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We have visited Florida many times but have always stayed in Orlando or south Florida. Never considered the panhandle on the gulf until a friend mentioned they vacation there every year. After doing some research, we decided as a family to go on spring break to Destin, Florida. It’s the perfect destination for families with children, away from the college crowds. This is our Destin Florida travel guide.

The trip was full of adventures, good food and a lot of miles! Here is our full Destin Florida travel guide.

Road Trip!

Airfare around spring break get’s really expensive, especially for a family of 4 travelers. Last year, we ended up flying to London England for the same price as we could to Florida. You can check out our full London adventure here. Because of that, this year we decided to drive. We live in the Chicagoland area and the distance to Destin, FL is just under 1000 miles or 15 hours of driving. Having 2 kids under 10, we knew this would have to be a 2 day drive. Halfway point is around Nashville which is where we planned on staying the night and enjoying some good southern BBQ food. But boy did our plans change!

Our trip started with a snow storm in Chicago which made us look forward to the trip that much more. We were ready for some sun, sand and fun. We had a ton of entertainment ready for the kids to keep them occupied along the way. From road trip bingo, word search, coloring books and Ipads, they had things to do.

Once we got close to Nashville, we started looking up hotels in the area to book a night. Little did we know, there was nothing, and I mean nothing available all the way to Birmingham Alabama! That’s almost 200 miles south of where we wanted to stay for the night. I used my Hilton app to find a hotel about 50 miles off the road and we got the very last room. Turns out, that weekend, there were multiple sporting tournaments and along with the spring break travelers created the perfect storm. Something we were not prepared for.

Travel Tip

  • If you are planning to break up your road trip into multiple days, book hotels in advance. You never know what is going on in the area.
  • Use hotel apps to help find rooms along the road.

Road Trip Food

While we packed a lot of snacks for the car, we did want to stop and eat a proper sit down meal. I received a lot of great recommendations along our drive but unfortunately timing did not allow us to stop at any of those locations. That was my biggest disappointment on this trip. That night with all the hotel issues, we ended up at the golden arches for a quick and easy dinner.

I did have a little bit of BBQ food from a small shack that was adjacent to a gas station in southern Alabama. The pulled pork sandwiches were delicious. Tender smoked pork in a vinegar based BBQ sauce. I love finding these little hidden treasures no one knows about. So not all was lost.

Some of the places we really hoped to visit were:

Travel Tip

  • If there is a specific place you want to make sure to visit on your road tip, plan your trip accordingly. Take into account bathroom breaks, possible traffic or construction and time change if you are traveling into different time zones.
  • To keep it exciting for the kids, check out local attractions like a museum, park or monument to visit during the overnight stay. It helps break up the drive and creates excitement around the stop.


When looking for places to stay, there are a lot of options on the water. From condo’s to airbnb’s and hotels. We really like to convenience of a hotel when going on vacation. We picked the Hilton Sandestin for it’s location, amenities and restaurant options. While I love to cook, it’s nice to take a break and discover what the resort and local restaurants have to offer. Through the hotel, you also get direct access to the beach which we found out was a nice to have. Public beach access is getting smaller in the area as more and more beach space becomes private property due to the growing real estate market. Also, the resort is directly on the water, making it safe for kids to go directly from the hotel onto the sand.

Starting with the room, we had a junior suite which included bunk beds for the kids with a little nook area for them, a seating area, kingsize bed and balcony. It was perfect for us. We each had our own space. Rooms were newly renovated, spacious and clean.

Hotel Water Activities

The resort has 3 pools so there is plenty of space for the kids to swim. 2 outdoor pools with different depths and 1 indoor which was perfect for the cooler and rainy days.

Destin is known for it’s white soft sandy beaches and clear waters. It must be the most beautiful beach I’ve been at state side. The resort has the option to rent lounge chairs and an umbrella on the beach. This definitely came in handy on the sunny days. Being on the beach all day, a little shade never hurts.

Outdoor Activities

Aside from the water activities, there are other things to do to keep entertained without leaving the resort. There is a gulf course for the avid golfer, which I am not. There is also a mini golf course, basketball and pickle ball courts.

Hotel Food

The resort offers multiple eating options. The breakfast buffet has the standard american breakfast classics, along with an omelet and waffle station, fresh fruits, pastries, cereal and much more. It’s perfect for the picky eaters who eat for free under 12 years old. This is a huge budget friendly bonus. We ended up eating a large breakfast and only had a small lunch or snack before dinner.

My breakfast usual was the chocolate chip waffle with bacon on top and warm maple syrup. YUM! Service is great and fast! It’s a large space and we never had any issues or long wait times to a table no matter what time we showed up.

For lunch, there is the option of barefoot beachside bar which is located right by the pools on the deck. We had dinner there and it did not disappoint. The lobster roll and shrimp were very tasty. There is also a quick and easy poolside market for small grab and go snacks including pizza and an ice-cream shop. Inside the resort is the Sandcastle restaurant which serves a lunch menu and brick oven pizza. The bbq chicken pizza is my favorite. This restaurant also serves dinner that includes a sushi station that we all enjoyed.

Another great offering by the resort are large water bottles. They are $25 each, but you have unlimited refills of water or soda for the entire stay. Refills are available at all the eating locations at the resort.

Seagar’s Prime Steaks & Seafood

Seagar’s restaurant is located at the Hilton Sandestin resort. Reservations and a proper clothing attire are required. Did not think that through when packing and had to make a quick shopping trip to an outlet mall just outside the resort for a collard shirt. Yes, I did not even pack a polo…

Aside for the fashion incident, the restaurant experience did not disappoint. The staff are top notch, the ambiance is perfect and the food is exceptional. For appetizers we had the fried calamari and the diver scallop which was a scallop on top of a potato slice in a delicious asparagus sauce and squid ink. That was the the best scallop I’ve ever had! For dinner we had the steak and lobster dish, gulf grouper and kids split a NY strip. All steaks were cooked to a perfect medium rare just the way we like it. For desert, we had the banana foster. This was the highlight of the evening. The desert is prepared at the table with a full show. It was the perfect ending to our dinner. It is pricy, but worth the dinning experience.

Other restaurants

We went to 2 different restaurants outside of the resort for some gulf seafood and both places were amazing.

Back Porch is located just a 5 minute drive outside of the resort. It’s a stereotypical water front shake with some of the best food. It gets really busy, but the place is large. We waited about 20 minutes which is not bad. If you plan on dinning there, you must have the back porch oysters. This baked dish is cheesy and rich in crab meat. I really need to replicate this one at home. Recipe coming soon!

Boshamps was the second restaurant we dined in. Matt Pitman from Meat Church frequents there a lot and he always posts stories on Instagram. Wanting to see what it’s all about, we decided to check it out for ourselves. And now I know why…Before I get to the food, this place is perfect. It’s right on the marina. There is a little beach area with chairs, hammocks and beach games for the kids while you wait for a table. There is a lot of outdoor seating and it’s perfectly situated with a view of the sunset. When it comes to the menu, the dishes are creative and taste even better. We ordered raw and baked oysters which were outstanding and the house smoked yellow fin tuna dip. Another recipe I need to duplicate at home. The baked oysters called Oysters Boshamps have caramelized Vidalia onions, feta cheese and bacon marmalade on it. For dinner we got the original destin snapper which is the most popular dish and the pan roasted gulf grouper which the waitress recommend as the staff favorite. Both were exceptional

Other attractions

If you have a car, there are the typical water front attractions, arcade games, surf shops, etc… But if you are staying in Destin, drive a little east to Rosemary Beach. It’s a little beach front town that is like nothing else in the states. It looks like a little town somewhere in Europe with the Swiss like buildings and little streets. It’s a small community of rentals. Everyone drives a gulf cart or rides bikes. Great shopping and outdoor cafe dining options. Parking is very tricky but worth the visit.

Final thoughts

While the weather was not perfect all the time, we were always at least 30 degrees warmer than back home. Temperatures ranged in the upper 60’s into the 70’s in March. It does get tricky this early in the year so it’s a risk you take. That said, Destin is definitely a place we will visit again. I do not mind the drive and given how well the kids did, next time we will drive right through. It’s a long trip when split into 2 days. If you have 2 people that can drive, I say do it in one day. It’s long either way. Start very early, have the kids sleep in the car and just go. Saves on time and money for extra hotel stays.

I hope this Destin Florida travel guide helps you navigate and plan your next trip to the Florida panhandle.

Video Recap

Check out our full video showing the trip. We cover everything that’s in the guide and more fun family adventures!

About Maciek

I make easy meals that anyone can replicate at home. I’m not a professionally trained chef, just your average guy that likes to fire up the grill. So follow along and see what’s cooking today!

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