15 Free and Cheap Things to Do in Destin

Destin has a reputation for being an upscale, even glamorous beach destination. It doesn’t only have glamor, however. Destin is also a place full of beautiful nature with free and affordable activities. That being said, it’s possible to visit on a budget.

These activities will help you save money in Destin without feeling like you’ve compromised:

1. Stroll the Beaches

waves washing up on the beach on a sunny day with blue skies at Henderson Beach destin free
Henderson Beach State Park | 17000 Emerald Coast Pkwy, Destin, FL 32541 | (850) 837-7550

Public beach access points abound in Destin, so you can soak in the sun for free without paying for parking or margaritas. Many visitors favor the spot at Pompano Street, although Tarpon Street and Crystal Beach are also worth checking out.

Destin’s free public access beaches can save you a few bucks, but many visitors prefer to pony up the money for nearby state parks. There, a small vehicle fee can get you an entire day of affordable outdoor entertainment. When in doubt, head for Henderson Beach State Park, where you’ll find huge sand dunes and a lovely nature trail for a small $6 fee per vehicle or $2 per pedestrian or bicyclist

2. Leisurely Walk Through HarborWalk Village

34 Harbor Blvd, Destin, FL 32541

See Website

statue of a lighthouse on top of lit up outside second floor restaurant along side the beach in HarborWalk Village, destin free

As Destin’s premier entertainment center, HarborWalk Village can keep you happy even when you don’t have money to spend at the shops and restaurants. If you budget carefully, however, you can score great affordable deals on beachy outfits or accessories at Aloha Surf or Bleu Tropics. Reasonably priced meals can be found at the food trucks that gather here, while boat parades and fireworks deliver extra excitement for free.

3. Explore Destin Commons

4100 Legendary Dr, Destin, FL 32541
(850) 337-8700

See Website

shopping stores with palm trees out front in Destin Commons, destin free

Another great lifestyle center worth visiting, Destin Commons provides an open-air experience, complete with several familiar retailers. The mall regularly hosts special events, including several that involve sampling specialties from local restaurants. This means you don’t need to spend money while you’re there. You can still enjoy affordable activities like window shopping or nightly events.

4. Take a Scenic Drive

a wooded path that leads to the beach, emerald water, blue and pink skies, during the sunset
Photo Credit by @coursescout on Instagram

For the cost of a gas station visit, you can experience sheer bliss for free from the vantage point of your vehicle. Don’t waste your time researching routes; all you need is Scenic Highway 98, known to locals as “Old 98.” Linking Destin and Miramar Beach, this highway provides pristine views, as well as easy access to several beaches, restaurants, and affordable attractions at no cost.

If you’d like to kill time with a longer drive, head towards 30A. There, you’ll find laid-back, eclectic vibes along the Forgotten Coast.

5. Bike Along Highway 98

a sandy path that leads to the beach, blue and yellow skies, sunset
Photo Credit by @ushighway98destin on Instagram

Hit the trail in and around Destin for a cycling experience like no other. Bike rentals can be a bit pricey, but many people save money by bringing their own wheels. If you must rent a bike, Good Pedals offers bike rentals for as low as $30. Several excellent (and free) trails can be found in the Destin area, but the path along Scenic Highway 98 offers the best views. 

6. Shop at the Silver Sands Premium Outlets

10562 Emerald Coast Pkwy W, Miramar Beach, FL 32550
(850) 654-9771

See Website

lounge chairs and tables with closed umbrellas in front of yellow shopping store at Silver Sands Premium Outlets

If you love shopping, don’t worry about your limited budget — you’ll find plenty of affordable options at the Silver Sands Premium Outlets. Even if you pass up on purchasing a cute outfit at Michael Kors or plush toys at the Disney outlet, you’ll enjoy browsing the various shops at your own pace. There’s also a children’s play area if your kids want to blow off a little steam, and nearby benches for you to enjoy some inexpensive bites like Auntie Anne’s.

7. Do Some Learning at the Destin History & Fishing Museum

108 Stahlman Ave, Destin, FL 32541
(850) 837-6611

See Website

inside of a fishing museum with fishing gear and displays at Destins History Museum

It’s tough to believe now, given its current high-end amenities, but Destin was once a humble fishing village. The city’s history museum highlights the important role the fishing industry played in the Emerald Coast’s development at a small cost.

Top exhibits feature antique rods and reels, as well as vintage photos and even examples of fish caught in and around Destin. A modest admission fee of $5-10 gets you access to over 5,500 square feet of exhibit space, as well as an outdoor museum park. 

8. Visit Antique Shops

a wooden wheel that belonged to a fishing ship
Photo Credit by @smithsantiques98 on Instagram

Beyond visiting museums, you can get a great sense of local history by exploring Destin’s antique shops. Even if you don’t buy anything, you’ll love browsing the unique jewelry, kitchenware, books, and other products displayed at locations such as Flutterby Antiques Uniques and Smith’s Antiques Mall.

9. Play Mini-Golf

mini-golf course in between palm trees at The Track and Rainforest Black Light Golf
The Track | 1125 US-98, Destin, FL 32541 | (850) 654-4668

Like many vacation towns in Florida, Destin is home to a variety of mini-golf courses. Many feature larger-than-life designs, complete with unique themes and challenges that take some perseverance to overcome.

Prices vary considerably, and, while the fancier courses can be expensive, many locations are surprisingly affordable. Reasonably priced options include The Track and Rainforest Black Light Golf in nearby Miramar Beach. Prices here range from $1-50.

10. Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone

1306 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548
(850) 400-3300

See Website

mini-golf course park surrounded by palm tress at Wild Willy's Adventure Zone

If you love mini-golf but want to take your family experience up a notch, head to Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone. Situated just outside of Destin, this fun attraction brings dinosaurs to life through laser tag, animatronic mini-golf, 4D movies, and more. Rides and activities are priced individually, so it’s possible to visit on a budget if you spend most of your time wandering through the park. Some of the prices here vary from as low as $4 to as high as $25.

11. Hang Out with Pups at the Destin Dog Park

4100 Indian Bayou Trail, Destin, FL 32541
(850) 837-4242

See Website

a brown and white dog standing in dirt, smiling at the camera

The Destin Dog Park is a go-to spot for visitors with pooches, but you don’t need to be accompanied by a four-legged friend to enjoy yourself. If you love canines, you’ll have a blast at this location, where cute dogs from near and far gather with their human friends. 

12. Lounge Around at Mattie Kelly Park

825 Beach Dr, Destin, FL 32541
(850) 837-4242

See Website

grassy beach area with trees and pier in the distance in the water at Mattie Kelly Park

Escape the crowds at Mattie Kelly Park — a true hidden gem that even locals often forget about. The park has a beautiful boardwalk, as well as several opportunities for fishing in peace. Always check what you need in terms of a fishing license, however, as you can get into some trouble if you don’t follow the rules. Fishing licenses can be relatively cheap ($17+) depending on your needs.

13. Picnic at Clement Taylor Park

131 Calhoun Ave, Destin, FL 32541
(850) 654-5184

See Website

black picnic bench next to a tree with water views in the back at Clement Taylor Park

Another little-known park worth exploring, Clement Taylor Park is an enclave that provides plenty of great free spots for enjoying a scenic picnic lunch. Hang out at the pier as you look for pelicans or dolphins. The park also has a playground and a sand volleyball court, so it can keep visitors of all ages entertained.

14. Relax at a Coffee Shop

coffee cup with coffee and heart design milk froth with muffin in the background at Cappricio Cafe
Capriccio Cafe | 810 Harbor Blvd, Destin, FL 32541 | (850) 460-7050

If you like the idea of dining out but don’t want to pay for a full meal, try a local coffee shop instead. For a few dollars, you can relax with an iced coffee and pastry as you read a good book.

Capriccio Cafe arguably provides the best mix of low prices and hometown appeal. Other favorites include East Pass Coffee Co. and Mojo’s Coffee Shop.

15. Check Out Local Art Galleries

affordable art at an art gallery in Destin, Florida
Photo Credit by @emeraldcoastgallery on Instagram

Show your appreciation for Destin’s artistic community while browsing the works on display in the region’s top galleries. Your artistic itinerary should include The Destin Pearl and Emerald Coast Gallery & Gifts. The Redbird Art Experience offers the opportunity to create your own works, but don’t worry if you can’t afford this option — you’re still welcome to stop in and view the imaginative pieces produced from recycled materials. 

Whether you dream of lounging in the sand, scoring fashionable finds at the mall, or letting loose at an adventure park, you will love the variety of cost-effective attractions in and around Destin. Don’t let a limited budget keep you from exploring this beautiful beach destination.