Millions of people vacation in Destin every year. Destin has beautiful, emerald water and 6 miles of sugar-white beaches. Yet, most of that 6 miles are private. Never fear though, if you find yourself in a property that isn’t beachfront, Destin has you covered.
The City of Destin offers beach-goers almost one and a half miles of public beaches. One of them is, without a doubt, the most beautiful beach in Destin. There are 5 public beaches that include one county park and one state park. Destin also has 8 public access points where you can park and walk the beach. All 6 miles of Destin beaches are open to walkers. However, only the customers of the private beachfront properties are allowed to set up there. Also, a reminder, that pets are not allowed on any beach in Destin. You will be fined upward of $500 if caught.
We’ll start with the public beaches.
Please note, that beaches are open sun-up to sun-down daily.
Destin Public Beaches
Norriego Point – 1 Gulf Shore Dr, Destin
Norriego Point is about 9 ¼ acres of beach located at the tip of Gulf Drive on Holiday Isle. There are 25 parking spots including 2 for handicap stickers. You will also find parking up and down Gulf Drive.
Norriego Point is currently in an improvement phase by the City of Destin. They will be adding a boardwalk, restrooms, an ADA Shelter, and more parking among other things.
The east side of Norriego Point faces the Destin Harbor and Harbor Walk. Boats can park on this side. There is also a water taxi that motors around the harbor and will pick up and drop off here. For more information on the Destin Water Taxi, click here.
The west side of Norriego Point faces towards the bay and the East Pass. Visitors will find several swimming coves, perfect for your day at the beach. This is also the beach where you will find the jetties.
Visitors to Destin love to snorkel at the jetties. High tide gives snorkelers crystal clear waters. Depending on the time of year, you may see pufferfish, bluefish, king mackerel, and redfish. Other marine life you may encounter are crabs, dolphins, and sea turtles. There have been stories of snorkelers happening upon the odd octopus! If you go at low tide you may find starfish clinging to the sides of the rocks. Low Tide means a stronger current flowing out to the gulf. Please exercise caution because you could be pulled out before you even know it. Have fun, but be vigilant.
June White Decker Park – 1950 Scenic Hwy 98, Destin
Located next to Silver Shells Resort, June White Decker Park is small with less than an acre of beach. You will find a bike rack, public restrooms, outdoor showers, and water fountains.
There are 70 plus parking spaces including handicap parking by the Candymaker candy store. It’s a quick walk over from the parking lot to the beach.
June White Decker Park is located near the Back Porch Restaurant and it is very easy to grab a drink or a delicious meal!
As there are only 1000 feet of beachfront, June White Decker Park tends to get crowded. Plan on getting there early for a good spot. Two private condo buildings flank the public beach, so be mindful of where you set up for the day.
Shore at Crystal Beach – 2964 Scenic Hwy 98, Destin
Located at the corner of Hutchinson Street and Scenic 98, The Shore at Crystal Beach has recently been expanded. The city added to the public beach, taking it from only 67 feet to 251 feet of glorious beachfront.
There is limited parking. Amenities you will find here: pavilions, restrooms, showers, bike rack, and picnic tables. There are future plans to expand the upper area. Beach lifeguards are on duty from March thru October.
For added convenience, Shore at Crystal Beach is located right across the street from Camille’s Cafe. You can grab a coffee, a sandwich, or that much-needed cocktail!
Get here early for a good spot!
Note: Destin is currently planning a multi-multi million dollar expansion and improvement project called “Gateway to Crystal Beach”. Use the QR code in the following picture to read more about this exciting development!
James Lee Park – 3510 Scenic Hwy 98, Destin
James Lee Park is a county park located on the border of Walton and Okaloosa counties.
Amenities at James Lee park include 3 pavilions, 9 dune walkovers, showers, restrooms with dressing rooms and a playground. The park’s 41 picnic tables make for a nice place to have lunch. 166 parking spaces make it easier to find a spot than at some of the other beaches.
James Lee Park is located right beside the Crab Trap Restaurant. This makes it nice if you’re looking for a little more than a sandwich picnic. Have a drink, appetizers, or a full meal. You are on beach time – enjoy!
Last but not least, the most beautiful beach in Destin….
Henderson Beach State Park – 17000 Emerald Coast Pkwy, Destin
Henderson Beach State Park is one mile of unspoiled, pristine beach. There is so much to see and do here.
Henderson Beach is for everyone. They offer beach wheelchairs, boardwalks, covered picnic pavilions, grills, restrooms, and a playground. There is also a mile-long, paved road for bicycles.
Dolphins, sea turtles, manatees, and sting rays are some of the beautiful marine life you may encounter while playing in the gulf. You might even happen upon a sea turtle’s nest on the beach. Please remember that you should never touch or feed these animals. It’s not healthy for them and it’s a federal offense that could land you in jail. Enjoy their beauty from a distance.
If you’re looking to camp out, Henderson has 60 sites for tents or RVs (60’ max). Each campsite has electric and water hookups. There are heated and cooled bathhouses, coin-operated washing machines and dryers, and a central dumping station. Henderson Beach State Park is pet friendly but pets are not allowed on the beach.
Henderson has a pet-friendly trail through the dunes and coastal scrub that is ¾ of a mile long. These dunes are constantly shifting and moving. It is home to many endangered and protected species of plants and animals. Keep an eye out for gopher tortoise holes under trees. They feed on the flowers and foliage. Please do not touch them or try to relocate them to the water as they are land animals. The dunes are a very delicate ecosystem. Stay on the paths. Do not walk on the dunes as they could crumble and destroy animal habitats and enable more erosion. Practice the “take only memories” and “leave no trace” mantras.
Beautiful Henderson Beach can be rented for weddings or other events. Click here for more information.
Visitors to Henderson Beach State Park will have to pay a nominal fee to visit, but it is well worth it. $4 for a single occupant. $6 for up to 8 occupants. $2 per bicycle. Parking for 300 people makes it pretty easy on most days to find a spot. The beach is open every day from 8 a.m. until dusk every day. For prices including camping and pavilion rental click here.
Here is the list of Destin’s 8 beach public access trails and where to find them.
Norriego Point Beach Access Trails:
O’Steen Public Beach Access – 343 Gulf Shore Dr., Destin
Located near the end of Holiday Isle. It’s a long sandy path that leads out to the southwest side of Norriego Point. It’s the closest access to the East Pass and the jetties. You will find an outdoor shower, bike racks, and about 50 roadside parking up and down Gulf Drive.
Destin Beach Access Trails:
Calhoun Public Beach Access & Silver Shells Public Beach Access Trail – 1950 Scenic Hwy, Destin
These two trails are right there with the June Decker White Public Beach at the end of Restaurant Row. They share parking. You will find about 50 spaces by the Candymaker and more on the street towards the Back Porch. A quick walk over to the beach from any of these beach entrances.
Crystal Beach Access Trails:
Shirah Beach Access – End of Shirah Street – Scenic Hwy 98, Destin
This beach access is ADA accessible and has a gradual slope with no steps. There are no restrooms here. Amenities you will find here: outdoor shower, a Little Free Library, bike racks, and 6 parking spots including one handicap. 12 more curbside spaces are in front of Caribbean Dunes on Scenic 98. Lifeguards are on duty March-October. Note: there are private beaches on each side of the beach access trail.
Crystal Beach – Between the 2996 and 2990 Scenic Hwy 98, Destin.
You will find this boardwalk access point running between the Inn at Crystal Beach and Palazzo del Mar (vacation home). It’s easy to miss. There is no immediate parking and no amenities.
Barracuda Beach Access – 3157 Scenic Highway 98, Destin
This public beach access point is a boardwalk between Townhomes at Crystal Beach and Capri by the Gulf. There are no restrooms here but you will find a Little Free Library to browse through.
Pompano Beach Access – End of Pompano Street, Crystal Beach
Located 2 blocks east of the Barracuda beach access point. Pompano Trail is a well-known and popular beach trail. There is a sand washing station, and 3 immediate parking spaces, including 1 handicap. Nearby you will find 12 more parking spots in front of the Grand Caribbean Destin.
Tarpon Beach Access – Located next to Next to Captain Jambo’s
Tarpon Beach Access is a boardwalk with steps down to the sand. There is no parking available in front of the access, but there are parking spaces across the street at the Grand Caribbean Destin. Showers and trash cans are available here. In season, you can rent beach set-ups and watersports on site.
Lastly, if you are planning to have a beach event of 20 people or more, including a wedding, click here for the City of Destin’s Public Event Information page.
There ya have it. We hope this list is helpful. Destin’s beaches are amazing and there are plenty of places to enjoy them from. If you have any questions or comments letusknow@EmeraldDestin.com.