Exploring Nature In Destin: Hiking Trails and Outdoor Adventures
Sitting along the pristine shores of the Gulf of Mexico, Destin calls to visitors with its stunning views and a myriad of water activities. But this picturesque Florida paradise is not just about white sand beaches and turquoise waters, it’s also a wonderful place for nature lovers to explore the natural wonders of the area. The Destin area boasts an array of hiking trails, bike paths, and nature preserves that provide visitors an opportunity to immerse themselves into the natural beauty of the Destin area.
Parks and Nature Preserves
Henderson Beach State Park in the heart of Destin offers gorgeous views of the Gulf and access to a unique dune ecosystem. The main nature trail is a short trail winding through the dunes next to the beach and among the coastal scrub habitat consisting of oaks and sand pines. This trail offers hikers the opportunity to admire the dune landscape up close, with spectacular Gulf views in the background. Along the trail, there are educational placards about native plants, with tortoises and butterflies commonly seen along the path. While this trail is considered easy, some may find the uneven sand difficult, and closed-toe shoes are recommended. After hiking the nature trail, head down to the beach to enjoy the warm water and have the chance to spot dolphins, sea turtles and migrating birds from shore. Admission is $6 per vehicle and visitors should have no trouble finding parking.
For a respite from the busy tourist area, head to Mattie Kelly Park, which has a short nature boardwalk and a pier with beautiful views of the bay side of Destin. The pier is great for fishing in the crystal clear waters and wildlife like crabs, fish, and stingrays are frequently spotted. There is a small beach perfect for swimming or snorkeling, and the shallow water is great for kids. Parking is limited, but should not be a problem as this park is rarely crowded.
Drive 20 minutes along highway 98 to reach the stunning Topsail Hill Preserve State Park, a large park with a diverse landscape, from flowing white sand dunes above the emerald waters to wooded trails. Biking is popular at this park, with rentals available at the park store. A paved trail winds throughout the park and down to the beach. There are 15 miles of sandy hiking trails throughout the park, leading to WWII facility remnants, secluded coastal dune lakes with excellent fishing and coastal scrub forests where gopher tortoises roam. The whole park is renowned for bird watching, with hawks, ospreys and plovers commonly spotted. Swimming and kayaking along the Gulf side are popular activities at this park, and kayaks can be rented at the park store until 5pm. Admission is $6 per vehicle and visitors looking for a break from the bustling tourist attractions will appreciate the peaceful and uncrowded atmosphere.
Located a 20 minute drive north of Destin, the Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park is a hidden gem with a network of trails winding through lush landscapes, showcasing the area's diverse flora and fauna. The trail system ranges from easy strolls to challenging hikes, ensuring there's an option for everyone. The wooded trails wind through old growth pine trees and red cedars, spilling out onto waterways with great views of the bay and plenty of marine wildlife like dolphins and sea turtles. Fishing and kayaking are popular water activities in this park, with kayak rentals available for 2 or 4 hours. Parking is plentiful and admission is $5 per vehicle.
No trip to Destin would be complete without enjoying the beautiful waters of the Emerald Coast. Swimming, snorkeling and kayaking are popular activities at all of Destin’s beaches. Norriega Point Beach offers calm waters where snorkelers can see marine wildlife like crabs and fish, while Henderson Beach and Shores at Crystal Beach Park are great spots to enjoy the water or do some paddling along the shore. Beaches in Destin can get crowded, so visitors are encouraged to arrive early to secure parking and a spot on the sand. And of course if you're staying at one of our Destin beachfront vacation rentals, you can walk right out to the sand and water.
Visitors looking for offshore adventures will find no shortage of fishing charters, dolphin watching cruises and snorkeling tours leaving from Destin throughout the day. Local companies offer a range of boat sizes, with public or private options available.
The harmonious fusion of coastal beauty and unique ecosystems make Destin a nature lover’s paradise. Whether you're an avid hiker, a water enthusiast, or simply seeking the serenity of a nature walk, Destin has something for you. Book a Destin vacation rental from Destin Dreamers and wake up to the sound of waves and the promise of adventures in nature!
Published by Brynn Flaherty
Monday, November 27, 2023