Destin is a city located on the Emerald Coast of Florida, in Okaloosa County. The city styles itself "The World's Luckiest Fishing Village", and claims to have the largest fishing vessel fleet in the state of Florida. Destin is known for its white beaches and emerald-colored waters. Originating as a small fishing village, it is now a popular tourist destination – according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, over 80 percent of the Emerald Coast's 4.5 million visitors each year visit Destin.
Destin is near several other cities in the region. The city of Fort Walton Beach, Florida is located to the west at the inlet of Santa Rosa Sound into Choctawhatchee Bay. North of Destin across the bay is Niceville, Florida, with the Mid-Bay Bridge linking the two by road. At further distance are Panama City (to the east) and Pensacola (to the west), each about 50 miles away.
At the western tip of the peninsula is East Pass (also known as Destin Pass), separating it from Santa Rosa Island to the west. East Pass is the only outlet of Choctawhatchee Bay into the Gulf of Mexico. Many sources claim that the pass was dug by hand, with an inrush of water widening it within hours. This appears to be inaccurate: the pass appears in early maps and surveys from Spanish, French, and English surveyors, such as Thomas Jefferys's 1775 map The Coast of West Florida and Louisiana. Frequent dredging is required to keep East Pass navigable.
"Crab Island," a significant sandbar located in East Pass, is a popular anchorage in the area. The entrance to Destin Harbor, a lagoon between the beaches and the main body of the western portion of the peninsula, is located just north of the East Pass jetty. The lagoon is formed by a sand spit named Holiday Isle; many condominiums have been built along the harbor since the 1970s.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 21.2 km² (8.2 mi²). 19.5 km² (7.5 mi²) of it is land and 1.7 km² (0.6 mi²) of it (7.95%) is water. Destin is located at (30.393407, -86.475276).
Destin is named after Captain Leonard Destin, a fisherman who settled in the area around 1845 or 1850. Captain Destin and his descendants fished the area for decades.
The first condominiums were built in the 1970s, although Destin was not incorporated as a municipality until 1984. The city has experienced rapid growth since the 1980s.
The white beaches and emerald waters of the Destin area draw many tourists. Florida's Department of Environmental Protection estimates that more than 80 percent of the Emerald Coast's 4.5 million yearly visitors travel to the region to visit Destin. Visitors can charter fishing vessels from the harbor, and there are 12 beach access points in the city. Among the access points is Henderson Beach State Recreation Area. A portion of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, the Okaloosa Day Use Area, is just across East Pass on Santa Rosa Island.
The sand on Destin's beaches is some of the whitest in the world. The sand comes from the Appalachian Mountains, and is made of finely ground quartz crystal giving the appearance of sugar. Residue flows down the Apalachicola River and is deposited into the Gulf of Mexico. Because of the currents the sand drifts west along the Gulf Coast and settles from east of Panama City to the Alabama coast.
Several manmade attractions have been built in and around Destin. Nearest the city's center is Big Kahuna's water park, a popular water and adventure park. Destin Commons is an open-air shopping mall located to the east of the city, with a 14-screen Rave Motion Pictures cinema, a Hard Rock Cafe, and numerous tenants such as Bass Pro Shops, Belk, Books-A-Million, Banana Republic, and Abercrombie & Fitch. Further east is the Silver Sands Outlet Mall, which claims to be "the nation's largest designer outlet center."
Several events also take place throughout the year as well. For the month of October, the annual Destin Fishing Rodeo draws anglers to Destin each year since 1948. Also in the month of October is the Destin Seafood Festival, where fresh seafood and local artists gather for one weekend every October. In addition to an assortment of hotels and motels, many high-rise condominiums are located in Destin. The first condominiums in Destin were built in the 1970s, and construction continues today. Visitors can also rent private homes. Visitors play a large part in Destin's economy – the city's population of around 12,000 balloons to 40,000 during the tourist season.
Destin's surroundings include other popular tourist destinations. Sandestin, Florida, located to the east in Walton County, is a popular golf and beach resort. Further east along the coast is the master-planned community of Seaside, filming location of the 1998 movie The Truman Show. To the west are Navarre Beach and Pensacola Beach, and the Civil War fortification Fort Pickens is located at the western end of Santa Rosa Island.
There were 4,877 households out of which 24.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.0% were married couples living together, 8.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.7% were non-families. 27.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.26 and the average family size was 2.72.
In the city the population was spread out with 19.4% under the age of 18, 5.6% from 18 to 24, 29.8% from 25 to 44, 28.2% from 45 to 64, and 17.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females there were 101.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 100.4 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $53,042, and the median income for a family was $60,498. Males had a median income of $42,218 versus $26,146 for females. The per capita income for the city was $32,048. About 3.0% of families and 5.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 6.2% of those under age 18 and 2.0% of those age 65 or over.
As of 2004, the population recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau is 12,162.