Like so many families in the U.S., you’re probably eyeing Florida as the perfect destination for your next family beach vacation. No matter what time of year, you can almost always expect sunshine, dolphins, and beautiful ocean views.
Both Destin and Fort Walton Beach are popular towns for vacationers: they’re relatively quiet and affordable, and also have some of the best beaches on the East Coast. Both of these Florida towns are great for families since it’s easy to get around, find great, local food, and entertain the kiddos.
Regardless of which city you decide on, you really can’t go wrong. You’ll find sun, sand, and amazing restaurants wherever you go. So if you’re trying to pick a hotel, here’s a breakdown of what you can expect in both Destin and Fort Walton Beach.
Both Destin and Fort Walton Beach offer fun, family-friendly activities beyond the beach itself. That’s one of the reasons so many families choose to visit this part of Florida rather than larger cities like Miami or Daytona.
If you’re bringing the kids, here are some ideas to make your vacation extra special.
Family Activities in Fort Walton Beach
The best family activities in Fort Walton Beach are on the water. A Fort Walton Beach dolphin tour is one of the most popular activities and is often at the top of the list. Kids of all ages (and even adults) love seeing dolphins play in their natural habitat. Fort Walton Beach is a perfect place to sign up for a family dolphin tour and do some sightseeing.
If fishing is more your speed, charter a fishing boat. Even those who have never fished before will love the sea breeze, clear blue skies, and the thrill of that first bite on the line.
Family Activities in Destin
Destin has some of the best beaches in Florida, with many beach-front hotels and short-term rentals. Many families reserve a day or even a whole week for the beach: so pack up the kids and get inspired to build some sand castles!
When you get tired of laying in the sand, hit the Destin Harbor Boardwalk for some snacks and games. It’s the perfect distraction when the kids are ready for a little additional entertainment.
Destin also has a few mini golf courses, which is one of those timeless vacation activities that just never gets old. Play a round of golf after dinner to unwind.
Fort Walton Beach and Destin are very close, so you’ll find convenient boat rentals in either town. When you get out on the water, you’ll have essentially the same experience regardless of where your hotel is located.
The best way to see Florida is by boat. Choose between a roomy pontoon boat, or a peppy jet ski.
Fort Walton Beach Boat Rentals
If you’re ready to get out on the water and you’re with your extended family, rent a pontoon boat for the day. Pontoon boats are safe, quiet, and large enough for everyone to fit comfortably, even if you pack plenty of towels and snorkel gear.
You can also rent wave runners or jet skis by the hour. Those who are old enough can learn the basics, throw on a life vest and cruise around the Florida coastline.
Destin Boat Rentals
Destin, Florida also has plenty of boat and watersport rental options. Choose the right type of vessel based on the experience you’re looking for: if you have a need for speed, a jet ski may be more fun for you. But a pontoon boat would allow you to bring the kids and even grandparents for a day out on the ocean.
Keep in mind that Destin and Fort Walton Beach are relatively close, so you can rent a boat from either town and spot the same views.
The only thing better than enjoying the catch of the day on vacation is enjoying it with a beach view. Choose from a few of the best seaside restaurants in Fort Walton Beach and Destin.
Beachfront Restaurants in Fort Walton Beach
Fort Walton Beach is known for having charming dining options with a view.
For food the whole family can enjoy, try The Shack. With tables right on the water, you’ll be able to dine on fresh seafood while enjoying that fresh, salty air.
The Gulf on Okaloosa Island provides great food, friendly service, and beachy vibes. Call ahead to snag a big table for the whole fam, either inside or outside.
Old Bay Steamer is another option. While you may not get an ocean front view, it’s just a short walk from the beach – so you can easily transition from sunshine to fresh clams and oysters.
Beachfront Restaurants in Destin
Destin has its own share of restaurants with a water view.
The Bach Porch is the very definition of a beachside restaurant. Dry off, throw on some flip-flops, and make your way to this casual eatery for a hearty meal after a long day in the sun.
If a raw bar is more your style, try Boathouse Oyster Bar. Pair a glass of great white wine and freshly shucked oysters to close out the perfect beach day.
Brotula’s Seafood House also offers the perfect combination of beautiful views and delicious meals. While seafood is their specialty, there’s a big enough menu to make everyone in the family happy.
Fort Walton Beach vs. Destin
Both Fort Walton Beach and Destin are charming towns full of delicious seafood and world-class beaches.
Can’t decide between Fort Walton Beach and Destin, Florida? The good news is, you don’t really have to! These two beach-side towns are just a short drive apart. And if you decide to stay in either Fort Walton Beach or Destin, you’ll likely find dolphins, tropical fish, and unforgettable views in every direction.
If you’re visiting either Destin or Fort Walton Beach, rent a boat for a day to make sure you see everything the Florida coast has to offer. It’s one of the best, most affordable beach activities for families. You’ll come home feeling relaxed, refreshed, and with a great tan.