On the hunt for public beach access in or around Destin? You can’t go wrong with James Lee Park and Beach. This popular destination offers a range of well-maintained amenities and facilities for the convenience of locals and tourists alike. As a public access site, the beach can be quite busy at times — but its location near peaceful single-family houses and away from Destin’s party hubs lends it a surprisingly tranquil feel at times.
Sometimes referred to as ‘Crab Trap Beach,’ James Lee Park and Beach is known, in part, for its proximity to the popular restaurant known as the Crab Trap. As the closest dining establishment to the beach, this is a natural stop before or after a fun day in the sand. While the restaurant can complement your beach experience, you don’t have to order a meal to have a good time. You’re also welcome to pack snacks or even a picnic lunch. In fact, the park boasts multiple pavilions and several dozen picnic tables.
When you arrive, you’ll be impressed by the scope of the parking lot, which contains 166 spaces. But while the parking lot seems vast if you show up early in the morning, it can fill up quickly during the afternoon. Plan accordingly to ensure you score a good spot — and don’t be surprised if you see several golf carts take over the parking lot during the day. If you’re not a morning person, you may have better luck later in the afternoon, although this can be hit or miss.
Don’t worry about changing into your swimsuit in advance; the public beach’s restroom facilities include convenient changing areas. Several dune walkovers make it easy to access the beach’s pristine water. As you prepare to leave after a full day of goofing off in the sand, you’re welcome to wash off under the outdoor showers. On busy days, however, the showers tend to attract long lines — especially as evening approaches.
Families love this beach not only due to its general absence of drunken revelry, but also because it’s home to a small playground. Between slides and sand, you’ll have no trouble keeping youngsters entertained for an entire afternoon.
The people watching at James Lee Park can be spectacular, although, as previously mentioned, the family-friendly beach rarely attracts hard partiers.
If you’re lucky, however, you might observe a beach-based wedding; small ceremonies are not only permitted, they’re uniquely affordable. You’ll also see visitors jogging, practicing yoga, or building impressive castles in the white sand. Watersports are popular here, so you may spot people paddle boarding, kayaking, or even surfing. If you’re feeling ambitious, you’re welcome to join them. If you’re like most visitors, however, you’ll be perfectly happy to relax in the sand and soak in the sun.
-Drop in for a sun salutation or two with Destin Yoga, which regularly hosts sessions on the sand at James Lee Park. Experience is not needed to make the most of this class — nor is a mat.
Curious about the current conditions or crowds at James Lee Park? Check out the webcam at the Old 98 website, where you’ll find a clear view of this and several other local beaches.