Fishing and Exploring Destin, Florida

Destin is roughly seven hours northwest of Tampa, past Panama City Beach, Tallahassee and Mexico Beach. It is practically Alabama it is so far. However, the long drive is worth it.


Destin, FL


What to Do in Destin

From the great food, beautiful beaches, abundance of nature and fantastic fishing, there’s something for everyone in this far-flung town.


Destin is first and foremost a fishing town, that should be number one on your to-do list. I was lucky enough to win a charter with Captain Royce Dahnke at the Skinny Water Culture Christmas party last year, so that was my first order of business on the weekend. Royce runs an East Cape skiff and an offshore boat (we’ll get to the offshore stuff later) and grew up learning how to fish his local Panhandle waters from his father who guided for nearly 50 years.

One of the things that Destin is known for is having some of the clearest waters in the state, boy was that true. We were looking for redfish swimming down the shoreline or laid up, the clear water made them extremely visible from a long way off. Another factor that made these fish so visible, was the fact that they were nearly all studs – upper to over slot fish.

Clear water in Destin at a beach


Unfortunately, while I saw many fish, I couldn’t get any of them to eat a fly. They were much different from the redfish we have back home in Tampa Bay, the primary difference being that these fish would easily lose interest if you couldn’t generate a reactionary bite with your first cast. Another difference between these fish and those back home was that you needed to put the fly very close to them, about a foot in front. Old habits die hard when you’re used to spooky fish that require much greater leads. You can learn more about Tampa Bay redfish here. 


flyfishing for redfish in Destin
Casting to a big cruising red


I didn’t catch a fish, but I still had a great time, Royce is an awesome dude who is super knowledgeable about his fishery and will work his hardest to put you on the fish. Listen to Royce’s interview on the Captain’s Collective Podcast to learn more about this incredibly fishy guy and fishing on the Forgotten Coast.



The white sand and crystal clear waters of the Destin coast draw tons of visitors year after year. There are certainly spots to visit on the beach, but if you want to beat the crowds and experience true Florida, then I recommend Topsail Hill Preserve State Park. 

The massive dunes and sparse shrubbery harken back to a time before everything had been paved over and commercialized. It is a gem hidden in plain sight, it is only 15 minutes from the main drag in the city. Here you will find camping, fishing, and of course, a beautiful beach. Plus at only $6 per vehicle (camping rates may vary), it’s much cheaper than trying to go to the beach closer to the tourist attractions.



If you love seafood, then you’re in for a treat. Destin has some excellent seafood restaurants, many of which are on the water and provide awesome views and atmosphere. I recommend the following:

  1. Boshamps (crawfish salad is very good)
  2. Louisiana Lagniappe (excellent service, serves hush puppies instead of a bread appetizer)
  3. Emeril’s Coastal (fancy place, good food of all kinds)

***Didn’t make it to these spots, but they’re on my list – Brotulas and The Crab Trap as they are both on the water and come highly recommended.



Earlier I mentioned offshore fishing, I was told that Destin has the largest fleet of cabin cruiser sportfishing boats anywhere. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I do know they have incredible offshore fishing. Multiple billfish species, dolphin, wahoo, cobia, snappers and more! It’s no wonder there are so many guides and well-stocked eateries.

Crab Island

If you want to hit the sandbar and join the giant flotilla straight out of Margaritaville, then this is your ticket. Boats are available to rent, or you can book a guide to drop you off and pick you up. Be sure to boat responsibly if you decide to go this route. Nothing will ruin a vacation faster than going to jail for operating a boat while intoxicated. Or killing someone for that matter.


Photo taken from

Destin Adjacent 

If you’re in the neighborhood, there are a lot of other cool places in the Panhandle that are worth checking out as well. Panama City Beach was a spring break destination when I was in college. Apalachicola is home to tons of tarpon, redfish and is the oyster hub of Florida. Mexico Beach and Navarre are also stunning spots worth checking out. However, my top pick is Rosemary Beach.

Rosemary Beach

Somehow this place is both quaint and has the trappings of a tourist town. You’ll find cobblestone roads that lead to upscale restaurants, breweries and small coffee shops and bookstores that seem to be just around the corner from everywhere here. As the name suggests and its location confirms, there are beautiful, white sand beaches here, but you should know that they are all private and are only accessible to residents or those with vacation rental access. Everyone rides around on bikes and scooters, but it is more than walkable.

It is a very popular location for weddings and bachelorette parties, so if you’re looking for something fun with stunning locales and great vibes that’s a bit off the beaten path, definitely give it a visit.

P.S. Try the Canopy Road Cafe for brunch, the breakfast tacos are awesome!

My Takeaways 

The Florida Panhandle is a very unique, old and beautiful part of the state. Explored by few, yet enjoyed by those who do visit, the fishing and food are something that deserves your appreciation. Destin in particular is a spot that I feel everyone should visit. Get in touch with Captain Royce and book a trip, he’ll find you some reds or get you offshore and into all manner of blue water species.

If you enjoyed this post, then consider checking out some of my other recent blogs as well. I recently returned from fishing for peacock bass in Miami and caught a personal best, you can get the full story here. 

Until next time, tight lines.

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