When the dog days of summer get to be too much, hop on I-565 and head south. In six short hours you could be dipping your toes in the water on the incredibly gorgeous Emerald Coast. While there are a number of popular vacation destinations on the Emerald Coast, our family chose Destin for its family-friendly reputation.
Finding lodging in Destin can seem overwhelming – there are so many options! We made reservations to stay at Sandpiper Cove based on the recommendation of a friend, and were very happy with our choice. Our 3-bedroom condo at Sandpiper Cove offered our group (2 Kids, 2 Parents, and Grandma) plenty of space to stretch out. The condo was warm and inviting, with all the comforts of home.
Sandpiper Cove boasts 5 swimming pools, 6 tennis courts, and a restaurant on its property. But perhaps its most alluring asset is 1,100 feet of some of the whitest sand in the world. Rent an umbrella and chairs from Sandpiper Cove’s beach service and enjoy watching the waves roll in. While our condo was a 2-minute walk to the water, beachfront condos are available.
Where to Play
If you’re looking for outdoor adventures, Xtreme H2O has got you covered. Xtreme H2O offers jet ski and pontoon boat rentals, parasailing, and dolphin tours. We thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon on the water and were thrilled to watch dolphins playing just feet away from our boat. You can head towards Crab Island to join a lively floating party, or escape the crowds by anchoring near a quiet beach.
More fun is to be found at The Track Family Recreation Center. There is something for everyone at The Track; from kids’ rides to mini-golf, go-karts to bumper cars. If an adrenaline fix is what you’re after, The Track even offers bungee jumping!
Where to Eat: The Family
For children who haven’t yet discovered the joys of sleeping-in (and their bleary-eyed parents), The Pancakery opens daily at 7 a.m. and offers all the breakfast favorites. My kids were delighted with their smiley face pancakes, and I thought the veggie omelette was delicious. The Pancakery was the perfect place for a casual family breakfast.
Where to Eat: Grown Ups
My husband and I left the kids with Grandma one night and slipped out to Christiano’s Ristorante. Located in a strip mall, Christiano’s is the kind of place you might miss if you blink.
Once inside, the atmosphere has an understated elegance that lends itself to date night as well as to large groups. Our waiter was friendly and attentive, and the food was excellent.
We started with Zucchini Ernesto, fried zucchini with a yummy marinara-like dipping sauce. My meal was delicious – tri-colored cheese tortellini simmered in a rich white sauce with mushrooms, spinach, and roasted red peppers. Completely satisfied but not willing to miss out on dessert, we picked up a slice of both Carrot Cake and Triple Chocolate Cheesecake for the road.
Before you know it you’ll be on your way home to the Tennessee Valley, tanned and rested. Stretch your vacation out to the last moment with a stop at Clanton’s Peach Park. The Peach Park has picnic tables, a shaded park, a gift shop, and sells gorgeous fresh produce. The Park is open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Don’t be dissuaded by the line, the peach ice cream is worth the wait!
To Sum It Up
Whether you’re planning a family vacation, girls’ getaway, or a trip for two the Emerald Coast has something for everyone. I’m already dreaming about a return trip!