Being a beach bum is my ideal chill vacation. For the past several years, Micah and I have been vacationing in Destin, Fl. because it's an easy vacation for us. We usually rent a pet-friendly vacation rental for a week in September (after the peak summer season), get a rental car and load the dogs up for the 12-hour drive to the Florida Panhandle.
Micah grew up going to Destin with his family but stopped in the late '90s. He introduced me to Destin more than a decade ago and about five years ago, we decided to revisit the area and since then we've made it an annual vacation spot.
As far as vacation rentals go, I usually book through a local vacation group in the area since they've provided consistent and good service. We prefer townhomes or single family homes instead of condos. With the dogs, it's easier to just open the door and let them go potty. No elevators needed!
For the past three years, we've stayed at this rental with Holiday Isle. While the Southbay by the Gulf townhome community is older, this unit is updated and is in a great location. We love being able to walk around and there are grocery stores nearby. This condo is located on the pond so it's nice to have the two patios—we keep our inflated SUP boards on the 1st floor patio so it's perfect!
|View from Southbay by the Gulf Unit#62|
These townhomes are also a short walk across the parking lot to the private beach entrance. No crossing streets!
Emerald Coast Vacation Rentals is another great local rental company that we've used to book another unit at Southbay.
Here are some of the reasons why we love vacationing in Destin!
1. The beach. It's called the Emerald Coast for a reason. The water is super clear and the sand is soft. Some years, there is seaweed and sometimes there are jellyfish, but it's still always a good time!
2. Seafood is plentiful! We always hit up Dewey Destin's (the original location) for simple, fresh seafood. If we want a fancier dinner, we'll go to Lagniappe.
There are numerous seafood markets around town, so I always pick up pounds-on-pounds of Gulf shrimp for a boil! A few years ago, I also learned that I might be allergic to a specific red shrimp. I still at it though. #YOLO
|Shrimp boil at home.|
|Fish plate at Dewey Destin's.|
3. Other yummy restaurants! We frequent Craft Bar to see what beer they have on tap and their food is also good. And I know it's a chain, but in Miramar, there's my favorite pizza joint: Grimaldi's. I know Austin has one now, but it's nice going to the Grimaldi's there and then walking around the area for the evening.
|Beer at Craft Bar.|
|The only pizza Micah will eat. Grimaldi's.|
4. Activities! If you have kiddos, there is fun to be had at several small amusement parks in the area. You can find them in Destin and Fort Walton Beach. We usually battle it out over putt putt at the Track location right down the street from our rental.
We also bring our SUP boards with us but you can rent them at numerous locations. When we have family with us, we rent extra SUP boards from Blue Crab rentals.
Since Micah and I like a challenge, we actually take our SUP boards through the harbor side and out to Crab Island (where the party people are!). Crab Island is just a shallow area on the northside of the 98 Bridge in Destin. Boats anchor there and people just walk around and have a good time.
|Crab Island life.|
5. RELAX AND CHILL. Our usual Destin day means waking up (me, earlier than Micah, always). Eat breakfast, walk the dogs and then we try to hit the beach around 11/ 12 p.m. We make sure to bring our cooler with plenty of beverages and snacks. Even though the unit is close, going back is still annoying!
We'll stay out for at least 3-4 hours, where we'll SUP, swim, walk the beach, etc. I usually always have a good book in hand as well!
Then we'll head back in late afternoon, get cleaned up, take a nap, get ready for dinner and the evening. Of course our dogs' evening walk is in there too. They actually don't love the beach (and dogs aren't allowed on Destin's beaches), so we don't take them out there very often.
|Spark is annoyed.|
There are other areas of the Florida Panhandle that are just as gorgeous, but we stick to Destin since it has close proximity to restaurants, bars and other activities.
When we go in September, it usually isn't that busy, but Labor Day weekend is. Last September—during the pandemic—was the busiest we've seen Destin. It makes sense though since people weren't flying as much and wanted to vacation without going too far. Normally there would only be one or two rows of umbrellas where we stay, but last year there were three rows during Labor Day week! We expect this upcoming year will be back to normal.
If you're looking for a great beach that is family-friendly, check out the Florida Panhandle! You won't regret it. In fact, we've been able to meet my cousin and his family in Destin a couple of times since they vacation there as well from Indiana!