Exploring Northwest Florida
Exploring Northwest Florida
There are lots of free things in Destin if you know where to look. Of course, there’s the beach, and window shopping at local stores, and you really don't want to miss the “Whaling Wall” at the Destin Marina at the foot of the Mid-Bay Bridge. It is one of the largest such paintings by the artist Wyland and depicts life-sized whales and other sea creatures, although you rarely see live whales in these waters. The mural is 1,488 feet long and 60 feet high, and it’s really cool. If you look around, there are more free things to see and do in the area, so here are a few to add to your list.
Planes, missiles, and high flying action will keep everyone amazed for hours at this interactive museum located on Highway 85 at Eglin Air Force Base just north of Fort Walton Beach.The Air Force Armament Museum houses over two dozen aircraft parked outside, and more inside, along with America’s military flight and munitions history from World War I to the present.
Bass Pro Shop at Destin Commons is one of the lesser-known free things in Destin and features a 50,000 square-foot store filled with outdoor equipment and hidden surprises. The biggest secret is the 10,000-gallon salt water aquarium. Kids and grown-ups alike can spend ages just watching the grouper, redfish and other local species swimming around the tank. Watch them feed the fish on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 1:30 pm. There are also taxidermied specimens lining the walls so you can learn more about what swims in local waters. Be sure and take a ride in the glass-walled elevator for a view of the whole store.
If you’ve never seen the fishing boats come in bearing their day’s catch, this is a must. It's one of the original free things to do in Destin and it's a great way to learn about fish and fishing. See the boat captains sort and filet red snapper, grouper, wahoo, and more. Walk along the docks and talk to the different captains and crew. They are happy to answer your questions. For further research, trot (carefully) across U. S. 98 to the Destin Fishing Museum, but there is a small charge to go in.
Yes, alligators are native to this part of Florida. I often saw them in ditches and crossing the roads years ago. Development has sent the critters into hiding in the bayous, but you can see them at Fudpucker’s on U. S. Highway 98. Both Gator Beach in Destin and Gator Island on Oklaoosa Island feature dozens of live alligators and you can see them all for free.
When the kids get tired of shopping, slip on their swim suits and let them splash away in these interactive courtyard fountains. The one at Destin Commons is across from Cold Stone Creamery and the Rave Theater, where you’ll also find a play area and benches for tired parents. There’s also one at Grand Boulevard at Sandestin in South Walton that is outside Tommy Bahama's Tropical Café & Emporium.