Hello Again, Destin!

Y’ALL.

It’s been WAY too long since this blog was updated …

Here we are now, in the middle of a pandemic, putting one foot in front of the other!

After having to close Sterling Retreat for part of March, all of April, and part of May, we are SO happy to back online and back to giving our guests a SAFE and AWESOME experience, courtesy of Vacasa and including their new Premium Clean protocols.

You might have been asking yourself lately whether you should even schedule a vacation with all that’s going on in our world. Here’s where we stand: You need it. You need a break, even if it’s just a few days. You need a chance to clear your mind. And there’s no better place to do that than on the Emerald Coast.

Our advice? Come visit. Go to the beach early or late, when there are fewer people. Do one big grocery trip when you arrive and then order takeout or delivery to fill in the gaps. Spend long hours on the balcony listening to the waves and watching for boats. Read some good books. Binge on some movies. Basically, come on over and RELAX.

We can’t wait to host you and help give you some peace in the chaos.

Callahan’s

Upon a recommendation from a friend, we recently tried Callahan’s Restaurant and Deli for the first time … it was delicious!

Tucked away just a few minutes’ drive from Sterling Shores, Callahan’s has been a Destin staple for decades (how could we have missed it??) and serves lunch and dinner. You’ll be tempted right away to save room for dessert, because they have an array of fresh-made cakes to choose from, all on display when you walk in — we tried the chocolate hurricane flavor as well as red velvet and they were both a hit.

I was pleasantly surprised at the large lunch portions and loved that the chicken salad was free of onions and just a touch sweet. Beware, it’s still pretty rich! But very tasty. The Philly cheesesteak got a good review too, for being close-enough-to-authentic and gooey-cheesy.

Callahan’s also has an extensive dinner and drinks menu, and a loyal local following. While it’s not a place you might choose for a dressed-up date night, it was homey and cozy with friendly service. And if you’re not in the mood to sit down and have your meal there, just call in your order for pickup or place it at the deli counter in person. You can also purchase containers of each of their homemade deli salads, like potato salad, tuna salad, and pimento cheese. Don’t worry; no one will blame you if you also add on a slice of cake or two!

Renovations Start Now!

Sterling Retreat will be undergoing periodic renovations this fall, to be completed this winter! To say we are READY and EXCITED is an understatement.

You’ll be pleased to see that we’re painting over the yellow walls, replacing the flooring, updating the kitchen, and swapping out the decor. It’s a much-needed change that starts this week!

If you’ve done renovations before, you know the drill (ha) … surprises happen and you roll with a lot of punches. But no matter what, we’re committed to providing an awesome experience for our guests, and that means making the space more comfortable, more beautiful, and more updated. Whether you’re traveling solo for a long weekend or bringing the family for a long stay, we want Sterling Retreat to be your home away from home.

Stay tuned for more news about the remodel and in the meantime, you can also follow us on Instagram @takemetodestin … hope to see you there!

Big Kahuna’s

If you’ve been to Destin before, you probably know of Big Kahuna’s Water & Adventure Park. It’s pretty hard to miss from U.S. 98!

The first time we ever went to Big Kahuna’s was when I was in college (yes, you read that right).  It was SO. MUCH. FUN.

The water park is like you would expect – tons of slides, wave pools, kiddie areas – but there’s just something special about it being in Destin. It’s hard to pinpoint. Maybe it’s the fun of being around a bunch of people who are also on vacation; maybe it’s because there’s so much to do.

We’ve been back multiple times since that first visit and here are our best tips for a great day at the park:

  • Plan ahead and buy your tickets online
  • Look at the park map ahead of time and plan your first few stops
  • Go early (then you still have time to hit the beach later!)
  • Don’t try to bring food or drinks with you; they’re not allowed
  • Pack more sunscreen and towels than you think you’ll need

Also know that this is Florida, so storms and rainshowers happen in the blink of an eye! But Big Kahuna’s is pretty good about watching the weather and if they close for longer than an hour because of weather, you’ll get a ticket to come back for free!

A few more words of advice: The “Adventure Park” part of Big Kahuna’s includes a min-golf course and a few thrill rides. We’ve done the mini-golf and enjoyed it (but wear your insect repellent if you go at dusk!) and we have not tried the rides – those aren’t my jam.  🙂

Whether you have kids or not, Big Kahuna’s is still BIG fun! If you go, have fun, be safe, and enjoy the ride(s).

Traveling in the Off-Season

We’ve had a few people ask us if traveling to Destin during an off-peak time is a good idea … and the answer is definitely YES!  Any time is a good time for the beach as far as we’re concerned!  But there are some pros and cons to consider, because it’s YOUR vacation after all.  🙂

Some advantages of the off-season (October through February) include:

  • Less crowds, both with traffic and at the beach
  • Milder weather
  • More “green flag” days, with calmer ocean conditions
  • Lower travel costs

We especially loved our visit at Thanksgiving one year, where the beach was sparsely populated and the sea was as smooth as glass.  It was a little too cool for swimming, but the scenery was perfect.

A few other things to consider about the off-season:

  • Beach services (umbrella and chairs) may not be offered
  • Some attractions and activities may have limited hours or will be closed
  • You may encounter more construction noise, depending on where you stay; off-peak times are ideal for property owners to renovate

No matter when you visit, you know you can count on the stunning Emerald Coast as the perfect backdrop to your vacation.  With some planning and consideration of the pros and cons, off-peak travel to Destin may be just what you’re looking for!

 

The Back Porch

In this blog, we plan to dive deep into our local recommendations so you can plan your stay and get the most out of your time in Destin!

Our first recommendation is for one of our very favorite restaurants: The Back Porch. Not only is it easy to find from the condo (directly across the street) it’s got yummy food and drinks, perfect views, and a super-chill vibe.

The Back Porch looks just like its name, with picnic tables and indoor/outdoor style seating.  Go during an off-peak time to secure one of the best seats and enjoy an ocean view while you eat. This is NOT the place to dress up … expect sandy floorboards and salt air!

Not everyone in our family likes seafood, so luckily The Back Porch’s menu is varied and hits everyone’s tastebuds. Some of our favorite items are the grilled grouper and amberjack sandwiches and the beach cheeseburger (and one of us loooooves the coleslaw side dish). My dad also raves about the raw oysters, but he’s the only one in our crowd who likes them. Desserts include beach-inspired offerings like key lime pie and sunshine orange cake, but I’ll be honest, we usually don’t have room for dessert!

The kids’ menu items are served on a real plastic frisbee, which is a fun add-on to your beach bag or a cool souvenir to take home. And adults, we totally recommend Happy Hour, where you can get a Yuengling on draft or the Ultimate Back Porch Punch, two of the best-ever vacation drinks.

The Back Porch also has a small gift shop, which we usually opt to pass by. No extra souvenirs needed when you have your frisbee 🙂

*No recommendations are ever sponsored. These are genuine recs from our personal experiences.*