Destin vs. Pensacola

The pride of the Emerald Coast, Destin and Pensacola’s draws are exactly why this particular region in Florida is worth the visit. You can have heaps of charms and features to enjoy while relishing the beauty of nature at the same time. With their draws combined, the Emerald Coast is a shining gem in the north of the Gulf of Mexico.
Destin vs. Pensacola

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Destin is perfect for adventurous and fun-loving families, with all its activities and highs. Pensacola is reserved for the slow traveler, looking for a true R&R. With only a few miles apart, it would be best to conquer both in a single itinerary.


One of the Emerald Coast’s most happening destinations, it’s hard to imagine Destin having sleepy and quiet origins. Now big on families and vacationing adults, the city offers the right kind of thrill and excitement for everyone.

You can have watersports, offshore adventures, and festivities in Destin. It specialized in family-oriented and fun-centered draws. And on top of its ridiculous natural beauty, Destin has one fun draw as well — it is one of the best places for game fishing in the entire US.

What Makes Destin Unique?

The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village

Destin, though comparatively underrated by other Florida giants, is quite a unique attraction. On top of its natural beauty, it has one quirky draw unlike any other in the state. It is dubbed the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village”.

The city offers the greatest variety of fish species in the region as well as the entire world due to its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico. The seas around the city are a sanctuary for avid anglers. With more than 250 boats, Destin even has one of the largest fleets of charter fishing boats in the nation.

Destin’s location gives it a great advantage when it comes to a wealth of marine life. The city has quick access to the Gulf of Mexico’s deepest depths. Just a quick peek at nautical maps and you’ll see how lucky the area actually is.

Destin’s proximity to multiple fishing areas makes it one of the best-kept fishing secrets in the area. It has access to numerous cuts like East Pass, which connect Choctawhatchee Bay and the Gulf.

The legendary 100-fathom (600 ft / 183 m) curve is only around 25 miles (40 km) south of Destin, easily accessible. It is one of the main factors why the area has quite the fishing abundance. The gentle slope of the continental shelf provides the best access to deepwater pelagic fishing.

The fishable depths of the area are easily accessible to enthusiastic anglers, from fishermen to game fishers. Because different fish species reside in varying depths, the area is home to 20 different types of game fish. Most of which can be cooked into different delicious dishes.

You will undoubtedly catch a broad variety of fish species around Destin’s renowned waters. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned angler, chances are, the catch is quite good. There are many popular catches around the water, from the snapper to the grouper fish.

The snapper fish, which includes the red snapper, gray snapper, lane snapper, and mutton snapper, is one of the most common species you might reel in. The red snapper is frequently a famous catch because of its size and appearance.

Grouper fish is another favorite catch in the area. The black grouper, gag grouper, and red grouper are just a few of the many varieties of grouper that are available in the area. You can even catch the mahi-mahi in Destin. Also called the dolphinfish, these fish tend to frequent near the water’s surface.

The Beaches

Without a question, Destin’s biggest draw is its beachfront gems that line up fronting the famed Gulf of Mexico. The aquatic region is popular and rich in several ways making it abundant in tourist spots.

From the Mexican border to Florida’s Emerald Coast, you can surely find travel-worthy strips. And the emerald waters of Destin aren’t an exception. The dazzling white “sugar dunes” and Destin’s natural beauty is what make it an inherently intriguing coastline.

It essentially has everything for the avid beach-loving crowd. Whether you want to relax, go swimming, or have a blast with boats and watersports, you’ll surely have something to do here.

Perhaps one of Destin’s most unique features is the unlikely color of its waters. It has a combination of the beaches’ beautiful white sands and emerald-green waters.

It is a stark difference from most of the gulf’s signature crystal clear azure waters. And while it is fascinating, it also has an unlikely scientific explanation. Most people are even unaware that algae are responsible for the specific tint of the water.

The bottom of the seafloor just off the shore has gleaming white sand, along with remarkably clear waters. The algae concentration creates a characteristic emerald tint in the water. Usually, the algae concentration and the amount of sunshine affect the color’s tone and intensity.

Destin’s primary and most well-known appeal is its beaches. It has a long line of white-sand beaches similar to most of the Gulf of Mexico’s trendiest seaside cities. But the city also has more sandy spots on offer.

You can also visit other well-known locations like Henderson Beach State Park, Jetty Beach, and Eglin Beach Park.

You can also go to Destin Beach, Crystal Sands, and Grayton Beach State Park, among other notable places. However, the buried Crab Island sandbar is a well-liked entry if you’re searching for something with a little twist and flair. It is a popular place for swimming and other watersports and is located not far from the mouth of Choctawhatchee Bay.

Crab Island

Contrary to what the name of the island might imply, there aren’t a lot of crabs here. It is a sizable picturesque sandbar and isn’t even an actual island. It can only be reached by boat via tours available in the city.

Thanks to the natural splendor of the Emerald Coast, the journey itself is already well worthwhile. The water is calm and shallow, ideal for families or people who just want to relax and have fun.

Thanks to the ideal boating conditions on this enormous sandbar, huge fleets of boats of different kinds dock or anchor here each year. Unquestionably, it is a boater’s heaven. Visitors arrive at this well-known Destin landmark in different styles. From simple charter boats, catamarans, and kayaks to large yachts.

The sandbar extends into four acres (1.6 ha) and has amenities perfect for curious vacationers. You’ll have floating restaurants and bars, all you have to do is swim up to them and grab your under-the-sun necessities. However, some of them are only open from March to October.

You can play water volleyball, go snorkeling, or simply relax on a raft and take in the sun around the water and sand. Booking a boat and taking command of it to Crab Island is one of the coolest things to do in Destin during the summer. Getting there by kayak can help you squeeze in a workout.


Though not quite as famous as big old Miami, Destin without a doubt has everything. When there is so much beautiful water nearby, it’s tough not to try out watersports like jet-skiing, pontoons, and stand-up paddleboarding. Destin’s favorable conditions make it a perfect place to try out all of them. The protected inshore waters make it particularly special.

Pontoon Boats

Renting a boat for the day is the best way to explore the stunning seas that surround Destin. Visit Crab Island and Destin Harbor, or take a boat in Choctawhatchee Bay. This location is ideal for gathering with family and friends.

Tours can cater to up to 12 people aboard 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.

Jet Skis

Jet skis are perfect for beachgoers looking for an adrenaline rush in Destin. It is also a hit among couples and families with adventurous kids. The best routes allow you to cut waves beyond the Bay’s inlets and jetties.

Paddleboarding & Kayaking

The stand-up paddleboard, sometimes known as the SUP, is one of the newest trends in watersports. Along Florida’s shores, it is among the most well-known go-to activities and a favorite among kids. It resembles a cross between a surfboard and a kayak. Consider paddling over Destin’s stunning waves while standing on a board.

For active adults, kayaks are a fantastic way to enjoy yourself and squeeze in a simple workout while exploring Destin’s stunning seas. It also allows you to take in the fabled beauty of the bay, and the waters of Destin.

There are even kayak routes that take you to different areas offerings varied scenes. You can paddle through expansive waterfront homes, and some even across various beaches and boardwalks. If you visit and kayak during the right seasons, you may paddle along with local marine life.

Destin Harbor Boardwalk and HarborWalk Village

One of the most frequented locations in Destin is the Harbor Boardwalk. What makes it even better is that it is free and jam-packed. So if you’re looking for someplace to hit without having to overly splurge, this is the spot. The entire strip is even more enjoyable at night right after the spectacular sunset over the horizon.

For visitors looking for an epic shot of the view, the best place to visit is right before the sun falls. However, expect to find a crowded scene as the sun sets deeper into the horizon.

You’ll find several stores and restaurants in the area, some of the most happening places in the city. Many of these places are homegrown pride and often offer great deals on food and drinks.

And of course, with its expansive vista, it also has breathtaking waterfront views. If you want magnificent scenery, going early in the day offers dramatic and picturesque views. It is best to visit right before the evening festivities. The harbor switches to a whole different energy every night, and another roster of fun and excitement is on offer.

The harbor extends around a quarter of a mile long running parallel to the gorgeous bay of Destin. It is a great spot to get yourself moving, or even start your day off just right. The outdoors gives you opportunities to breathe in the natural beauty that the gulf holds.

At HarborWalk Village, you see all you need to see precisely when you need it. It is a more recent addition to the area’s attractions and it is smack-dab in the middle of Destin Harbor. With its location in the harbor, the area has even better breathtaking views over the Gulf of Mexico, the bay, the pass, and the harbor.

Just like the rest of the boardwalk, it also offers a large selection of eateries, boutique stores, and gift shops. The village also offers enjoyable activities for the whole family. HarborWalk Village is home to several of Destin’s premier watersports shops. You can find parasailing, dolphin cruises, and jet ski shops.


Another jewel in the beautiful and blessed Emerald Coast, Pensacola is intimate, authentic, and more attuned to nature. From an interesting history to an abundance of natural gifts, the city is best for a slower pace.

Best reserved for people looking for true relaxation, Pensacola is quieter and offers a slower pace. While it isn’t as jam-packed as the rest of the Emerald Coast, Pensacola is a niche in itself.

What Makes Pensacola Unique?

Fort Pickens

Florida has had a gruesome and turbulent history with the American Civil War. Many have made their marks in the history of the state, and here in Pensacola remnants of that troubled past still stand. Fort Pickens has to be one of the most famous historic landmarks in Pensacola.

Fort Pickens was built in 1834 and used until 1947, giving it a long history. It was even a functional military installation up to World War II. The fort has held quite well in the years since it was decommissioned because the region is an officially recognized conserved space.

You can tour the ramparts and learn more about what was once thought to be a strong and dependable military fortification. It is also one of Gulf Islands National Seashore’s top draws. During your tour, you can not only uncover the intriguing past of this fort but also take in the stunning views of the Gulf from the fort itself.

You can get to Fort Pickens from downtown Pensacola in about 40 minutes. You’ll only have to go through two picturesque bridges and numerous breathtaking beaches. There is a large open area with walking trails throughout the fort’s ruins at the location. It’s a calm area that is rarely crowded.

The fishing pier and the Fort Pickens Discovery Center are two additional locations near the fort that are worth a quick look.

Gulf Islands National Seashore

The Gulf Island National Seashore is a great place to visit if you want to enjoy the awesomeness of Pensacola beaches. Miles of beaches with sugar-white sand and waters in various tones of emerald green are available.

Imagine a 160-mile (257 km) length of stunning, extensive deserted beaches. They extend from the Florida Panhandle into Alabama and Mississippi. Only a few minutes separate the Gulf Islands National Seashore from the center of Pensacola.

It is also the nation’s longest protected coastline. The natural elements are especially appealing. There are no obstructions from any construction or development initiatives.

There are paths, empty campers, kayak rentals, old forts, and much wildlife along this stretch of tranquil attractions. Outdoor explorers never run out of things to do. It has available biking routes and paddling opportunities. Swimming is, of course, a choice as well, and you won’t have to contend with the crowds you’ll encounter at city beaches.

Pensacola Historic Village

Other than the iconic Fort Pickens and Barrancas, the Pensacola Historic Village is also one of the city’s most prized historical sites. It is perhaps the star of them all. If you want to get a glimpse of the city’s interesting past, this is the best place to be, and there is no other place quite like it.

Also called Seville Historic District, it is a 9-acre area (3.6 ha) home to 28 well-restored buildings and four museums. These structures even exhibit a masterful combination of Spanish and English designs. Walking through the village will magically take you through 450 years worth of history.

Here you can visit the likes of Pensacola Museum of History, Children’s Museum, and Museum of Industry. You will experience a wild journey through the variety of people and nations that have shaped Pensacola into what it is today. You can visit the Pensacola Museum of History. It was formerly called the T.T. Jr. Wentworth Museum.

By its name, the Children’s Museum is perfect for young curious minds as it displays the city’s history. The museum is known for its interactive features and fun games for the younger audience. The city’s evolution is portrayed in The Museum of Industry. It shows how it gets from a small wilderness outpost to a manufacturing and transportation hub.

The National Register of Historic Places listed Voices of Pensacola and Old Christ Church are both worth visiting.

National Naval Aviation Museum

The biggest museum in the world dedicated to naval aviation is located in Pensacola. By participating in both World Wars, these aircraft and the young pilots who flew them contributed to shaping history. You can see 150 vintage combat aircraft here. They have been meticulously refurbished, cared for, and brought back to near-new condition and are on display here.

You’ll see pioneering aircraft here such as a Curtiss NC-4, the first type of aircraft to cross the Atlantic. Plus, the historic K-47 airship control gondola can also be seen here.

Other notable machines you can check out here include the first aircraft to set foot on the South Pole. Also, one that took part in the pivotal Battle of Midway in World War II. They are the only surviving examples of their class.

But there’s more to this museum than just airplanes. It also showcases the individuals involved. They created, constructed, maintained, tested, and used these aircraft in battle. Around the halls of the museum, you can also check out uniforms, tools, maps, communication equipment, and other machinery.

To experience the cockpit firsthand, you can also test your skills on flying simulators. You can also experience what it was like to launch to the moon and return to Earth’s surface with the Apollo 11 VR exhibit. Just put on a pair of virtual reality glasses and sit in a customized chair.

Is Destin or Pensacola Better?

For an overall holiday destination, Destin is the better option. While Pensacola looks a tad bit like Destin, it is best reserved for slow travelers looking for a more authentic and intimate vibe. Destin is a vacation capital through and through. It is perfect for families and vacationing adults, thanks to its roster of dynamic features.


Which Is Cheaper – Pensacola or Destin?

Expenses and costs around Pensacola and Destin are fairly the same, so you won’t have trouble deciding between the two. However, it will ultimately depend on how you want to experience and spend your time. Accommodations in both cities cost around 69 to 600 USD a night, and a weekly budget of 5,000 USD will suffice.

Is Pensacola or Destin More Family Friendly?

Destin is more family-friendly than Pensacola. The city and most of its draws offer more things to do for families of all ages. It is also more family-oriented but can be quite crowded. Pensacola on the other hand is better suited for solo slow travelers.

Is Pensacola Beach in Destin?

Pensacola Beach is located 50 miles or 80 km from Destin. These two destinations are separated and distinct from each other.

Pensacola Beach vs. Destin Beach

Both beaches are some of the most beautiful in all of Florida. Soft, gleaming white sands and emerald waters all define both Pensacola and Destin Beaches. But if you’re looking for a jam-packed beach with lots of activities to offer, Destin is the best option.

Is Pensacola Beach as Pretty as Destin Beach?

When you’re talking about natural beauty, both Pensacola and Destin are at the top of the list. There is no verdict here as both these beaches are quite the sight.

Is the Water in Pensacola as Clear as in Destin?

According to previous visitors to both destinations, there are so many similarities between them. And yes, this includes how clear and pretty the water on the beaches is.

Is It Better to Stay in Pensacola or Destin?

It ultimately depends on what type of experience you’re going for. But for a wider range of accommodations, it is better to stay in Destin. Mostly because of the greater number of hotels and resorts. Plus, packages for families are also better in Destin.

Is Destin a Part of Pensacola?

Destin and Pensacola are different cities, though they are both located right in the northern reaches of Florida. They are both located along the beautiful region of the Emerald Coast.

Where Is Pensacola Compared to Destin?

Pensacola is directly located approximately 43 miles or 69 km west of Destin.

How Far Is Pensacola From Destin?

They are 43 miles or 69 km apart. If you’re taking the high road, the driving distance is 48 miles or 77 km.

Do You Go Through Pensacola to Get to Destin?

With only a few miles apart, you can get to Destin through Pensacola if you’re looking to explore the Emerald Coast. However, it depends on where you’re coming from. If you’re coming from the southeast, Destin is the first destination you’ll get to.

How Far Is Pensacola Airport From Destin?

The distance between Pensacola Aiport is 42 miles or 68 km, directly.

How Do I Get From Pensacola Airport to Destin?

You can get Destin from Pensacola Airport in one of two common ways. You can take a taxi or a taxi shuttle, or drive your car.

Is There a Shuttle From Pensacola Airport to Destin?

Right at Pensacola Airport, you can find a selection of airport shuttles that will take you to any point in Destin. However, you can expect it to be pricier.