10 Must-Visit Museums in Destin, FL (And Surrounding Areas)

Welcome to Destin FL Sign

If you want a break from white beaches and sunny sail (it could happen), or if it rains during your Florida vacation, be sure to check out these museums in Destin, Florida.

With miles of white sand beaches, 226 days of sunshine each year, and easy access to the beautiful Gulf of Mexico, Destin attracts beachgoers, sun seekers, and fishing enthusiasts. 

But what happens if your beach vacation weather isn’t so lucky? Or if the warmest beaches in Florida in December are a bit chilly?

If storm clouds cast shadows over the beach or a torrential downpour cancels your chartered sail, take a break from the sand and surf by visiting one of these amazing museums in Destin, FL. Each recommendation below is in or within 10 miles of Destin, including attractions in the neighboring towns of Fort Walton Beach and Valparaiso.


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Map of the Best Museums in Destin, FL

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Oil Paint Like Rendering of the Destin History and Fishing Museum

1. Destin History and Fishing Museum

108 Stahlman Ave, Destin, FL 32541

In addition to being known as the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village,” Destin is also home to the largest commercial fishing fleet in the country. So it’s no surprise that the Destin History and Fishing Museum is one of the best museums in Destin. Conveniently located across from HarborWalk Village, the museum preserves the city’s history and teaches guests about its tourism and fishing industries. 

For a small admission fee, visitors can discover everything from the history of the area’s early pioneers to the scientific reason behind the white sands of the Emerald Coast’s beautiful beaches. Learn more about the many species of fish swimming through the region’s waters and the history of one the longest-running fishing tournaments in the country. Don’t miss Ernest Hemingway’s hand-crafted fishing rod!

The Destin Fishing Museum’s outdoor heritage park displays several historic boats, including the Primrose. It was the last fishing boat used by Captain Leonard Destin, the first fisherman of the town that now bears his name.

2. City of Fort Walton Beach Heritage Park and Cultural Center

139 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548

The Heritage Park and Cultural Center was established to preserve, interpret, and present the expansive history of the community of Fort Walton from 12,000 B.C. to modern times. 

The historic park complex is managed by the city of Fort Walton Beach’s Recreation and Cultural Services and is a collection of the next five museums listed below.

3. Indian Temple Mound Museum

139 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548

If you are interested in the rich history of Native Americans, Indian Temple Mound Museum is the best museum to visit in the area. Located in the heart of downtown Fort Walton Beach, it is part of the Heritage Park and Cultural Center and was the first municipally owned and operated museum in Florida.

The exhibits at the Indian Temple Mound Museum span more than 12 centuries of Native American history, including an impressive collection of prehistoric ceramics and more than 1,000 artifacts made from stone, bone, shell, and clay.

This Destin museum is a good place to begin your time at the Heritage Park and Cultural Center, because it’s where you purchase admission tickets to the museums in the collection. 

Oil Paint Like Rendering of the Fort Walton Temple Mound

4. Fort Walton Temple Mound

139 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548

Built between 800 and 1400 AD, the Fort Walton Temple Mound was originally a burial mound and religious site for the Pensacola people indigenous to the area. It was designated as a National Historic Treasure in 1964 and listed on the National Historic Register where it is still considered a sacred burial ground.

Oil Paint Like Rendering of the Camp Walton Schoolhouse Museum

5. Camp Walton Schoolhouse Museum

127 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548

Located on the same property as the Indian Temple Mound Museum, the Camp Walton Schoolhouse Museum is a historic two-room schoolhouse dating back to the early history of Camp Walton. It’s just a short walk around the mound from the Indian Temple Mound Museum, and access to the schoolhouse is included with your ticket to the Indian Temple Mound Museum.

Fun Fact: When the local fire department planned to burn down the dilapidated building in the 1970s, Junior Service League members convinced the owners of the schoolhouse to donate the building to the city so it could be restored and maintained as a museum. 

6. Garnier Post Office Museum

127 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548

The first post office in the town of Garnier, Florida, was located in the corner of a mercantile on the beach of Garnier’s Bayou where it received mail by boat from Pensacola. As the mail began coming over land from Crestview, a new post office was built at the junction of Mooney and Garnier Post Roads. It is now on display at the Heritage Park and Cultural Center.

Relocated to its current location behind the Camp Walton Schoolhouse in the late 1980s, the Garnier Post Office Museum showcases postal items from the first half of the 20th century.

7. Civil War Exhibits

127 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548

Located directly behind the Camp Walton Schoolhouse Museum, the Civil War Exhibits are the last place to visit while at the Heritage Park and Cultural Center. Built in 2010, it displays sobering details of slavery in Florida, the state’s secession from the Union, and other details about America’s bloodiest war. 

8. Emerald Coast Science Center

31 Memorial Pkwy SW, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548

Voted “best place to take the kids” by the readers of Emerald Coast Magazine, the Emerald Coast Science Center is a museum with a host of interactive exhibits the whole family can enjoy. From robotics and physics to color and sound, there’s something for everyone at this Destin-area science museum.

Animal lovers will enjoy meeting the animals that call the science center home, like Cici, the blue and gold macaw, Ella, the African pygmy hedgehog, and Niels, the sugar glider. All the animals were either donated or rescued, and all are named for past and present geniuses whose work has impacted science in profound ways. For example, Cici is named after Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, a British-American astronomer and astrophysicist, and Ella is named for Ruth Ella Moore, the first African-American woman to be awarded a Ph.D. in natural science. And Niels is named for the Danish Nobel Prize winning physicist who worked at Los Alamos on the Manhattan Project.

9. Air Force Armament Museum

100 Museum Drive, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida 32542

Aircraft fanatics and military history buffs are sure to enjoy the Air Force Armament Museum, the only museum in the world dedicated to historical artifacts and memorabilia associated with the equipment and arms used by the United States Air Force.

Its permanent collection includes a variety of planes dating to the World War II era. It also has an extensive collection of bombs, guns, and missiles, including the Mother of All Bombs (MOAB). Visitors can also learn more about the history of Eglin Air Force base from a 32-minute film shown continuously throughout the day.

Sage Advice: Admission to the Air Force Armament Museum is free, but if you want to climb into the cockpit of a flight simulator and see what it’s like to be a fighter pilot, that will cost extra.

10. Heritage Museum of Northwest Florida

115 Westview Ave, Valparaiso, FL 32580

For more than 50 years, the Heritage Museum of Northwest Florida has collected, preserved, and displayed materials related to the history of the Florida Panhandle region.  Exhibits include an old school room, a train depot, and a “please touch” discovery room. As you would expect in this beautiful coastal region, there’s a fishing and boat exhibit, and be sure to stroll through the butterfly garden before you leave!

Have You Visited Any Museums in Destin, FL?

Which museums did you visit? What did you like most? Are there any great museums in Destin missing from this list? Share your experiences and recommendations in the comments section below.

A white sand beach at sunset


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