At Our Whole Village, we plan meaningful vacations for families who want to create lifelong memories and show their kids the world in a more conscious and intentional manner.
We help families take meaningful vacations so that they can escape everyday life, show their kids the world and make lifelong memories - with care, confidence and peace of mind.
Your (free) guide to the top travel destinations for families with babies, teens and everyone in between.
Ever considered a family vacation to Florida? You don’t have to splurge on a Miami all-inclusive or fight the crowds in Orlando to have a good time. The “Sunshine State” is massive and offers many unique options, experiences, and local cultures. Florida’s Emerald Coast stretches for 100 glorious miles along the Gulf Coast in the state’s northwestern corner. Boasting white sandy beaches, grass-covered dunes, and bathtub-warm, emerald waters, it’s akin to the Caribbean.
Locals epitomize Southern hospitality with their warmth and charm. Music festivals, fireworks, and concerts mix it up year-round. And the food is to die for. We’re talking fresh-caught fish prepared with a heavy dose of Soul Food inspiration. Make no mistake, you’ll want to linger in this dream destination, reveling in a slower pace of life.
What to do in this stunning location? Keep reading for some of our top choices for the perfect family vacation to Florida’s Emerald Coast.
Overlooking Destin East Pass at the end of Holiday Isle, you’ll find Norriego Point and its tidal pools. There’s no better place to learn about the incredible sea life of the Emerald Coast. The area contains some of the most pristine waters in the region, translating into crystal-clear visibility, begging you to go snorkeling.
Which marine animals might you see while visiting the tidal pools? A large population of dolphins lives in the Destin-Fort Walton Beach area, so you’ve got excellent odds of seeing these playful creatures. This proves true year-round.
Why? Because of the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, these dolphins don’t need to migrate during wintertime. Lucky families may also scope out sea turtles. Local species include the Loggerhead, Green, Kemp’s Ridley, and Leatherback gliding through the crystal-clear waters of the Gulf.
Other animals that frequent the tidal pools include octopuses and a wide variety of fish like red snappers, sheepshead fish, and barracudas. Feeling tempted to reach out and touch some of these passers-by? Remember, they’re wild animals, which means keeping a respectful distance. Of course, when it comes to critters like starfish and hermit crabs, you can touch and gently handle them. Just be sure to return them to their habitat afterward.
Head to Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park to give paddleboarding a try. At the ranger station, rent boards for $20 for two hours. Rentals include a paddleboard, a life jacket, and a paddle. Arrive early to avoid boards running out.
Created in 1970, Rocky Bayou is an aquatic preserve teeming with life, from the land to the air and below the water’s surface. On the shores of the bayou, scope out hermit crabs. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for mullets leaping from the water in pursuit of insects.
And don’t forget to look up! The bayou is a prime nesting spot for bald eagles, ospreys, and many songbirds. Bring your binoculars for a closer look at these breathtaking feathered friends of various shapes and sizes.
When it comes to the best family beaches in Florida, the Destin-Fort Walton Beach area is your ticket. This region is also an ideal place to learn to surf. Depending on the day and the weather, you’ll enjoy opportunities to catch some nice waves. But they aren’t generally large enough to prove intimidating.
A good surfing instructor will teach you everything you need for a perfect day. Skills include waxing a surfboard, standing up, gaining balance, paddling, identifying good waves, and more. Best of all, they’ll provide the necessary gear. This adds up to convenience and big savings! Just show up in your swimsuits with towels and snacks.
Not sure which family members should take surf lessons? For families with school-aged kids and beyond, we recommend your whole family! Of course, you’ll want to factor your children’s unique interests and comfort level with the ocean into the decision. It’s a fun bonding experience that’ll bring you closer together as you make memories to last a lifetime.
Countless places welcome snorkeling along Florida’s Gulf Coast. But one of our favorite excursions involves heading out on a private trimaran to see dolphins. These boats sit close to the water, making your encounters with wild dolphins more exhilarating and intimate.
After your family’s fill of watching dolphins swim and frolic in the surf, head to the grass flats. There, enjoy playing, swimming, and snorkeling off the trimaran. The seagrass provides cozy homes for a variety of marine critters. They include crabs, small fish, and other sea life. Be sure to pack along a waterproof camera or waterproof cellphone to preserve your adventure in photos.
Consider a pirate cruise if you’re not a big fan of snorkeling or would prefer a dolphin excursion on a larger boat. As the name suggests, your kids can dress in pirate costumes (not provided) and act as crew members during the ride. This is ideal for smaller and school-aged children and makes for plenty of album-worthy photos. Your kids will be entertained throughout the ride, giving you more chances to scope out dolphins and snap first-rate pics. You’ll find a handful of private companies offering these tours, which depart from various locations, including the HarborWalk Village in Destin, Florida.
What’s one of the most picturesque sights after a day spent enjoying Florida’s Emerald Coast? Walking Destin Harbor’s quaint boardwalk. As afternoon rolls into evening, more than 100 charter boats slip into the harbor for the night. They bring with them colorful fish. As boat occupants disembark, your family can check out the day’s catch.
Curious kids will find charter boat captains ready to answer their questions about fishing and the ocean. And when you’re ready for a refreshing treat? Punctuate your stroll with some eats and cold treats from the varied food and beverage trucks that park at HarborWalk Village.
As the sun dips towards the watery horizon, magic unfolds. Depending on the weather and cloud cover, sunsets are jaw-dropping. They’re also filled with an impossible palate of colors. Icy whites, golden ochres, scintillating oranges, and fiery shades of red and pink. All against the calm backdrop of endless white-capped, turquoise-hued waves.
Florida is renowned for fun in the sun. But an equally fascinating adventure awaits at night! Nocturnal creatures emerge after the sun goes down, and small tidal pools bid you to take a closer look. Bring some red flashlights and buckets, and you’ve got the makings of an unforgettable evening filled with educational adventures.
The red lights protect local sea turtles and cut down on light-related pollution. But they still provide plenty of illumination for flashlight tag and finding a fantastic array of marine critters. These include ghost crabs, which you’ll see scurrying across the sand. When you shine your flashlight on them, the crabs freeze. If you’ve got a net, carefully scoop one up for a few moments of closer inspection before releasing it back into nature.
Get the red flashlights at various locations, including Destin History and Fishing Museum, Destin City Hall, the Destin Chamber of Commerce, the Emerald Coast Science Center, Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, and Henderson Beach State Park.
What’s another of the best family vacation spots in Florida? Henderson Beach State Park. The park includes 60 campsites, which you can reserve up to 11 months in advance. Sites provide electrical and water hookups, picnic tables, and ground grills. Pets are welcome and make ideal companions for exploring the 6,000 feet of open shoreline, which includes 30-foot white sand dunes and the warm waters of the Gulf.
Besides discovering more of Florida’s coastal regions and forests, there’s no better spot to try fishing. Whether your family boasts bait and tackle aficionados, or this is your first try, the quiet beaches of Henderson welcome you. Rods and reels are available for rental, and local fishing shops, like Bass Pro Shop in Destin Commons or Half Hitch Tackle, can gear you up for success.
For families who enjoy leisurely hikes, check out the hiking trail at the park. Three-quarters of a mile long, it’s an excellent place to observe migrating monarch butterflies in the fall. What if you’d like to visit but don’t plan on staying overnight? That’s fine, too. The park is open daily from 8 am to sundown for a $6 admission fee.
Florida’s Emerald Coast is paradise on Earth. From sugar-white beaches to crystal-clear snorkeling waters, dolphin watching, sea turtle viewing, and more. Opportunities abound for fishing, paddleboarding, surfing, wakeboarding, building castles, and more. There’s something for every age and interest.
Ready to find out more about a paradisiacal coastal vacay? We’re here to help. Contact us now to discuss itineraries and options for the perfect family vacation to Florida.
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