Hey guys! Since I used to work as a travel agent in Florida’s Panhandle, I decided it was time to share my vast knowledge and make a multi-part guide to all the best places to visit in the Florida Panhandle. I used to sell tickets to the best attractions in the Panhandle, as well as Disney vacation packages. I have lived everywhere from Pensacola, Destin, Tallahassee, and Panama City Beach. I may be biased, but I believe the best beaches and attractions lie within the Panhandle. Yes, Orlando is fun, but you will be fighting thousands of tourists. I am going to start part 1 of this series by talking about Destin’s Harborwalk. I lived in Destin for three years, and I have missed it every day since I left. I can’t even begin to describe the beauty of seeing the white sand beaches and emerald water while driving to work every day. In my opinion, Destin is one of the most underrated cities in Florida. However, if you choose to visit, you will benefit because most tourists choose to go to the more well-known destinations in Florida like Miami and Orlando. Destin’s Harborwalk Village should be on everyone’s list who visits Destin. It is easy to spot because the Emerald Grande Hotel is located in the heart of the Harborwalk. The Emerald Grande is not your typical hotel. The architecture of the building is stunning.
Most hotels tend to be an eye sore, but I loved looking out my window and being able to see the Emerald Grande. When my hubby deployed to Afghanistan, he got me a gift card to the spa located in the Emerald Grande before he left. They offer so many different spa treatments, but I normally stuck with a manicure and pedicure. Each of the spa rooms are so clean and peaceful. You also get to look out the window at the beautiful water while relaxing.
This hotel is a great location for weddings. I have seen a ceremony being performed there and the view was so beautiful. The pool located at the hotel is also a work of art. The last time I was there was for my sister’s bachelorette party and the Jacksonville Jaguar cheerleaders were doing their annual swimsuit calendar shoot at the hotel.
Although I would highly suggest visiting the Emerald Grande, you also need to walk around the Harborwalk Village which surrounds the hotel. If I have failed to mention this already, the parking at the Harborwalk is free! The Harborwalk has everything you can imagine.
There is a zip line, live music, and shopping all around the water. My husband, sister, brother-in-law, and I rented jet skis and it was so much fun! We were required to take a test beforehand in order to get a Florida boater’s license, but it wasn’t hard! It was awesome to take the jet skis by the Mid Bay Bridge and wave at all the vehicles that went by. The Harborwalk rents out a lot of other equipment like paddle boards and boats. I have done a lot of fishing in Destin just by standing on some protruding rocks on the beach, so you should have a lot of luck fishing if you actually take a boat out. There is a reason it’s nicknamed “The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village.” You can also choose to go parasailing or even take a dolphin cruise. I did this with my husband and we loved it. The boat had a glass bottom where you could see the dolphins swimming underneath.
However, this Margaritaville only contains the restaurant and live music, not the casino. The Harborwalk also has the Coyote Ugly Saloon. If you are in Destin on a Thursday, the Harborwalk puts on a fireworks show that starts at 9:00 PM. Sometimes they even have airshows going on and we were able to see WWII era planes flying around.
Directly across the street from the Harborwalk is the famous McGuire’s restaurant. This is certainly a tourist attraction, but it was one of my favorite places to go. You absolutely must try the Irish Wake drink. You even get to keep the glass jar the drink comes in as a souvenir. Next door to McGuire’s is another bar named AJ’s. Fun fact: this is where my husband and I had our first kiss. AJ’s is an outdoor bar right on the water so you can enjoy the warm ocean breeze while taking in the breathtaking views. If you are planning to make a trip to Destin, the Harborwalk Village must be on your list! Stay tuned for my next post where I will talk about the fun attractions at Okaloosa Island in Destin, Florida.