Is Destin or Fort Lauderdale Better For Vacation?

Choosing between Destin and Fort Lauderdale for vacation is a tough one. Both have immaculate beaches and fantastic shopping experiences, so how do you decide which is best for your vacation?

Several factors will decide which beach you choose. For example, does the beach make or break your vacation, or are you more interested in exploring the eateries and nearby attractions?

If you are traveling from a busy city, you may crave a quiet coastal escape with a relaxing atmosphere and rejuvenating spas and beaches. On the other hand, active travelers may want to explore and sightsee more.

Is Destin Or Fort Lauderdale Better (For Vacation)

Destin offers more for families, while Fort Lauderdale has a more vibrant nightlife. In addition, Destin has charming and affordable accommodations, a friendly, laid-back atmosphere, and some of the best beaches in Florida.

Fort Lauderdale is a romantic destination for couples. The beaches are lined with luxury resorts, and many cultural sites and excellent shopping areas are nearby. Boating and watersports are among the top activities for fun-loving beach vacationers.

What Makes Destin A Great Vacation Destination?

Ask anyone who’s ever been to Destin, and they will tell you the beaches make Destin. Florida is often rated as one of the states with the best beaches, and Destin is among the best.

Think crystal-clear waters and long, wide beaches with powder-like white sand. It sounds like the Caribbean, but it’s right here in Florida.

Dubbed the emerald coast, Destin has warm, calm waters with beautiful beaches. Destin is the best choice if the quality of the beaches is a deciding factor for you.

In the late 19th century, Destin was a quaint little fishing village. While the town has exploded in development, the friendly atmosphere remains.

What makes Destin such a popular family vacation spot, other than the beaches, is the vibe. Destin has a relaxed, laid-back, down-to-earth vibe compared to Fort Lauderdale.

What Makes Fort Lauderdale Great For Vacation?

If you love Miami but not so much the crowds, traffic, and high prices, you will love Fort Lauderdale. Situated just north of Miami, this city has all that Miami offers but with less of its drawbacks.

The vibe on the Gold coast is entirely different from the Panhandle. More upscale resorts, art galleries, bars, and posh restaurants draw a crowd with a love for nightlife and the finer things in life.

While the sand is more tan than white, the beaches are still breathtaking. Fort Lauderdale’s beaches are lined with sidewalk shops, tuckshop eateries, and a pedestrian-only boardwalk. Volleyball courts and picnic tables are scattered along the beaches.

One significant advantage that Fort Lauderdale has over Destin is that it’s a very walkable city. Due to Destin’s sudden burst in development, traffic can be a nightmare in peak season. While Fort Lauderdale still has a lot of traffic, you don’t need to drive everywhere.

Things To Do In Destin

Destin offers a lot for those looking for a relaxed seaside getaway. However, it is primarily aimed at tourists and families.

One of the highlights of Destin is Henderson Beach State Park. The beaches are breathtaking, peaceful, and clean, with giant white dunes. There’s a boardwalk, picnic areas, campsites, and many hiking trails to enjoy.

Destin was formed on fishing, and it is still a popular activity. You can fish from shore or rent a boat for deep-sea fishing, which you can do only 30min from shore.

If you are traveling with children, be sure to head to any of these family-friendly places:

  • Big Kahuna’s Waterpark
  • Crab Island
  • The Track Family Fun Park
  • Escape Zone 60

A visit to Destin Harbor Boardwalk will delight foodies, families, and shopaholics alike. This bustling area is filled with eateries and interesting little shops. In addition, there’s a zipline and climbing wall and various boat cruises to choose from, including a dolphin sighting cruise.

Of course, chilling at the beach is one of the best things in Destin. The beaches are perfect for basking, strolling, or swimming in crystal-clear water.

Things To Do In Fort Lauderdale

Fort Lauderdale has it all. Beaches, shopping, nightlife, art, and nature. It’s the city for you if you’re an active vacationer who loves to explore and see it all.

The Southeast coast is well-known for its watersports, and Fort Lauderdale is no different. Also known as “The Venice of America,” the city’s many canals are perfect for boating, kayaking, and paddle boarding.

Renting a bicycle for the day is one of the best ways to explore the city while getting some exercise, and it’s a bit faster than walking.

Other top things to do in Fort Lauderdale include:

  • Bonnet House Museum and Gardens
  • NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale
  • Broward Center for the Performing Arts
  • Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino

Fort Lauderdale offers better shopping than what you’ll find in Destin. Sawgrass Mills is a must-visit. With more than 300 stores, Sawgrass Mills is one of the largest shopping outlets in the USA. How’s that for “shop till you drop”?

When you’ve had enough of the bustle of the city, head to Hugh Taylor Birch State Park for an escape into nature. Enjoy a picnic, swim, or hike.

Places To Stay In Destin

Destin is recommended as a top family-friendly destination, and with good reason. Accommodation in the Panhandle is generally more affordable than in the Southeast.

Although you won’t find many high-end luxury resorts here, where Destin lacks in luxury, it makes up for with charm and character.

The Henderson Beach Resort is a must-stay resort and one of the best in the city. This coastal resort is next to the Henderson Beach State Park and boasts breathtaking views over the nature reserve.

The Resort includes a spa, several warm and cool pools, a “gulf to table” restaurant, and a rooftop bar. However, the staff’s outstanding service and friendliness keep this hotel ranking at the top yearly.

Not traveling with children? Henderson Park Inn is the charming, adult-only alternative to The Henderson Beach Resort. The ideal stay for couples looking for a romantic, secluded coastal getaway.

The Hampton Inn & Suites Destin is a 3-star Hilton Hotel with flamingo-pink walls that gives all the Florida beach vacation vibes. The Inn’s convenient location within walking distance of the beach and many attractions means less time in traffic and more time having fun.

Places To Stay In Fort Lauderdale

While more accommodation is available, staying in Fort Lauderdale is considerably more expensive than in Destin. Still, some of these luxury resorts are well worth the splurge.

Lago Mar Beach Resort & Club is praised as one of the top luxury resorts in Fort Lauderdale. Luckily, it’s easy to find accommodation within every budget with so many hotels competing with each other.

The top-rated stays are:

  • Pineapple Point Guest House and Resort
  • Pelican Grand Beach Resort
  • Snooze Hotel

Verdict: Destin Vs. Fort Lauderdale

While Destin and Fort Lauderdale have lots in common, upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that they are two very different vacation destinations.

Destin has a laid-back, “fishing village of old” atmosphere with charming accommodations and many family-friendly activities. The beaches are among the top-rated in the state, and accommodations are affordable.

Fort Lauderdale is a grand yet walkable city with luxury resorts, museums, high-end shopping malls, and world-class casinos. This is the best destination if watersports, arts, and culture are as crucial as sandy beaches.

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About the author
Steve Morrow
Steve Morrow owns Paddle About, an outdoor recreation and travel blog. Steve loves to travel, kayak, paddle board, camp, hike, and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not exploring the great outdoors, Steve enjoys writing about his adventures and sharing tips for getting the most out of your outdoor experiences. He has a lot of interesting stories to share, and he's always happy to help others get more out of life.