A family vacation is a priority in our home. We know that it takes some planning and preparation on our part to get the boys to “buy in” where we want to visit. I’m always so thankful for vacation planning sites that we see layouts and pictures of planes we may ride in, activities we may participate in, and places we may stay. That definitely helps P calm anxieties. We took our show on the road to Destin, Florida. It is along the gulf coast and Destin bills itself as the “the worlds luckiest fishing village.” With its miles of sandy white coastline, beautiful emerald waters, and promises of fun in the sun and water for the travelers who visit the area. I’m here to share with you that Destin did not disappoint after spending some time in the area touring local beaches, attractions, and restaurants.
Henderson State Park is a gorgeous state park. When we told the boys we were visiting a state park they groaned and had pictures of the state parks in South Dakota lots of trees, hiking trails, camping, and rustic bathrooms. I promised the boys they would be pleasantly surprised with Henderson State Park. There is a $6 admission to the state park. The park has a 3/4 mile hiking trail that wraps its way through the ever-changing sand dunes. There is a playground for children and families that overlooks the Gulf of Mexico. The park has picnic pavilions and restrooms on site.T The day we visited the park there was a storm that blew through the area right away in the morning. We were thankful for the cover of the pavilion that protected us from the wind and rain. Once the storm moved out of the area, the day turned out to be a warm, sunny day. The long boardwalk gave ample views of the beautiful coastline. Of course, after finishing up the day on the beach, there are freshwater stations to rinse sand and saltwater off before heading home.
The HarborWalk Village is the destination for restaurants, bars, shopping, and activities. The HarborWalk Village has a ziplining course that can be seen from the road and from the water on the harbor. It is eye-catching! My boys were mesmerized watching people zip line one after another. If you want to do any activities on the water, this is where you will find the charters. Parasailing, boat rentals, sailing, dolphin cruises. Margaritaville and AJ’s are the two big bar/restaurants in HarborWalk area. Lots of shopping and fun things to look at making it an excellent stop for an afternoon or evening. We did find one criticism of the HarborWalk Village area is lack of parking. Other visitors circled around the parking lot like vultures waiting for a spot to open. That clogged up the parking area so much. We found public parking a few blocks away that was nearly empty. Now if you don’t mind crossing the busy highway 98, we recommend parking in the public parking lot!
Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park was definitely a favorite of our family. We read that the Gulfarium has been a mainstay in the Florida Gulf Coast since the 1950’s. When you enter the main building, you see different portholes that make it feel like you are face to face with the creatures. The Gulfarium hosts different shows throughout the day that teach about the animals while allowing the animals to show off some of the tricks they have learned. We watched the dolphin show. I’m not sure if it was because of the rain that was going on or the speaker system, we struggled to hear everything that the emcee of saying. It’s good to know that rain/shine the show goes on. We also watched the sea lion show. The trainer/sea lion really seemed to have a great relationship. It was entertaining to watch, and we walked away with some new fun facts about sea lions. The Gulfarium also is home to stingrays, sea turtles, seals, penguins, sea life, reptiles, and birds. We went to Gulfarium on a rainy day. Most of the park is covered; however, there are open spots where we got wet. But on hot sunny days, I’m sure the cover is helpful for a bit of shade. We read online reviews saying to get there early. I’m not sure of the benefit of going at the opening and standing in line to see everything. My family decided to go after the lunch hour. By then, a lot of the crowd had come and gone. We were able to walk up to the exhibits to view the animals, stand at the portholes to watch the dolphins, and P was able to ask the staff questions about different animals all without fear of holding someone else up. We learned that Gulfarium rehabs sea turtles and the park is active in conservation projects along the Florida Gulf Coast.
Fudpuckers Beachside Bar and Grill is a family-friendly restaurant that has plenty of activities for kids so mom and dad can relax. Its history dates back to the early 1980’s. From the outside, it looked like an OK place to try for supper. Once we got inside and realized that there were multiple dining rooms, outdoor bar area, and activity area we were pleasantly surprised. The night we went was bustling, so when we heard there was an 85-minute wait we thought “can we wait that long without having issues?” The wait breezed by with all of the fun activities. Where else can you play arcade games, hold and feed live gators, munch on snacks, play on the playground, shop for souvenirs, and write your name on the walls? Hint: It’s Fudpuckers! Yes, that’s right writing your name on the wall is encouraged at Fudpuckers. Besides all of the fun, the food is terrific. Hubby ordered coconut shrimp, and I ordered fish tacos. Welp, it was so good, we didn’t even take pictures. When we were finished, the boys wanted to make one more spin around to check everything out one more time before we left for the night.
After a family vacation, we are usually left with the feeling we had fun, and next time we are ready for somewhere else. This family was different when we all agreed that we would love to return to the Destin area. It is no wonder that the beaches are rated as some of the best in the United States. The white sandy beaches and crystal clear water of the Gulf of Mexico are spectacular sights. The water sports and fishing are second to none. There are plenty of activities to do with your family to create those meaningful and lasting memories.
All my best to you,