With the Gulf of Mexico and our spectacular beaches, nature takes center stage in Destin-Fort Walton Beach. Here are the best ways for your family to see the wildlife that inhabits our land and our water.
Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park
One of the area’s must-see attractions, Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park offers up-close and hands-on encounters with wildlife.
Watch dolphins and sea lions perform tricks, touch starfish and sea urchins, and explore exhibits of hundreds of animals, from fascinating exotic birds and aquarium fish, to mischievous otters and seals.
Special Animal Encounters also are available for ages three years and older. You can touch, feed and play with dolphins, seals, and penguins; snorkel with stingrays and sharks; or meet turtles, lizards, and snakes.
Choose the colors and hold the canvas, and an artistic dolphin even will paint you a one-of-a-kind picture to take home!
Henderson Beach State Park
Camping takes on new meaning at Henderson Beach State Park amid jewel-green water, sand that sparkles like diamonds, and priceless sunsets.
Settle into one of 60 campsites for tents or RVs, then explore a mile of beach, a nature trail with 30-foot dunes, and a landscape of pines, scrub oak, and dune rosemary.
On land or water, there’s no lack of wildlife. Dolphins jump above the waves. Herons and gulls dive for fish. Sandpipers and ghost crabs scurry along the shore. Gopher tortoises and rabbits trek at their own speeds on land. In the fall, flocks of migrating monarch butterflies alight on the beautiful beach wildflowers.
Veterans Park at Baywalk
Birders and photographers adore Veterans Park at Baywalk, a gorgeous nature preserve on Okaloosa Island, and for good reason.
Not only is it a rookery for 80 great blue herons, but hundreds of other bird species make the 15-acre park their home throughout the year.
Bald eagles, ospreys, egrets, loons, hawks, great horned owls, and red-winged black birds are among the most popular you could spot. The beauty of birdwatching in this park, however, is that you could see something extremely rare!
Okaloosa Island Pier
Take a stroll on Okaloosa Island Pier and look down. You will always see something in the water.
Huge schools of fish move in a circular glimmer. Sea turtles slowly emerge, paddle around, then vanish. Manta rays “fly” by. Dolphins and sharks swim around the pillars. Iridescent jellyfish bounce through the waves.
It’s a birds-eye view. Now it makes sense when you see pelicans and seagulls dive-bomb straight down into the water and almost always catch a fish.
Dolphin and Snorkel Cruises
With expert help, you can see bottlenose dolphin families in their natural habitat and the striking beauty of their underwater world.
Cruises aboard the double deck, glass-bottomed Southern Star, or the catamarans of Smile ‘N’ Wave Sailing Adventures and Cattywampus Aquatic Adventures, take you to the best dolphin hotspots.
Friendly, curious dolphins swim alongside boats, jump in the air and show off. With Smile ‘N’ Wave and Cattywampus, you also can put on flippers, a snorkel and mask to hunt for sand dollars, starfish and other creatures beneath shallow, clear waters.
It’s a thrill your family won’t forget!