Destin, FL — Land o’ Plenty

Destin, FL beach
They don’t call Destin, FL “The Emerald Coast” for nothin’.

Tucked into the Florida Panhandle’s shimmering Emerald Coast, Destin, FL might be one of the loveliest places we’ll live on our nomadic journey — and as a destination, it’s also been one of our most pleasant surprises.

Truth is, we chose to move to Destin for a number of reasons, none of which were remotely romantic. Our logic went a little something like this:

  • We miss the water. We want to live by the beach. Except we need a town that’s affordable.
  • Focus! We need to buckle down and get to work on personal projects. We wanted 2 solid months without distraction.

This basically meant we needed to find a cheap, waterfront town that wasn’t interesting — but also didn’t totally suck, because, well, we still needed to live there. And Destin won.

See? Not romantic at all.

Destin, for those who don’t know much about it, is a notoriously popular tourist destination for Southerners. It’s known for a gorgeous beach, great fishing culture, and having plenty of restaurants and entertainment for the tens of thousands of folks who flock to this upscale beach haven during high season. Lucky for us, it’s off-season, and we were able to find a remarkably affordable beachfront apartment in a super nice highrise.

As for high culture? Not so much. Interesting weekend road trips nearby? Not really, we thought. Perfect!

Then we arrived. And everything changed.

Destin, Florida beach
View from our balcony at Ariel Dunes in Destin.

Turns out, there’s a reason Destin is one of America’s most popular beach destinations. It is, in a word, spectacular: turquoise water sparkling in sunlight, cloudless, navy blue skies, powder-soft white sands, and even towering sand dunes, complete with rippling beach oats.

There’s seafood restaurant after seafood restaurant, each dishing up remarkably fresh and downright delicious seafood, an endless number of spots for sunset cocktails, and a surprising number of places to see live music. Not good enough? There are seafood festivals, arts festivals, food festivals and every other imaginable celebration held along the shores.

To be sure, Destin is really built up — highrise condos and beach house rentals line much of the shores. The town proper is chock full of shopping centers and outlet stores, stuff that typically doesn’t float my boat. But you know what? After living in small town Montana for a month, it’s downright pleasurable not to have to drive 2 hours to run basic errands. And after spending months in the desert, it’s a luxury to be perpetually in sight of the sea.

Destin, FL sunset
A sunset in Destin that set the sky ablaze.

But the whole package of Destin is a win, down to the ridiculously friendly folks we meet on a daily basis. That whole Southern hospitality thing? Yup, there’s something to it.

In short, our mission was not accomplished. We are perpetually distracted! I can’t stop eating oysters and boiled shrimp. Sunset-watching from our apartment balcony has become a nightly tradition. We unintentionally stumble into festivals. Musicians and bands magically appear as we eat dinner and play amazing sets. We’ve discovered nearby beach towns that are so charming I want to vomit — and then move there immediately for the rest of my life.

We’re approaching a month living here, and the glow is far from gone. I still stare out at the Gulf twinkling in the sunlight from my balcony forgetting whatever task I had in mind to accomplish for awkwardly long stretches. In the late afternoons, I trek down to the shore to read books on the beach under the cover of an umbrella, and sink my toes into cool, white sand, curling my toes — just feeling. Destin is home for now, and it is good.


  1. I have never been to Destin… but it looks great! And those sunsets?!!! WOW!!!

    • Valerie Conners says:

      Melyssa – you should totally come up this way for a long weekend. There are some killer communities here that will boggle your mind — super luxe!