Situated in Okaloosa County, Florida, the town of Valparaiso is a suburban refuge from the hustle and bustle of larger centers, although it’s technically part of the broader Fort Walton Beach-Crestview-Destin Metropolitan region.
Due to its pleasant climate, down-to-earth atmosphere, and abundance of things to do outdoors, Valparaiso is an ideal spot to take a relaxing vacation. Within the town are numerous parks and green spaces, where outdoor lovers can go hiking, swimming, fishing, boating, or picnicking. The services and world-class attractions of Destin are only a short drive away.
Beaches are numerous in the region, and many of them feature the white, soft sand this coast is known for.
Below are 15 of the best things to do in and around Valparaiso, Florida
1. Jolee Island Nature Park
Beautiful, untamed landscapes are showcased in Jolee Island Nature Park. Visitors can enjoy stunning views of Choctawhatchee Bay and Horseshoe Bayou while relaxing in a natural environment not too far from the city center of Destin.
Within these five acres of green space are a mile-long hiking trail through a nature area, an eye-catching wooden bridge, porch swings, and a pirate-themed children’s playground.
2. Heritage Museum of Northwest Florida
For years, the Heritage Museum of Northwest Florida has been gathering and preserving items related to the local and regional history of the area.
Presently, an extensive collection of artifacts and documents are on display, with the museum’s primary purpose being to educate the public about the area’s heritage and preserve it for generations to come.
3. Crystal Beach
The coastline along the Gulf of Mexico is known for its stunning beaches, but Crystal Beach near Destin is a must-see for visitors to the area. Soft, white sand and crystal-clear water create a paradise that’s perfect for a relaxing day in the sun.
The beach is also very clean, and there are many amenities available, including washrooms with showers and a picnic area. Beach chairs and umbrellas are available for an additional fee.
4. The Boathouse Landing Restaurant
A favorite place to grab a bite to eat among guests and visitors alike in Valparaiso is The Boathouse Landing Restaurant. There’s something on the menu for all ages and all tastes, including seafood, pasta dishes, steak, and grilled options. Lunch and dinner are served in a casual atmosphere, and outdoor seating is available.
5. Go Parasailing with Just Chute Me Parasail
Soar 400 feet in the air over Destin and enjoy spectacular views of the Emerald Coast when you book a parasailing adventure through Just Chute Me Parasail. After a thorough safety demonstration, take off from a boat deck and spend 10 to 12 minutes high above the water, with the option to get dipped in the sea along the way.
6. Kelly Plantation Golf Club
Golf is a popular activity in Florida, and The Kelly Plantation Golf Club in Destin is a well-known course. This 18-hole golf course, which is applauded for being well-manicured and having stunning views of Choctawhatchee Bay, is situated on a former plantation and features bayous and palmetto trees.
7. Take a Buccaneer Pirate Cruise
Take on the role of a pirate for two hours when you depart HarborWalk village on a 100-foot motorized vessel for a Buccaneer Pirate Cruise. Kids and adults alike take part in sword battles, water gun fights, and treasure hunts.
When the action becomes too much, sit back and enjoy the scenery with a snack or drink purchased onboard, while listening to stories and songs about high sea adventures and swashbuckling pirates.
8. Intracoastal Experience
Any visit to Florida is made complete with a fishing adventure on the deep blue sea. Intracoastal Experience offers inshore fishing charters to seasoned fisher people and novices alike. The waters off Destin are rich with a diverse mixture of fish species, so you’re sure to reel in a big one.
You will spend four to six hours on the water guided by a skilled captain and anglers. Fish cleaning and bagging are included.
9. Destination Segway Tours
A unique and fun way to get around is by Segway, and Destination Segway Tours in Destin offers adventurous visitors the opportunity to see the sights while coasting around on two wheels. You don’t have to be a seasoned segway user because tours are geared toward various skill levels.
Along the way, you will make stops at various attractions around the city, including Harbor Walk Village and Clement Taylor Park. There are plenty of stops for photos.
10. Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park
Everyone seems to head to the beach when the weather is hot and sunny, but if you want to try something different to cool off in the midday heat, an exciting day awaits at Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park.
There are more than 40 thrilling water rides and attractions at this park, which is suitable for all ages. Some of the attractions include water slides, a lazy river, mini-golf, and a Honolulu Half Pipe and wave simulator. There are several eateries on-site, and cabanas are available for rent.
11. Destin History & Fishing Museum
The best way to learn about any location is to visit the museums that depict the history of the place and the people. The best thing about the Destin History & Fishing Museum is that it covers two main aspects of the area’s history – the general history and the history of fishing in the region.
This is shown through a number of exhibits featuring old photographs of the pioneering people, a 100-foot long fish that was caught offshore, an antique fishing boat, and a vast assortment of antique fishing rods, including one that was owned by Ernest Hemingway.
Visitors can walk through the museum and explore the exhibits on their own, or take a guided tour.
12. Henderson Beach State Park
Henderson Beach State Park is not just a one-mile-long, beautiful, sandy beach on the Gulf of Mexico: it’s an outdoor lover’s paradise in a serene environment, away from the more crowded beaches and parks near the hotels.
Visitors looking to spend a relaxing day on the beach sunbathing, swimming, and fishing can access the beach area via a boardwalk that leads right to it. If the water is not your thing, you can take a little hike on the picturesque nature trail.
Other on-site amenities include restrooms, showers, a children’s playground, and a picnic area with grilling stations. It’s also possible to stay the night in this park as there are campsites with water and electricity hook-ups.
13. Explore the City of Destin Harbor Area
Visitors seeking a leisurely stroll in the sunny Florida afternoons or a laid-back way to spend a low-key evening take to the Destin Harbor area. The Destin Harbor Boardwalk lines the Destin Harbor for a quarter of a mile.
A carefully-landscaped promenade with ambient lighting and comfortable seating creates a relaxing but vibrant atmosphere. Locally-owned restaurants, cafes, and businesses are located along this stretch. If you happen to be in the area in October, The Destin Seafood Festival and Destin Fishing Rodeo are much-anticipated events for locals and visitors alike.
The Harbor Walk Marina is home to The Crab Island Convenience Store, where you can purchase snacks for your stroll along the harbor. Find the perfect souvenir or gift for a loved one back home at Nautical Treasures. Restrooms are available, and free parking is only a short distance away.
14. Spend a Day Shopping at Destin Commons
With a wide variety of shops to choose from, the outdoor shopping center at Destin Commons is the place where you will find the perfect souvenir or gift. Choose from local and national retail shops, including Forever 21 and Bass Pro Shops.
After a long day browsing the shops, settle into a movie at the shopping center’s AMC Theatre, or enjoy a meal and drinks at one of the numerous restaurants on-site. A playground and water park are available to entertain the children, and miniature train rides operate multiple times a day.
15. Flipper’s Adventures
Visitors of all ages who fancy an afternoon or evening on the water have a variety of choices when they book a cruise with Flipper’s Adventures. Travel to a popular snorkeling site and spend an afternoon observing the marine life that lurks beneath the waves.
Spend time on top of the water looking for friendly dolphins. Enjoy a firework display while floating in the bay, or depart just before sunset and watch the sun go down over the sea. You don’t have to have snorkeling skills to participate, as the well-trained crew are there to help and are also trained in safety procedures.
Depending on which tour you book, it will take between 1.5 and 3 hours; some tours offer complimentary drinks.