Grandmother and granddaughter walking in the sand at the seashore in Destin, FL.
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Vacationing in the Florida Panhandle with Kids


Destin, Florida, and the surrounding areas of South Walton County and Ft. Walton Beach are consistently named in many travel guru’s Best Beaches. There is merit behind these acclaims.

The white, sandy beaches, clear blue-green water, and intense sunshine bring millions of visitors and return-vacationers to the beaches year-after-year.

I was lucky enough to grow up just across the Bay in Niceville. Yes, Niceville, and yes, people are nice there. Since leaving several years ago, my family and I head up to the area at least once a year, if not more. Now that I have my girls, we’re experiencing the vacation viewpoint of the Emerald beaches.

Taking children, even young children, to the Florida Panhandle is a breeze. The soft, white-sandy beaches are easy on your kids’ toes, fun to build sandcastles in, and the mild water temperature is fun for your kids to splash in.

A few of our favorite kid-friendly places to visit while you’re vacationing include the following free or inexpensive locales:

*Fudpucker’s in Destin – Not just a restaurant, but a destination in itself. Your kids will LOVE writing on the walls, benches, ceilings, shirts, you name it, you can write on it! You can even ask for a marker if you forgot yours, then feel free to tag your name! After you’ve eaten your Shrimp Pucker (my personal favorite sandwich), head down to the World Famous T-Shirt store and pick up a t-shirt for every member of your family. No visit to Destin is complete without a Fudpucker’s t-shirt to show off that you were there! With your bag of t-shirts in hand, feel free to wander around the maze of decks, super-kid-friendly playground, and find your way down to Gator Beach. Here you can feed their over 100 real live Florida Gators!
20001 Emerald Coast Pkwy, Destin, FL 32541

the-crab-trap*Destin Commons – The newest premier shopping center in the Florida Panhandle, Destin Commons specially invites families with young children with their outside playground, movie theater, toys stores, and children’s clothing stores. My favorite store to spend time shopping is in the Learning Express. Stuffed to the rafters with toys, games, and more toys, Learning Express is an easy place to take your kids to cool off from the sunny heat. Another of my not-to-miss stores is Hugs and Hissyfits – a children’s boutique clothing store with some of the cutest clothing for your kids. Take a break from shopping and hop on board the kid’s train that takes a trip through the streets of the Commons. You might even catch one of the Commons special kids events. Check out their events page for their schedule of activities. Who knows – you might just catch the Mad Hatter himself in person!
4300 Legendary Drive, Destin, Florida 32541

destin-fl-angie2*Kid-Friendly Beach Access at The Crab Trap – If you’re new to the Emerald Coast, you may not know the secrets to getting on the beach. Much of the beach is only accessible to residents or visitors staying on the beach. If you’re not one of those lucky enough to stay at the beach, it can be difficult finding public beach access. At The Crab Trap, you’ll find the perfect place to enjoy the beach. You may need to arrive early (before lunch time) to find a parking spot, but once you park, you won’t need to leave until well after lunch time. Walk through the covered picnic area (which houses fresh water outdoor showers AND public restrooms), down the wooden walkway, and down to the powdery sugar-sand beach. Set up your umbrella or rent a pair of the covered chaise lounge chairs set up for you. When you need a break from shell hunting and sand castle building, head up to The Crab Trap for a fresh seafood lunch. Your kids will get their own bucket with shovel to take back down to the beach as a souvenir! (The background for the pictures of my girls featured on this article were taken at the beach at The Crab Trap.)
3500 Scenic Highway 98, Destin, FL 32541

Now that you’ve planned your visit, head on down to the white, sugar-sand beaches of Northwest Florida! Tell them I sent you.

Angie is a Florida Native, work-at-home mom to 2 young girls, and online business owner of Good for the Kids.

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  1. Great article, and good insight into panhandle vacations.

    I am a little disappointed I didn’t see Perdido Key on the list, but then again it is the ‘lost’ key 🙂 Maybe it’s a good thing so many people don’t yet know about this paradise.

    They have a great new site to help planning a trip there:

  2. We “kids” in the “baby-boom” generation spent our summers there in the Santa Rosa Beach area (Dune Allen) when the screen doors banged behind you as you walked into an un-air-conditioned everything store to pay for your gasoline, some groceries, and a newspaper, also to catch up with locals who hung out there. The old post office at the intersection of 133 and 98 was a box of a building with the post office box holes and the same mail person who had been there forever (Coreen Bishop was mail lady when the post office moved across 98 and westward a bit to a strip mall, but I was too young to remember the mail person when the PO was in its original state). So many memories, long before the gulf road S-30A went all the way from the 98 entry at the east end to the 98 entry at the west end, nearly to Sand Destin. Because the road didn’t go through, and because our beach house was on a dune far from the road, we parked and walked out groceries to the house–over blazing hot sand with the sun beating down to the un-air-conditioned beach house. Ah, those were the days.

    Still a great place for children with many, many things to do, still the best things to do there are free and need to be discovered. They are not advertised and not for sale. And that is what make them memorable and great for growing children.

  3. We are a family of 5 in Louisville Ky. I am the mom, and have been online for days trying to book a place to stay for our family in the Destin area or other nearby beach in the Florida Panhandle.I am having a terrible time trying to find something we can afford that is nicely furnished. And Every place I find onlineis out of our $1000 per ( 5 nights)week price Range or you have to stay longer, or some other reason. We have 3 kids ranging in age from 7 to 17 and would prefer a beach with lots to do, shopping, places to eat, etc. But mainly want to be on a beach with calm blue waters, not terribly crowded, a beach where we can find lots of shells. We want a pool also and would rather be on ground level or no more than 3 or 4 stories high. We stayed at Dauphin Island about 5 years ago, we loved all the shells we found and the private feel, but no shopping or restaurants. We stayed at panama city beach over 10 years ago and enjoyed having a lot to do, we even went snorkeling. On the downside the beaches were crowded, had a lot of seaweed on them and not a lot of shells. We’d love any advice on a great beach, and a place to stay.
    Thanks so much and God bless,

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