Planning a Florida Panhandle beach vacation? Soak up the sun and sea on some of the best beaches in Destin. Perched upon Florida’s Emerald Coast, Destin is one of the Sunshine State’s most surprising destinations.
Stretching along the Gulf of Mexico, the pristine beaches in Destin charm with their soft sands and emerald waters. Along Destin’s Gulf Coast, you’ll enjoy swimming and snorkeling opportunities, as well as water sports such as boating, jet skiing, and parasailing.
Ready to plan the perfect beach vacation on the Emerald Coast? Sink your toes into the white-sugar sands and green waters of these top-rated Destin beaches.
Top-rated Destin beaches
Henderson Beach State Park
Wedged between Destin and Crystal Beach, Henderson Beach State Park is one of the most coveted outdoor destinations in the Florida Panhandle. The lovely park stretches out on 200 acres of Gulf Coast seafront, centering upon one of the most beautiful beaches around Destin.
Henderson State Park offers visitors everything they could ever want from an Emerald Coast getaway. Beach bums will find themselves beelining for the park’s white-sand beach to wade and swim in its warm waters.
Need a break from the beach? Strap on your hiking boots and take a walk on a nature trail. The Henderson Beach State Park trail winds through some of Florida’s last remaining coastal scrub and is a fantastic spot for bird-watching.
When you need a break from the sun and the sand, you can rinse off in the outdoor showers and enjoy a picnic lunch in their pavilions.
James Lee Park
One of the finest beaches on the Emerald Coast, James Lee Park is a fantastic place to soak in the sun and surf on your Destin vacation. The beach is located in the community of Crystal Beach, less than 10 minutes from Destin Commons.
Also known as Crab Trap Beach, James Lee Beach is one of the largest public beaches in Destin—with amenities to match. Bring along the lunch to savor a meal with family and friends at one of the picnic tables or pavilions. Families with young ones will also find restrooms with changing tables as well as a playground to keep the kids active.
One of the most popular activities at James Lee Park is parasailing. If you’re feeling adventurous, strap in to take in the views from above and enjoy the warm breeze on your skin. You might even get the chance to see some dolphins racing alongside you!
After you’re done with a day at James Lee Beach, pop in for a meal at Crab Trap Destin. This popular seafood hotspot is often listed as one of the top beach restaurants in Florida.
Looking to escape the coastal barrier island? No trip to Destin is complete without a boat trip to Crab Island. The small sandbar is located just offshore from the Destin Harbor Boardwalk and HarborWalk Village.
Thanks to its shallow waters, Crab Island has become a hotspot for locals and visitors alike to swim, snorkel, and enjoy a few drinks in the emerald green water.
There’s no public transportation to Crab Island from Destin. You’ll either need to rent a pontoon boat or join an organized excursion to experience the Florida Emerald Coast island’s famed party scene.
Located nine miles east of Destin, Miramar Beach reminds of a classic Florida beach town. The South Walton community teems with boutique shops, restaurants, and oceanfront resorts. And, of course, it’s home to a stunning stretch of white sand that’s one of the most beautiful Florida Emerald Coast beaches.
Fun activities at Miramar Beach include jet ski rentals and parasailing. Besides splashing around the pristine waters, shopaholics can also drop some Benjamins at the nearby Silver Sands Premium Outlets. With over 100 designer outlets, this popular spot is one of the largest outlet centers in the U.S.
If you’re boating around Destin and looking to cool off, slide over to Norriego Point. The finger-like peninsula on the tip of Holiday Isle separates Destin Harbor from East Pass, leading to the Gulf of Mexico. Visiting Norriego Point, you’ll find plenty of spots to park your boat on the sand while you enjoy the water on the other side of the dune walkovers.
As it’s just minutes over the harbor to Destin Harborwalk and HarborWalk Village, many visitors travel to Norriego Point via kayak or paddleboard. There’s even a water taxi stop that’ll take you from Norriego Point to anywhere within Destin Harbor.
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Norriego Point is the ideal place for a relaxing swim in calm waters. On the East Pass side, you’ll be splash around in several small inlets protected by jetties.
John C. Beasley Park
Located on Okaloosa Island in Fort Walton Beach, John C. Beasley Park is one of the most popular beaches around Destin. The beachfront park is within steps of Okaloosa Island’s top attractions, including Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, Wayside Park, and the Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier.
You’ll not only love the white-sand beaches at John Beasley Park, but also the extensive menu of amenities. Enjoy lunch with the family at the picnic tables or pavilions. You’ll also find a beach club, playground, restaurant, and volleyball court.
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Some of the most popular activities at John C. Beasley Park include snorkeling, fishing, and even surfing. It’s also a great place to go bicycling, camp out, and explore nature trails. (Of course, you can also just kick back by the waves and soak up the sun!)
Located south of Destin Commons, Crystal Beach is another low-key beach community that’s the perfect place to go with kids. Also known as Crystal Sands Beach, the beach charms with soft white sands and crystal-clear waters.
Families will enjoy a variety of activities around Crystal Sands Beach, from swimming to snorkeling. When you’re finished soaking up the sun, get more active by renting bikes or paddle boats.
Other fun local activities around Crystal Beach include beach yoga, sandcastle lessons, shopping at Destin Commons, Hurricane Bowling, helicopter rides, dune buggies, and water sports.
Known for its natural beauty, Navarre Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Located near Pensacola, about an hour away from Destin, it’s a perfect day trip to experience the seaside wonders of Northwest Florida. Navarre Beach is wedged between Navarre Beach Marine Park and the picturesque Gulf Islands National Seashore.
Thanks to its blissful sand and pristine waters, Navarre Beach is routinely voted not just one of the top beaches near Pensacola, but one of the best beaches in America. Locals and travelers alike flock to Navarre Beach for relaxation, simplicity, and solitude.
Navarre Beach is the perfect place to swim in the emerald surf, play in the sun, relax on the beach, or eat a picnic. In the area, you’ll also find plenty of opportunities to explore scenic nature paths.
Blue Mountain Beach
Looking for relaxation and natural beauty? Venture east to Blue Mountain Beach. Located between Destin and Panama City Beach, the beach is named for its iconic blue lupine flowers and location near the highest point of elevation in South Walton.
Just like nearby Santa Rosa Beach, Blue Mountain Beach is known for iconic sugar sand beaches, turquoise water, and natural scenic beauty.
The Blue Mountain area is also a favorite among locals for its superb seafood restaurants. End your beach day with shrimp tacos from Red Fish Taco in nearby Redfish Village.
Grayton Beach State Park
Listed as one of the finest beaches in the USA, Grayton Beach State Park is a must for any Destin beach holiday. Besides its pristine beaches, the 2,000-acre state park also teems with eco-tourism opportunities, hiking & biking trails, as well as campgrounds.
If you’d rather hike or bike than laze in the sun and sand, Grayton Beach State Park offers miles of nature trails. The park also tucks up to Point Washington State Forest, another fantastic Northwest Florida outdoor destination.
Grayton Beach State Park is a hotspot for beach bums and adventurers year-round. Visit in winter to enjoy mild temperatures, smaller crowds, and cheaper accommodation prices.