My first memory of Destin is from the mid-1970s when I was a little kid noticing the construction of a new large resort that straddled U.S. 98 called Sandestin. This was the beginning of the new Destin that would see a great bloom of resort development in the ’80s. My family vacationed in the Destin area every year, so I saw it blossom from a sleepy fishing village into one of the more prominent tourist destinations along the Gulf Coast of the Florida Panhandle. Every year, another high-rise or two would appear. We stayed in many of them. An important thing to know about Destin beachfront hotels is that, with few exceptions, they aren’t really hotels but condominium-style resorts, mostly catering to families looking to take a beach vacation, places where one-night stays aren’t doable because of minimum-stay requirements.
If you’ve never been to Destin, you’ll soon see what all the fuss is about. The beach here has sugar-white sand so silky that it squeaks beneath your bare feet. The emerald-hued water is so clear that it’s sometimes hard to take your eyes away, especially when looking at it from the balconies of one of those many high-rises. Despite all the development, it’s still possible to see vestiges of that old fishing village along the Destin Harbor Boardwalk where the charter fishing fleet still docks. And, as an old-timer once put it, you can always see what Destin used to look like when you’re on the beach looking out at the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a view that hasn’t changed since the area was first settled by fishermen in the mid-1800s and would later become known as “the Luckiest Fishing Village in the World,” a tag line still used by the city.