Best Beaches in Destin

6 Best Beaches Near Destin, FL (In-Depth Guide!)

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Are you looking to visit the beach on your next trip to Destin, FL? 

With so many options, which ones do you choose? Every single one has white sand (which are actually just tiny quartz particles formed over 20,000 years!), so what makes one beach different from the next?  There are several factors, including parking, congestion, allowed alcohol consumption, and more!

After reading this list, you should be able to determine the right beach for you and your family.  Also,  I conducted a survey across 340 people to figure out what beach is everyone’s favorite.  Keep reading to the end to find out the winner!

Let’s get into it, here is my detailed list of the best beaches near Destin, FL:

John Beasley State Park on Okaloosa Island

Destin Maternity Photo Session
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John Beasley Park On The Map
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Beasley State Park is located at 1550 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548

Beasley State Park is an all-around fantastic place to bring the family for a day at the beach. 

Are there amenities?

They have showers and restrooms right off the beach so you don’t have to walk far to get to them.  If you are handicapped, you will be happy to know that a wheelchair ramp is available and wheelchairs can even be requested, just in case you don’t have one.

How is parking?

The parking is great – there is no fee and it rarely gets too congested.  June and July see a fair share of traffic but it really is one of the better beaches to visit year round.

Can you have alcohol on the beach?

Nope, no alcohol consumption on state park beaches.  No glass, either!

What are the hours of operation?

Open till dark!  And year round, at that. 

Are dogs allowed?

No, pets are not allowed at Beasley State Park.  Check out Liza Jackson dog park off of Miracle Strip Pkwy for a good alternative!

The Shore at Crystal Beach Park

Mom And Baby Destin Fl
Mom-and-son-loving-beach-pictureThis beautiful picture was taken when the mom was naturally cuddling with her baby.

Crystal beach is a small, yet beautiful beach access point.


Shores At Crystal Beach Location
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The Shores at Crystal Beach Park is located at 2966 Scenic Highway 98 Destin, FL 32541

Are there amenities?

Crystal beach comes outfitted with showers, restrooms, and a pavilion with picnic benches.  It is handicap accessible and leads directly to the beach.

How is parking?

Parking is very minimal.  There are about 5 parking spots and a bicycle rack available.  It is generally full most of the time so if you intend on visiting this beach access point, you should plan to arrive early.

Can you have alcohol on the beach?

Because this is a park, alcohol, and glass are not permitted. 

What are the hours of operation?

Another park!  The Shores at Crystal Beach is open from dawn till dusk.

Are dogs allowed?

Dogs are not allowed on the beach in Destin, anywhere.  Check out the Destin Dog Park if you are looking for somewhere to take your dog in Destin.

Miramar Beach


large group family photograp in Destin FL
San-Destin-Beach-PhotographyFamily Reunion on the beach in Destin Florida

Technically in South Walton, Miramar beach is a small beach community situated on the border of Walton and Okaloosa County.  The public beach access point at Pompano Joe’s is a great place to go to for beach access.  Weddings are commonplace here as well as bonfires at night (though you need a permit to do them). Bonfires are illegal on the beach in Okaloosa County from the edge of the water to the beginning of vegetation or mean high water (whichever is further)


Miramar Beach On The Map
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The beach access at Pompano Joe’s is an easy way to enjoy Miramar Beach

Are there amenities?

Yes, indeed.  There are public restrooms, a handicap ramp to the beach, and showers.  There are volleyball nets at Pompano Joe’s as wells as picnic tables.

How is parking?

The parking is reasonable for the beach access at Pompano Joe’s.  During the summer months (May-Aug), it is insanely difficult to park in the afternoon.  Your best bet is in the early morning or evening.  If you go further east on 98, there is parking and beach access in front of Whale’s Tail at Seascape Resort.

Can you have alcohol on the beach?

Alcohol is allowed.  However, avoid glass containers of any kind as that is not authorized. 

What are the hours of operation?

There are no designated hours of operation, but the general rule is sunrise to dark.  You will always find people on the beach walking around after dark with flashlights.  If you are going to walk around, carry a red LED flashlight as to not disturb the sea turtles.  The white/yellow light disorients them and restricts baby sea turtles from successfully finding the ocean.

Are dogs allowed?

Yes.  But you do need a permit from Walton County and you have to be local (own property or be a local resident).  They must be on a leash and the permit has to be renewed annually.

Henderson Beach State Park

Daddy Daughter Beach Photo SessionDaughter on dads shoulder on a Destin FL beach

Henderson Beach State Park is one of my favorite places to photograph families


Henderson Beach State Park On Map
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Henderson Beach State Park is located at 17000 Emerald Coast Pkwy, Destin, FL 32541

Located right off of US 98 in Destin, Henderson Beach State Park is one of the most pristine and beautiful beaches in Destin.   It is also my favorite beach in Destin to photograph families.  

Are there amenities?

By far, this beach has more amenities than any other beach in the Destin area.  Of course, you do have to pay to gain entry so it is justified.  If you like the outdoors, you will find that they offer access for RVs or tents.  They also have running water, electricity, and even coin-operated dryers and vending machines.  You get to experience the thrill of camping and isolation without actually being isolated – food and attractions are right down the road!

Also, check out the nature trail for some great opportunities to see wildlife.  It is about 3/4 mile of high dunes and coastal scrub to grant access to some truly unique views.

Lastly, enjoy campfire circles, picnic pavilions, and a playground for the kids.

How is parking?

Entry is $6 per vehicle

What?  You thought all those cool amenities were free?

Kidding.

The $6 gets you more than just amenities, it gets you beach access with easy parking.  During the summer, parking is at a premium along Destin and South Walton beaches.  It also gets you away from the crowds.  Henderson Beach State Park is one of the least congested beaches in the area.  Perfect for lounging around with a good book for the day.

Can you have alcohol on the beach?

No alcohol, due to the “state park” designation.  Don’t forget, avoid bringing glass of any kind

What are the hours of operation?

Henderson Beach State Park is open from 8 AM – 8 PM, year-round.

Are dogs allowed?

Technically, yes.  They are allowed on the trail or at the campsite but only on a leash and no more than 6 feet away from you.  They cannot go on the beach, though.  Keep that in mind if you intend on only utilizing the park for the beach. 

Don’t forget to clean up after your pet!

Seaside – Van Ness Butler Jr. Regional Beach Access


Seaside Map On The Beach
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Apart of the county road 30A community, Seaside is a gorgeous, quaint area of unique architecture, food trucks lining the road, and gorgeous beach areas.  The Van Ness Butler Jr. Regional Beach Access is definitely your best bet for beach access in Seaside.

Are there amenities?

There are restrooms, lifeguards on duty during the summer, wheelchair accessible, and is in close proximity to shopping and events in Seaside.  In fact, Watercolor is also just a short hike away by foot and is home to great food, shopping, resorts, and the beautiful Cerulean Park.


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Sibling bonding at Cerulean Park, Watercolor

How is parking?

Parking is adequate and free!  Once again, be mindful of summer rushes and try to get to the beach early to maximize your chances of parking. 

Can you have alcohol on the beach?

Yes, just not at the state parks.  Alcohol is fine here as long as it isn’t in a glass container.

What are the hours of operation?

Dawn to dark.  Noticing a trend?

Are dogs allowed?

Because this is Walton County, you need a permit – just like for Miramar Beach.  You also need to own property in the area or permanently reside there.  Otherwise, you could face a $500 fine!


Mom And Dad Destin Portraits
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This was a fun and memorable photo shoot at Seaside!

Grayton Beach State Park


Grayton Beach On Map
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Grayton Beach State Park is located at 357 Main Park Rd, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459

Finally, we finish our list of the best beaches near Destin with Grayton Beach State Park.

What sets Grayton Beach State Park apart from the rest of the local beaches is the Western Lake.  A rare coastal dune lake, Western Lake is 100 acres of water and is one of only a handful of coastal dune lakes in the world.  There is also a wide variety of wildlife that makes it home around the beaches of Grayton, not to mention the unique vegetation around the dunes.

Are there amenities?

Absolutely.  There are cabins you can rent with full A/C and electricity.  Or, you can bring your camper and spend the night.  There are nature trails, campgrounds, picnic pavilions, restrooms, and even boat ramps and canoe-kayak launches.  If you are looking for a wide variety of amenities, Grayton Beach State Park might be just the beach for you.

How is parking?

Similar to Henderson Beach State Park, there is an admission feeThe fee is $5 per vehicle ($4 for single occupant vehicle).  Pedestrians, cyclists, passengers over the 8 person limit per vehicle require $2 admission fee.  Parking is simple and almost always available, unless you have an RV.  If you are bringing an RV, it is a good idea to call ahead months in advance to ensure you get a spot!

Can you have alcohol on the beach?

No, you cannot have alcohol at Grayton Beach State Park.  State parks forbid it so keep that in mind if your beach trip relies on it.  Fortunately, there are so many things to do that you might not need it (only for some of you, ha!).

What are the hours of operation?

Grayton Beach State Park is open from 8 AM – Sundown, 365 days a year.  The park entrance gates close at sunset so plan accordingly.  If you need to arrive after sunset, contact the park before 5 PM on the day you arrive so you can receive the gate combination and instructions.

Are dogs allowed?

Dogs are only allowed on the campgrounds, on a leash no more than 6 ft away from the vehicle, and must be silent.  There are no fees associated with bringing your dog.

If you want to take your dog on the beach, you need a permit (must be a landowner in Walton County).  According to graytonbeach.com“The dogs must wear a tag and are allowed on the beach, only on a leash, between 6 PM and 8 AM during Daylight Savings time periods and between 3 PM and 9 AM during Standard time periods.” 

Which beaches are the most popular among locals and tourists?


Best Beaches Near Destin Survey
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Miramar Beach was overwhelmingly popular and easily took first place for the most popular beach near Destin, FL.

I conducted a survey across Reddit, Quora, SoWal forums, and Facebook to determine what everyone’s favorite beaches were in the area.  The results surprised me! Miramar Beach took the win with 173 votes.

Here is the breakdown:

Okaloosa Island – 80

Henderson – 12

Crystal Beach – 19

Grayton – 5

Seaside – 3

Seagrove – 2

Miramar Beach – 173

Holiday Isle – 26

Navarre – 14

Blue Mountain – 6

340 individuals left their feedback.

I hope this list helps you to choose the beach that is right for your vacation.  If you are looking for a beach photographer, I can meet you at any of the 6 locations discussed here.  For more info, check out my FAQ

Let me know in the comments which beach is your favorite! 

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