Are you planning a trip down South for your next vacation? Two very popular destinations are Gulf Shores along the Alabama Gulf Coast, and Destin, located along Florida’s Emerald Coast. While both destinations offer dreamy white sand beaches and jewel-tone water, they offer very different experiences! We’re going to help you decide by comparing Gulf Shores vs Destin to help you pick the perfect spot for your next vacation.
Gulf Shores Vs Destin: Overview
Wondering what the best spot for a vacation is along the Gulf Coast? Destin and Gulf Shores are two of our absolute favorites. Ask anyone who has visited these coastal towns and you’re likely to get the same answer! However, the two towns are in fact over 100 miles apart despite sharing a picturesque coastline.
Gulf Shores is located in Alabama, on the Gulf Coast. Destin, on the other hand, is part of the Florida Panhandle along Florida’s Emerald Coast. As you can imagine, with one town being in the South and the other being near laidback Florida, you’re in for very different vibes in both towns.
Gulf Shores Vs Destin: Beaches
Of course one of the main motivations for visiting Gulf Shores or Destin is to spend plenty of time on the beach. And boy are they beautiful ones!
Gulf Shores has pristine beaches with sand as soft and white as sugar, like something straight out of a dream. The beaches go on for miles and miles, so if long walks on the beach are your thing, you’ll love taking relaxing strolls across the beach and exploring all the area has to offer.
Destin’s beaches are just as gorgeous, with equally soft sand you’ll just want to sink your toes into, so white it shimmers in the sunlight. The emerald green water is as clear as a swimming pool, so perfect for snorkeling and paddleboarding.
Gulf Shores Vs Destin: Activities
When comparing activities in Gulf Shores vs Destin, you’ll find that there’s no shortage of things to do in either town.
Most people who visit Gulf Shores end up spending the majority of their time on the beach, which is what we would recommend too. Pack a beach bag and set up shop under an umbrella for the day. The beaches tend to be quiet so there’s no fighting for a spot or wrestling through throngs of people to get to the restrooms or beach bar. Days on the beach aren’t just reserved for laying out. Get an aerial view of the ocean with a parasailing adventure or take a walk at sunset to watch the sun dip behind the horizon. Other top activities we recommend trying include:
- Hiking and Biking at Gulf State Park
- Feeding the critters at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo
- Hangout Music Festival
- National Shrimp Festival
- Spend the day at Waterville USA waterpark
- Have dinner with a view at Tacky Jack’s waterfront restaurant
Destin was once a quaint little fishing village so its humble beginnings are strongly rooted in the local’s favorite pastime, fishing! It has also become known as the ‘luckiest fishing village’ because people who fish there tend to make some pretty spectacular catches! With some of the clearest waters, snorkeling is a firm favorite in Destin. Destin Snorkel is the leading tour operator in the area offering snorkeling, dolphin cruises and shelling tours in Destin. When you’re not casting a line or hanging out on the glorious Destin beaches, give some of these fun activities a try:
- Face your fears at Big Kahuna’s Water Park
- Delve into all the fun facts about the town at Destin History and Fishing Museum
- Do some shopping and grab lunch along Destin Harbor Boardwalk
- Enjoy a meal at Crab Trap Destin, a rustic beachfront seafood restaurant with signature dishes that include Hot Crab Dip and a mouthwatering Southern-style crab cake
- Take a sunrise or sunset stroll along the beach
- Play a round of golf on one of the many championship golf courses
Gulf Shores Vs Destin: Accommodation
Gulf Shores and Destin both offer visitors luxury accommodations right on the beach. You’ll find more high-rise condos along the beach in Gulf Shores than you would in Destin but that’s not to say there aren’t cute holiday rentals that match the small-town vibe. This is largely due to its smaller geographical size, so high-rise buildings make sense.
One of the most well-loved places to stay in Destin is the Sandestin Resort, a sprawling collection of upmarket vacation rentals and a world-class golf course. Destin does have a few beachfront high-rose hotels and condos but the majority of accommodations are luxury resorts and vacation rentals.
Gulf Shores Vs Destin: Atmosphere
Gulf Shores culture is anchored in its Southern roots considering it is part of Alabama. Expect friendly locals and that small-town charm you see in movies. The town prides itself on its enduring reputation as a premiere destination for families with very little tolerance for rowdy behavior after hours.
As we mentioned before, Destin was once upon a time a quaint little fishing village. Despite becoming more developed with time, the seaside town has retained a very intimate, small-town vibe with a very warm and welcoming feel.
So who wins?
When comparing Gulf Shores vs Destin, it’s clear to see they both offer spectacular beaches and a very similar small-town appeal. Gulf Shores is more of a family-oriented town with lots of fun activities to do both on the beach and on land. Destin also has plenty to offer families but adults and older kids would probably appreciate the museums, boutique shops and golf courses more than the littles. We like to remain impartial so for us, there isn’t a clear winner! Whether you’re a couple, group or family, both towns would provide you with an unforgettable Gulf Coast vacation experience.