How to Vacation Like a Local on Holiday Isle

June 14, 2021

There are few places more picturesque than Holiday Isle in Destin, FL. This three-mile peninsula is flanked by beautiful homes, townhomes, and condominiums, adorned with wide, paved sidewalks, offers multiple beach access points and is surrounded by water on three sides–the Gulf of Mexico to the south, East Pass to the east, and Destin Harbor to the north. 

Vacationers often make Holiday Isle their “home away from home” for years to come, thanks to the community’s striking surroundings paired with essential amenities for locals and visitors alike. Holiday Isle, home to a mix of full-time residents and visitors, is the perfect location for the quintessential “do as the locals do” experience… but better. 

Here are our top tips for vacationing like a local on Holiday Isle.

Local Tip #1: Take a Water Taxi to the Destin Harbor

After hours of sunbathing and (maybe) drinking one too many adult beverages, the best way to get to your dinner reservation on the Destin Harbor is by water taxi. That’s right; locals use boats as their primary form of transportation on weekends when the roads get busy. So why shouldn’t you?

Several local water taxi companies service Destin Harbor and Holiday Isle, ready to coordinate convenient pick-up and drop-off points regardless of where you’re staying on Holiday Isle. Destin Water Taxi has been around for years and is well-known to both locals and vacationers. However, you have options! Keep your eyes peeled as you may see a few water taxis cruising the harbor on any given day, so be sure to take down the company’s phone number (typically listed along the side of the boat in large, bold numbers) to coordinate your pick up. 

Local Tip #2: Enjoy Local Fish with Tex-Mex Flair

One of our favorite Holiday Isle restaurants is La Paz, a locally-owned Tex-Mex restaurant and bar serving local seafood dishes, classic entrees, and excellent margaritas. Part of the Harbor Docks family of restaurants and fishing fleet, La Paz is known for having some of the freshest seafood in town. Plus, with a Tex-Mex flair and laid-back vibes, it’s the perfect change of pace from the typical seafood restaurant. 

Pro Tip: While La Paz may be known for their fresh and flavorful food, the La Pazarita (their signature margarita) is easily their best-kept secret. 

Local Tip #3: Spend the Day at Norriego Point

Locals love the beach as much as the next guy, but you won’t catch many locals sitting on the beach for seven days straight. Why? Because there’s more than one way to get your vitamin D when you’re staying on Holiday Isle.

Located at the tip of the Holiday Peninsula is Norriego Point. This public beach access is home to a wide variety of water features you can’t find directly on the Gulf of Mexico. Snorkel by the jetties to view the area’s unique sea life, play in the calm, protected tide pools, and head up the sand dunes for spectacular 360 views. 

Local Tip #4: Stand Up Paddle Through the Canals

Stand-up paddle boarding is a fantastic full-body workout that’s surprisingly easy in calm waters. Luckily, the north side of Holiday Isle is home to canals and backwaters in no-wake zones, offering up the perfect water for beginner SUP adventures.

If you’re traveling with an inflatable paddle board, simply find a public access point to park and drop your SUP in the water. Just getting your toes wet? Try a demo first with local paddle board company BOTE Boards, across from the Destin Harbor. Or, rent a fleet of SUPs for the whole family with one of the area’s many water sports rental companies.

Local Tip #5: Rent a Boat and Head to Crab Island

Not for the faint of heart, Crab Island is a submerged sandbar located in the Choctawhatchee Bay to the northeast of Destin Harbor. Locals will attest that Crab Island isn’t always the most family-friendly experience–particularly on big holiday weekends–but it can be family-friendly if you play your cards right. Accessible only via boat, always consult with a local water sports rental company to help you find the right boat for your group and give you pointers on how to make the most of your day on Crab Island. 

In the meantime, we have a few tips of our own.

  1. It’s best to wait to venture to Crab Island until everyone in your group is a confident swimmer. After all, it’s a submerged sandbar–the only dry land is your boat (which you’ll need to rent from a local water sports company). 
  2. Make sure you bring snacks and plenty of water to tide the whole family over for several hours. Also, bring some cash. You never know when the boiled peanut boat will cruise by or if the ice cream boat will anchor within walking (ahem, wading) distance from your boat.
  3. Go early and anchor near a group of families. If you’re there early, before groups of boats start to form, stick to the north side of Crab Island, which tends to be quieter and further from boat traffic. Spend the morning swimming and basking in the sun, and plan to leave around lunchtime when the boat traffic starts to pick up for the afternoon. 

And there you have it! It’s easy to see why locals love living on Holiday Isle and why it’s one of the top vacation spots in the Destin area. 

Book your Holiday Isle vacation rental with Scenic Stays today.

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