Destin is the world's Luckiest Fishing Destination, but it's not just about the fishing and boating, Destin has some of the top beaches in the world.
From Okaloosa Island in Fort Walton Beach to Norriego Beach, Henderson State Park Beach, Crystal Beach, Destin beach, and Miramar Beach, Destin is a top place to go for the perfect beach vacation.
What this Guide covers
This guide is all about the beach areas: the beaches, access points, parking, wildlife, activities, sand and water, beachfront area, shelling, and anything related to being on the beach! Everything you need to know about the beaches for a day, a weekend, a quiet moment, vacationing, moving or buying in the area. We have included Miramar Beach in this guide since it is the sister community that many people visiting the area consider part of Destin.
Also see surrounding area Beach Guides:
Destin metro area encompasses the beaches from Fort Walton Beach through Inlet Beach at the end of 30A. This Destin Beach Guide however covers just the Destin & Miramar beach locations. See our Fort Walton Beach Okaloosa Island Beach Guide and South Walton 30A Beach Guide for more on the beaches along those Beaches to the west and east of the central Destin community.
Destin Harbor is a popular spot that most vacationers go to for fishing and boating excursions, but many do not know that there is a phenomenal beachfront just across from the harbor that is accessible to the public.
Google maps will guide you to Norriego Point, however, as you get to the main entrance point, it is a bit confusing and seems as though you can't get in because of the gated community that is just ahead. Keep going and turn right just before the gated area and stay on the road and follow the signs and you will end up at a parking lot for the Norriego Point. It is a pay to park area and well worth the few dollars to enjoy a walk around this point.
You can enjoy a day at the beach, walk out onto the rocks, cast a fishing line at one of the best inshore fishing locations in Destin, get in the water to play, swim or snorkel or just walk around this beautiful point and enjoy a walk in the sand and capture some gorgeous photos.
This iconic spot is the perfect place to end your day with a beautiful sunset.
After Norriego, the first place to access the beach is at the Calhoun Beach Trail, a small access point. Then there is a nice beach access at June White Decker beach just before Henderson Beach State Park.
June White Decker Beach features the Silver Shells Beach Trail with restrooms and car and bike parking. Directly across the street is a candy and gift shop.
This state park sits in the middle of Destin Beaches featuring a pristine beachfront with dunes and the gorgeous white sands that is famously predominant in the Panhandle beaches. This park features a boardwalk that crosses the untouched dune area to the beachfront. This area that is now covered with dunes was once a road that was moved to allow for more dune development in the area.
Henderson Beach State Park is a perfect spot for family picnics, camping, fishing, and geocaching. Pet-friendly beaches and popular for destination weddings, Henderson Beach State Park is a must see park along the Florida Coastline.
The park is only a little over a mile long and offers an amazing beach hike along the shoreline. There is a state park entrance fee but if you don't want to pay the price, you can access the beach at Crystal Beach and walk over to the park's beachfront just a few blocks away. Though note, the Crystal Beach parking area is small and if you can spare a few dollars, support the state park system and pay to go into the park.
Directly on the east side of Henderson Beach State Park, after the Henderson Resort area, is the local community of Crystal Beach. This area sits just between Destin's Harbor Walk and the main tourist strip of condos and hotels along Destin Beach. Just north of Crystal Beach is Destin Commons, the large shopping area with a plethora of dining and shopping options. Crystal Beach is a charming community that sits in the middle of all the action while remaining a community focused town. Vacation rentals in this community are focused on families and adults.
A small Beach access with restrooms and covered picnic areas is the center of the town directly across the street from Beachside Inn, a charming small pet friendly hotel with a cafe and restaurant that are a local hotspot. Beachside Inn sponsored our visit to the area and was a pleasant surprise that we found in this quaint community in the midst of Destin.
Crystal Beach is also home to the Old Crystal Beach Pier, which was destroyed in Hurricane Eloise in 1975. The pilings still jut out of the sand and shoreline.
Crystal Beach features the soft white sands of Destin and wide beachfront. This family friendly spot is perfect for staying in the middle of everything Destin has to offer.
Heading east in Destin, there are several walk or bike to access points that do not have parking. These are perfect for accessing the beach from the plethora of vacation rentals surrounding the area.
Heading east along the beach road, the largest beach access point at James Lee Beach offers lots of parking, pavillions, restrooms and features the Crab Trap Seafood and Oyster Bar that sits in the middle of two large parking lots.
The stretch of beaches after the Crab Trap is all private access whose access points are gated and only accessible by the Destiny community residents.
Further east is another large parking area with restrooms and beach access.
Pompano Joe's is along this part of the beach and is another local and visitors hot spot. After Pompano Joes, there are additional accessible points that are both private and public.
Miramar Beach Public Beach Access #50
This beach access is a few more miles down the road and has a small parking area and is highly recommended as one of the best spots for a sunset view in the panhandle. This access point is elevated above sea level with gorgeous views of the beach and beautiful waters. The beach area is wide with sugary white super soft sand and when the sun hits the waters, it brings out the gorgeous emerald hue in the water and with the elevated view, there is nothing quite like it.
Miramar Beach has a few additional access points though most only have one or two parking spots and are mostly for the residents in the area.
Topsail Hill Preserve State Park features a nice preserved area and nature walk that leads to the beach area. Take a side trail and check out the lakes in the park on your way to the beach. This park offers a tram to take visitors to the beach access and back to the parking area if you get tired or don't want to do the long walk. The park also features a campground area and is pet friendly.
Topsail Hill Preserve State Park is the beach that connects the Destin area beaches with the South Walton 30A area beaches. While South Walton Beaches, also known as 30A, is part of the Destin Metro area, this area has established it's own uniqueness with planned communities stretching all along 30A. See our South Walton 30A Beaches Guide for more about these beach towns.
Destin has a cultural feel that is very much focused on families. While is has become a tourist destination, the draw of this fabulous beach town is for families to visit together, whether for family reunions, or small family vacations. And while families are common, Destin is wildly popular for couples and retirees.
One of the best features on Destin's beaches is the multitude of beach side dining options. Walk up from the beach and enjoy a meal, grab a coffee or drink and dine right on the beach at places like Surf Hut (pictured), The Crab Shack, Pompano Joes and more.
To experience everything Destin has to offer does require a car to get around, whether your own vehicle or Uber. Biking along the beachside communities is a fun way to explore and access the beaches and beachside dining.
Parking & Beach Access
Destin has several large free parking areas with access to the beach, a few smaller ones with limited parking, some with just boardwalks for bikers and walkers, and lots of private gated access points. Most of the smaller access points are pay to park. Be aware that some stays in Destin are not close enough to a public access point for a quick walk unless you are in a home that has access to a private entrance. So if waking up to a morning walk or taking a quick stroll in the evening are important to you, be sure to be near a public access point or have access to a private gated access.
Pure white sandy beaches line the entire beachfront along Destin. The sand is pure quartz crystal that is soft and sugary white.
Dunes line the many of the beachfront areas, even in some developed areas. Dunes are an important part of the ecology and are protected so please cross the dunes in the designated areas and boardwalks.
The Beachfront along the entire coastline of Destin is super wide and flat making the beach a perfect place for both relaxing and recreation.
The Shoreline offers soft sands, not shelly, making it enjoyable to walk barefoot and play in the shallow waters.
The water is a gorgeous green blue color blending into a deep blue on the horizon.
Beach Ecosystem & Cleanliness
The beaches in Destin are super clean. The sands are sifted and kept pristine and clean and the sand is pure white, it seems unreal. The beachfronts very wide, the water is gorgeous and nice for swimming, shelling and light surfing, and the sand is soft and snowy white, perfect for barefoot walking.
Dolphins and Sea Turtles frequent the areas waters. Dolphin watching is particularly good during late spring/early summer and they are more active in the morning and late afternoon hours. Sea Turtle season runs from May to October and is the perfect time to go on a turtle walk with volunteers who teach the respect for these immense creatures. The City of Destin - Fort Walton Beach offers Turtle walks that are open to the public by appointment only. Click here for more details.
Common Shore Birds are seen all along the shoreline of Destin. Bird watchers will spot terns, gulls, pelicans, black skimmers, sandpipers, herons, egrets and other birds wintering in the area.
Boating and fishing are common activities as everyone expects from a vacation in Destin. But Destin has golfing, fun activities for the kids, and lots and lots of shopping. For nature lovers, there are lots of parks and biking anywhere along Destin beachside is a common way to get around.
Water Activities include swimming, snorkeling, body surfing, stand up paddleboarding, and boating and fishing excursions.
Destin Harbor is the place to go for boating and fishing excursions.
Surf Fishing is a common activity in the area. Be respectful of other beachgoers when choosing a location for surf fishing.
Shelling along the edge of the water line is a favorite pasttime and there are always shells to be found. The beautiful clear water and white sand below makes it easier to spot shells in the surf area.
Shopping is abundant in Destin and offers something for everyone. Silver Sands Factory Outlet Stores & Destin Commons are the two large shopping districts and Harborwalk Village is another popular spot.
There are activities and fun things to do all around Destin. This guide is focused on the beach area activities. See our Complete Destin Guide for more details on things to do, shopping and dining in the area.
Destin is the Luckiest fishing capital in the world, or so it has been said by the city of Destin and those visiting the area. This is not a myth. While fishing is certainly not unique to Destin, fishing captains know the exact spot off the harbor out into the gulf where the fishing is good due to the drop off of the underlying floor of the Gulf. This is not found in other places and people come from all over the world to fish here. If you love to fish, just want to try fishing, are looking for a fun excursion on the water with family or friends, Destin has a full fleet of fishing charters ready to make you fishing dreams come true.
Destin features gorgeous sunsets and sunrises. During the winter months, from the angle of the earth to the sun, both sunrise and sunset can be seen across the horizon along the edge where the water meets the sky.
Best places to see the sunset: everywhere along the beach! The sunsets are the time to get out on the sand and enjoy the gorgeous colors as the sun sets across the Gulf. The most picturesque sunsets are at Norriego Point and Miramar Beach.
When visiting or moving to Destin, you will find options for homes, condos, town homes, hotels, and beach homes. The area brings visitors and residents who are looking for a relaxed beach town lifestyle that is close to all of the Destin activities while remaining less crowded and touristy. It is also a popular location for those who are looking for their winter home or vacation rental investments.
The area is a good retirement choice for retirees who love boating, love the beach, and want to have all the amenities of an upscale lifestyle with shopping, golfing, and spas.
Destin offers every type of real estate from beachy style homes to luxury homes, condos, apartments, and some of the best planned communities in the state of Florida.
All of the beachfront communities in the Destin area offer a beautiful beach vacation with the gorgeous white sand and emerald waters, water that is swimmable with shallow areas and sandbars, wide beachfronts for relaxing or playing and close enough to the harbor to catch spend a day boating or fishing.
Click here for our Complete Real Estate and Accommodation Guide to Destin (coming soon)
For Local Businesses including Food & Drinks, Services, Health & Medical, Education, Sports & Recreation, Arts & Entertainment and more, click here. (coming soon)
Who we are
We are locals and writers who love to research, explore and share information about Florida. Our goal is simple. To share the positive (and sometimes not so positive) things that make the area unique. To be real without an agenda. And to support a strong local community.
All images on this page copyright © FloridaSmart.com, FL Smart, LLC
Do not use or download images without consent.