The white sandy beach and blue water of a Destin beach. (Photo by Jacob Nguyen)

If you’re ready for a break from Tybee Island and want something less raucous than Panama City, then head to Destin, Florida for its famous white sand beaches and crystal blue water.

Destin is a little over five hours away from Atlanta, so my friend and I left around 9 a.m. on Friday, gained an hour crossing into the central time zone, and were having lunch on the beach by 1:30 p.m.

Our first stop was the Crab Trap (crabtrapflorida.com), which was just a short walk from our Airbnb. We were seated on the porch overlooking the beach and ocean. We ate a mound of crab legs with corn on the cob and a side of gumbo. 

Then it was time to hit the beach. The water is clear and warm, and it really is the reason to visit Destin. We spent the majority of our time lounging and swimming. Be sure to bring a beach umbrella and plenty of sunscreen!

A dolphin frolics in Destin harbor.

Evening is the best time to explore Destin and check out some of the attractions and sites. Destin Harbor Boardwalk is the epicenter of the town and is full of restaurants, bars, souvenir shops, and where to find sunset and dolphin cruises, parasailing, charter fishing trips, and snorkeling. You can book any of these activities and see options at destinboardwalk.com

The boardwalk is a little hectic with tourists, but we decided to book a sunset cruise with Southern Star (southernstardolphincruise.com) to see the dolphins. I’ve been on these types of tours before and it’s usually hit or miss, but we were inundated with dolphins. They were racing alongside the boat, leaping out of the water, and being very playful. 

The nearly 1.5-hour cruise ended with an incredible sunset view across the harbor as the boat took us back to the boardwalk. The cruise was $35 per person, but it was worth it in my opinion. 

Sunset at Destin as seen from an evening cruise.

Then it was on to what I consider the best restaurant in Destin – Boshamps Seafood and Oyster House (boshamps.com). Yes, it’s pricey, but so delicious we ate there two nights in a row. The seafood gumbo and Oysters Rockefeller were my favorites. There’s usually a long wait, but you can sit on the dock overlooking the harbor until a table is ready. You might spot a frolicking dolphin or a blue heron. 

After another day on the beach, we headed back to the boardwalk to take a Hydrojet boat tour (hydrojetboats.com). These are long, sleek speedboats that take you on hour-long tours of the harbor, so if you feel the need for speed then hold on tight. This tour might not be for everyone. It’s bumpy, you get wet, but it is so much fun. We didn’t see many dolphins this time, but the boat experience is really what you pay $35 per person for. 

Dinner with a view at Boshamps.

One last food recommendation is to have breakfast at The Pancakery (thepancakery.com). There’s usually a wait here, too, but you can browse the adjoining beach shop until they text that your table is ready. The Blueberry Hill stack of pancakes topped with fresh berries is amazing. 

While we stayed in a really comfortable Airbnb just across the street from the beach (the website Worldwide Traveler says there are more than 300 properties available in Destin), there are plenty of hotels. Whether you want something upscale or no-frills motel, there are plenty of options at hotels.com

For more about visiting Destin go to destinflorida.com.

Jacob Nguyen is a freelance writer and photographer in Atlanta.