Family Fun on the Emerald Coast

Florida’s Emerald Coast welcomes families looking for fun in the sun. One of the best things about taking a vacation here is taking things as they come. Once you drop your bags at the vacation rental and hit the beach, the first thing you’ll notice is how easy it is to relax here. Time melts away as you ease into the rhythms of beach life. Lay out in the sun. Feel the sand between your toes. Discover the flavors of seafood fresh from the Gulf. Best of all, the kids will be so busy having a blast, this will be a vacation everyone in the family will enjoy.

As you plan your vacation, check out the attractions perfect for family fun. From amusement parks to watersports, explore all the Emerald Coast has to offer and make memories to cherish for generations to come.  

Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park

Be a dolphin trainer for a day. Snorkel with stingrays. Chat with a shark expert. It’s all in a day’s fun at the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park. The family friendly marine park on Okaloosa Island is also home to sea lions, exotic fish, and alligators, to name a few.  

Dolphin shows and petting ponds entertain and educate the whole family. But did you know that the Gulfarium has a long history of marine life conservation on the Emerald Coast?

In the 1950s, marine biologists at the Gulfarium were the first to develop the synthetic milk formula for bottlenose dolphins that is still used today. The Gulfarium’s CARE Center saves endangered sea turtles, rehabilitates them, and releases them into the wild. Though the CARE Center is not open to the public, you could witness a turtle release if one occurs while you are in town. Check the Gulfarium CARE Center Facebook page for upcoming releases.

Animals that are too injured to survive in the wild find a home at the Gulfarium, where future marine biologists learn all about life under water.

Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone

For some time off the beach on Okaloosa Island, bring the family to Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone. This park is a kid’s dream (and parents’ relief) including a large air-conditioned Redemption Arcade full of classics like skee ball, air hockey, and video games. Check out the Hatchling Haven Adventure Golf which includes dinosaur facts and a 9-hole miniature golf course, especially for younger children. For bigger kids, T-Rex Island Adventure Golf takes you along an exciting mini golf course with animatronic dinosaurs!

Do your kids have a lot of energy? For the climbers in your family crew, let them loose on the Tree Top Challenge ropes course with five levels of difficulty and the reward of awesome views of the Gulf from atop the course. You can even have them jump, flip, and fly at the Ptero Jump trampolines. Don’t miss the latest addition to Wild Willy’s, bumper boats and a go-kart track.

Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park

With over 40 water play areas including a wave pool, slides, rides, and rivers, Big Kahuna’s in Destin has high speed and relaxed water attractions for every member of your family.

For the wild ones, Big Kahuna’s has many thrilling water rides and attractions. The Kowabunga Racer lets you race down almost five stories of twisting and turning tubes and ends with a splash into the pool below. Rush through the darkness in a free-fall on the Jumanji, or feed your need for speed on the Maui Pipeline Slides. For water park boarders, the Honolulu Half Pipe is fun for bodyboarders and surfers through a non-stop continuous wave.

For a calmer ride, take the Cobra Twister, which is a laid back slip down into the Lazy River. Water slides just for smaller children will delight the little ones who will also enjoy the pools and waterfalls of the Bombs Away Bay ― complete with a pirate ship.

For the water park visitors who want more rapids than the Lazy River, try the Ragin Rhino, Humunga, and Thunder Rivers which pack in more curves, waves, twists and drops. Of course, the classic Wave Pool brings the excitement of breaking waves to this essential Destin water park.

On the adventure side of the park, you’ll discover three courses of Tropical Mini Golf with 54 challenging holes. If you’re more of the thrill-seeking type, fly on the Sky Coaster which takes you up 100 ft. and lets you swoop down toward the ground at 60 mph. Even better, it’s a tandem ride, so you can fly with a friend. You can also spin around on the Cyclone, a 160 ft  propeller attached to an 85 ft pole. With passenger seats on either end of the propeller, you’ll go round and round high above the ground.

The Track

The Track amusement park is a shining beacon of family fun in Destin. A real sense of excitement builds after relaxing on the beach all day and heading to The Track for a little kid-friendly nightlife.

Challenge the family to a round of putt-putt golf, race go-karts around Wild Woody, a three-story wooden track, or binge on video games and win sweet prizes in the arcade. Thrill seekers will enjoy the SkyFlyer, a ride similar to bungee jumping.   

Little kids have rides designed just for them in Kids Country, where they can take the train around a real track and fly an airplane. Kid-friendly bumper boats, and cars too, are a fun way for parents to get in on the action.

Beach and Water Adventures with the Family

Family vacations on the Emerald Coast are all about the beach life, and the beach and water adventures that await you are not to be missed.

For the small swashbucklers in your family, take them on Destin’s premier pirate ship, the Buccaneer Pirate Cruise is an interactive tour with singing, storytelling, and water gun battles.

Not into pirates? Go on a family friendly dolphin tour in the Southern Star Dolphin Cruises. The Southern Star can carry multiple large groups ― up to 149 passengers ― and has a covered upper deck, two restrooms, and climate controlled galley for snacks and gifts. It’s a two hour cruise which will take you out into Destin Harbor then either to the Gulf when the water is calm or to Choctawhatchee Bay to watch and enjoy the dolphins. The cruise includes tour guide commentary on the history of the area and cool facts about the dolphins, too. The cruise is a party with fun music and the chance for the kids to drive the boat!

Boogies Watersports in HarborWalk Village has everything you need to enjoy a day on the water. Go parasailing and enjoy views of Destin from 800 feet up in the air. Feed your adventurous side on a waverunner dolphin excursion. Or watch the sunset on a Glass Bottom Boat tour of the Gulf of Mexico where dolphin sightings are common and unforgettable.

On Okaloosa Island, Island Time has a collection of water adventure rentals--pontoon boats, paddleboards, kayaks, or jet skis. Plus, get your game on in Fat Daddy’s Arcade or test your escape room skills at Escape Zone 60. Okaloosa island is the place to book private cruises, snorkeling, and event dolphin tours with Cattywampus Aquatic Adventures.

Whether your family likes to cruise in the bay or go full throttle at the amusement park, a beach vacation is the perfect way to make memories that last a lifetime. Create your family friendly itinerary below.

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