Twinkling droplets of water drip from her hair as she rises from the ocean after yet another long ride on a wave. The gentle water laps at my feet as she splashes toward me yelling, “Did you see that?!”

Of course I saw it. I can see everything the secretive ocean is revealing to me in the sparkling clear waters of Destin, Florida. It’s just an eight-hour drive from Nashville — although it feels like we flew to a tropical island from the looks of the pristine beaches. We had a family vacation here that our three kids will not forget.   

TIME TO SETTLE IN

After the long drive, the kids were ready to let loose. We checked in at Newman-Dailey Resort Properties at Beachside Inn. One of the townhomes at Crystal Port was a comfy stay across the street and right on the beach. Our two oldest kids — Lilliana, 12, and Seth, 8 — couldn’t wait to toss their stuff on the floor, change into their swimsuits and head straight to the sand. And that’s exactly what we did.

I’ve never seen water so clear. And the kids were astounded by how far they could walk into the ocean and still see their feet! I could see their bodies standing under the water from the shore, too. And, a great perk to staying so close to the beach ... naptime’s a breeze!

My husband and I took turns resting in the townhome while Sebastian, 2, napped. No worries about loud spring break noise, either. Newman-Dailey rents only to ages 25 and older with a focus on families. So, a restful night for all was in store.        

Most Newman-Dailey rentals include a Virtual Gift Card. This gives you one free adult admission per day to Destin Snorkel, parasailing, Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park, a dolphin cruise and more. It’s a great way to explore the local attractions.

FUN ALL AROUND

If the beach doesn’t wipe you out, then Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park will. This is a fun option for cooling off without having sand stuck in your swimsuit. More than 40 attractions include speed slides, tube rides, and wave pools. The adventure park offers lots of fun for everyone. There’s a splash-and-play area for younger kids and a five-story, head-to-head Kowabunga Racer.

My creative heart beat loudly as I took my older kids to The Shard Shop. Here, ages 6 and older break out their creative juices and create ShardWorx art — a unique glass mixed-media art form.

Create ShardWorx art at The Shard Shop.

First, we selected a canvas of pre-painted background colors and went to our assigned stations. The kids used a stencil to draw on their designs while I got artsy with my freehand skills. Then, we filled in our designs with pieces of glass, rocks, shells and other small found objects. We left our works of art behind to pick up the next day. The Shard Shop coats the masterpieces in resin, sealing your handiworks as keepsakes. The next day, we practically ran into the store with anticipation to see how they look.

AMAZING!

TIME TO EAT!

Kids sure do get hungry ... I mean hangry! Restaurant lines are inevitable in Destin, especially in peak season. However, you can walk up to Camille’s Sidewalk Café, right across the street from the Crystal Port townhomes, and grab a quick morning bite. Speciality sandwiches are available for breakfast and lunch as well as an impressive list of coffee and beverage choices, including fresh-pressed juices.

There’s a place where the kids can have fun while you wait for a table: Fudpucker’s.

Stop at the hostess stand and pick up a scavenger hunt sheet. This definitely takes longer to do than waiting for a table, but it occupies the kids as they explore the restaurant’s entire grounds from top to bottom.

After eating, we went back to the beach. Nothing beat the smiles on our kids’ faces as they rode the waves until sunset.

The joys of this family vacation will stay with us always.

Seth rides a final wave before we leave Destin.

GETTING AROUND DESTIN

destinvacation.com

The Candymaker Candy Store
1771 Scenic Hwy. 98
thecandymaker.com

The Shard Shop
34940 Emerald Coast Pkwy., Ste. 114
shardshop.com

Newman-Dailey Resort Properties
and Camille’s Sidewalk Café

2931 Hwy. 98 E.
destinmanagement.com
destinbeachsideinn.com/restaurant

Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park
1007 US Hwy. 98 E.
bigkahunas.com

Fudpucker’s Beachside Bar & Grill
20001 Emerald Coast Pkwy.
fudpucker.com