Wish you could visit a Caribbean Island this summer but have to stay in the United States? Well Florida’s Emerald Coast is perhaps the perfect prescription. Itj8,i7uh offers beaches with crystal-clear waters, white, sandy beaches and some excellent nightlife! Destin is the largest city in the area; along with the surrounding neighbourhoods, it’s an excellent option for travelling on a budget this summer.
Because it’s spread out along the Gulf Coast, navigating Destin can seem a little daunting. The busy city centre is great for those that constantly need something to do, but where do you go if you just want to relax? It’s important to get your bearings a little before you book your trip, so you can enjoy the kind of staycation you’re looking for.
Which is why we built this guide! Consulting locals, travel experts, and visitor reviews, we have figured out the three best places to stay in and around Destin. Whether you’re here to party, unwind, or hit up the beautiful beaches, we have you covered.
So let’s dive right in to where to stay in Destin!
Destin is one of the South’s best budget vacation hotspots. Don’t mind which neighbourhood you’re staying in? If you’re bringing a car, getting around is quite easy. If you’re relying on public transport, take extra care with the erratic schedules. Here are our top overall accommodation picks.
Stylish Airbnb in Destin – The Lucky Dune Bird
We love the Airbnb Plus range for their excellent interior design and impeccable customer service, but sometimes it can get a little pricey. Thankfully, this two-bedroom apartment is very reasonably priced yet still comes with all the extras of Airbnb Plus! We love the calming blue interiors and the large private balcony. Guests also have access to a beach locker with boogie boards, so be prepared to catch some waves.
Beachfront on a Budget in Destin – Cabana Club
When it comes to great condos in Destin, we really struggled to pick just one as our top choice. Cabana Club is not only stylish but also very affordable – which is why it holds our top spot for condos in the area. Crystal Beach is right on your doorstep, and the laidback vibes of the neighbourhood are reflected in the interior design.
Gorgeous Family Hotel in Destin – Ariel Dunes by Seascape
Just need the comfort and convenience of a hotel? This stunning four-star resort is our top pick for the Destin area. With three outdoor swimming pools and both indoor and outdoor sports facilities, you’ll be spoiled for choice for things to do. If you get tired of the pools, the beach is right on the doorstep. We also love the Whale’s Tail – their outdoor casual dining venue.
Downtown Destin is the beating heart of the city and an absolute must-visit for anyone heading to the area! This is where you’ll find the bustling nightlife in the evenings, with bars, clubs, and fairground rides waiting to keep you entertained all night long.
Miramar Beach is technically a separate city from Destin – but is only a ten or fifteen-minute drive from Downtown. For this reason, we think it’s a great alternative for families that want to balance peace and quiet with plenty of options for keeping the kids entertained.
Sandwiched between Downtown Destin and Miramar Beach, Crystal Beach offers the best of both worlds. It is one of the more upmarket neighbourhoods in the city, making it the perfect retreat for a couple’s holiday.
Destin’s 3 Best Neighborhoods to Stay in
The best place to stay in Destin really depends on what you want out of your trip! Thankfully, there’s a little something for everyone, so keep reading for our top picks. We’ve also included our favourite accommodation and things to do in each.
COOLEST thing to do in Downtown Destin: Take in the stunning coastline from the comfort of a tour boat with Crab Island Cruises.
BEST place to visit in Downtown Destin: Destin Harbour Boardwalk is home to great bars, restaurants, and boutiques – as well as boating activities for all levels.
Downtown Destin is the beating heart of the city and an absolute must-visit for anyone heading to the area! This is where you’ll find the bustling nightlife in the evenings, with bars, clubs, and fairground rides waiting to keep you entertained all night long. Even during the day, you’ll find a wide range of restaurants catering to all tastes, as well as the most popular outdoor shopping area along the Boardwalk.
Families will enjoy Downtown Destin thanks to the watersports and theme parks on offer. There are a few campgrounds in the north where you can pitch up your motorhome – although the condos on offer in the neighbourhood are very budget-friendly and offer some additional comfort.
Public transport isn’t the best in Destin, but you can overcome this by staying in Downtown. Alongside the many tour companies offering excursions to other parts of the Emerald Coast, there are plenty of shuttles on offer. These usually take you directly from the city centre to the most popular tourist neighbourhoods nearby.
Lavish Apartment in Downtown Destin: The Lucky Dune Bird
Stylish and modern, this Airbnb Plus apartment is perfect if you have a little extra to spend. The balcony enjoys panoramic views of the sunset, and the main Downtown area is only a two-minute walk away. The calming blue furnishings create an easy-going and relaxing atmosphere – perfect if you just need to unwind during your trip.
Luxury Condo in Downtown Destin: Oceania 203
Located right on the beach, this is the perfect condo for those that want to wake up in the morning and walk straight into the sunshine! It’s only a short walk from the main tourist strip, but as it’s a gated community, you get to enjoy some peace and quiet in the evenings. The huge balcony has sun loungers where you can unwind with a cocktail or two.
Laid Back Resort in Downtown Destin: Pelican Beach
Can’t decide between a hotel or a condo? With Resorts of Pelican Beach, you get the best of both worlds! They offer one and two-bedroom apartments that can sleep up to six people and are designed to mimic condo living. On top of that, there are a couple of great restaurants, a water park, and a spa on-site.
Things to See and Do in Downtown Destin
- Lucky’s Rotten Apple is an excellent nightclub with regular drinks offers and a pulsing atmosphere throughout the week.
- Looking for an older crowd? Ocean Club is known for its classy atmosphere and upmarket clientele.
- Fudpucker’s Beach Bar and Grill is another excellent nightlife venue – a bit more laid back than the clubs, and with reasonable prices.
- Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park is packed with more than 40 attractions, including huge slides, a lazy river, and wave pools.
- Wet-n-Wild Watersports offer a variety of activities, such as windsurfing, paragliding, and jet-skiing – plus a few great options for younger kids.
- There are far too many great restaurants to list in this article, but we do really love Dewey Destin’s Seafood Restaurant!
COOLEST thing to do in Miramar Beach: Take a trip onboard the Solaris – the dinner cruise offered by Sandestin Yacht Club.
BEST place to visit in Miramar Beach: Village of Baytowne Wharf is packed with family-friendly amusements and boutique stores.
Miramar Beach is technically a separate city from Destin – but is only a ten or fifteen-minute drive from Downtown (and Florida by car is the best way to go). For this reason, we think it’s a great alternative for families that want to balance peace and quiet with plenty of options for keeping the kids entertained. Nearby Sandestin is one of the most popular attractions in the area, but there’s so much more on offer.
Miramar Beach itself is a lot quieter than the inner city offerings but comes with the same white sands and turquoise sea. There is a shuttle that connects the neighbourhood with Downtown Destin, so even those without a car can reach this neighbourhood easily. If you just need to kick back and relax with the family, you can’t go wrong with Miramar Beach!
Bright and Breezy Apartment in Miramar Beach: The Salty Emerald
This four-bedroom apartment is perfect for larger families heading to Destin. The master bedroom comes with an en-suite bathroom, giving parents a little added privacy. There is a large balcony with views right over the ocean, which is only a two-minute walk from the front door. Guests are also given XPlorie access, meaning big discounts and even free entry to major attractions.
Elegant Family Home in Miramar Beach: The Crescent
With a balcony facing the waterfront, this calming home is perfect for an easy-going getaway on the Gulf Coast! As it is a corner unit, the balcony wraps around the building, giving you panoramic views across the area. The Silver Sands Outlet Mall is only a short walk away – perfect for picking up some designer bargains.
Idyllic Hotel in Miramar Beach: Ariel Dunes by Seascape
This hotel is perfect for families seeking the added convenience of hotel living. It comes with two laid back dining venues, one of which is on the beach! Alongside the three swimming pools, guests also enjoy access to tennis courts and a large indoor fitness centre. Each self-contained unit comes with a kitchenette that is adequate for a short self-catering stay.
Things to See and Do in Miramar Beach
- Seascape is a large resort area that encompasses a golf course and multiple sports courts. They also offer water sports equipment hire and are open to the public.
- Silver Sands Premium Outlets is a large designer outlet just north of the neighbourhood offering incredible prices on luxury goods.
- Get away from the bustling city at Coffeen Nature Preserve; there’s a great walk leading towards Fuller Lake.
- The Whale’s Tail Beach Bar and Grill is run by Ariel Dune by Seascape, but it is open to all and offers a laid-back dining experience on the beach.
- Promised the kids dessert if they behave? Pino Gelato Café certainly won’t disappoint them with their huge ice cream offering.
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COOLEST thing to do Crystal Beach: Enjoy endless rounds of golf at the two biggest courses in the city – Kelly Plantation and Emerald Bay.
BEST place to visit Crystal Beach: Enjoy the upmarket vibes at James Lee Beach – but make sure to arrange beach service in advance.
Sandwiched between Downtown Destin and Miramar Beach, Crystal Beach offers the best of both worlds. It is one of the more upmarket neighbourhoods in the city, making it the perfect retreat for a couple’s holiday. If you’re happy to splurge a little, Crystal Beach is definitely the place to be.
The vast beach has a lot of the atmosphere of Downtown Destin without going overboard. Head further inland and you will discover the best shopping destination in the city. At night, Crystal Beach is home to ambient cocktail bars and romantic restaurants with sunset views and candlelit vibes.
Pet Friendly Pied-à-Terre in Crystal Beach: Chateau La Mer
Bringing the family fido along? Chateau La Mer isn’t just welcoming to pets; it’s also well located so you can take them on plenty of walks during your stay. There are bikes available for guests to use, which is a great romantic activity at sunrise. The interiors are minimalist and calm. This is our top pick for couples visiting Destin.
Budget-Friendly Condo in Crystal Beach: Cabana Club
Leave all your worries at home and unwind in this gorgeous yet affordable beachfront condo! There is a small balcony with views directly over the ocean, as well as a seating area where you can admire the sunset. The spacious bathroom comes with a bath and a separate walk-in shower. Silver Shells Premium Outlets is nearby – perfect for couples looking to indulge in some retail therapy.
Coastal Townhouse in Crystal Beach: RealJoy Vacations
Visiting as a large group? This townhouse is the best accommodation for you. Sleeping up to 18 people in five bedrooms, it is located right on the beachfront in one of the most desirable neighbourhoods in Destin. Guests are given complimentary beach service (two chairs and an umbrella) through the peak season. There are plenty of excellent restaurants and bars within walking distance.
Things to See and Do in Crystal Beach
- Southern Cross Equestrian Centre offers horse rental as well as a few taster sessions for beginners.
- Destin Commons Shopping Centre is the largest mall in the area. The surrounding streets are also home to high street brands and boutiques.
- Take a romantic stroll through Henderson State Park – or rent a bike and take a ride along the path that hugs the beach.
- 790 on the Gulf is an excellent restaurant offering modern takes on cajun seafood – perfect for date night.
Final Thoughts on Where to Stay in Destin?
Destin is a gorgeous resort on the Gulf Coast with a great mix of white sandy beaches, bustling nightlife zones, and peaceful suburbs. If you’re looking for the perfect staycation in the United States this summer, Destin will definitely delight.
If you really can’t decide between the three neighbourhoods, we especially love Crystal Beach! Its location between Downtown and Miramar Beach gives you a good balance between calm beach resorts and quick access to the more vibrant nightlife areas. It is a little pricier than the other two neighbourhoods, but well worth the cost if you’re looking to splurge.
That being said, all the neighbourhoods mentioned in this guide come with their pros and cons. Even in the more expensive areas, Destin is one of the most budget-friendly staycation destinations.
Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments!
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