Destin is an incredible spot on Florida’s Emerald Coast with lots of things to do.
The city is known as “the world’s luckiest fishing village,” boasting a large variety of fish and the nation’s largest commercial fishing fleet — a real dream destination for fishing enthusiasts. 🎣
Since 1948, the city has been hosting the Destin Fishing Rodeo, a fishing tournament that started as a three-day event to boost local businesses. Over the years, it has grown into a 31-day event held throughout October and is now one of the most beloved fishing events in the US.
Inaugurating the Destin Fishing Rodeo each year, the Destin Seafood Festival is a weekend filled with fresh seafood, live music, arts and crafts, and family activities.
Sounds fun? Here’s your ultimate guide to the Destin Seafood Festival and Destin Fishing Rodeo.
- Why should I visit Destin during the Fishing Rodeo?
- What is the Destin Seafood Festival?
- What are the times, and how do I get there?
- How much is the admission?
- What vendors will I find at the Destin Seafood Festival?
- What is the role of Miss Destin?
- What about the live performances?
- Is the Destin Seafood Festival good for kids?
- What should I eat at the Destin Seafood Festival?
- What’s the weather like in Destin in October?
- What else to do in Destin and around?
- Where should I stay in Destin?
Why should I visit Destin during the Fishing Rodeo?
The Fishing Rodeo is an essential part of Destin’s culture and it provides a great insight into the local way of life. During October, this event enhances the local sense of community, and the shared love of fishing is everywhere.
Even if you’re not a fisher, watching the weigh-ins is still a lot of fun. Some catches are pretty impressive! Every night, fishers of all ages and skill levels bring their best catches to weigh-ins held on the boardwalk at AJ’s, something that’s often followed by rounds of applause.
If you really want to experience the best of Destin, visiting during this time is a must. All you have to do is take a leisurely stroll along the Destin Boardwalk and soak in the bustling atmosphere. What could be better than spending an afternoon having a drink and a meal next to the water?
What is the Destin Seafood Festival?
Kicking off the Rodeo and considered its highlight, the Destin Seafood Festival is a three-day celebration of the local seafood industry.
This is THE do-not-miss event of the year in Destin. (find others on our blog)
It’s held every year along the beautiful Destin Harbor Boardwalk, spanning nearly two miles, from HarborWalk Village to Heron Harbor, and featuring over one hundred food and craft vendors.
You know what that means: wear comfortable footwear. 👍
Foodies can try the freshest catches prepared by local chefs and drink local beer all while strolling along the boardwalk, admiring Destin’s Fishing Fleet, and taking in the breathtaking views!
The seafood festival is a tradition started in 1978 by the Destin Charter Boat and has since become the most anticipated food festival on the Gulf Coast.
What are the times, and how do I get there?
The Seafood festival always takes place at the beginning of October. In 2023, the festival will happen between 6 and 8 of October.
Here are the exact times:
- Friday, October 6 | 4 pm – 10 pm
- Saturday, October 7 | 10 am – 10 pm
- Sunday, October 8 | 10 am – 6 pm
You can drive to the event, but besides parking choices near Destin Harbor (arrive early if you want a good spot), the festival offers a pretty handy shuttle service for pickups and drop-offs. For updated details go to the official website.
How much is the admission?
Zero! Admission is free, except for some smaller ticketed events, such as Call to Chef.
The Call to Chef is a VIP event that takes place within the larger festival. During this event, renowned chefs present their signature dishes for attendees to savor. For pricing and more details, visit the official website.
What vendors will I find at the Destin Seafood Festival?
Destin’s fishing fleet provides fresh catches that become mouthwatering seafood dishes by countless food vendors.
Beyond the seriously tasty seafood, visitors can explore stalls offering unique jewelry pieces, handcrafted pottery, handmade soaps, and other one-of-a-kind craft items, most created by local artisans. That’s a great opportunity for some holiday shopping in Destin.
The list of vendors and items for sale may change each year, so be sure to check the official website for updated information.
When you spend your money at the festival, it goes towards a good cause. The Destin Seafood Festival is a fundraiser for the Destin Charter Boat Association, which is a non-profit organization that supports various community and business development projects as well as the Miss Destin Pageant.
So go ahead and enjoy yourself at the festival — you’ll be doing some good while you’re at it!
Extra tip: bring cash with you. Some vendors may not accept credit cards.
What is the role of Miss Destin?
The primary responsibility of Miss Destin is to serve as a representative for the city of Destin throughout the year and actively take part in the weigh-ins of the month-long Destin Fishing Rodeo.
Miss Destin holds a competition for high school sophomore and senior girls that awards the winner an academic scholarship ranging from $2,000 to $5,000 and other perks.
What about the live performances?
Every year there’s an outstanding music lineup throughout the three-day festival. From rock and reggae to country and tropical music, the event attracts musical artists from around the country, bringing them to different stages spread across the Destin Harbor.
The whole time the festival is on, there’s music playing somewhere, breathing life into every nook and cranny. Stages are set up along the harbor, usually at Harbor Tavern, Boathouse Oyster Bar, AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar Jumbotron, and HarborWalk Village. There’s also music inside the ticketed Call to Chef area.
Times and acts are always subject to change, make sure to check the live schedule on the official website.
Is the Destin Seafood Festival good for kids?
You bet it is! There are plenty of kids’ rides and other activities for children of all ages to enjoy in the special Kids’ Zone set up along the harbor.
Organized activities usually include a fish-throwing contest and a treasure hunt, both free and open to the public. Kids earn certificates and awards while parents get great photo ops!
Usually, there are three main kids’ zones:
- Kids Fun Zone at Heron Harbor
This zone caters to young kids, older boys and girls, and pre-teens, with attractions ranging from inflatables to rock-climbing walls and workshops like skimboard and skateboard painting. The magic shows, free face painting, and pirate tattoos are big hits every year. 🏴☠️
- Kids Fun Zone at East Pass Marina
With pony rides, a petting zoo, and more inflatables, this zone caters to younger kids and toddlers. And there’s a convenient seating area for parents to just relax while keeping an eye on their offspring having fun.
- Kids Fun Zone at HarborWalk Village
This one boasts radical options like a rock-climbing wall and a zip line crossing over the crowds at HarborWalk. Sitting tents and bathrooms are also nearby.
To sum it up, this event is the full package of family-friendly holiday fun in Florida.
What should I eat at the Destin Seafood Festival?
That seems like a pretty “duh” question, but with the overwhelming offer of seafood dishes varying from the classic local shrimp to fried alligator, anyone could use some tips for the must-try dishes at Destin Seafood Festival — especially if this is your first visit.
Here are some of them:
- Gulf Shrimp: renowned for their slightly sweet flavor, a gift from the Gulf of Mexico’s waters, Gulf shrimp take center stage at the festival. Countless stalls offer them just the way you like: grilled, fried, or in a creamy seafood bisque. You really can’t go wrong with the plethora of shrimp options.
- Oysters: another timeless treasure from the Emerald Coast, celebrated for its distinctive taste, oysters also come in various tempting styles. The Gulf of Mexico serves up oysters all year round, so get ready for an “oystervaganza!”
- Red Snapper: even if you missed the chance to be part of the red snapper season in Destin (from June to July), this is your golden opportunity to savor this delectable local fish. Whether it’s grilled or blackened, the mild flavor and versatility of this fish are sure to delight every palate.
- Crab Cakes: a beloved favorite at the festival, these delightful crab cakes are a blend of sweet crab meat, aromatic herbs, and spices — a perfect culinary creation. They’re crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.
Amidst all of this, there’s one keyword: freshness! The food is nothing short of fresh, brought to you by the finest restaurants and food vendors in Destin.
And don’t forget, all the above are best enjoyed with a chilled drink in hand: be it white wine, local craft beer, or a delicious Bloody Mary. Cheers! 🍻
Extra tip: try arriving early to beat the crowds and be among the first to try all the delicacies we mentioned above.
What’s the weather like in Destin in October?
Fall on the Emerald Coast keeps a delightful touch of summer, minus the intense humidity.
October stands as one of the prime moments to explore Destin, offering a climate that’s warmly inviting, with daytime temperatures ranging from a comfortable high of 74°F to a pleasant low of 64°F.
Sea water steel keeps an inviting temperature, perfect for a range of activities. And of course, there’s that ever-present gentle sea breeze that adds to the charm.
What else to do in Destin and around?
Destin is not only known for its fishing scene and vibrant boardwalk. The city also boasts beautiful white sand beaches that are perfect for outdoor activities and admiring unique ecosystems and wildlife.
You can rent a pontoon boat to explore Crab Island or take a dolphin cruise to see these friendly creatures jump out of the sea. The Destin jetties are great snorkeling and diving locations, providing opportunities to explore the rich sea life.
The Emerald Coast stretches for 100 miles and features white sand beaches, translucent green-blue waters, and stunning parks. Some of the notable mentions of places to visit along the coast include Henderson Beach State Park, James Lee Beach, Grayton Beach State Park, and Fort Walton Beach. 🌴
Whether you are on a solo trip, a romantic getaway, or a family vacation, a few days spent in beautiful Destin will not disappoint.
Where should I stay in Destin?
Destin offers everything from beachfront resorts to camping and RV parks, along with a wide variety of vacation rentals for visitors. There are plenty of options for sure, but keep in mind that the Seafood Festival is a popular event, and lodging choices can fill up quickly.
We recommend you skip the traditional hotels for a more local experience. RealJoy Vacations is here to make your life easier with great curated options for Destin vacation rentals.
- Beachfront condos in Destin are a great option for visitors, and you can find many located in the heart of the city, close to several world-class dining, shopping, and entertainment venues. Browse for some of our options and see what awaits you in great Destin condos.
- Beach houses, oceanfront rentals, and luxury vacation properties are also popular for Destin vacation rentals. These are more family-friendly (not to mention pet-friendly) and perfect for larger groups. Take a sneak peek at these wonderful Destin and Crystal Beach rentals.
Here’s an idea: if you pick one of the many beachfront condos and seaside vacation rentals in Destin, you can also bring some fresh seafood to cook at home and experiment with your own variations of local recipes.
A home-cooked meal also makes for a wonderful holiday dining experience.
The Ultimate Guide to Destin Seafood Festival & Destin Fishing Rodeo
The Destin Seafood Festival and the Destin Fishing Rodeo combined are a big party! Despite their significant growth over the years, they still keep their essence of community.
Much more than just events for tourism, this is a way to unite the community in celebrating the best of what Destin has to offer. The events provide an unparalleled opportunity to connect with locals, savor mind-blowing seafood, indulge in music and art, and support the local economy.
One more thing: be prepared to hear many stories and fascinating facts about fishing in the Gulf of Mexico!