Emerald Coast Destin/Fort Walton/ Seaside/Rosemary Beach area
Updated: Mar 11, 2021
Ask anyone in the ATL where they love to beach and most will say 30 A, the Emerald Coast. The water is so clear! . It can get very crowded there during spring break, in fact our fishing guide says they make jokes about Atlanta spring break there. I would suggest you rent a place with a private beach, meaning only those who rent/live in that section can go on that section of the beach. One year teens got so bad during spring break they had curfews for kids.
I highly suggest you get one of these for any beach trip. They float so if your phone ever fell in the water it wont sink!. You can also put charge cards and room key in there. (amazon affiliate)
The Seaside/Rosemary area would be pricey and the Fort Walton/Destin area will be cheaper. We have stayed in all areas and also do not mind driving to the different areas while we are there. Figure out your goal, saving money, convince and that will help decide where you want to stay. I have some rentals I suggest at the bottom for the more expensive areas.
Beach Butlers: Grocery shopping and delivery service, 850-276-0764 Baby/Toddler Supply Rentals
Destin is located roughly 5.5 hours from Milton (minus the Atlanta Traffic) Make sure to check sometimes it is an hour behind us time wise. More than likely you will take 85 south and pass the Alabama visitor center. They have restrooms, information on places in Alabama, bathrooms during open hours, plenty of picnic tables, and my sons favorite baseball or football trading cards in the vending machines!
We then drove and stopped at Priesters Pecans on I 65 for lunch. (80 Bishop Bottom Road, Fort Deposit, AL 36032) We thought this place looked interesting to stop at. It is a huge shop that sells toys, Alabama/Auburn gear and tons of pecan products. They have an ice cream area that sells Blue Bell ice cream and a small buffet with southern food. They have upstairs a view of their candy making facility. It was closed when we were there. They are open 8-6 daily.
Another place we stopped for lunch on the way down on a different trip, Emerald Isle Seafood 1260 S Ferdon Blvd, Crestview, Florida 32536. They have fresh fish to buy and a restaurant on the other side.
Places to eat in the Destin area: Crab Trap Destin and the Fort Walton are both on the beach. The kids meal comes with the cute bucket!
Crap Trap Destin
Crab Trap Fort Walton
635 Harbor Blvd Destin,This was a must everyone told us. They have a few locations, we went to the Destin location. We came to get doughnuts to take back to the beach house, but the line to sit to eat was actually a lot shorter than the to go doughnut line. They have amazing breakfasts of all kinds there. Ironically most people I noticed ate regular breakfast food and not doughnuts. We did both. I suggest you eat here and take doughnuts home for later!
2001 Emerald Coast Parkway
This was my son’s favorite place to eat. It had your typical food plus fun drinks. They have 2 locations one in Destin and one in Fort Walton. I suggest you get there early to avoid a wait as lines can get long. We went to the Destin location. For $3 you can buy bait and feed alligators. You put the bait on the hook and then lower it down to the alligator. You can walk around the alligator area while you wait or visit their gift shop and even pay to have a picture holding an alligator whose mouth is taped shut. Connected to the Destin location was an arcade. We went there after dinner and let my son have some time to play games. We went back on a rainy day, but it was very crowded that day in the arcade.
Harbor Walk Village
102 Harbor Blvd, Destin Florida 32451. This is a great area to shop, eat (Jimmy Buffett’s Margaretville and more), or get some entertainment (Laser maze). It is just fun to walk around and look at all the shops and see all the boats.
It costs $10 to park and I did notice they let more in then there was parking spots to be ready to look around a spot.
Margaritaville in Harbor Walk
This is a great place to eat. They have a great view of the water, good kids menu, fun places with fun drinks for kids and adults in fun glasses. This is 2 floors but they do have an elevator.
Please note they do charge a Harborwalk fee (was $1.73 for us, I assume its a percentage of our bill) and if your child plays on the games on the ipads on the table, even if you don't put a charge card in, you get the charge for $1.99 on your bill.
775 Gulf Shore Drive Destin, Florida 850-837-0881This place is more a special occasion place or nice family dinner. It has an amazing view of boats and the water. The food was fantastic. It is Gulf seafood with a Creole flair. Highly recommend this place for a nice dinner.
Uncle Bucks Fish Bowl
4251 Legendary Drive, Destin, Florida 32451
This is a fun place to eat. They have a bowling alley and an arcade inside. Great for rainy days too!
Other places to eat in Destin : Harbor Docks Dewey Destin Back Porch McQuire Pub Surf Hut
Brotula’s Seafood House has amazing fresh grouper and snapper. You can track your fish and see who caught it and where.
Sandestin Area: The Village at Baytowne Wharf 9300 Emerald Coast Parkway West Destin The Village of Baytown Wharf has many charming places to shop, places to eat, and fun activities for children. It is located in the gates of Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort. We got there (after the GPS took us on a wrong turn) and you go through a guard station. They then tell you how to get to the wharf. You then park in a covered parking garage. There are many shops to look at, few sweet shops, and an area that had a few restaurants. We ate Acme Oyster House. It is a world famous oyster bar and has other items on their menu. We then paid for my son to do an obstacle course, put put golf into the water, and those trampolines that they harness the kids into.
They also have an arcade here and an old western shoot it out game. They have local events and while we were there they had a pirate puppet show act that my son and all the children enjoyed. Check their website or Facebook page for current events.
Sunset Bay Cafe We had breakfast here
Fishing trip Destin Shore Guides
My sons birthday is on Spring break each year. He loves to fish so we got him a private fishing trip for his birthday. I think it was $300 with tip (this was 2017 trip)
The tour guide was amazing and had every thing you need. It does get hot so bring waters and sun hats, suntan lotion etc. Bring a towel if you want too.
Fort Walton Aquarium
This is a fun, small aquarium. When you walk in you purchase your tickets or can pre-buy them online.
Then you walk in to a circular tank Find out when the next Dolphin show is and work around that. We went right up to the show. There is two levels of steps but there is an elevator on the opposite side of the tank from the steps.
They have stadium seating for it or you can stand around the edge, but may get wet. It is all outside too. They did have benches around that area too, great for those who have trouble with steps. Then they have a big room with aquariums and fish. There is an outside section with turtles, sharks, penguins, and more. There is a show out there too. They have a pretty walk way out here and a snack stand. The bathrooms are by where you come outside,but inside.
They have a concession stand, but I would just bring in drinks and snacks to save money and eat at the picnic tables outside. 2 pretzels and a coke was over $10.
They do have experiences you can pay for, but again watch the times and work around them.
They have a huge gift shop and they do pictures when you first walk in if you want to purchase them.
Emerald Coast Science Center We went here on a rainy day. It is an old school turned into a science Museum. The pictures show almost all of it so it is small, but fun for science lovers and a rainy day.
They open at 10 and are closed Sunday and Mondays.
Boardwalk (has a few places to eat) See Craptrap in Destin above for this location.
Wild Willies Adventure Zone
This is a fun place across from the aquarium and The Boardwalk in Fort Walton. It has a frozen yogurt store, put put, arcade, 4d movies, rope course and laser tag. It has a dinosaur theme throughout the place.
Courtyard Hotel Fort Walton
We stayed here for one night on a recent trip. The hotel is 3 years old and still has a new feel to it. They have lots of games in the lobby, an outdoor pool, and beach access.They have a bistro for food and the staff there was amazing!
Other fun places to see: Big Kahunas Water Park Destin Fishing Museum Destin Common Mall/AMC Movies
On way to Rosemary Beach, this is a great place to eat: Vue30A This is a fine dining place with amazing views of the Gulf.. We loved the views you get from the windows. There is an outdoor area too. One is to sit and eat at and one is more take a drink and go sit area. We went to the more casual side. Great for taking kids out to while they wait for food. There are a lot of steps if you want to walk down to the beach.
If you order by 6 pm they have a two for one deal. Get one meal free with the purchase of another meal, excluding cheeseburgers and lobster. If you are a Club Corp Country Club member you also get a free dessert. (Make sure to check they still do these before ordering)
We stop here every time we come to the area, sometimes more than once
Shell Island via Pontoon Rental
Rent your own pontoon for a half or full outing to the uninhabited Shell Island accessible only by boat. There are millions of huge sea shells to collect. It’s a half hour drive towards Panama City. Bring your own stuff and beware, no restrooms.
Rosemary Places to eat:
Big Bad Breakfast
Edwards delicious food and live music
Le Crema tapas, fondue and wine bar
Paradis upscale and not kid-friendly
Pearl Hotel Rooftop for food and drinks
Pescado Seafood Grill & Rooftop Bar
Summer Kitchen Café Wild Olives casual with live music + wine tastings
Seacrest Sundries great for quick grocery needs 10343 E County Hwy 30A f108, Rosemary Beach, FL 32461 Ally’s Beach Places to eat: Charlie's Donut Truck Georges Caliza
You have to get a sweatshirt here! They are so comfy!
Santa Rosa Beach/Rosemary Beach/Seaside/Water Color places to eat: Bud N Allys
Fish out of Water
Great Southern Cafe
La Cocina Mexican Restaurant
Old Florida Fish House
Paradis upscale and not kid-friendly
Shrimp Shack Stinky Fish Camp
Pizza by the Sea Wine Bar Watersound Area: Hub 30 A Here are some great rentals:
Gorgeous NEW construction! 2 Master,4 Bikes,Resort style community pool/hot tub! Heated Gulf Front Pool + Bikes! South of 30A- Steps to Beach, by Alys & Rosemary
Ocean Views, Closest to Beach & Seacrest Pool, Bikes, on 30A by Rosemary + Alys
Uncrowded Private Beach, HOT TUB, Heated Pool, Outdoor TV, Bikes! South of 30A
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For our complete list of family fun trips, check here
Disclaimer: The information in this post is based on past trips and in this every changing world things can change since we last were there so please double check before you go.