The waters off Destin-Fort Walton Beach are teeming with wildlife but none capture the popular imagination quite like the dolphin. As majestic as they are playful, these dolphins are the main attraction when it comes to ecotourism in the area. Best of all, the waters off Destin-Fort Walton Beach host Atlantic spotted dolphins in addition to the more common bottlenose dolphin, and they can be seen all year round. So where do you get the best look at these fascinating creatures?
From the Balcony of your Condo Vacation Home
One of the best ways to spy on these wonderful animals is first thing in the morning when they feed. To get surfside seating for the main attraction, consider booking a cozy beachside property through Newman-Dailey rentals. Or visit Jetty East to secure a condo with a view. Relax on your balcony first thing in the morning and watch for the telltale ripples in the water that signal dolphins are near.
While Dining Waterfront
Destin-Fort Walton Beach offers a tantalizing variety of waterfront dining options. Relax on the deck of Dewey Destin’s Seafood Restaurant feasting on fresh shrimp. The proximity to the Gulf also makes a great vantage point for spotting dolphins. Or experience an sun-set dinner of fresh caught, locally-sourced seafood at Jackacudas while dolphins crest the waves in the harbor.
At Okaloosa Island Pier
Famous as a local fishing spot, the Okaloosa Island Pier extends nearly 1000 feet out into the Gulf of Mexico. Of course, the pier also makes a great spot for viewing wildlife. While you’re angling with the family, keep your eyes on the surf for the graceful snout of a dolphin to appear. You might catch a glimpse of some sea turtles and herons while you’re at it!
From the Beach
If you’re hoping to spot a bottlenose off the shore, take a pair of binoculars and hit the beach. With over 6000 feet of glorious beachfront, Henderson Beach State Park makes a sublime locale for dolphin watching. Meanwhile, John Beasley Park presents plenty of pavilions, vendors, and restrooms, so you enjoy a picnic lunch while you keep a lookout.
On a Boat
One way to get a closer look at the dolphins is to rent your own boat or watercraft. Discount Watersports rents jet skis and waverunners that will let you tour the brilliant waters of the Gulf at your own pace. Destin Vacation Boat Rentals offers a startling variety of vessels, including pontoons, sailboats, powerboats, and more. Just remember — if you find yourself near the dolphins, avoid feeding or petting them for your own safety and that of these beautiful marine mammals.
On a Dolphin Cruise
Of course, the most surefire way to get in close proximity to dolphins is to book an excursion! Check out Smile N’ Wave to set sail from Destin Harbor into the waters of the Gulf where curious pods of friendly dolphins await. Southern Star dolphin tours include a glass bottom boat tour narrated by an expert familiar with local wildlife. Cattywampus has a dolphin and snorkel tour where you set anchor and get in the water for a closer look. Island Watersports features jet ski tours to all the best spots for dolphins.
Don’t forget to take great photos of your dolphin watching excursions. Share them on social media and tag them #DestinFWB.