#6 of 109 Destin Things To Do

Southern Star Dolphin Cruise

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Southern Star Dolphin Cruise - Destin’s Original Dolphin Tour
Staff Score:
4.5 / 5
The Bottom Line:

Southern Star Dolphin Cruise is Destin’s original dolphin tour company. The family-owned business specializes in affordable, comfortable and fun dolphin-watching excursions for all ages.

- The FloridaPanhandle.com Local Expert Team

Southern Star Dolphin Cruise is the original dolphin tour company of Destin and specializes in tours that everyone can enjoy. Although sightings can’t be guaranteed since dolphins are wild animals, tours have a 98 percent success rate of seeing these native mammals.

Tours are offered aboard the Southern Star, which is an 80-foot double-deck boat that was built in 2001 and has been featured on National Geographic. The craft accommodates up to 149 people while allowing sufficient room for everyone to see. The upper deck has a covering that offers shade, and drop-down enclosures offer additional protection against any inclement weather. There’s also a climate-controlled cabin on board and two heads (restrooms) to meet everyone’s needs.

To ensure everyone is comfortable, the captain will determine the tour route based on the current weather and water conditions. When the waves are calm enough, the Gulf of Mexico is the chosen place to watch dolphins in their native habitat. On choppy days, however, there are also dolphins that stay inside calmer Choctawhatchee Bay.

In addition to watching and learning about the local dolphin pods, guests also are able to feed the local birds that often follow the boat and watch what’s underneath the boat through the 8-panel glass viewing area in the floor. There are sometimes unique seaweeds or fish underneath, but the main attraction is the dolphins who generally stay at the side of the boat. Children are also welcome to join the captain and steer for a time.

Should you be hungry while out, a variety of refreshments are available. Hot dogs, chips and other snacks may be purchased from the galley. Drink selections include a variety of smoothies, sodas and juices. (Alcohol isn’t offered in order to keep the cruise family friendly.)

Southern Star Dolphin Cruise has helped thousands of people see dolphins in their native habitat over the business’ decade-plus of history. For an affordable and fun outing where you’ll almost surely have a chance to watch these porpoises up close, the Southern Star offers an up-close experience at an affordable price and in a comfortable atmosphere.

Insider Tips:
-Make sure to include everyone in your party when booking a reservation. Even if you have very young children, Southern Star Dolphin Cruise is limited to a total of 149 guests and needs to give the U.S. Coast Guard a full count of how many passengers are on board.
-While the glass panel viewing area is worth checking out, pick a seat on the side of the boat rather than near the centrally located glass viewing area. Because the waters around Destin don’t have coral, there’s no area that lots of fish gather together. The occasional school may swim underneath, but they’re only visible for a short time. The dolphins are the main attraction and they almost never go under the boat.