Now that the summer is starting to wind down, I finally have a chance to sit down and write my little guide to Destin, Florida, also known as my hometown.
I often say (or hashtag) that my hometown is better than your hometown. It's a little tongue in cheek and probably kind of rude (I apologize), but I just really love my hometown. Each summer tens of thousands of southerners migrate to my hometown to soak up some rays, get a little salt in their hair, sand between their toes, and gorge on fresh seafood. So yeah, my hometown is pretty great :)
I get asked pretty frequently what it was like to grow up in Destin. It was amazing. I went to Fort Walton Beach High School (Go Vikings!), which meant that I had a 25 minute beach drive to school everyday. I'd catch the gorgeous orange sun illuminate the pure white sand as it rose every morning. I grew up walking to the beach, stopping at Smoothie King or Shakes to something cold with my best friends. I ate too many hamburgers from June's Dunes with just enough sand in them to be ignored (may it rest in peace). I stood on the beach, terrified, watching hurricanes roll in as surfers rand toward the danger and risked their lives to catch a good wave. I had paradise at my fingertips each and every day.
But being from Destin means that visiting Destin as an adult is much different from your average beach trip. I get to go home about a half dozen times a year, which is most people go to Destin, unless you own a second home there. When I'm home, I do all of the things that you do when you're home - I visit grandparents and cousins, visit high school friends, and let my mom cook for me :) But earlier this month, Jason and I spent a week in Destin, which we've never done during the summer since we've been together. We did all the normal hometown stuff, but we also got to play tourist a little, thus, this guide to my hometown was born.
This will be a three part series, so make sure to stay tuned for parts two (Places to Eat) and three (Things to Do)!
WHERE TO STAY
Since I grew up in Destin, I've never had to find a place to stay, although people ask me where they should stay all the time. I worked as a concierge at the Hilton Sandestin my last summer living at home before my senior year at Samford. I definitely recommend staying somewhere in Sandestin - I spent a ton of time there that summer and have only wonderful things to say about it. Aside from Sandestin though, I'll suggest areas, and then you can use hotels.com or VRBO/Air BnB to find the right place for you. I'm also crowd-sourcing the best places to stay, so comment on this post to tell me where you've stayed an loved!
The Destin Harbor: The harbor is a beautiful area of Destin where you can see all of the boats coming and going, bring in that fresh catch that you'll probably order for dinner later. This area has grown tremendously over the last 5 years, especially with the addition of The Emerald Grande and HarborWalk. This area is along Highway 98 just over the Destin Bridge for about 2 miles (until Target-ish). It's also the Holiday Isle area and Norriego Point (Gulf Shore Drive).
Old Highway 98: This area is home to beautiful beaches on the gulf, great seafood restaurants (The Crab Trap, Pompano Joe's, Whales Tales), and tons of houses and condos for rent. Most of the rentals are not on the beach, but they come with beach access that is just walking distance from the front door. Many of these subdivisions and condos also have community pools, which is great if you're not a big fan of sand or have little ones who need a break from the waves!
Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort: As previously mentioned, I worked at the Hilton Sandestin for a summer and it was a dream. Seriously, one of my favorite jobs. There is TONS to do in Sandestin (three golf courses, fantastic spa, boat rentals, tennis courts, four pools, putt-putt, fitness centers, and much more) but one of the many perks about this area is that it has a shuttle service. This means you can literally park your car and don't have to get back in it unless you're going off the property. There's even a shuttle to the outlet mall, which is just on the other side of the property. They also have bike rentals and a bike tunnel that goes under the highway so you don't have to cross any major roads. There are plenty of restaurants at the Village of Baytowne Wharf and it's an awesome place with tons of stuff for families and kids of all ages! Hotels here are the Hilton Sandestin and Grand Sandestin. You can also rent a house or condo Bayside, Beachside, or Lakeside.
Make sure to check back for the second and third installment of this post - Places to Eat and Things to Do! I may even include a little lingo to help you guys sound like you're Destin natives!
Thanks for reading, thanks for loving my hometown. Don't forget to comment with your favorite places to stay in Destin!