It was well executed on all ends, and a week that started off slightly overcast, ended up with rays of sunshine.
Things to do in Destin Florida
The main thing there is to do in Destin is hang out at the beach, of course! The water is shallow and calm, and perfectly crystal clear. I suggest bringing all of your own gear, as there are few places to rent chairs and umbrellas.
In Destin, you have excellent access to deep water fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. You can charter a boat at Destin harbor, or head to the Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier.
Destin has eight golf courses! There is something for every skill level. The year round comfortable weather makes it a great place to tee up and take a break from the ocean breeze.
There are several shopping areas where you can enjoy your evenings or rainy days.
Harborwalk Village– This is probably the most fun shopping center to check out with kids. In addition to shops and restaurants there are some amusement rides here. Also, it’s nice to walk around the harbor, since this center is on the bay.
Destin Commons – is an outdoor shopping plaza with shops and restaurants. This shopping center has some local shops as well as chain stores. The central area has a water feature and play area for kids.
Silver Sands Premium Outlets– This is your typical outlet shopping mall. All the major brands are represented. On rainy days, the mall gets very crowded!
What we did in Destin
The time spent on the beach, was really mostly spent on the beach. Of course on the rainy Florida afternoons we fit in some shopping at the outlets, and rummikub at the condo. All in all we had great weather and a lot of outdoor time!
Destin with a baby
If you are planning on taking your baby to the beach, there is a lot of gear to pack. I suggest downloading and/or printing my beach packing list before your trip! Download it right now!
Baby Boy, having already been acquainted with the beach in Israel, was ready to go from the moment we got there. He had the best time getting dirty in the sand, “building” towers, “digging” holes, smearing us with sand, swimming in his floatie, kicking the waves, and splashing!
The funny thing is that every time Baby Boy went into the water he instantly became sleepy. The ocean sounded just like the”waves” setting on his Sleep Sheep!
How was your summer vacation? Have you taken your littles to the beach?
Start searching for your summer beach property right now! It’s never too early to start planning your next trip.