The Ultimate Destin Travel Guide to Winter and Spring

If you’re looking for a break that includes sun, sand, water, and warmth this winter or spring, make sure the Sunshine State is high on your list of options. Once you’ve zeroed in on Florida, you’ll need to figure out just where you want to be and what you want to do. Destin and the towns along historic Route 30A have everything you want and more for your winter or spring respite. Here is our Gulf Coast travel guide!

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Swimming

The cool waters of the Emerald Coast can be a bit chilly in the winter and spring months. Brave children will still go splashing into the water for a short swim while their parents stay on shore. If you need a cooling dip yourself, don’t stay in too long.

SCUBA Diving

Along the same lines as swimming, you won’t want to stay under the waves very long. The chilly winter and spring waters, even with a wet suit to warm you a bit, are better explored in short bursts. You might bring an underwater camera, to get awesome pictures of the undersea life you’ll meet. You can rent some gear and strike out on your own or book a tour or time with a company that will even teach you some basics before you take the plunge.

Snorkeling

Strike out on your own with some rental gear or book a tour. The cooler waters of winter and spring may cut your adventure short as you’ll want to exit the water quickly when you get cold. Cooler weather or not, snorkeling is a great way to get a glimpse under the water before deciding whether or not you want to explore deeper. Make sure to keep an underwater camera close at hand so you can snap amazing photos to share with friends and family when you get home.

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Marine Life Watching

While opportunities in winter may be a little more scarce, beautiful marine life begins to make its way back to the area for mating season and to enjoy the warmer water. Charter a tour or set up for a day at the beach that may include some opportunities for catching a glimpse of the animals.

Parasailing

Parasailing combines air and sea into one exhilarating experience! Get awesome views of 30A, just like the birds. “Take off” and land on the boat’s specially designed flight deck as you soar to heights as much as 1,000 feet above the waters of the Emerald Coast. Many companies take pictures and video of your flight, and even provide you with a GoPro camera to capture the experience from your rider’s point of view. Ask about weight or age restrictions before booking, and whether or not the company allows spectators who don’t plan to go airborne.

Dune Lakes

Florida is one of just two states in the U.S. and five total places around the world where coastal dunes are a natural geographic feature. Dune lakes are typically shallow, irregularly shaped permanent bodies of water. They are brackish and dark-colored due a mix of both salt and freshwater sources. You can enjoy the waters of the dune lakes when you rent a kayak, canoe, or paddleboard for some fun on the water, purchase a combination freshwater/saltwater fishing license, or just relax and enjoy the day on the shoreline of a different Gulf Coast environment. Water sports may be a little cool in the winter, but as water and air temperatures warm in the spring, you’ll be able to spend a little more time in the water.

Hiking

Pack your hiking boots and set out on foot to explore. The 30A area is dotted with state parks and hiking trails where you can stretch your legs. You’ll be able to explore to your heart’s content, since the sun isn’t as intense during the Gulf Coast winter and spring months, making it perfect weather for a day on the trails. Make sure to bring your camera for awesome pictures of breathtaking views and even local wildlife. While you’re out in the wild, keep a lookout for local wildlife, including black bear, coyotes, deer, and osprey, to name a few.

30A Songwriters Festival

If there’s a music lover in the group, you’ll want to consider scheduling your winter respite in January. That’s when the annual 30A Songwriters Festival takes place. Experience the tunes of local up-and-coming or established music artists. There will be over 300 performances by more than 100 songwriters. The weekend festival is also a fundraiser for the area nonprofit Cultural Arts Alliance, which helps enhance the area’s musical and creative excellence.

Miracle on 34th Street

See the Emerald Coast Theatre Company’s production of Miracle on 34th Street: A Live Musical Radio Play while on your winter respite. Weekends during the month of December all the way up to Christmas Eve, you’ll be able to catch the show. Tickets are available on the website.

30A Wine Festival

Wine lovers will have a hard time deciding just when to plan a visit to Historic Route 30A. Come toward the end of February for the 30A Wine Festival. The five-day festival showcases renowned vintners, beloved culinary personalities, and kicks off at Alys Beach. It benefits the Children’s Volunteer Health Network.

Sandestin Wine Festival

You could also pack your bags and head to Sandestin for the Sandestin Wine Festival in early April. Visit the Village of Baytowne Warf for a taste of domestic and international wines. You can also savor delicious food and be advised on the best pairings.

South Walton Wine and Food Festival

If you need to put off your spring trip, make the South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival a part of the plan. The four-day event features over 800 quality wines from around the world, along with delicious local bites. The event is one of the major fundraisers for the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation, which benefits children in need in Northwest Florida.

Seabreeze Jazz Festival

Spring along Historic Route 30A is the time for festivals! You’ll have to plan accordingly as the Seabreeze Jazz Festival and the South Walton Wine and Food Festival share the weekend. Listen to smooth jazz tunes in Panama City Beach. The festival takes over Aaron Bessant Park at Pier Park for the “Ultimate Weekend of Smooth Jazz” performed by local and national jazz artists.

Every Christmas Story Ever Told

There are plenty of wintertime holidays to celebrate. Chanukah, Christmas, New Year, and many in between can be celebrated during your visit to Historic Route 30A. Holiday lights, show, Christmas carols and Christmas tales can be heard up and down the route. During your winter getaway, make your way over to Seaside for a holiday show to remember. In front of the Seaside Post Office will be performances of Every Christmas Story Ever Told by the Repertory Theater. Show dates are December 10-12 and December 17-23. All shows are at 11 a.m.

12 Nights of Lights

Every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday in December leading up to Christmas will twinkle and glow with lights at the Village of Baytowne Warf. The display is part of a special holiday multi-day edition of the area’s usual Wednesday Night Concert Series. You can catch one of three shows each day on the Village tree at 6 p.m., 7 p.m., and 8 p.m.

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Gator Beach

If you run into a gator on the beach, it’s probably best to turn around and walk briskly the other way. At Gator Beach, located inside Fudpucker’s Beachside Bar & Grill in Destin, you’ll be able to see them with plenty of distance between you and the creatures. The park is open from 11 a.m. to just before closing (hours vary by season). Another perk: free admission. You can walk around, ask questions, and attend an alligator show. Feed the gators, or if you’re brave enough – get your picture taken holding a live gator or browse through the Crocodilia Discovery Zone – an area with exhibits and displays which include a 3D underwater scene of an alligator habitat. Guests seven-years-old and older can also book a private, ‘behind the scenes’ experience with professional gator handler.

Escape Zone 60

As one of the most popular activities in the last several years, escape room facilities are popping up all over the country. Historic Route 30A is no exception. Book some time at Escape Zone 60 in Panama City Beach. Rooms are rated by difficulty and even come with age and group-size suggestions, so you can choose the right adventure for your group. Enjoy themes like death row break outs, Navy SEALs, and castle escape, and others that will stretch your logic and sleuthing skills. Solve the clues in 60 minutes to break out to win, so quick thinking and teamwork are a must.

Art Month

Springtime is one of fun, festivals, and celebrations along Historic Route 30A. Make your way to the area in May for a look at beautiful art from local artists. South Walton’s Art Month is an initiative of the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County. They hope to bring communities, organizations, and businesses together to present quality arts and entertainment. See visual, performing, and literary arts presentations at various venues. This year’s festival events can be experienced live, and some are even available online! Participate in the CAA Art + More Auction featuring prizes like original artwork, food and beverage experiences, overnight stays, spa packages, and more to help complete your relaxation on your spring trip.

Shopping

Don’t forget to check out all the local shops and boutiques along Historic Route 30A for that perfect souvenir, memento, or gift. Clothes, jewelry, and even sweet treats can be found at businesses all along the route.

Dining

With all the fun and activities there are to enjoy along the route, you’re bound to hear your stomach rumble. There are plenty of bars and restaurants to quench your thirst or satisfy any craving you may have. American, Asian foods, Mexican, Italian, or whatever your taste buds desire can be found along the way. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner, you’ll find something delicious for everyone.

Emerald Coast Science Center

Slip in a little educational fun, no matter what time of year you take your break. A visit to the Emerald Coast Science Center during your Gulf Coast spring or summer respite will keep everyone happy, busy, and exploring science through fun and interactive exhibits. The kids of the group may not even realize they’re learning! There are indoor and outdoor exhibits to enjoy and explore, like interactive robotic units, engineering, physics, electricity, color, light, sound, and so much more. Learn about space, the unique Emerald Coast ecosystem, conduct an experiment in the lab or make a creation of your own to take home in the makerspace. Step outside to the center’s marine exhibit – an exhibit in a boat that shows you just what it takes to keep a craft afloat, how on-board radio communication is possible, and the engineering behind boat building. Stay outside and stop by the Dino Dig Pit to discover something rarely seen.

Destination: Gulf Coast Winter & Spring

You came to the Gulf Coast to explore and experience a new place on a fun, relaxing getaway with loved ones this winter or spring. Enjoy a stress-free, worry-free stay when you book a vacation rental provided by Five Star Gulf Rentals. Your small group or family will enjoy a three-bedroom unit, or you can plan a Gulfside reunion for the holidays or any other occasion and book an 18-bedroom mansion close to the beach for everyone to enjoy a sunny getaway. Enjoy private outdoor spaces like a pool, balcony, or deck. Relax indoors in stylish and comfortable bedrooms. Many units include flat screen TVs, stainless steel appliances, and decadent master suites. Make a meal in the fully equipped kitchen, then spread out in an open living area to relax afterward. For a luxury stay like no other, choose a premium unit to include perks like a game room, theater room, elevator and more to make your stay one you’ll never forget.

Call us today to start planning a fun-filled winter or springtime visit!

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