One of a handful of delightful beach towns hugging the northern stretch of Florida's Gulf Coast, Destin is ideal for beachgoers looking to connect with the more serene side of the Sunshine State.
With bone-white sand and distinctively emerald water, plus a bustling harbor with dining options galore, Destin is giving Florida big-hitters (ahem, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and Tampa) a run for their money. And the best way to savor this town's treasures is to choose a small, independently owned property as your base, where you can unwind and support local businesses at the same time.
Henderson Park Inn
Voted one of the most romantic hotels in North America by About.com readers, the Henderson Park Inn offers more than just a place to rest your head. It's set along more than a mile of pristine Emerald Coast beachfront, and offers the perfect place to view the coastline — a beautiful wrap-around porch.
Each guest room is equipped with an ocean-view terrace, yet another way to soak in the sights, and most rooms have coffee makers, mini-fridges and microwave ovens. But it's unlikely you'll feel the need to prepare your own food. Aside from a complimentary full breakfast, guests are also treated to lunch in a beachfront restaurant, plus a beer and wine happy hour at sunset.
A budget option designed to accommodate families and pet owners, Beachside Inn occupies an enviable spot right across from the beach and within just a mile of Destin's best shopping and dining. Submerge yourself in the hot tub or the two-tiered pool surrounded by a newly revamped sundeck — when you're not enjoying the Gulf's famous waters, that is. For dining, choose from two on-site restaurants, including a coffee bar and a seafood and sushi cafe.
Tech-loving guests will be thrilled by what they find in their guest rooms — high-speed Wi-Fi and 48" HD TVs ideal for Netflix bingeing sessions, not to mention kitchenettes with mini-fridges, microwaves and daily coffee service.
The Inn on Destin Harbor
A harborfront location, a waterfront pool with a deck and 24-hour concierge service are just a few reasons to stay at the Inn on Destin Harbor, a boutique option in downtown Destin. This toned-down, pet-friendly hotel also lures guests with bright, spacious rooms with private balconies, plus complimentary continental breakfast. Rooms have refrigerators (so you can store leftovers), flat-screen TVs and free Wi-Fi.
When it's time to get out and explore, there's plenty reachable on foot, including waterfront restaurants and activities at the HarborWalk Village, plus tour operators offering boating excursions and dolphin cruises. Several water sports companies are set up just steps from the hotel, where you can rent kayaks, pontoon boats and stand-up paddle boards, among others. And the beach? It's less than three miles away.
Hibiscus Coffee & Guesthouse
Located about 23 miles east of Destin in low-key Grayton Beach, the Hibiscus Coffee & Guesthouse's verdant grounds and laid-back Southern appeal will have you wanting to unpack and stay for a while. It boasts 13 unique accommodations divided among three buildings — the Hibiscus House, Bert's Barn and Hibiscus Flats, which offers one-bedroom luxury suites.
The guesthouse's courtyard and garden are draped in subtropical greenery, and Adirondack chairs provide space to sit back and take it all in. Breakfast is served every morning in the cafe, but if you need a midnight snack or can't wait for your morning brew, each room comes with a coffee pot, a full-sized refrigerator and a microwave oven.