Twenty minutes west of Fort Walton Beach, this zoo, set amid botanical gardens, shelters hundreds of domestic and exotic animals. The wildlife preserve offers glimpses of Gorilla Island, where primates live unhindered in a natural habitat. A ride on the zoo's diminutive train provides views as well. At the Farm, children can interact with tame animals and see how resident newborns are cared for. In addition, visitors will encounter rhinos, giraffes, bears and reptiles. White Bengal tigers, pygmy hippos and zebras also attract the attention of zoo-goers. Adults in particular will appreciate the Japanese gardens and the gift shop, which sells clothing, gifts and artwork.
The Boardwalk itself is an entertainment complex with clubs and restaurants, but its beaches are expansive. Lots of people, including military guys and college kids, come to bask in the sun, swim and play volleyball at the numerous local courts. Lifeguards are on duty along the coast, and changing rooms and restrooms can be found on the Boardwalk itself. If the sun gets to be too much, drink machines and snack bars are located nearby.
Almost totally undeveloped, this 1600-acre parcel of land encompasses some of the most beautiful terrain in the state. Freshwater lakes, pine forests, towering sand dunes, and a host of wildlife occupy the area and offer a glimpse of what Florida used to be. Facilities aren't elaborate but do include a parking lot and restrooms; nature trails wind through the site, and campsites can be found nearby (although not in the preserve). The beach itself stretches for more than three miles through the park.
Instituted in 1955, this facility simultaneously educates and entertains visitors while promoting the welfare of marine life. Some venues feature performances by dolphins and sea lions; the Living Sea exhibit showcases turtles, sharks, eels and other animals, giving guests insight into their behavior and interaction. The complex also boasts penguins, otters, alligators and a touch pool where you can experience sea life firsthand. There are several animal interaction programs (with advance reservation) including the opportunity to meet dolphins, stingrays, seals and so much more. The beachside attraction, which has indoor and outdoor displays, is open rain or shine; a gift shop sells clothing and souvenirs.
Live oaks festooned with Spanish moss surround a Greek Revival mansion that's the centerpiece of this impressive estate. Built in 1897, the home was refurbished in the 1960s and now sports period antiques and furnishings. The gardens were created at the time of the renovation and feature collections of azaleas, camellias and other flowering shrubs. When the grounds are in bloom each spring, the whole area is a riot of color and fragrance. Picnic tables by the Choctawhatchee River provide a great place to enjoy a simple lunch.
In the midst of Destin, this 23-acre entertainment complex boasts a water park and adventure park. Bustling with activity and peppered with shipwrecks, palm trees and observation areas, the park accommodates both children and adults. Wave pools and water slides are a cool, clean way to splash the day away, or you can test your skills with a putter or a steering wheel. If you're an adrenaline junkie, the selection of thrill rides will more than satisfy your need, and you can compete with your friends to see who shrieks loudest when the games begin!
Located in a white geometric building, this interactive children's museum teaches kids about science and nature in an entertaining way. More than 250 hands-on exhibits allow visitors to learn about robotics, health, and the power and impact of hurricanes. Highlights also include a display on wind and flight and the opportunity to interact with live animals. An on-premises gift shop sells toys and games with a scientific theme and doesn't require a ticket for entrance.
A great family attraction, these cruises take a leisurely route along the coast, granting guests the chance to see dolphins frolic in the temperate waters. Narrated by knowledgeable guides, the trips are educational as well as entertaining. Music plays as you cruise, and air-conditioned areas guarantee your comfort. A snack bar serves light refreshments, but you're also free to bring your own food and drinks.
Located near the famous Destin bridge, HarborWalk Marina has plenty to offer landlubbers and seafarers alike. You can simply stroll through the marina admiring the luxurious yachts, or hop aboard a vessel yourself. Several different companies call HarborWalk home including Sea Blaster (a large speedboat which offers dolphin cruises), HarborWalk Charters (offering deep sea fishing) and Boogie's Watersports (Waverunner, pontoon or glass bottom boat rentals and parasailing).
Covering 208 acres of woodlands and coast, this state-owned park was first opened to visitors in the early 1980s. Bought from a private owner, the land was undeveloped and remains so today. Swimming and lounging are welcomed along the 6000 feet of coastline, and a hiking trail winds through local vegetation. Bathhouses are available for changing and feature outdoor showers. Picnic tables with grills are ideal for steaks or hamburgers, and 30 campsites for both tents and campers are on the premises, with more on the way.