15 Best Free Things To Do in Destin, Florida

Are you traveling to Destin on a budget and are looking for ways to save money? Then check out this list of the best free things to do in Destin, Florida.

The sun-soaked city of Destin, Florida, might be renowned for its stunning white beaches and crystal-clear waters, but there’s a whole lot of activities waiting to be discovered.

Nestled along the Emerald Coast, Destin is about 50 miles east of Pensacola, offering a slice of paradise with its soft, sandy beaches and charming coastal vibe.

With its picturesque landscapes and a plethora of activities that don’t cost a dime, Destin is a dream destination for travelers looking to enjoy the Florida sun without breaking the bank.

Destin is one of the best Florida weekend trips.

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Destin is often referred to as the “world’s luckiest fishing village,” but its appeal goes far beyond the surf and sand.

With various local attractions, beautiful natural parks, and a friendly community that’s always up for sharing the best of their city, Destin will not disappoint.

Whether you’re planning a quick Florida weekend getaway or a long vacation, there’s no shortage of fun and free things to do in Destin that will make your trip unforgettable.

Plan Your Trip to Destin, FL In a Glance
Here is a snapshot to help you plan your trip to Destin Florida!

How to get around: The best way to get around Destin and see everything in the city and the nearby places is by driving a car. If you don’t have your own vehicle, you can rent one via Discover Cars. You can alternatively use Uber, bikes, and public transport to get around though these can be quite limiting.

Must-do tours and experiences: Some of the must-do tours and activities while in Destin include; This Hydrojet Dolphin Cruise (4.5/5) to admire the local marine life on a unique jet, this Banana Boat Experience (5/5) the entire family can enjoy, this tiki sunset cruise (5/5) to sail to the famous BYOB tiki bar, and a day trip to the stunning Crab Island by joining this tour (5/5).

Where to stay: Hampton Inn & Suites Destin (8.4/10) is the best hotel if you want to be close to everything with a mid-range budget. It is right in downtown, the beach is 3 minutes away and there is also a small theme park across the street. Those who are after unmatched luxury will love Henderson Beach Resort (9.2/10). It has private beach access to Henderson Beach State Park and the rooms are luxurious with all the amenities you can think of. If you’re a budget traveler, you can’t go wrong with SummerPlace Inn (8.3/10)

What to pack: Don’t leave sunscreen (take this one that is eco-friendly with SPF50), this beach cooler with rollers, this sand-proof beach mat, this wide-brim beach hat, a swimsuit, a beach coverup, and more.

Best Free Things To Do in Destin, Florida

From simply lounging on the beach to exploring nature trails, here is a list of the best free stuff to do in Destin Florida.

1. Stroll The Destin Harbor Boardwalk

Strolling through the Destin Harbor Boardwalk is one of the best things to do in Destin, Fl.

One of the must-do activities in Destin that won’t cost you a thing is to take a leisurely stroll along the Destin Harbor Boardwalk.

This vibrant heart of the city stretches nearly a quarter of a mile along the harbor, offering breathtaking views of the Gulf of Mexico.

As you walk down the boardwalk, you’ll be able to take in the lively atmosphere that makes Destin so unique. You can watch fishing boats, enjoy live music, or even book boat tours and other water sports.

There are also a variety of shops to do some window shopping, lots of eateries, boutiques, some of the famous bars in Destin, and several family-friendly attractions.

2. Watch the Sunset at Crystal Beach

Romantic things to do in Destin Florida.

Another unforgettable and completely free activity in Destin FL is watching the sunset at Crystal Beach.

This stunning stretch of coastline situated just off the scenic Highway 98 is famous for its sugar-white sands and crystal-clear waters, providing the perfect setting for watching a sunset.

After the sun dips below the horizon, the beach takes on a peaceful glow, perfect for evening strolls or simply sitting back and watching the stars as they begin to twinkle in the night sky.

Read more: Best beaches in Destin

3. Bike or Walk the Scenic Highway 98

For those who love to explore at their own pace while soaking in stunning views, biking or walking along the Scenic Highway 98 is an absolute must do when in Destin.

This picturesque route offers an unparalleled opportunity to experience the natural beauty of Florida’s Emerald Coast without spending a penny.

Stretching along the coastline, Scenic Highway 98 passes through some of Destin’s most beautiful landscapes.

The path is well-maintained and safe for both cyclists and pedestrians, making it a perfect activity for the whole family.

Along the way, you’ll pass by quintessential beach homes, seaside shops, and local restaurants. Don’t forget to stop by the public beach access points along the way for a quick dip in the ocean or a relaxing break on the sand.

One of the best things about Scenic Highway 98 is the flexibility it offers. You can start your journey at any point and travel as far as you’re comfortable. Whether you’re looking for a short morning jog or a longer bike ride to explore the area in depth, Scenic Highway 98 accommodates all levels of adventure.

The route also offers several spots for taking photos, picnicking, or simply pausing to admire the view. With the Gulf of Mexico as your backdrop, you’re sure to capture some cool photos that will be the envy of everyone back home.

If you’re traveling with your loved one, biking along this route is no doubt one of the most romantic things to do in Destin.

4. Go Window Shopping At Destin Commons

Window Shopping At Destin Commons is one of the fun free things to do in Destin Florida.

Photo via Robert Lyndon Davis/Flickr

One of the free attractions in Destin Florida that is worth visiting is Destin Commons, an open-air shopping center whose ambiance is palpable.

While you can do actual shopping, window shopping here is an experience of its own, with over 80 shops displaying everything from the latest fashion trends to unique local crafts.

The Commons also feature fountains and a children’s play area, making it a perfect spot for families to enjoy a day out.

Throughout the year, Destin Commons hosts a range of free events, from live music performances to holiday celebrations, adding to the lively atmosphere that defines this shopping paradise.

Read more: Best Mexican Restaurants in Destin

5. Visit HarborWalk Village

Visiting HarborWalk Village is one of the free stuff to do in destin florida.

Photo via Emerald Grande at HarborWalk Village/Flickr

HarborWalk Village, on the other hand, offers a picturesque waterfront experience that truly brings out Destin’s maritime spirit.

Walking through HarborWalk Village, you’ll find yourself amidst a lively array of boutiques, eateries, and galleries, all set against the backdrop of the stunning Destin harbor.

Besides shopping and dining, you can watch fishermen haul in their daily catch, go on a harbor cruise, watch live music, or simply enjoy the panoramic views of the Gulf.

6. Take a Photo at the Destin Sign

Destin fl signpost

Taking a photo at the iconic Destin sign is no doubt one of the cool things to do in Destin Florida for free.

Situated at a key entry point to the city, the Destin sign is the perfect backdrop for Instagrammers looking to chronicle their trip to this Florida Panhandle city.

It’s a free, fun, and fast activity, so you won’t need to alter your itinerary that much.

7. Visit the Air Force Armament Museum

Visiting the Air Force Armament Museum is one of the things to do for free in destin florida.

Photo via Air Force Armament Museum

If you’re a history buff or even a technology enthusiast, one place you can’t miss is the Air Force Armament Museum.

Located just a short drive from Destin, this museum is the only facility in the U.S. dedicated to the display of Air Force armament.

It provides a rare opportunity to explore the power and precision of military aviation from World War II to the present day.

It has an impressive collection of over 29 aircraft, including fighters, bombers, UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), B-17 Flying Fortress, P-51 Mustang, and the stealthy F-117 Nighthawk.

The museum’s extensive collection of armaments, including missiles, bombs, and guns, further illustrates the advancements in military hardware over the decades.

Beyond the aircraft and armaments, the museum also features interactive exhibits, simulators, and a wealth of historical artifacts that provide a deeper understanding of the Air Force’s role in protecting the nation.

Admission to the Air Force Armament Museum is completely free, making it one of the best places to visit in Destin for free.

8. Visit Henderson Beach State Park

Henderson Beach State Park is one of the best beaches in Destin Florida.

Henderson Beach State Park may not be completely free, but it’s definitely one of the cheap things to do in Destin Florida.

This stunning state park showcases the natural beauty of Florida’s Emerald Coast, featuring more than 6,000 feet of scenic shoreline and crystal-clear waters, all nestled against a backdrop of towering sand dunes.

For a small entrance fee, you’ll be able to access the pristine beach that feels worlds away from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

The park’s unspoiled beaches are perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and fishing, while its nature trails offer a glimpse of local wildlife and flora.

The park has picnic areas, playgrounds, and pavilions, making it an ideal spot for a family outing.

Its boardwalks also offer easy access to the beach and provide stunning views of the Gulf of Mexico, making it a favorite spot for photographers and nature lovers alike.

Whether you’re looking to spend the day sunbathing, searching for shells along the shore, or enjoying a quiet picnic with a view, Henderson Beach State Park delivers an unforgettable experience at a very affordable price.

Read more: Best Things to Do in Destin When It Rains

9. Attend The Destin Seafood Festival

Attending the Destin Seafood Festival is one of the best free things to do in Destin Florida for families.
Attending the Destin Seafood Festival is one of the best free things to do in Destin Florida for families.

Destin is famous for its seafood, so it’s not surprising that it holds an annual seafood Festival.

If you find yourself in Destin in October (sometimes in September depending on the year), and love seafood, then make sure you attend the Destin Seafood Festival.

Held annually along the Destin Harbor Boardwalk, this festival celebrates the city’s rich fishing heritage and its reputation as the “world’s luckiest fishing village.”

While the festival is free to enter, bring some bucks for food and drinks to fully indulge in the various seafood on offer.

Local chefs also showcase their skills, serving up everything from shrimp and oysters to grouper and crab, all sourced from the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

But there’s more to the festival than just food. There is live music with performances ranging from local bands to nationally recognized acts.

Artisans and crafters also display their work, offering unique souvenirs and gifts to take back home. For families, the festival provides a range of activities for children, making it a fun day out for attendees of all ages.

10. Attend the ArtWalk on Destin Harbor

Another experience that combines the beauty of Destin’s waterfront with cultural enrichment is attending the ArtWalk on Destin Harbor.

Held every third Sunday of each month, this event transforms the Destin Boardwalk into a place of creativity, inviting locals and visitors alike to admire art. The best part? It’s free to attend, making it one of the best things to do for free in Destin Florida.

The ArtWalk is a celebration of local and regional artists, showcasing a diverse range of artwork from painting and sculpture to jewelry and photography.

It’s also a great opportunity to meet local artists, learn about their processes, and perhaps find a unique piece to take home.

Attendees can also take part in various art forms under the guidance of skilled artists. For art lovers and curious minds alike, this is one even not to miss.

11. Explore Jolee Island Nature Park

Exploring Jolee Island Nature Park is one of the fun things to do in Destin Florida for free.

Although not in Destin, but rather in Miramar Beach, one of the cutest towns near Destin, Jolee Island Nature Park is very much worth the 20-minute drive.

This secluded five-acre island offers a peaceful retreat into nature, perfect for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.

The park is easily accessible and free to visit, making it a fantastic option for enjoying the outdoors without spending a dime.

You’ll find a canopy of towering pine trees and a well-marked walking trail with informative signs that provide insights into the local flora and fauna.

The trail leads to various points of interest within the park, including picturesque picnic spots, perfect for a family outing or a quiet lunch, and scenic overlooks that offer stunning views of the surrounding bayou and bay.

Jolee Island Nature Park is also a haven for bird watchers, as it’s home to a wide range of bird species including ospreys and songbirds.

For those traveling with children, the park includes a pirate-themed playground.

Read more: Best Breakfast Places in Destin

12. Spend an Evening at the Royal Palm Grille Bonfire

Spending an evening at the Royal Palm Grille Bonfire is one of the free fun things to do in Destin Florida.

While simply watching the sunset on a beach is a perfect way to wind your day, you can elevate that experience by going to the Royal Palm Grille for their sunset Bonfire at their Beach bar.

These beach Bonfires are held every Friday & Monday at sunset and are completely free and anyone can visit.

Parking is free and chairs are provided (or you can come with your own), and you’ll be treated to a magical evening.

Love bonfire stories and roasting s’mores with a sunset in the background? That’s exactly what you’ll experience here.

13. Explore Mattie Kelly Park and Nature Walk

Exploring Mattie Kelly Park and Nature Walk is one of the free activities in destin fl.

Photo via Anne-Karine Thoresen/Flickr

Next on our list of free things to do in Destin Florida is visiting Mattie Kelly Park and Nature Walk.

Located away from the more crowded tourist spots, this 10-acre park offers visitors a peaceful escape into the heart of the Emerald Coast’s lush landscapes and diverse ecosystems.

The park features a variety of trails that are perfect for leisurely walks, bird-watching, and photography.

One of the highlights of Mattie Kelly Park is its boardwalk, which extends over the water to offer stunning views of the bayou.

The park also has picnic areas and a beach area, making it a great spot for a family outing. Children will enjoy the open spaces to play, while adults will appreciate the scenic beauty.

And if you’re more of a fisher, fishing is also possible in this park.

Read more: Closets Airports to Destin

14. Spend An Afternoon At Clement Taylor Park

sunset at Clement Taylor Park-destin

Photo via Photog aka eddie penland/Flickr

Another park in Destin that is worth visiting and is also free to visit is Clement Taylor Park, nestled on the shores of Choctawhatchee Bay.

It spans 3.55 acres and offers a variety of amenities that will keep you occupied the whole day.

From a beach area with shallow waters that are safe for kids to play in, pavilion, picnic tables, and grills, large, shady trees to shelter from the Florida sun, to the playground that will keep kids entertained on end.

Clement Taylor Park also features a volleyball court to stay active and a picturesque gazebo that extends over the water, serving as a spot for fishing, yoga, or watching the stunning sunsets Destin is famous for.

Nature enthusiasts will appreciate the park’s scenic walking paths. It’s also not uncommon to spot birds and other wildlife along the way.

15. Visit The Village of Baytowne Wharf

The Village of Baytowne Wharf is one of the best Destin attractions for families.

The last entry on our list of free things to do in Destin Florida is visiting the Village of Baytowne Wharf.

This Village has been thoughtfully designed to offer something for everyone.

By day, families can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, including a zip line, a rock-climbing wall, and a playground that will keep the little ones entertained for hours.

The adventure zone is also a hit among visitors of all ages, offering fun challenges and thrilling experiences right in the heart of the village.

However, as the sun sets, it transforms into a lively nightlife hub, with bars, nightclubs, and live music performances that cater to a more adult crowd.

The village’s restaurants and eateries offer a range of dining options, from casual bites to some of the best waterfront restaurants in Destin.

Throughout the year, the Village of Baytowne Wharf also hosts a variety of events and festivals. From weekly fireworks shows in the summer to seasonal celebrations like the Winter Wonderland, it goes all out in providing memorable experiences for visitors.

Shopping enthusiasts will also find plenty to love about Baytowne Wharf, with its selection of boutiques, galleries, and specialty stores offering everything from fashionable clothing and accessories to unique gifts and souvenirs.


Final Thoughts on the Free Fun Things to Do in Destin Florida

With this list of free things to do in Destin Florida for families, it’s pretty clear that you don’t have to rob a bank to enjoy this city.

Whether you’re a history buff, are looking for a lively nightlife, or prefer a more laid-back pace in nature, you’ll find something to do in Destin!

But before you go, consider sharing these free activities in Destin Florida if you found the article helpful!

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