Located in the central portion of Florida’s panhandle, DeFuniak Springs is a city in Walton County with a population of about 6,000 residents.
In a recent nationwide survey, DeFuniak Springs was ranked as the best small city in the country to live in. Visitors to the area can expect abundant attractions, friendly locals, and relatively easy access to nearby cities and towns, and the Gulf Coast as well.
Outdoor activities, like fishing, biking, and golfing, are popular pastimes, and there are ample historical, art, and cultural attractions in the vicinity too.
Below are 15 things to do in and around DeFuniak Springs.
1. DeFuniak Springs Visitors Bureau
Small towns across the country have their own welcome centers and visitors bureaus, and for those new to an area who are eager to get up-to-speed quickly on things to do, there are no better resources.
The DeFuniak Springs Visitors Bureau has been likened to a concierge service for travelers. In addition to being fully stocked with maps, brochures, and travel magazines, it’s staffed by knowledgeable and enthusiastic locals eager to help guests make the most of their trips.
Those who visit will discover where to get the best eats and most reasonable lodging, and how to keep the little ones happy and engaged.
2. Christmas Reflections
Christmas in Florida typically consists of temperatures in the 70s, blue skies, and swaying palm trees. For those who generally associate the holiday with frigid temps and ice storms, it’s a wonder to behold.
Christmas Reflections is an annual holiday celebration that lasts from Thanksgiving until the New Year and includes a variety of exhibits, shows, and activities.
Season passes are available for those who’d like to visit more than once, as are day passes for those with only a few free hours to spare.
The town’s life-size nativity scene and decorations that feature hundreds of thousands of lights are among the event’s centerpieces.
3. Rollout Sushi and Such
Though DeFuniak Springs doesn’t exactly have a reputation as one of the state’s top-tier culinary destinations, for foodies in search of hearty grub, reasonable prices, and ample portions, there are a number of options.
Rollout Sushi and Such is a popular restaurant that, according to those who’ve eaten there, features some of the best sushi around.
From sashimi and rolls to soups and salads, there’s probably a little something on the menu for everyone, even those who can’t bring themselves to ingest raw fish.
Rollout is located in the downtown area on South 9th Street and is conveniently next to one of the state’s oldest hot dog stands.
4. Lake Stanley Park
For a small city, DeFuniak Springs has a large number of public parks. For those who value time spent in the great outdoors and prefer not blowing through their savings account just because they’re on vacation, they’re perfect places to spend chunks of time.
Located on Shoemaker Drive, Lake Stanley Park’s centerpiece is the lake after which it’s named; it offers visitors amazingly scenic views and an assortment of activity options.
Swimming, boating, picnicking, and fishing are popular park activities, and there are ample covered seating areas and restrooms available as well.
Keep in mind that fishers will need a valid Florida fishing license.
5. Eagle Springs Golf Course
Florida has more than 1,000 golf courses. Not surprisingly, it’s one of the country’s premier destinations and draws players of most ages and levels of ability from all over the country.
The Eagle Springs Golf Course is an 18-hole, par-72 course that’s located just outside town and was designed by a famous husband and wife team of course designers in the mid-‘30s.
The course plays slightly more than 6,600 yards and is known for its wide fairways and scenic views.
A variety of tee box options are available, making the course appropriate for young players, seniors, and women who’d rather not play from the men’s tees.
6. Walton County Heritage Museum
The Walton County Heritage Museum is Walton County’s only museum solely dedicated to preserving the area’s history. For a relatively small facility, it houses an impressive collection of historic memorabilia, artifacts, photographs, and documents.
The museum is located inside an old train depot that was once a stop on the now-defunct Seaboard Coastline Railroad.
Many of the museum’s exhibits delve into the area’s settlement era and include the economy, introduction of the railroad, and the Native American cultures who lived in the area for generations before it was officially settled.
Museum hours vary by day, so check online or give them a call before making a special trip.
7. Chautauqua Vineyards & Winery
Florida isn’t often associated with wine production like the Napa Valley in California, but over the past few decades, it’s experienced a wine renaissance. Now, the state is home to dozens of wineries, and many of them have won national awards for their quality products.
Chautauqua Vineyards & Winery is located on 40 scenic acres and was founded nearly three decades ago.
The facility is open regularly for both tours and tastings and is located on Hugh Adams Road in DeFuniak Springs.
Open daily from 9 AM until 5 PM, they offer abundant bus parking, and most of the facility is accessible to those using wheelchairs as well.
8. Holmes Creek Paddling Trail
Paddling has become a popular outdoor recreation activity in recent years. For fit and adventurous types who’d rather blaze their own trails, avoid the crowds, and burn off excess calories, there are few better ways to spend a day.
The Holmes Creek Paddling Trail is located in the country around DeFuniak Springs and is fed by the fresh subterranean springs for which the area is known.
The Paddling Trail offers multiple access points and includes portions that wind their way through sandy berms, primordial swamplands, and old-growth stands of cypress trees.
Previous paddlers have recommended that bringing ample water and bug spray is imperative.
9. Ponce De Leon Springs State Park
In the early 16th century, Ponce De Leon landed in Florida in search of the ever-elusive Fountain of Youth.
Most historians agree that the brave explorer never found it, but the area around DeFuniak Springs is full of natural springs that send millions of gallons of fresh, cool water from the earth’s depths to the surface every day. They’re popular recreation attractions for locals and visitors alike.
In addition to its namesake springs, Ponce De Leon Springs State Park features an abundance of easily walkable nature trails leading through diverse environments that are home to an impressive variety of animals, and many of them are easy to see.
10. Emerald Coast Zoo
Located on Deer Springs Drive in nearby Crestview, the Emerald Coast Zoo is owned and operated by a well-known television star who’s made many appearances on popular animal-related shows such as A&E’s Wild Transport.
The zoos animal inhabitants run the gamut from toothy and dangerous to soft and cuddly, and the facility has been designed to offer visitors a non-traditional zoo experience that includes interactive opportunities and guided tours.
The zoo is open from Tuesday to Sunday, and special tours may be scheduled for those traveling in groups, but you’ll definitely want to call ahead and let them know when you’ll be arriving.
11. Henderson Beach State Park
Though DeFuniak Springs isn’t a coastal town, many visitors to the area still dream of long days on the beach, staring out at the horizon over the Gulf of Mexico.
Henderson Beach State Park is located on Emerald Coast Highway in Destin and is a popular and convenient day-trip option for those staying in DeFuniak Springs with access to a car.
Featuring more than a mile of scenic and sandy beach, the park also sports nature trails, restrooms, outdoor showers, and a playground for the little ones.
For visitors who’d like to spend a night or two under the stars, the park offers several campsites.
12. Timber Creek Distillery
Timber Creek Distillery is located on Lake Ella Road in Crestview and has been a family-owned and operated business since 2014.
The distillery sits on a particularly scenic patch of land overlooking a nearby creek and is comprised of both a production facility and taproom.
Producing an array of high-quality spirits from rye whiskeys and rums to single malts and fruity liquors infused with peaches, grapes, and strawberries, they cater to those who don’t mind paying a little extra for a good product.
Check online for their hours of operation and tour schedule, which generally run during the summer months.
13. Destin Harbor Boardwalk
For those visiting inland portions of the state, trips to the coast are great ways to spend a day.
The city of Destin is a relatively easy drive away from DeFuniak Springs and offers visitors a variety of fun activities to choose from.
The Destin Harbor Boardwalk meanders for more than a quarter-mile along the harbor and includes both natural and human-made attractions and easy access to local restaurants, shops, and historical sites.
The boardwalk is particularly popular in the afternoon and evening hours when the sun is setting. During the year, the area hosts a variety of annual events, including the ever-popular Destin Seafood Festival that takes place in October.
14. Destin History & Fishing Museum
Both sport and commercial fishing have always been big in the Sunshine State, and there’s no better place to get an overview of the area’s marine and sporting histories than the Destin History & Fishing Museum.
The museum is located on Stahlman Avenue near the downtown area and sports an impressive collection of fishing equipment, memorabilia, photographs, and first-hand accounts from those who’ve fished the state’s waters over the years.
There’s an impressive collection of stuffed fish as well, including specimens both large and small from fresh and saltwater, as well as a few rods and reels once used by famous author Ernest Hemingway who spent much of his time fishing.
15. Primrose Restaurant
The Henderson Resort is one of the western Gulf Coast’s swankiest destinations, and the Primrose Restaurant is its signature dining attraction.
Previous guests have noted that the restaurant featured a pleasant combination of contemporary styling, stunning Gulf vistas, and service and selection second to none.
The restaurant’s menu includes a variety of fresh seafood dishes as well as steaks, chops, and pasta. They’re also known for their excellent sushi, vibrant salads, and delectable desserts.
Primrose isn’t a good fit for those trying to feed a family on the cheap, but for those looking for a memorable experience, it’s probably Destin’s top destination.