Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Texan Travel Destination :: Destin, Florida

taken by :: Michelle Norris
Destin, Florida

I'm sure you're wondering why I'm writing a travel post about Florida on a blog targeting Texas audiences, but if you were in Destin last week, than you were either a local or a Texan.

taken by :: Michelle Norris
Eroding Beach

It seems like Texans constantly flock to the Luckiest Fishing Village from Spring Break to the last weeks of Summer. With pristine, white beaches and clear, blue water, Destin beckons the hearts of Texans year after year. While Texas has it own natural beaches, they simply do not compare to the sheer beauty of the Florida Gulf Coast.
taken by :: Michelle Norris
Morning Fisher

Oddly enough, our family began travel plans with Corpus Christi and South Padre Island in mind until we mapped it out and discovered Destin was the same distance from us as our Texas coast. Decisions, decisions.

taken by :: Michelle Norris

Destin quickly moved to the top of the list; but with rising gas prices, hotel costs, and not enough ample time to budget, how could we afford a trip?

We started by having a garage sale. Actually, the boys had a garage sale, and they made quite a bit off of things they had outgrown or no longer found interesting.

Then, we cut eating lunches and dinners out, including my husband's office lunches. The boys and I skipped Starbucks a few times. The last two weeks before the trip, we ate mostly out of the pantry and avoided the grocery store except for milk and bread. I even added my birthday money to the vacation fund. To round out the budget, my husband had a brief business trip compensated before we left.

taken by :: Michelle Norris
Beach Oats

 Jake and I planned to have the family stay for 4 nights and 5 days, but hotel costs would have been a minimum of $800. We decided to camp at Henderson Beach State Park for right at $125 for the week. We planned on cooking our own meals from the fresh seafood found at Sexton's and from groceries purchased at the local Wal-Mart.

Our itinerary for the week included a scalloping trip to Port Saint Joe (South of Destin), a two hour snorkeling tour, kayaking a river (East of Destin), and visiting the Butterfly House in Navarre. However, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

taken by :: Michelle Norris
Storm on the Horizon

We knew the weather had rain in the forecast; originally, there was a 20% to 30% prediction. What we didn't know about were the back-to-back lightening storms we would experience on Monday and Tuesday night (in a tent!). Monday night wasn't too bad, but Tuesday night scared Jake and I. I kept thinking please don't move Jake so we won't get electrocuted! When Wednesday morning rolled around and we were all still alive, we opted for the Holiday Inn, especially since more storms were on the way.

taken by :: Michelle Norris
Jake and youngest building sand castles

The Holiday Inn at Destin is very much a family orientated hotel. They had a program every evening for the boys to partake in (family trivia, a magic show, a birthday party, etc) as well as a kid's discovery room, arcade, game tables, beach front access, and free ice cream and popcorn. What kid wouldn't love that? In our hotel room, we had a queen size bed and then an enclosed section of the room for kids that included a bunk bed set, a TV, playstation, and a child sized table and chairs. The boys could also check-out games and movies for free. The hotel offered an indoor and outdoor pool, a cafe, bar, restaurant, and more for guests. Best of all - it was extremely clean and the staff was accommodating and friendly, especially those engaging children through the Buccaneer Program. (Next year, they are adding a lazy river and a zero entrance pool.)

We did, however, have a lovely time camping. We had a splendid tent site and the beach was nearly vacant. The facilities and showers of the park were immaculate and when we get a camper, I'd love to stay there again.

taken by :: Michelle Norris
Toes in the Sand

Now, most of the time when we are on a strict budget I'd start sweating every penny we spent. Yet, on Monday night, when we were buying groceries, the boys decided instead of a snorkeling tour they would rather purchase their boogies boards, sand toys, snorkels, and goggles and have them for the entire trip than for only two hours. I budgeted for all the beach toys and some were on sale due to the end of the summer clearance, so by cutting out the snorkeling trip we saved 4/5 of the cost of one hotel night.

taken by :: Michelle Norris
Bird Tracks
On Tuesday, we drove to Port St. Joe which is about an hour and a half South of Destin. An amazing drive filled with a different view of Florida (mostly dense woods encroaching upon beach), Port St. Joe was an interesting day trip. Although we were on a mission to find scallops, we were informed this was the year for the creatures to be nearly non-existent. Never to be too upset, we turned towards the beach and had the boys ride  some spectacular waves on their boogie boards. To cap off the adventure, we spotted dolphins a mere thirty feet from us.

Wednesday was our day to take the snorkeling tour and I am so thankful we did not. We spent most of the morning and early evening diving and snorkeling in the surf. We were delighted to see such a plethora of fish species; it was like swimming in an aquarium. I even found a gigantic hermit crab.

taken by :: Michelle Norris
The Crab

Thursday was our kayak trip to the Blackwater River - Florida's only sandy bottom river. We didn't go. We enjoyed the day before so much that all we wanted to do was swim! (That saved money for the rest of the first hotel day and a little on the second.)

taken by :: Michelle Norris
Jake and eldest ready for snorkeling

The scariest part of the day occurred when Jake and I were in fifteen to twenty feet deep water diving to the bottom. He surfaced and yelled, "Something just bite my ear." I looked under the water and saw a two and a half foot remora circling his torso and swimming with him. If you're not familiar with a remora, they eat the parasites that attach to sharks, sea turtles, and rays. The bigger the remora, the bigger the host. We didn't stick around to see what else was swimming nearby!

When Friday rolled around, we were tuckered out and headed for home. We stopped off at the Panhandle Butterfly House (free admission) and let the youngest explore all the state's native species. They also provided a great collection of species from around the world - I think the Blue Morpho is my favorite.

taken by :: Michelle Norris
The Butterfly

This was our first family vacation together. We have gone on vacations before with our extended family and we've also taken weekend trips here and there, but never anything like this. It was fantastic, and I felt the stress of the past year melt away. It was encouraging to know the boys enjoyed themselves as much as my husband and I did; and we look forward to next year's trip.

taken by :: Michelle Norris
The Brothers Norris

Just for those of you whom are curious: we went over budget only $25 due to us eating out once we got home Friday night.

I also wanted to tell Jake THANK YOU for taking us on a family vacation I will never forget! Thanks, babe.

taken by :: Michelle Norris


  1. Hello Michelle,
    I enjoyed your story so much. I almost cried. I think mostly I enjoyed knowing that there is someone out here in Tx. who understands how I feel. I have been here for 5 yrs. I came here from San Diego, the best weather in the U.S. I am originally from New Orleans, so I do know what it's like to live in Humidity. However, I also lived in Arizona for over 15 yrs before I moved to San Diego. Soooo... that being said, I just can't seem to get used to living in this humidity in Austin and I really miss the coast and living in a coastal city. I have been fighting living here now for the whole 5 yrs I've been here. I can't seem to find a place that I can afford to move back to Ca. I thought of moving back to Az. But after being here in this humidity again for so long I think Az might be to dry.It would be closer to visit the west coast from there though.
    When I was growing up in New Orleans I had been to Pensecloa Fl but not to Destine. I did have a friend who had a place down there and she loved it. I agree that the white sand in florida and the beaches are much nicer than the Tx beaches and even the Ca. beaches. My problem is the humidity, so I would have to take a fall or winter trip to Destine. I don't know what area of Tx you live in but maybe you could give me some feed back to help my decision making. I am thinking of moving back to Az to be closer to the Ca. coast, or staying here in Tx. somewhere maybe even West Tx. where it is drier and going to Destine or some where in Fl for vacations. But then I would still be in the humidity all yr round. Do you think Destine would give me my beach fix if I went a couple times a yr? I still have an Aunt in New Orleans to visit to break up the trip. It is so hard to relocate these days. What do you think?
    Any input would be very appreciated.

  2. Destin is definitely a fantastic place to get a "beach fix!" South Texas and the Hill Country offer a beautiful aspect of Texas that is relatively humidity free. I'm glad you enjoyed my post!

  3. Greet Job friend. Destin is a fantastic city in Florida for enjoyment. It has various places for to see the beautiful creation of God. Your blog is very useful on my next tour because my Uncle visited in Destin before a washington dc tours with his family. So I wish I visit in this city to enjoy the summer holidays. Thanks a lot for your informative sharing.

  4. Weldon Michelle Norris! I love your blog writing and want to appreciate to you for this invited blog. Beautiful photography! Overall destinations are amazing and worth to visit. However you let me know which season is best to visit Florida? Hope you are the best who guide me faithfully.

  5. jANI Jack can you provide me some information about the Washington dc tours? I have planned a tour of Washington dc during summer but before leaving there I want to know the complete information about this area. What’s the best transportation of this area for travelling one place to another? Hope you’ll reply soon.