This was a trip of desperation; I get desperate in the spring. Here in Ohio, spring has two parts. Part 1 is an extension of winter, and Part 2 is torrential rain. And it’s ALL GRAY. By the time we get to the kids’ spring break week, I will do anything to see the sun. Last year, about a month before spring break, we decided we were going to get out of dodge. The farthest south we could drive? Destin!
Due to the last-minute nature of our decision, we didn’t exactly have a ton of options for accommodations. We didn’t have a huge budget, either. But by golly we were going to have an ocean view! The most affordable place that still had openings was the Majestic Sun, which is part of a group of condo buildings known as Seascape Resort. Now, because it was late in the game, the only reservations available were directly through the resort. If I did it again, I would rent a condo directly from an owner. While the Seascape Resort grounds were pretty and the pools were great, our specific condo was not in the best condition. Kind of what you’d expect from the last few condos available, but the beauty of the beaches made up for it. Booking through the resort also guaranteed us a beach chair (2, as a matter of fact – plus umbrella) every day, which is a THING in Destin. Otherwise we would’ve had to get up ridiculously early every day to snag one, and if we didn’t make it, we would’ve been forced to set up shop behind the obnoxious row of umbrellas and chairs. We didn’t drive all the way from Ohio to look at THAT, thank you very much.
So this was the first gulf beach we’d been to, and I gotta say – it was stunning. As a primarily east-coast-beach-goer, the first thing that struck me was the turquoise color of the water and the bright white sand. The sand is such a fine powder; my kids loved the squeaky sound it made when they walked! It really feels tropical. The second thing I noticed was that the ocean was very calm, since the waters are somewhat protected in the gulf. This is amazing for wading in the ocean, but my kids did miss playing in the big waves we are used to in the Outer Banks.
What We Did
Besides a lot of beach lounging, we did a little exploring. Driving to Seaside Beach was a great way to spend a half day. The road along the coast (30A) was a pretty drive, and it was interesting to see the cute little neighborhoods and beachtowns along the way. Then we spent a couple hours walking around the town of Seaside, which is the picturesque area where much of the movie “The Truman Show” was filmed. Lots of interesting shops to peruse here, as well as a variety of old-timey food trucks offering fun snacks.
The Harborwalk is another fun area in Destin – my kids enjoyed it so much we went twice. Sort of like an outdoor mall along the water, with restaurants and touristy activities like indoor mini-golf, arcades, escape rooms, etc. You can also book fishing trips and boat tours here, which we did! If you have teens, pick the speedboat! It’s a blast, and we got to see lots of dolphins.
If you’re looking for a more quiet beach, check out Henderson Beach State Park – not only is the beach beautiful (and a lot less crowded than the beaches in front of most resorts/condos), but there are some nice little nature trails with signs displaying information on the native plants and wildlife.
What We Ate
The first place we ate at was Pompano Joe’s – literally the FIRST. We had been in the car for 1 1/2 days and needed lunch, so we drove straight to the first beachfront restaurant I could find…well, that my iphone found. The food was good, but honestly we were so happy to be at the beach that anything would’ve tasted good. Eating outside on their deck helped us forget allll about the gray Ohio skies.
On another day, we ate at the weird and wild Fudpuckers – this place is basically an interactive gator habitat built around a restaurant. Not only can you view a variety of alligator species, but you can also feed them! What could go wrong? Don’t worry, this is much less terrifying than it sounds, although I will admit the whole atmosphere probably feels a little creepy in a post-Tiger King world. In any case, there’s loads of entertainment for the kids while you wait for a table. And you will definitely wait.
On our last night, we wanted a special seafood dinner and decided on Dewey Destin’s (it was delicious!) – back at Harborwalk Village along the water. There was a long wait for a table, but they have a lovely patio and a bar right next door where you can listen for your table to be called. After dinner we walked along the Harborwalk as the lights came on, and the kids liked getting up close to the docked boats…it was a really nice way to end our week!
I loved Destin, but my kids still say Duck in the Outer Banks is their favorite beach vacation…with Ohio having so much still closed this summer (pools, theaters, etc), I would love to get to a beach sometime in July. Many places are already booked up though, so I think a lot of people have the same idea…any suggestions on east coast beaches where you can still snag a good place to stay this summer? I’d love to hear ’em!