The Good Life Destin

Best and Worst Times to Visit Destin, Florida

In this article I will give my advice regarding the best and worst times of year to visit Destin, Florida. Below is an overview of the 4 main tourist seasons of Destin followed by a month-to-month guide in order of what I would consider the best and worst months to visit.

Mid-May through Mid-August = Summer

Weather = Hot and Humid
Crowds = Very Busy
Tourist demographic = Mostly Families
Prices = Peak

The beaches will see the highest crowds during the summer and traffic can be pretty insane (especially in the evenings and all day on the weekends). Leave yourself plenty of extra time to get anywhere in the summer if you are driving. Prices will be at an all-time high for as far as lodging, activities and everything else. Summer will also see the most rainfall of the year (see the rainfall averages in the month-by-month breakdowns below). The summer tourists will consist of mostly families with children and there will be no shortage of activities aimed towards them.

The fun thing about summer is that there are so many activities and water sports to enjoy. You can try everything from parasailing, bungee jumping, zip-lining, fishing, boating, fly-boarding, jet-skiing, stand up paddle boarding, banana boat rides and almost any other activity you can think of. 

Water Sports Destin Florida

Parasailing in Destin ~ Photo Source: Xtreme H20 Water Sports

Summer is also the season for weekly fireworks in Destin. The only place I know of with more fireworks than us is Disney World. The fireworks shows in Destin can be seen Tuesday nights at The Village of Baytowne Wharf, Wednesday nights at The Okaloosa Island Boardwalk, and Thursday nights at Harborwalk Village from approximately Memorial Day through Labor Day. 

There has been some debate lately regarding the Harborwalk Village fireworks as the Destin city council is pushing for fewer shows, but so far, Harborwalk Village is not budging on the issue. I love fireworks and would hate to see them taken away from the Thursday night festivities on Destin Harbor. 

Destin Harbor Fireworks

Destin Harbor Fireworks ~ Photo by Sarah @ TheGoodLifeDestin.com

Mid-August through mid-November = Fall

Weather = Pretty much Perfect
Crowds = Moderate
Tourist demographic = Mostly Adults/Couples
Prices = Moderate

This is a beautiful time of year in Destin. The weather is amazing and the water is still plenty warm enough to swim. This is the time of year that the locals come out of hiding to enjoy all the festivals and fishing events that the fall season has to offer. Fall will tend to see more adult visitors then families since the kids have just recently gone back to school after being out all summer. 

The beaches are beautiful this time of year. The water is warm, the crowds clear out and the beach landscape is particularly beautiful as the sea oats are in full bloom and the sun begins to rise and set over the gulf again. Fall is my favorite time of year for photography in Destin.

Norriego Point Destin, Florida

Sea Oats at Norriego Point in Destin ~ Photo by Sarah @ TheGoodLifeDestin.com

Most hotels will drop into their fall pricing starting around mid-August which will generally be something in-between the high rates of summer and the low rates of winter. It will still be more crowded then you would expect in “off-season” thanks to the many events and amazing weather, however the crowds (especially on the beaches) will be nothing even close to the chaos of summer.

Destin Fishing Rodeo

Destin Fishing Rodeo ~ Photo by Sarah @ TheGoodLifeDestin.com

Mid-November through Mid-February = Winter

Weather = Unpredictable. Sometimes chilly mixed with nice sunny days
Crowds = Low
Tourist demographic = Mostly Snowbirds
Prices = Low

Winter is the slowest time of year in Destin. Many of our winter tourists are retired people from northern states (aka “snowbirds”) who take advantage of the lower cost of accommodations and stay for several months to escape the harsh winters back home. 

Winter in Destin will be mostly quiet as far as beach crowds and nightlife except for the events surrounding the holiday season and New Years Eve. Most tourist activities and even some restaurants will close for some or all of this time. 

Even though the weather is nicer than most of the country is experiencing, it is still far colder at times then you would ever expect to feel in Florida. Sometimes the temps will get below freezing at night but for the most part winter is pretty mild here.

Winter is the best time for sunsets and sunrises in this area as it is the only time of year where the sun will rise and set over the Gulf of Mexico. 

Christmas in Destin

Christmas sunrise at The Back Porch in Destin ~ Photo by Sarah @ TheGoodLifeDestin.com

 

Mid-February through Mid-May = Spring

Weather = Nice but still chilly at times
Crowds = Busy
Tourist demographic = Mostly College Spring Breakers and Families
Prices = Moderate to Peak

Spring is my least favorite time of year in Destin. It can see the crowds of summer without the warm summer weather and water to accompany it. It can be surprisingly cold in March and April. There are some nice beach days but the beaches are not as pretty with the sea oats and sand dune foliage still looking rough from the winter.

There will be an onslaught of spring breakers starting in late February and continuing through early April. In general, the attitude Destin has towards college spring breakers can be somewhat unfriendly. Most hotels and condos in the area will impose a minimum age of 21 or 25 to rent a room. Those that don’t will often require a cash deposit.

I am not exaggerating to say that you will see more litter all over Destin in the spring then any other time of year. We are all puzzled as to why spring breakers seem to have such a hard time cleaning up after themselves and not trashing the beaches. Locals will often get together for volunteer beach clean-ups during this time.

Destin Florida Spring Break

Spring Break at Whales Tale in Destin ~ Photo Source: Simple Destin Weddings

Month-by-Month Guide to Destin

Of course it’s difficult to rank the best time to visit because it will depend on your particular vacation priorities, but I’m going to do my best based on what I think most people are looking for in a visit to Destin. So, all things considered, here is how I would rank the months in order of best to worst times to visit:

1. October

Average High = 80 degrees

Average Low = 55 degrees

Average Gulf Water Temperature = 77 degrees

Average Rainfall = 5.3 inches

I doubt there would be much argument that October is the best month to visit Destin. The weather has cooled off enough to not be miserably hot but the ocean is still plenty warm enough for swimming. 

Popular events in October include the Destin Seafood Festival, the Kitty Hawk Kite FestivalBaytowne Wharf Beer Festival, and the Destin Fishing Rodeo which takes place for the entire month of October on Destin Harbor. 

Destin Seafood Festival

Destin Seafood Festival ~ Photo Source: destinseafoodfestival.com

2. September

Average High = 87 degrees

Average Low = 67 degrees

Average Gulf Water Temperature = 82 degrees

Average Rainfall = 6.2 inches 

Even though September is hot and there is less to do in terms of festivities, I’m still giving it the number 2 spot if we are assuming you are here mainly for the beach. This will be great beach weather minus the crowds. September feels suddenly very quiet following the chaos of the summer as the kids go back to school and we all breathe a collective sigh of relief as things start to settle down into fall season. 

Popular events in September include the Destin Beer Festival, the Baytowne Wharf Art Walk, and the Sandestin Triathlon.

Baytowne Wharf Art Walk

Baytowne Art Walk ~ Photo Source: Sandestin.com

3. May

Average High = 83 degrees

Average Low = 61 degrees

Average Gulf Water Temperature = 77 degrees

Average Rainfall = 4.3 inches (lowest of the year)

May is a nice time to visit with moderate temperatures and crowds. The spring break crowds have left town by then and the summer crowds have yet to fully arrive. The weather is warming up although it can sometimes be a little chilly in the evening still. May is when the gulf is finally warmed up enough to be comfortable swimming (although some people do swim all year!)

Memorial Day weekend at the end of May is considered the official start to summer season and Destin will be busy all summer from that point until the kids go back to school.  Harborwalk Village and The Village of Baytowne Wharf will both host Memorial Day weekend kick-off parties complete with live music, kids activities and fireworks. Earlier in the month will be the annual Cinco de Mayo pub crawl at Harborwalk Village as well as the Blessing of the Fleet.

Destin Blessing of the Fleet ~ Photo by Sarah @ TheGoodLifeDestin.com

Annual Blessing of the Fleet on Destin Harbor

4. August

Average High = 89 degrees

Average Low = 71 degrees

Average Gulf Water Temperature = 84 degrees

Average Rainfall = 7.6 inches

The first week of August feels a lot like July as far as heat and crowds go but then by the second week there is a noticeable drop in crowds as kids start to go back to school. It is a hot and humid month but prices start to fall and you can often get some good last minute hotel deals.

Popular events in August include Paddle at the Porch and the Emerald Coast Poker Run.

Paddle at the Porch Destin Florida

Paddle at the Porch ~ Photo Source: OceanReefResorts.com

5. November

Average High = 71 degrees

Average Low = 46 degrees

Average Gulf Water Temperature = 72 degrees

Average Rainfall = 4.8 inches 

November can be full of some surprisingly warm days and the water temperature is even warmer than most of spring. It is one of my favorite months to be in Destin. The major upside to November is that most hotels will go into their winter pricing plans November 1st so it’s a great time to overlap beautiful weather with a great deal. Snowbirds from the northern states will begin to arrive in November. 

The best event of November is the Sparkling Wine and Holiday Lights at Baytowne Wharf where they light up the trees in the village for the first time of the season while you stroll around sampling various food and champagne. It’s a great way to get into the holiday spirit but this event usually sells out so get your tickets early.

Sparkling Wine Festival Sandestin

Sparkling Wine Festival ~ photo source: sandestinwinefestival.com

6. April

Average High = 76 degrees

Average Low = 52 degrees

Average Gulf Water Temperature = 66 degrees

Average Rainfall = 5.0 inches

The first few weeks of April will have the last of the spring break crowds while the second half of April things will quiet down for a little while. Late April is a nice time to visit for moderate temperatures and lower crowds. The water in the Gulf of Mexico is still a bit chilly but some people will still find it comfortable for swimming.

The most popular event in April is the annual Sandestin Wine Festival; a weekend of wine and food which takes place in The Village of Baytowne Wharf.

Sandestin Wine Festival

Sandestin Wine Festival ~ Photo Source: SandestinWineFestival.com

7. December

Average High = 62 degrees

Average Low = 40 degrees

Average Gulf Water Temperature = 68 degrees

Average Rainfall = 5.4 inches

December is a beautiful time of year to visit Destin. Holiday festivities are combined with much nicer weather than most of the country is experiencing. There are chilly days in December but more often the temperatures are quite comfortable considering it’s December.

There is no shortage of holiday events in December including the Destin Lighted Boat Parade, weekly Santa visits, and the Santa pub crawl at Harborwalk Village. Destin Commons also has a Christmas tree lighting with a parade and fireworks, while The Village of Baytowne Wharf has a weekly Christmas concert, a lighted golf cart parade, visits from Santa, and an event called the Twelve nights of Christmas where for several nights a week the holiday lights around the village are synchronized with Christmas music.

At the end of the month is New Years Eve which will be celebrated with festivities and fireworks at Harborwalk Village, The Village of Baytowne Wharf, and The Landing Park of Fort Walton Beach. 

Destin Lighted Boat Parade

Destin Lighted Boat Parade ~ Photo by Sarah @ TheGoodLifeDestin.com

8. March

Average High = 70 degrees

Average Low = 46 degrees

Average Gulf Water Temperature = 66 degrees

Average Rainfall = 5.8 inches 

March will see the bulk of our spring break crowds in Destin and surrounding areas. It is still a chilly time of year and I am always surprised that the spring breakers would not be going further south so they aren’t shivering on the beach and swimming in cold water. 

Popular events in March include the annual Taco and Tequila fest at Harborwalk Village as well as the St. Patricks Day Grogg March. This month will also begin the Wednesday night concert series on the lawn at The Village of Baytowne Wharf which will continue through the summer.

Destin Tequila and Taco Festival

Tequilla and Taco Festival ~ Photo Source: eventbrite.com

9. June

Average High = 88 degrees

Average Low = 69 degrees

Average Gulf Water Temperature = 82 degrees

Average Rainfall = 6.7 inches 

Summer will be in full swing all of June as schools are out and families will be vacationing in Destin. The weather is warm, the water temps are warm and there will be no shortage of summer festivities and events.

Popular events in June include the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Championships at the Sandestin Baytowne Marina as well as the Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival in Fort Walton Beach.

Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Championships

Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Championships ~ Photo Source: fishecbc.com

10. July

Average High = 88 degrees

Average Low = 69 degrees

Average Gulf Water Temperature = 84 degrees

Average Rainfall = 9.1 inches (highest of the year)

July gets this low rating because it’s the most crowded and high-traffic month of the year paired with the highest amount of rainfall. If this is the time you have to visit then leave plenty of time to get anywhere and always expect an afternoon rain shower. The beaches will be crowded and if you aren’t staying at a beachfront place be prepared to arrive early to fight for your spot of public beach. 

At least July will host the best fireworks shows of the year at Harborwalk Village, Okaloosa Island Boardwalk, and  The Village of Baytowne Wharf. Another popular event in July is the Smoke on the Coast BBQ & Fireworks Festival at Destin Commons.

The Village of Baytowne Wharf July 4th

4th of July Fireworks at Baytowne Wharf ~ Photo by Sarah @ TheGoodLifeDestin.com

11. February

Average High = 64 degrees

Average Low = 40 degrees

Average Gulf Water Temperature = 64 degrees

Average Rainfall = 5.7 inches

Mid-February will start to see some spring break crowds which will liven things up around town after the (month long) slow season.

Events in February include the Emerald Coast Parrot Head Chili cook-off early in the month as well as plenty of Mardi Gras parades and festivities all over town later in the month. The Village of Baytowne Wharf will also have their popular Sandestin Gumbo Festival mid-February.

Harborwalk Village Mardi Gras Parade

Harborwalk Village Mardi Gras Parade ~ Photo by Sarah @ TheGoodLifeDestin.com

12. January

Average High = 60 degrees

Average Low = 37 degrees

Average Gulf Water Temperature = 64 degrees

Average Rainfall = 5.4 inches

January is typically the coldest month of the year in Destin. The activities in Destin in January are also at an all-time low making this possibly the worst time of year to visit unless you really enjoy peaceful/quiet/chilly walks on the beach. The upside of January is the beaches are empty yet the water is beautiful, prices are rock-bottom, and the sunsets and sunrises over the gulf are typically at their best.

Destin Florida Sunrise

Winter sunrise in Destin ~ Photo by Sarah @ TheGoodLifeDestin.com

 What is your favorite time of year to visit Destin? 

 
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Sarah

Sarah

I am a photographer in Destin, Florida. The Good Life Destin is my blog where I write articles about Destin and share my local photography. Thanks for stopping by!