Tribe Company offers time out on the water and a fun
workout at the same time.
the cold weather has arrived, you might be thinking about
ways to escape it. Consistently rated among the best
beaches in Florida and in the USA (and even the world),
you can’t go wrong with a visit to Destin, Fla. Known
for it’s emerald green yet totally clear water and white
“sugar sand” powder soft beaches, Destin will give you
the break from reality that you have been craving. If you
have yet to make up your mind, let the beautiful scenery,
amazing seafood, and endless opportunity for outdoor
activities help you arrive to that conclusion.
If you are
a fan of seafood, you will be in a foodie paradise.
Obviously the fare is as fresh as it gets, being right on
the water. Part of Florida’s Panhandle (along the
northwest of the state, bordering the Gulf of Mexico, and
yes — because it looks like a panhandle), people here
take seafood seriously. You will find some of the most
interesting and unique ways of cooking seafood along the
panhandle region. You might have had oysters, but I can
guarantee you have not tried them all the ways you will
find them here. It doesn’t’ matter if you prefer
“tried and true” dishes or you are more of an
adventurous eater, you won’t be disappointed in Destin.
At The Crab
Trap, you can eat outdoors or inside. I’d recommend out,
as this restaurant has the most beautiful views of the
beach and the boardwalk below. There, watch beachgoers
play volleyball or the waves roll in while you enjoy your
meal. The ocean breeze is peaceful and welcome, and it’s
a very relaxing way to spend your time out as a family.
Located directly below you is The Boardwalk at Okaloosa
Island, with shops, a small spray park, and other ways to
while away your time. Let the kids run ahead of you or
enjoy the water while you keep an eye on them. Great
restaurant with great food, fantastic service, location,
atmosphere, and views. (crabtrapdestin.com)
you take the time to visit Okaloosa Island Pier after you
eat; it’s about a block away. Not only the perfect spot
to take a family photo, but you can also look for
dolphins, fish, seabirds or other marine life. You can
also go fishing as well if you’d like. I know, again
with the views — but really, they are incredible.
parking lot, in the same center, is the Gulfarium Marine
Adventure Park (gulfarium.com). It is a top Fort Walton
Beach attraction, and perfect for families and animal
lovers. This marine park houses animals such as seals,
turtles, alligators, fish, snakes and much more. Learn
from trainers and staff members about these animals, their
care, and what they do in the wild. There are live shows
at set times, and you can also sign up for animal
encounters to feed penguins, snorkel with stingrays, and
other options. Do this ahead of time so that you have your
choice available to you at a time you are able to attend.
definitely looking to spend as much time as could
outdoors. Getting as much vitamin D as you can while you
can is always good, true? If you are looking for some
outdoor adventure, book some time with Destin Snorkel
& SNUBA Tour (destinsnorkel.com). Easily one of the
coolest things we have done in a long time, this
experience is part scuba, part snorkel, and perfect for
almost any age and any level of swimmer.
to the (save time to walk and shop) boardwalk, where you
will meet your SNUBA professional and get your snuba-suit
on. Yes, it’s just a wetsuit and fins, but you will feel
so much cooler thinking of it that way. Once you are
ready, head onto the boat where you are driven to safe,
calm and clear waters. First, you will receive a 30-minute
orientation where you are shown how to use all equipment
and explanations are given, as well as questions answered.
Then, you can swim and snorkel for a while. After that,
you are able to dive up to 20 feet, with the rest of your
group and your SNUBA instructor swimming along with you.
Your mouthpiece is connected to an oxygen tank, and you
are able to breathe fairly easily after you get used to
it. You can see quite a variety of ocean life, and it’s
a really awesome experience to be completely submerged
underwater for such long stretches of time. Literally
otherworldly, and very peaceful.
Not a great
swimmer? Believe it or not, that’s OK. Got kids? Also
fine. Call ahead and talk to them about restrictions, but
there are far fewer then you might think. If you have
never experienced SNUBA, or are thinking about scuba
diving but have not yet, you must try this. An absolute
“must try” experience for anyone.
are in the area, and you’ve worked up an appetite, head
to Harbor Docks for some lunch. This Destin seafood
restaurant staple has been locally sourcing food for more
than 35 years, and you can really sense the pride and
connection to the community. The menu offers only fresh,
locally grown or locally caught options and flavors.
Harbor Docks prides themselves on their long established
relationships with local growers, fisher people and
seafood markets. In addition, you will find an unusual for
the area cooking style, brought to you by Yoshia Eddings
(sushi chef) as well as Dang McCormick, who is from Chiang
Mai, Thailand, and runs the kitchen.
interesting way to see some of the local landscapes,
Destin Airboat Tour offers informative tours, views you
won’t see many other ways, and the enjoyment of riding
in an airboat (destinairboat.com). The kids will really
love this. The six-passenger-capacity airboat’s owner
and operator, Captain Frank, has been described as “a
crusty Ozark mountain hillbilly with a sense of humor and
love of nature.” I don’t disagree — he is definitely
a character, and amusing. Again, the kids will get a kick
out of him. They will get a turn to drive the boat as well
if they want (anyone can, should they like to), and my own
kids gladly took the opportunity. Captain Frank is also
the proud owner of the only mobile, floating chapel I have
ever seen, and should you be looking to get married, he
can spirit you off to do so. In a floating church. Really.
(That’s enterprising, no?)
Some of the
best food we ate while in Florida was at this “off the
beaten path” place called Cafe Organic. The food was
local when possible, organic, natural and delightful. The
menu changes seasonally and based on what is available
from the organic local farmers they work with. Best part?
They didn’t even overcharge for the goodness and
sustainability factor. A little out of the way, but
entirely worth it, the food was amazing, and tasted as
good as it was for you. The owners, chiropractors, make
all the food from scratch and also still practice, and
host other events such as yoga and tai chi on the
property. No, not in the restaurant, but next door.
also a food co-op for locals to participate in. These
people are the embodiment of practicing what they preach
(or “you are what you eat,” choose a saying you
prefer, they both work). Vegetarian, vegan, gluten free,
etc? No problem. You won’t have a problem finding
something you can eat here, and multiple options, even.
Meat eater? Also no problem — everything goes here, as
long as it’s healthy and tastes good. (cafeorganicfwb.com)
and stay outside, if you know what’s good for you! Have
you ever tried paddleboarding? Also called SUP (Stand Up
Paddleboard), it is a great way to be outside and active.
It’s not as easy as it looks — think yoga on water. As
long as you have decent balance, you will be OK. Don’t
really? That’s also OK — you will just fall in a few
times while you get used to it. This has become a favorite
activity of ours, and one we have brought numerous friends
out to do with us. If you have not tried it, do yourself a
favor. If you have, all the more reason to head out with
the Paddle Tribe Company (paddletribecompany.com). The
waters are lovely to glide through, and you will enjoy
several different types of waters and scenery during your
time out. No matter if you are a first timer or you’ve
been out often, this is a fun time out and a good way to
experience some of Destin’s topography. It’s also a
killer workout, to keep off some of that vacation weight!
Tribe Company is located directly outside LuLu’s Destin,
a beachfront restaurant that often has live entertainment
in addition to it’s excellent food and scenery (Lulubuffett.com).
While you wait for your food to arrive (and of course, the
seafood options are innumerous), the kids can play on the
beach, which is outfitted with sand toys and games such as
cornhole. Parents can play as well, or they can enjoy some
“chill” time, whatever works for you.
this even begins to take into account the time you can
spend relaxing poolside or at a dazzling Destin beach,
where you will no doubt want to park yourself for at least
part of your trip. There is so much to see and do in
Destin and the surrounding area, that you will be hard
pressed to find a reason NOT to visit. Some of the best
beaches in the world, fantastic seafood, endless outdoor
activities, friendly local service, all of which makes
your family vacation easy to plan and stress free. Check
out a few of the links, you will be searching for flights
in no time.