Destin is a bit of a sprawling beach destination, spreading from the ocean to the bay along a busy main drag, and it has many faces: partially-vacant strip malls, touristy beach bars and seafood restaurants, fancy yacht clubs and golf courses and a Whole Foods, family-friendly waterparks and mini-golf spots, and a gorgeous, expansive, clean, powdery, white sand beach edging bright emerald water.
We are not golfers or yachters, but we do appreciate a beautiful beach, especially if we can have a cocktail and some seafood in close proximity to said beach. If only Bugsy could have joined us…
Like many beach towns, Destin has one main road and even in the chilly off-season, traffic was annoying. But while we couldn’t get in the water in January (or rather, didn’t want to), we had the beach to ourselves, and had no trouble getting prime seating at bars and restaurants. If you’ve read this blog much, you already know that we are huge proponents of off-season tourism!
The campground at Henderson Beach State Park is wonderful for a few reasons: the wide, private campers-only beach; the proximity to waterfront restaurants to which we could walk or bike; and the lovely, leafy, secluded campsites. The campsites don’t have sewer hookups, but it’s easy to run through the dump station on the way out of the park.
Dogs aren’t allowed on most of Florida’s beaches, even on a leash, even during low season. It’s unfortunate for sand lovers like Bugsy, but the thoughtful workers in the park office gave us a list of dog-friendly beaches in the larger area–none close enough for us to visit during such a short stay, but it was an appreciated gesture nonetheless. You can find more information online, but here’s a list of some dog-friendly beaches in Florida to get you started. And Bugsy found a couple great spots on a later trip to St Augustine and Eastpoint!
Eating and Drinking
The Back Porch
After spending an afternoon relaxing on our own, personal (yes it was a chilly day in January) campground beach, we hopped on our beach cruisers to catch the sunset farther down toward the commercial part of Destin, ideally with a cocktail in hand. The Back Porch was the first restaurant we reached, less than a casual ten minutes’ pedal from our campsite. We watched the sunset, drinks in hand, at a picnic table down at beach and then headed upstairs for seafood fresh from the Gulf. The views made up for uninspired food.
AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar
During our stay in Destin, we prioritized spending time at our campfire and on our private beach over exploring the town, so I don’t have too much to report, but we did venture out for sunset drinks again on our second night. After consulting yelp and tripadvisor, we chose the deck at AJ’s for its view of the harbor, full of yachts and pelicans. The drinks were tasty enough, and it was neat to experience the different water view and google the price of the yachts for sale next door (hint: they are expensive).
McGuire’s Irish Pub
After AJ’s, we crossed the road for a beer at non-waterfront McGuire’s, recommended to us by friends and the internet. It’s a dark, amusingly decorated place and we enjoyed it. J got a burger to go and said it was just ok. Technically McGuire’s is a brewery, but we didn’t do any beer research there so we’re not including it in our brewery writeups.