Destin is the best for families. From its watersports to its stunning beaches and islands, it is arguably one of the best in the gulf region. Clearwater on the other hand is best for the energetic lot. From quirky explorations to a festive seaside charm, you can never run out of reasons to have fun here.
What was once a sleepy fishing village is now one of Florida’s quirkiest cities. Destin is known for its beaches, watersports, and of course, game fishing. A jewel in the state’s Emerald Coast, Destin’s draws are as interesting as its natural beauty.
In Destin you can have plenty of things to do, and diverse at that. From game fishing, you can also shop, jet-ski, and eat. If you’re asking whether the city is worth a visit, you can ask the annual one million visitors to Destin.
What Makes Destin Unique?
The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village
Apart from its evident beauty, Destin also has another quirk. The city possesses all the necessary components to provide its most distinctive appeal. Destin offers the region’s greatest range of fish species with direct access to the Gulf of Mexico. Amazing fishing may be found in this area. With more than 250 boats, Destin really has one of the largest fleets of charter fishing boats in the nation.
Any nautical map will show that Destin’s quick and simple access to the Gulf’s deepest depths sets it apart. One of the secrets to Destin’s outstanding fishing is its close proximity to various waters. This includes such plentiful cuts as East Pass connecting Choctawhatchee Bay and the Gulf.
The famed 100-fathom (600 ft / 183 m) curve is a gentle slope at the end of the continental shelf. It then abruptly descends to offshore depths. It is only about 25 miles (40 km) south of Destin, providing the quickest access to deepwater pelagic fishing. This is what really seals the deal.
Different fish species inhabit different depths. Fishermen can easily access all fishable water depths under Destin’s waters. It contains 20 different species of edible game fish.
The snapper fish, which includes the red snapper, gray snapper, lane snapper, and mutton snapper, is one of the most often discovered species. Fishermen highly prize the red snapper because of its vivid scarlet color and greater size.
The grouper fish is another species that is often caught with a reel. The black grouper, gag grouper, and red grouper are a few of the numerous varieties of grouper, much like the snapper. The dolphinfish, often called mahi-mahi, is a fish that frequently lingers near the water’s surface. Dolphinfish don’t quite resemble dolphins, despite their names.
Of course, the Gulf of Mexico coast is Destin’s top attraction, whether you’re wanting to relax, swim, or have a blast with watersports and boats. Destin’s beaches have a combination of two natural elements: bright white-sugar sands and emerald-green waters. These give the coastline its most unique draw. This rare beauty is an inherently fascinating appeal for many.
Its beauty has some science behind it that is as fascinating as it looks. The beaches’ gleaming white sands and the emerald-green waters complement each other. Unknown to most, algae are responsible for the unique tint in the water.
The emerald color fluctuates in tone and intensity with algal concentrations and sunlight. It is then amplified by the nearshore seafloor’s white-sand bottom and the water’s crystal clear quality.
Being its best and most famous draw, Destin doesn’t only offer one extensive beach stretch. It boasts quite a plethora of entries as well. It has John Beasley Beach Park, the Okaloosa Island Pier, and Jetty Beach. Green expanses such as Eglin Beach Park, and Henderson Beach State Park are all great places to go barefoot.
Meanwhile, beyond the shores, there is another wonder. The Crab Island sandbar near the mouth of Choctawhatchee Bay is a swimming and watersport favorite. You can also visit other notable spots such as Destin Beach, Crystal Sands, and Grayton Beach State Park.
Contrary to what one might imagine, Crab Island is not an island full of crabs whatsoever, it is actually a large sandbar. Only reachable by boat, but definitely worth the trip. If you’re with kids or just want to relax and have fun, the water’s shallowness and calmness are ideal.
Crab Island, which lies close to the Destin Pass, is also a boater’s paradise. Each year, thousands of boats dock at this enormous sandbar. Visitors arrive in anything from single-rider kayaks to 65-foot (20 m) yachts.
You can swim up to floating restaurants and food boats along the four acres (1.6 ha) of the sandbar to grab refreshments! Remember that certain restaurants are only accessible from March to October. Play some water volleyball, go snorkeling, or simply relax on a raft and take in the sun.
You may charter a boat to Crab Island and be your own captain, which is one of the most incredible things to do in Destin during the summer. If you want a decent workout there, you could also try kayaking.
You can’t help but think of watersports like jet-skiing, pontoons, and stand-up paddleboards when you talk about the sun and surf of lovely Destin. You can engage in these activities anywhere else but Destin stands out as a great location for watersports. It is mostly thanks to the availability of sheltered inshore waters.
Renting a boat for the day is the best way to explore the stunning seas around Destin. Take the entire family or a sizable group of friends out for a fun-filled day at Destin Harbor, Crab Island, or the bay. Up to 12 people can board a 24-foot (7.3 m) ocean pontoon, which is simple to maneuver. The majority of pontoons also include cabanas, to shield you from the intense sun, and Bluetooth stereos.
An excellent choice for families with adventurous children, couples, and active people. As you tour the Bay’s inlets and jetties, you can easily blast through the waves.
Paddle Boarding & Kayaking
The standup paddleboard, or SUP, is one of the newest trends. These boards can seem like a cross between a surfboard and a kayak. It lets you stand on the water and paddle while providing an incredible vantage point of the sea and marine life.
Kayaks are accessible, entertaining, and a fantastic way to add some exercise to your trip. Enjoy the landscape as you notice posh waterfront houses, people strolling down the promenade, and passing boats. You can even see marine life so near you could touch it as you soak up the sun and paddle across the harbor.
Destin Harbor Boardwalk and HarborWalk Village
When money is tight, one of the best places to spend a few hours is the Destin Harbor Boardwalk, one of the region’s free attractions. The boardwalk, which encircles the bay, is a popular spot in the evening for visitors. Many even hope to photograph a spectacular Florida sunset.
There are many stores and restaurants in the neighborhood, many of which have great food and drink specials as well as wonderful views of the lake. Many people opt to visit the Destin Harbor Boardwalk in the evening, but going early in the day offers you something else.
It allows you to experience the breathtaking vistas from a different angle and avoid the evening throng.
The area stretches for about a quarter of a mile along the harbor front. It is a great spot to get some exercise and start your day off right while breathing in the clean ocean air from the Gulf of Mexico.
In the middle of Destin Harbor, HarborWalk Village offers views of the Gulf of Mexico, the bay, the pass, and the harbor. HarborWalk Village is a relatively recent addition to Destin Harbor.
It is home to numerous gift shops, boutique retail stores, and restaurants. The village also offers entertaining activities the whole family will enjoy. In HarborWalk Village, you’ll find many of Destin’s leading watersports providers. You’ll find parasailing, dolphin cruises, and jet ski rentals.
Despite being modest and unassuming, Clearwater is home to numerous interesting things. In this little-known city, Clearwater offers unusual and enjoyable adventures, taking you around the air and down to the water.
In Clearwater, you’re bound to find something worthwhile. It has charms in its renowned cosmopolitan neighborhoods and adventures near its beaches on offer. The city is the perfect alternative to larger energetic cities in the state.
What Makes Clearwater Unique?
A trip to Clearwater wouldn’t be complete if you didn’t visit its most famous beach. Clearwater Beach is the city’s main beach and is a consistently high-ranking entry in the entire country. Both tourists and locals love to gather here as twilight falls to witness one of the area’s spectacular sunsets.
The beach has consistently earned recognition as one of Florida’s top beaches for its stunning waters and inviting sand. Because it’s located in a very busy and touristy area, this isn’t the place to go for a leisurely, calm day at the beach.
The city icon has a plethora of enjoyable things on offer. When you visit, you’ll surely find that there is something for everyone. Families, couples, locals, and visitors will all have the opportunity to find out just why this strip is highly regarded.
You can go fishing or even take a stroll along the beach, two popular seaside activities. It’s also a very popular destination with students, so do your research before you go if you want to avoid the crowds around spring break.
Resorts, restaurants, taverns, and cafes are all available just near the shores and sand. There are also rental shops for different kinds of equipment. You can rent chairs and umbrellas at the beach to make yourself more comfortable.
In addition to the incredibly warm, crystal-blue waters and silky white sand, this is a beautiful location to watch the sunset. The coast faces the west and the Gulf of Mexico, so you can expect spectacular views as the sun goes down. You may also go shell hunting, and if you’re really lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of some dolphins playing in the water.
Pier 60 is one of the attractions in Clearwater that is a must in your city itinerary. This city icon is a fishing pier and is a favorite among both locals and tourists. Staying true to its fishing culture, there are fishing supply stores around the pier on top of its many potential catches. But, the real fun on the pier begins as the sun sets.
One of the pier’s signature features happens during sunsets and all the way deep into the night. The pier gives off whole different energy during the Sunset Festival. Live singers, street performers, and artisans begin their performances all down the 1800-foot (549 m) pier.
Originally, Pier 60’s Sunsets was supposed to be a seasonal celebration. However, it has developed through time to become the center of nightly beach activities in Clearwater for tourists of all ages.
Both locals and tourists can enjoy the free evening entertainment at Pier 60, with all its quirks and gimmicks. You can watch live performances, outdoor cinemas, street performers, and arts and crafts booths on offer.
On weekends, some features give kids even more reasons to enjoy the seaside. Just beyond the pier and down the sand, there are inflatable slides and a castle tower. You can also have family-friendly movie nights, make sure to bring a blanket and some refreshments.
However, earlier in the day, the pier can be a bit different. The entire stretch can be a little bit calmer, you can see many people fishing off the edge of the pier. It’s a well-known spot for catching fish like sheepshead, mackerel, snapper, redfish, and flounder.
Touring the area by air is one of the quirkiest gimmicks in Clearwater. With helicopter trips, you can marvel at stunning vistas that are far different from your usual sights on the ground or even on the water. Additionally, it offers you a whole other view of this charming coastal city.
Among the best spots to look out for are the Sunshine Skyway and Clearwater Beach. A helicopter tour can be worthwhile, especially when you’re adventurous and love a good photo op. But don’t forget to bring your camera.
This family-friendly day cruise will be a hit with children. A fun trip with two hours of adventure is Captain Memo’s Pirate Cruise, which features pirates in costume. All of this takes place as the cast members play as pirates along with the kids navigating the Gulf of Mexico. There is also a whole slew of other activities on board such as treasure hunts, face painting, and water gun battles.
Skysurfing is an exhilarating and adrenaline-inducing kind of exploration. It is both odd and quirky in its own right and unique to Clearwater. This involves getting up in the air as you glide and descend on a trike-style hang glider.
But before you fly, you will have to take lessons first, of course. Skysurfing lessons usually take around an hour. You will be guided by an instructor on the passenger’s side. You will learn everything you need to know about controlling the craft from them.
On your way to the Gulf of Mexico, you’ll encounter some noteworthy local attractions. You can marvel at the Clearwater Marina, Pier 60, and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium from above. Even as you soar, you might be able to see turtles, sharks, and dolphins in the waters below.
Cleveland Street District
You don’t only have surf, sand, and seaside charms in Clearwater, it also has its cosmopolitan draws. Two miles inland you can find the Cleveland Street District right smack next to the downtown area. The Cleveland Street District offers breathtaking vistas of Clearwater Harbor. It has an elevation atop a 30-foot (9 m) bluff.
The district is home to the city’s most excellent dining and shopping. In the evening, it’s a fantastic location to take in the Clearwater vistas, especially with all the city lights at night. You can even see the pier.
The downtown area is thriving as a result of recent reconstruction and beautification efforts. It has also benefited from other investments. You can find a variety of residential, commercial, dining, shopping, and leisure facilities nearby. The downtown is also perhaps the most developed area in the city, thanks to investments coming in part due to its rising tourism fame.
Many people come here in the evening to wander around and enjoy the ambiance. Additionally, there are pieces here from a public art initiative. From here, you can also reach the renowned Pinellas Trail.
Sand Key Park
The well-known Sand Key Park offers both park amenities and a variety of fun seaside activities. And what’s lovely is that it is accessible from Clearwater. It is the perfect entry for your trip to Clearwater beach on your calendar.
The legendary views are also unrivaled, perhaps even challenging Clearwater itself. Sand Key Park has both a dog park and a playground. There are also some gorgeous beach cabanas in the park.
Contrary to many beaches in the state, there are seasonal lifeguards on duty here. It helps create a sense of safety and excitement for families with little kids. A large variety of extra services are available at Sand Key Park Beach as well. This includes beach umbrella rentals, beach wheelchairs, and outdoor showers.
If you’re interested in getting out on the water without having to dip in, ask about renting kayaks. Or if you love conquering the park, you can rent a bike around the boardwalk to the nature trail. If you’ll visit during the right season, you may see loggerhead turtles lay their eggs here. It can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Is Destin or Clearwater Better?
When it comes to fun and interesting draws perfect for everyone in the family, Destin is clearly the better option. Not only does it have gorgeous beaches but it also has nearby islands perfect for the adventurous lot. And while you’re on these stunning coastal charms, you can also enjoy quite a selection of activities.
Clearwater is fun too, but the caliber of its draws is somewhat less of a pull than Destin. The resort city can feel too crowded at times and isn’t as big for families as Destin.
Is Clearwater Warmer Than Destin?
Clearwater and Destin are located pretty much close to each other, so you can expect almost the same temperature. However, their yearly average highs and lows slightly differ. Clearwater is slightly warmer than Destin. It has an annual average high of 81.3 F (27.3 C), and an average low of 64.6 F (18 C). Destin, on the other hand, is cooler with average highs of 78 F (25 C), and lows of 16 F (-8 C).
Clearwater or Destin for Families?
When it comes to family vacations appropriate, both destinations are good choices. However, with Destin’s laid-back vibe and a more family-friendly atmosphere, it is the better option for families. Not to mention it is also noticeably less crowded and busy than Clearwater.
Clearwater is best for the younger crowd, solo travelers, and vacationing friend groups. It is more energetic and can be rowdy. The whole vibe of the city leans more toward giving people a good time. Even up until the next day.
Which Beach Is Better – Destin or Clearwater?
Both Destin and Clearwater have some of the most beautiful and exciting beaches. However, the deciding factor is based on the type of vibe you’re going for.
Destin is a charming beach town with just the right amount of energy and activity to make it interesting. It also perfectly balances it with a more relaxed pace of living.
Clearwater is best for the high-energy, all-out type of traveler. It is busier and more energetic. You can always expect that something big and exciting is always happening in Clearwater.
How Far Is Clearwater From Destin?
Clearwater is approximately 279 miles or 449 km from Destin, directly. Should you brave the high road, the driving distance is around 459 miles or 739 km and can take around six to seven hours.