Destin is located on the beautiful Emerald Coast of Northwest Florida, with miles of gorgeous white sand beaches, and has something for everyone — from its vibrant nightlife to its shopping and restaurants, it’s an ideal place to visit. It’s home to a variety of museums that showcase different aspects of the culture and history of the area.
From discovering local history to exploring maritime culture, there’s something for everyone! This guide will provide an overview of all the amazing museums in Destin and their range of activities.
A Guide to Visiting All Amazing Museums in Destin, Florida
An Overview of Destin and Its Museums
Unlike many locations in Florida, Destin is not a city — it’s an unincorporated community in Okaloosa County. The area was originally home to Native American tribes, and the first European explorer who arrived here was Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto in 1539.
Destin is known for its white sand beaches and emerald green waters, making it a popular tourist destination for decades. The area is also known for its fishing, with some of the best red snapper and grouper in the world being caught here.
Claimed to be the world’s luckiest fishing village, Destin is also home to several museums which provide a window into the history and culture of the area. Many of these museums offer educational and entertaining activities for the whole family.
Best Museums in Destin, Florida
Since Destin is located on the Gulf Coast, many of its museums focus on maritime culture and history. The Indian Temple Mound Museum focuses on the area’s pre-Columbian past, with displays of artifacts found near local Native American mounds. It also offers educational activities for children.
1. Emerald Coast Science Center
The Emerald Coast Science Center is an exciting and educational destination that is perfect for visitors of all ages. Located in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, the science center offers a wide range of exhibits, activities, and interactive experiences that will spark your curiosity and ignite your imagination. With its hands-on exhibits, state-of-the-art technology, and knowledgeable staff, it is a must-visit destination for anyone with a passion for science and discovery.
As soon as you step inside the science center, you are transported to a world of discovery and wonder. The exhibits are hands-on and interactive, allowing you to explore and experiment with science in a way that is both fun and educational. From the mysteries of outer space to the wonders of the human body, there is something for everyone at the Emerald Coast Science Center.
One of the highlights of the science center is the Planetarium, where you can explore the night sky and learn about the stars and constellations in a state-of-the-art dome theater. The shows are mesmerizing, and you’ll feel as if you’re floating through space as you gaze up at the stars and planets.
Another must-see exhibit is the Robotics Lab, where you can build and program your own robots and watch them come to life. It’s an amazing experience to see your creations move and interact with the environment, and it’s a great way to learn about the technology that is shaping our world.
For younger visitors, there is the Little Learner’s Gallery, a space designed specifically for children ages 6 and under. Here, kids can explore and experiment with science in a safe and fun environment, with exhibits and activities that are tailored to their interests and abilities.
- Website: ecscience.org
- Pricing: Adult ticket at $12, Senior (60+) ticket at $10, Child (3 – 17) ticket at $10, Child 2 & under: FREE, Military: 10% off with activate ID
- Hours: Wednesday – Saturday: 10 AM – 3 PM, Sunday – Tuesday: Closed
2. The Indian Temple Mound Museum & Cultural Heritage Park
Located in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, the museum and heritage park are a must-visit destination for anyone interested in Native American history and culture. As soon as you enter the park, you are greeted by a stunning view of the Indian Temple Mound, a massive earthen structure that was once the center of a thriving Native American community. The mound is a testament to the ingenuity and skill of the people who built it, and it provides a fascinating window into their way of life.
The museum itself is housed in a beautiful building that is designed to resemble a Native American structure. Inside, you’ll find a wealth of exhibits and artifacts that explore the history and culture of the indigenous peoples of the Southeastern United States. From pottery and jewelry to weapons and tools, the museum’s collection is both comprehensive and fascinating.
One of the highlights of the museum is the recreated Native American village, where visitors can explore the daily life of the people who once called this area home. You can learn about traditional cooking methods, see examples of traditional clothing and textiles, and even try your hand at traditional games and crafts.
The Indian Temple Mound Museum & Cultural Heritage Park is a truly immersive experience that provides a unique insight into the history and culture of the indigenous peoples of the Southeastern United States.
Whether you’re a history buff, a culture vulture, or just looking for a fascinating and educational destination, this museum and heritage park is sure to leave a lasting impression. So if you’re planning a trip to Fort Walton Beach, be sure to add the Indian Temple Mound Museum & Cultural Heritage Park to your itinerary—you won’t be disappointed!
- Website: Indian Temple Mound Museum
- Address: 139 Miracle Strip Parkway SE | Fort Walton Beach, Fla.
- Phone: 850-833-9595
3. Air Force Armament Museum
The Air Force Armament Museum is an excellent destination for aviation and military history enthusiasts. Located in Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, it is home to a collection of over 25,000 artifacts related to the US Air Force and its armaments. You can explore a wide range of exhibits that focus on the development of aircraft, missiles, bombs, and other weapons systems that have played a pivotal role in the history of the United States Air Force.
But what truly sets the Air Force Armament Museum apart is the passion and enthusiasm of the staff and volunteers who keep it running. Their dedication and knowledge are infectious, and they bring the history and technology of the museum to life in a way that is both educational and entertaining.
Visitors can explore exhibits on the evolution of aviation and armament technology, from the early days of flight to the most cutting-edge weapons systems of today. The museum also features exhibits on the role of the Air Force in various conflicts throughout history, providing a fascinating glimpse into the bravery and sacrifice of the men and women who have served our country.
One of the most thrilling experiences at the museum is the opportunity to climb aboard some of the aircraft on display. Imagine sitting in the cockpit of a fighter jet, or standing next to a massive bomber – it’s a truly unforgettable experience that will leave you with a newfound appreciation for the incredible technology and skill of the Air Force.
- Website: Air Force Armament Museum Foundation
4. Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation Gallery and Cultural Center
The Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation Gallery and Cultural Center is a stunningly beautiful space that radiates creativity and inspiration. Located in Destin, Florida, the center is a haven for art lovers and cultural enthusiasts alike, offering a diverse range of exhibits, performances, and educational programs that celebrate the human spirit.
What sets the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation Gallery and Cultural Center apart is its unwavering commitment to fostering creativity and nurturing talent in the community. The center’s programs are designed to inspire and empower individuals of all ages, from the youngest of aspiring artists to the seasoned professionals.
At the heart of the center is the art gallery, which showcases an impressive collection of contemporary and modern art from local and national artists. Visitors can immerse themselves in the beauty and diversity of the exhibits, which range from paintings and sculptures to mixed media and installations.
The cultural center is also a hub for music and performance art, with a full calendar of concerts, theater productions, and dance performances throughout the year. The performances are always dynamic and engaging, featuring talented musicians, actors, and dancers from around the world.
In addition to its impressive artistic offerings, the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation Gallery and Cultural Center is a testament to the power of community. The center serves as a gathering place for artists, students, and community members, creating a space for meaningful connections and collaborations. It is a place where people can come together to celebrate the beauty and diversity of the human experience.
- Website: MKAF.org
5. Destin History and Fishing Museum
The Destin History and Fishing Museum is a unique cultural gem nestled in the heart of Destin. It is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in the rich history of fishing, as well as the local culture and heritage of the area.
The museum takes you on a journey through time, showcasing the evolution of the fishing industry in Destin and its impact on the community.
What makes this museum so special is its dedication to preserving the stories of the people behind the industry. Through an extensive collection of artifacts, photographs, and personal accounts, the museum brings to life the experiences of the fishermen, their families, and the community as a whole. You can explore exhibits on the earliest fishing techniques used by the Native Americans and the Spanish explorers, as well as the emergence of the commercial fishing industry in the late 1800s.
One of the highlights of the museum is the impressive collection of antique fishing equipment, including reels, rods, and lures from various eras. It is a unique opportunity to see how technology has changed the sport and industry over the years. Additionally, the museum offers interactive exhibits that allow visitors to experience what it was like to be a fisherman in the early days.
But the museum is more than just a tribute to fishing. It is also a celebration of the people and their traditions, from the early settlers to the present-day residents. The museum honors the history and culture of the area through exhibits on the Native American tribes, the Spanish explorers, and the African American community.
- Website: Destin History and Fishing Museum
6. Henderson Beach State Park Nature Center
Henderson Beach State Park Nature Center is an idyllic nature retreat. The park is renowned for its stunning natural beauty, with miles of pristine white sand beaches, crystal clear waters, and lush green forests. But what sets this park apart is its Nature Center, which offers visitors an immersive and educational experience that highlights the unique flora and fauna of the region.
One of the best of the Nature Center is the live animal exhibit, where visitors can see some of the local wildlife up close and personal. From snakes and turtles to birds and mammals, the exhibit is a fascinating look at the creatures that thrive in this unique environment. But the Nature Center is more than just a collection of exhibits. It also offers a wide range of educational programs and activities for visitors of all ages.
Of course, the real beauty of Henderson Beach State Park is the natural environment itself. The park is home to miles of unspoiled beaches, crystal clear waters, and pristine sand dunes. Visitors can hike, swim, fish, and kayak in this breathtaking setting, taking in the natural beauty and experiencing the serenity of the environment.
- Website: Florida State Parks
7. Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park Exhibit Hall
If you’re looking for an authentic and immersive experience of the culture and history of the Hawaiian Islands, then a visit to Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park Exhibit Hall is a must. This incredible exhibit hall offers visitors a comprehensive look at traditional Hawaiian clothing, weapons, artwork, instruments, and more.
The interactive experiences at this exhibit hall are truly unique and engaging. You can learn how to make a lei, practice your hula dancing skills, or even participate in traditional Hawaiian games and crafts. Plus, there’s a live performance stage where you can watch talented local performers showcase the vibrant culture of Hawaiian music and dance.
Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park Exhibit Hall also has a great gift shop, full of Hawaiian-themed souvenirs and gifts. From clothing to jewelry to artwork, you’ll find something special for everyone in your group.
- Website: Big Kahuna’s Parks
8. Camp Walton Schoolhouse Museum
Originally built in 1912, the Camp Walton Schoolhouse served as a public school for the surrounding communities until 1936. It was then converted into a community center and served as a meeting place for local organizations and events for many years. In 1972, the schoolhouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places, recognizing its significance to the history of the area.
Today, the Camp Walton Schoolhouse Museum stands as a testament to the past, with its classrooms restored to their original state and filled with authentic period furnishings, photographs, and artifacts. Visitors can explore the schoolhouse’s three classrooms, including a dedicated exhibit on the early settlers of the area, and learn about the daily life of students during the early 20th century.
One of the standout features of the museum is the old-fashioned schoolhouse bell that still hangs outside the building. Visitors are invited to ring the bell, just as generations of students did before them, to mark the beginning and end of the school day.
In addition to the schoolhouse itself, the museum features an adjacent building that houses exhibits on the history of the area, including information about Native American tribes, the fishing industry, and military history. Visitors can also browse a gift shop that offers a variety of locally-made souvenirs and historical books.
The Camp Walton Schoolhouse Museum is open year-round, and admission is free. Docent-led tours are available for groups and school field trips, offering a more in-depth look at the history of the area and the significance of the schoolhouse.
- Website: Camp Walton Schoolhouse Museum
- Address: 127 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE | Fort Walton Beach (the same property as the Indian Temple Mound Museum)
Destin, Florida, is one of the best places to explore and experience the culture, history, and natural wonders of the region. It has an abundance of museums to explore for both locals and visitors alike. Whether you are looking for a place to learn about the history of the city, enjoy art and culture, or have a fun day out with the family, Destin’s museums will not disappoint.
With something for everyone, these great institutions offer amazing experiences that can be enjoyed by all.