If you’re like most people, your 2-week vacation only comes around once a year. And that means you want to make the absolute most of your time with your family.

Now, you could spend two weeks lounging around in your backyard. If you have a pool, that may be an okay option (if it’s summer anyway). But it’s hardly memorable.

Most families want to not only rest and relax on their vacation, they also want to create memories that last a lifetime. And you can hardly do that staying at home, which is why so many families travel somewhere exciting for their vacation.

If you’re looking for an ideal location for your next vacation, keep reading. We are going to introduce you to what we believe is the perfect destin-ation. Okay that was a clue. Okay, we’re talking about Destin, Florida, and you can swim with dolphins during your vacation!

Why Visit Destin, Florida?

If you like the idea of traveling somewhere that boasts stunning white sand beaches and emerald-hued water, challenging golf courses and world-famous deep-sea fishing, then Destin, Florida is calling!

Tucked against the panoramic Gulf of Mexico, Destin is a very popular tourist destination because it offers something for everyone. There are world-class resorts and fantastic restaurants offering mouthwatering fish dishes caught that day. There is some of the best shopping in all of the sunshine state. And of course, there are a plethora of outdoor activities like golf, swimming, kayaking and snorkeling.

But perhaps THE MOST EXCITING thing to do when visiting Destin is to take a short drive to Gulf World and swim with the dolphins!

Destin, Florida

Destin Beach Near Panama City Beach

There is something for everyone here !

Swim with Dolphins at Gulf World!

Are you one of those people that has always secretly (or maybe not-so-secretly) dreamed of swimming with dolphins some day? Well, if you’ll be staying in Destin Florida for any length of time, you’ll definitely want to take a day trip to Swim with Dolphin Panama City Beach where you can meet these magical creatures and make your dream come true.

Gulf World offers 2 types of dolphin swims and a dolphin encounter programs for individuals, families and large groups. Each program is designed to be educational, interactive, and very fun. You’ll not only learn about dolphin behavior but also the importance of protecting the dolphin’s natural habitat.

Here are some of the dolphin swim programs you and your family can enjoy at the facility:

Swim with Dolphins Near Destin Beach FL

ROYAL SWIM

All of the programs at Gulf World start with a fun and interactive educational component. You’ll learn all about dolphins… how they hunt and communicate in the wild. There is usually time for questions at the end, so you and your family can ask whatever is on your mind.
Once the questions have been answered, it’s time to slip into the water and meet your new best friends. I remember the first time I ever got to swim with dolphins. I was so excited I felt like I was 10-years old all over again. I remember wading (and waiting) in the water for the dolphins to show up. No doubt, you’ll feel the exact same way.

When you finally see those glossy heads bobbing in and out of the water, headed right toward YOU, you’ll probably giggle and gasp. And when the dolphins are just inches from your face, you’ll break out into the BIGGEST smile.

During this program, you’ll get to spend some time hugging and splashing around with your new pals. You’ll also get to experience the exhilarating “foot push”, where the dolphins will skim you across the top of the water pushing you by the soles of your feet. You’ll absolutely feel like you’re flying!!

In addition to the foot push, this program will also have you experience the dorsal tow, which is where you hold onto the dolphin’s dorsal fin and they pull you across the water. Talk about memorable!

Book Your Royal Dolphin Swim

SWIM ADVENTURE

This exciting program will also start with that educational component and you may ask any questions you may have. You’ll then also slip into the water to meet your new dolphin friends. You’ll have some time to simply interact with the dolphins, get them to do handshakes as well as just hug and kiss on them.

But the BIG finale of this program is experiencing the belly ride. This is just what it sounds like. The dolphin lies on his or her back, and you climb on and grab hold of their fins as they swim fast backwards around the lagoon. This is truly and unique and special experience.

Book Your Dolphin Swim Adventure

DOLPHIN ENCOUNTER

So what do you do if you have seniors or very young children in your group, or anyone who isn’t a strong swimmer? Well, you sign up for the equally-fun Dolphin Encounter program.

This program also starts with the educational component. The main difference is instead of eventually slipping into deep water, you will remain on a platform that is slightly submerged into the water, so it is very shallow for you to stand or sit and still interact with the dolphins.

You’ll perform hand targets (or rather, the dolphins with perform hand targets using YOUR hands). And you’ll still get to receive and unforgettable hug and watch the dolphins swim around you and do tricks that will absolutely delight you and everyone in your party.

No matter which dolphin program you choose, you will make memories that will last a lifetime.

Book Your Dolphin Encounter

Other Fantastic Activities to Be Had at Gulf World!

You thought Gulf World ONLY offered dolphin swim programs? Hardly! This place is truly incredible and offers all sorts of activities for you and your family to enjoy.

Sea Lion Encounter

This is a relatively new program for the facility and it is already proving to be one of their most popular. You’ll get the chance to get up close and personal with some California sea lions, also known as “puppies of the sea.”

You’ll learn all about their behavior and natural habitat as well as what you can do to protect their wild counterparts. Then you’ll be able to interact with them, hug and kiss them and just splash around having fun with these adorable and playful sea creatures.

Stingray Snorkel

Gulf World is home to two types of stingrays: the Cownose and Southern species. And you’ll get a chance to get up close to both! These animals are incredbly graceful swimmers and you’ll get to kneel down in the small pool as they swim by you. You’ll also get to pet, cradle and feed the stingrays. This is a very unique program and great for kids who really love all kinds of animals.

Trainer for a Day

If you have always wondered how trainers get these wild animals to perform tricks and how they take care of them, sign up for the Trainer for a Day program. You’ll have the opportunity to shadow on of the Gulf World trainers all day long and go behind the scenes to see how the facility operates and cares for those in its charge.

Penguin Encounter

Another fairly new program to the center and another extremely popular one is the Penguin Encounter. What is it about penguins that fascinates us and delights us? The African Black-Footed penguins that call Gulf World home are happy to interact with visitors in a pretty salt-water habitat. We DARE you to try and not giggle through this entire program!

Shark & Turtle Chat

For those who want to see cool animals but don’t feel the need to get up THAT close to them, there is the Shark & Turtle Channel where you can watch trainers feed sea turtles, nurse sharks and other native fish and marine life. You can also head downstairs where you’ll get a cool underwater glimpse of their world!

Getting to Gulf World

Gulf World is located in Panama City Beach, Florida, just an hour away from Destin. To get there you have three main options:

Rent a Car

If you are flying into Florida and plan on making a lot of day trips during your vacation, then it may make sense to rent a car so you and your family can come and go as you please.

Uber/Lyft/Taxi

If you don’t want the hassle or expense of renting a car, then there is always the option of hiring a taxi or Uber or Lyft driver to take you there and back. Fares should be reasonable and if you’re traveling with a large party, everyone can chip in.

Bus

Greyhound Bus service provides travel between Destin and Panama City Beach and fares are usually between $86 and $112 per person round trip.

Map

Accommodations in Destin

When it comes to comfortable and affordable accommodations, Destin has no shortage of options. Here are a few we recommend.

Accommodations in Destin Beach

Hampton Inn Destin Beach

If you’re looking for comfortable and spacious accommodations minutes from the beach and that won’t break the bank, then look no further than Hampton Inn & Suites. You and your family will enjoy a free hot breakfast each morning before you head out on your next adventure. There is also an outdoor pool for you to enjoy as well as complimentary WiFi and an onsite fitness center.

Some rooms enjoy a pretty gulf view and all are clean and spacious. The hotel also puts you within walking distance from the beach, as well as dozens of restaurants and fantastic shopping destinations.

1625 Scenic Hwy 98 East, Destin, FL 32541

 

Home 2 Suites Destin Beach

 

For those families who plan on staying in Destin for a while or who want the option of being able to cook their own meals to save money, the Home2 Suites is perfect. Public beaches are right next door as is The Track, a great place that offers go-karts, thrill rides and bumper boats. You’ll also be close to Big Kahuna’s Water & Adventure Park, which kids absolutely love.

Pets are welcome here if you’ll be traveling with your four-legged companion. And you can enjoy a complimentary breakfast each morning, as well as access to an outdoor pool and fitness center.

14060 Emerald Coast Pkwy, Destin, FL 32541

 

 

Hotel Effie Sandestin

For those visitors traveling without children or who want a little more luxury in their accommodations, we highly recommend Hotel Effie. This new luxury hotel boasts 250 well-appointed rooms and suites that are elegant and thoughtfully designed.

You will also enjoy gourmet treats at the hotel’s restaurant, which is no ordinary restaurant. Run by celebrity chef Hugh Acheson, you will eat delicious and unforgettable dishes that showcase the food and local flavors of the Gulf Coast. No joke, people travel for miles to eat at this place.

If you need a little pampering, then be sure to book some time at the hotel spa, the perfect spot for a massage, a romantic escape, or just an afternoon with the girls.

And there is also a very pretty rooftop pool to sit by and spend an afternoon lazily looking at the cloud formations overhead or the terrific panoramic views of the Gulf of Mexico. A full-service bar provides wine as well as cocktails.

1 Grand Sandestin Blvd, Miramar Beach, FL 32550

Things to Do in and Around Destin

While we definitely think you should make it a point to head to Gulf World and swim with dolphins, there are plenty of other activities in the area for you and your family to enjoy.

Fun Things to do in Destin Beach FL

Tiki Sunset Cruise

Destin is known for its stunning sunsets. And about the only thing that can elevate these sunsets is to enjoy one from a Tiki boat while sipping a cocktail. This is truly a memorable experience and we definitely recommend you check it out.

302 Harbor Blvd, Destin, FL 32541
(850) 200-0573

Private Banana Boat Tour

I’ve spoken to many people who said right after swimming with dolphins, this private banana boat tour was a definite highlight of their trip. Your boat driver will speed up or slow down, depending on what kind of adventure you want to have. On your excursion around the gulf, you may even get a chance to spot some dolphins out in the wild. If you’re looking for something fun to do with the family, away from crowds, this is a great option.

7 Calhoun Ave, Destin, FL 32541
(850) 978-3060

Destin Harbor Boardwalk

The Destin Harbor Boardwalk is a great way to spend an afternoon or an evening. Walking along gives you fantastic views of Fisherman’s Wharf and bobbing boats and fancier yachts docked at the Yacht Club. When you tire you can have a seat and do some really great people watching! I recommend eating ice cream while doing so!

102 Harbor Blvd, Destin, FL 32541
(850) 683-3009

 

Local Information

Great Weather in Destin, Florida

Weather in Destin Beach FL

Weather

One of the hardest parts about planning your family vacation is choosing your destination. Well, we’ve done that part for you, and you’ll have a great time in and around Destin, Florida.

The second hardest part is figuring out the best time to go. We all know that Florida is called the sunshine state because it is sunny most of the year. If you live in Canada or a part of the US where winters are harsh, then heading to Florida November through February makes sense.

While spring in Florida can be very lovely temperature-wise, it is when a lot of young people head there for spring break. Destin is not a major draw for college kids, but it is a draw for families whose kids are on spring vacation. So if you want to avoid crowds, then avoid going in spring if you can.

Summers in Florida can be downright hot, sticky and oppressive, so this isn’t the best time to go either. And certainly stay away during hurricane season, which runs from June to October.

The best times to head to Florida are during winter for sure and if that’s not possible then spring. During these times temps are mild, usually staying in the low to mid 70s during the day and slipping down into the 50s at night.

Keep in mind that many people will also be visiting at this time, which means you need to book plane, hotel and Gulf World tickets early to avoid paying premium prices.

Festivals & More!

At any time of year there is usually something fun going on in and around Destin, Florida. From sporting events to festivals, concerts and outdoor festivities, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

You can visit this link to view some of the activities that may be going on when you visit.

Helpful Travel Links

Destin Chamber of Commerce

Visitor’s Guide

If you and your family will be heading to Florida this year or your vacation, then we highly recommend you stay in Destin because it is such a pretty area with so much to do. And don’t forget to spend a day or more at Gulf World, which again is just an hour away. You’ll not only get to swim with dolphins, you’ll get to interact with all sorts of amazing animals like sea lions and sting rays. If you follow this advice, you and your family are sure to make memories that will last a lifetime!

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