I Like the Rut I’m Stuck In
We’re weaving our way through Mobile, Alabama, with Destin about two hours behind us and home about 10 hours ahead. Our hair still feels salty, and I swear our tan lines started to fade as soon as we crossed the Bay Bridge to leave Destin.
If you read I’d Rather Not, you know how precious this last week has been to my family. This is the week that life goes on around us but we are oblivious…because we are on vacation, focusing on family, playing and laughing, and my girls are remembering they really do like each other.
Actually, we weren’t supposed to vacation in Destin this year–again. We vowed we’d force ourselves away from the beach to try something new…the Rockies perhaps. We’d trade dolphins for bears, the beach for whitewater rafting, an ocean view for a mountain view. But, about November when the chill set in, we felt the warm, white sands of the Emerald Coast calling us.
There’s another reason I don’t want to vacation in a new destination. And I’m embarrassed to admit it…because you’ll see some of my weirdness. Truthfully, I’m routine, the polar opposite of spontaneous. I like my rut. And Destin is a GREAT rut! We know all the best things to do and the best places to eat, so when we spend the overtime money we’d earned to keep vacation off the Visa, we know our dollars won’t be wasted. We make the most of our limited funds and limited time during that one fleeting, priceless week.
If we vacation somewhere new…oh geez…all the new decisions! How do we know the best things to do, the best things to see, and the best places to eat? Okay, yeah, internet can help, but most of our Destin favorites were introduced to us by locals or we discovered them through experience over the years.
Since Destin is a popular vacation spot for many Midwest families, you may be planning a trip soon. Or maybe you’re still trying to choose a vacation location. So to help you spend your time and money wisely, the family agreed to share what they consider the “best” of Destin. (Plus they are trapped in a car with me while I write this…so they don’t have much choice!)
First of all, for any activity you might consider…parasailing, a dolphin cruise, deep sea fishing…book through TripShock.com. You’ll get good discounts. This year we went on a fishing excursion. While I waited in line to confirm our reservations, the folks in front of us were paying $95 for the same $55 fee I paid. I’ve used Tripshock for the last five years and never had a problem with a booking.
Kelli says jet ski. I have to admit, the summer the girls decided to trade Big Kahuna water park for jet skis, I was SCARED! I’d never driven a jet ski…and certainly not on an ocean! But I learned to go fast and pray hard…because both make it easier to control a jet ski. The best part of all…dolphins swam beside us, so we stopped and the girls swam with them!
Randi says explore nature. She likes walking Jolee Island (in Baytowne, which you’ll read about ahead). The island is pristine nature…with lots of crabs. She also likes crabbing at night, which you can do on any beach (although some beaches are better than others). You need a good flashlight and a long crab net (get a cheap one at any souvenir store). Walk the beach, shine your light into the water, and scoop up some crabs (then release them back into the water unharmed, please).
Snorkel–FREE! When we paid for our first snorkel trip in Destin, a short boat ride took us to a beach with jetties, and snorkeling was good. But we realized most of the people on the beach didn’t get there by boat. So we looked at the map of Destin that’s printed in those free vacation books stacked in the lobby of every store, restaurant or hotel, and we found the jetties.
So we (the most navigationally challenged family you will ever meet) followed the map through a neighborhood, found a bunch of cars parked on the side of the road near a “beach access” sign, and walked a well-worn path to….TA-DA! The jetties! Hubby and I had good snorkel gear, but the girls didn’t. We bought them the cheap stuff at Wal-Mart, it works great, and now we snorkel for free! Find the jetties!
Hubby says “put your toes in the sand.” When he first said this, I didn’t think he “got it”…because of course you’re going to put your toes in the sand at the beach. But when he explained, I realized he got it most of all. Hubby says forget all the distractions of everything there is to do in Destin. Put your toes in the sand, stare out at the emerald water, and soak it all in. Feel the sun, feel the breeze, feel the majestic ocean and the majestic one who created it. Yep, he got it.
Henderson State Park: Hotel and condo beaches can be packed with rows and rows of vacationers. We like a little more real estate, so we head to Henderson State Park, pay $6 to park, and claim our own little spot on the beach. We take our lunch, our boogie boards, all the beach toys (football, frisbee, paddle ball set) and have all the room we need to play.
Harborwalk Village & Baytowne Wharf: We like to stroll in the evening (which is free), and two of our favorite spots are Harborwalk Village and Baytowne Wharf. Harborwalk Village is easy to find at the Bay Bridge. Fishing charters dock there, so it’s fun to see the boats and their catch. You can stroll through shops, listen to live entertainment coming from the restaurants, and on Thursday evenings, you can watch a fireworks display on the bay. Baytowne Wharf is a short drive east on 98 to San Destin. It has million dollar homes, yachts bigger than your house docked at the marina (one yacht has a helicopter on the top deck), shops, and live music. We stroll through Baytowne and say things like, “Where do these people get all this money?”
Dewey’s at Destin: Don’t be fooled by the Dewey’s you’ll find on 98. That’s for vacationers. You want the original Dewey’s, the one where the locals eat. Across from Harborwalk Village, where 98 meets the Bay Bridge, take the very last right before the bridge. About half a block down the road, watch for an easy-to-miss sign for Dewey’s on your left. You’ll turn on a dirt road to nowhere, but if you drive a short distance, the road opens up to the bay and you’ll see an old, weathered shack. That’s it! Destin’s best kept secret! You walk into the shack, place your order, and then go sit at a picnic table on the dock and wait for your food. Dewey’s is our #1 favorite place to eat!
McGuire’s: Food is delicious and portions are huge. Hubby’s burger was as big as his face. Check out Randi’s nacho mountain! Plus they brew their own rootbeer. If you want to add to the atmosphere, you can sign a dollar bill and stick it to the wall…along with the million+ dollars that wallpaper the restaurant. Oh, and be careful when you go to the restroom…the signs are tricky (on purpose) and you’ll likely end up in the wrong one!
Mellow Mushroom: This is a popular pizza chain in vacation destinations, but it’s another one of our Destin favorites. D-licious pizza! Try the Greek salad.
The Donut Hole: Folks line up out the door for breakfast! Everything is home-made and YUM-ee! The Donut Hole serves all day, but we usually go one evening for dessert–humongous pies and cheesecakes and all the baked goods.
See? Doesn’t my predictable, non-spontaneous, routine rut sound irresistible? As long as my family has one precious week to vacation, it’s hard to pass up a sure thing.
But…three years from now when we’re retired and every week is made up of six Saturdays and a Sunday, you can bet we’ll be heading different directions…and not just during the summer. And since we’re so navigationally challenged, there’s no telling where we’ll end up!
(Right now I’m just praying we make it home…we’re trying out a new route. Kinda spontaneous, huh?)
Do you vacation in Destin? What have we missed that I need to add to our list?
Should we try harder to get out of our vacation rut? Help! Where should we go? What should we do when we get there? What are your favorites?
The MOM Journey News
The June give-away is almost a week away! I’m so excited to showcase my good friends at the Arcadia Valley Roasting Company by giving away 1 lb. of their fresh roasted coffee beans and a coffee grinder!
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Coming soon! Hint: It’s one of those “I’d-love-for-this-to-happen-but-it-probably-never-will” things. Well, it’s happening! I’ve got one more hoop to jump through…and then I can tell you my secret. Hopefully next week???
Thanks for sharing this journey with me…the Mom one…and the secret one that’s ahead!