The city is located on a peninsula separating the Gulf of Mexico from Choctawhatchee Bay. The peninsula was originally a barrier island. Hurricanes and sea level changes gradually connected it to the mainland. In the 1940s, it technically became an island again with the completion of the Choctawhatchee-West Bay Canal.
Agriculture was eventually introduced, and there are still signs of this early inhabitation in the area. Members of the Fort Walton Culture built a ceremonial mound in Fort Walton Beach.
Destin is near several other cities in the region. The city of Fort Walton Beach is located to the west at the inlet of Santa Rosa Sound into Choctawhatchee Bay. North of Destin, across the bay is Niceville, with the Mid-Bay Bridge linking the two by road. Panama City (to the east) and Pensacola (to the west) are each about 50 miles (80 km) away.
The white beaches and emerald waters of the Destin area draw many tourists. Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection estimates that more than 80 percent of the Emerald Coast’s 4.5 million yearly visitors travel to the region to visit Destin. Visitors can charter fishing vessels from the harbor, and there are 12 beach access points in the city. Among the access points is Henderson Beach State Recreation Area. A portion of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, the Okaloosa Day Use Area, is just across East Pass on Santa Rosa Island.
Several events also take place throughout the year as well. For the month of October, the annual Destin Fishing Rodeo draws anglers to Destin each year since 1948. Also in the month of October is the Destin Seafood Festival, where fresh seafood and local artists gather for one weekend every October.