Destin….Paradise Found or Lost?

Posted on Monday, July 20th, 2015 at 7:07 pm
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Today’s blog is going to be longer than usual. The first couple of paragraphs are some of the usual day-to-day life observations about living in Destin. Then I will follow up with an essay I wrote on whether Destin is really a paradise or not.

Sunshine Cindy and I went to the harbor on Sunday. We stopped in at Crab Island Cantina to hang out for a while. Carlos was there and we got to catch up with him on the changes taking place at the Cantina. The burger bar will be opening in a few days. It’s going to be a sports bar with burgers, pizza, wings and such. It’s in the old Pat O’Brian’s spot. That will be cool as it’s a neat bar.

Their new deli is open. Carlito’s Deli is tucked behind the stage area. Carlos had a “Carlito Sub” made for us. Oh man it was awesome. Carlito’s is open daily from 11 am. They will even deliver to the beach. Anyone staying at the Emerald Grande or just visiting Harborwalk Village needs to check out Carlito’s Deli. We gave the sub 5 stars. It was that good and they were very generous with the amount of meat you get. We will be back for more!!!

I have been reporting it looked like something was going into the old Twisted Palms building next to Joe’s Crab Shack that has sat vacant for a few years. I rode my bike by the place on Sunday and it was a pile of rubble. The entire two story building has been demolished. A small strip mall will be built there. Nothing has been announced yet as to what will be going in.

When I rode my bike on Sunday I went to the beach by the Back Porch restaurant. I was disgusted to see so much trash and garbage left in the parking lot. What motivates people to just dump their trash on the ground and drive off??? Pigs….

Sunshine Cindy and I spent Friday evening at Landshark Pizza. We had a good time as Julie joined us. Steve and Ida came in as did Ken. The pizza and wings were great as always. They should be announcing a grand opening soon as they will be moving to the harbor next to the Red Door Saloon. The grand opening will be a big party as Rusty will be playing.

Speaking of Rusty we ran into him at LuLu’s on Wednesday evening. Sunshine Cindy and I were there to listen to Sunny Jim play. Rusty had his daughter with him. Rusty was impressed with Sunny Jim. Being Australian Rusty has an accent. Pointing to Sunny Jim he asked me “What’s your mates name?” You don’t usually hear that in Destin. LOL We love Rusty and his daughter was adorable. BTW…Rusty is one of the house musicians at The Boathouse Oyster Bar on the harbor.

Okay….Enough of that. Now on to:

“Destin…Paradise Found or Lost?”

About this time every year you hear people in Destin complaining. Okay, it seems like there are many people in Destin that complain about something year round but in the summer it’s about the traffic, the tourist and the fact the town is not a sleepy little fishing village anymore.

I have lived in Destin for over sixteen years now. Has it changed? Of course it has. Nothing ever stays the same…unless you live in Cleveland…nothing ever changes up there. But in Florida, if you’re not growing you’re dying. Destin is definitely not dying.

Does Destin have problems? Sure it does. Let’s start with the summer traffic. It can be a nightmare trying to get down Hwy 98 during dinner time. And don’t even think of getting on the road if it’s raining as every tourist in town leaves the beach and heads to the Commons or the Outlet Mall.

But the locals seem to forget there has always been traffic problems. I remember sitting in traffic on Hwy 98 sixteen years ago cursing the tourist then remembering I was a tourist just a few months before. I also remember seeing traffic backed up across the island from Brooks Bridge all the way to the Coast Guard Station as people were heading into Fort Walton Beach back then. That was an almost nightly event in the summer. Someone did something right to get traffic moving without adding any lanes or another bridge.

Just the other day I was talking to someone saying how surprised I was that tourist keep coming back to Destin knowing they will have to fight the traffic. He reminded me that most of the tourist who come to Destin live in big cities like Atlanta, Birmingham, New Orleans and Houston. For them this is nothing compared to what they fight on a daily basis back home. They are here on vacation and enjoying life.

What are some of the other problems taking place in Destin? Remember this is just my opinion from having lived here as long as I have. And no, I don’t have an answer for any of these issues or if they are things that just bug me! LOL 

The commercialization of Crab Island and the harbor has turned both those areas into a carnival atmosphere. There are so many vendors and buildings on Crab Island in the summer there is not much room for boats anymore. Crab Island always had a little wild-west feel to it but with all the SPORE’s (stupid people on rental equipment) out there it is now a safety hazard. Unfortunately we have had several people drown out there this year as they don’t know the dangers.

Destin has a small but aggressive group of bum’s, or as I like to call them, “Residentially Challenged Individuals.” In reality Red Dog and the others don’t bother anyone too much. My beef with them was the day one of the RCI guys rode his bike right into my parked car. Yeah, some bleeding heart group in the city thought it would be a good idea to give the bums bikes. Nothing like drunks on bikes. I guess this group thought it would help them get to a job or something.

The beaches of Destin are some of the most beautiful in the world. The only problem is locals have very little access points to get to the beaches. Then when we do find a parking spot and a place to sit in the sand there are beach vendors who think they own the beach. Some of the guys who put the chairs and umbrella’s out think they can keep anyone out of “their” beach area. Same goes for homeowners who don’t want common folk on their beach. But there is about a 20 foot area from the high water line that is open to the public where anyone can sit. I know of several times where the cops had to come out and restore the peace.

Those are a few negatives but there are so many more reasons why Destin really is a paradise.

For one thing it is still a small town and has that small town feel. Sunshine Cindy and I can’t go anywhere without running into friends we know and we love that.

Destin has the Gulf of Mexico and the bay as our backyard and our playground. With the largest charter fishing fleet in the state of Florida anyone can be catching fish in just minutes. Then we have some of the best local restaurants to cook that seafood up into delicious meals. There is nothing better than having fresh seafood served up with the Gulf as your backdrop.

One of the great things about living on the water is the number of waterfront bars and restaurants we can hang out at. Our area has some of the finest establishments as well as some great dive bars. There is someplace for everyone from high end Marina Café to the Boathouse Oyster Bar. Sunshine Cindy and I love spending time at our various bars on the water.

Back when I moved to Destin the winter season meant almost every place in town closed for the season. There were maybe one or two places that stayed open to serve the snowbirds. I remember visiting Destin one Thanksgiving and we could not find a place to eat. We finally found a Shoney’s open. Thankfully those days are long gone. Now we have places like Landshark Pizza where we can watch football games in the winter with snowbird friends.

Our area has many fine festivals and events all year long. The Emerald Grande and Harborwalk Village is an example of the growth and over commercialization of Destin but it is here and they put on many excellent events. The Mattie Kelly center in Destin is a great open air venue for concerts and shows. Each fall almost 100,000 people descend on Destin for the annual Seafood Festival. The area known as 30A is always having different types of festivals and music shows. Wine and art festivals, chili and gumbo cook-offs, songwriters showcases, poker runs…There is something for everyone to enjoy in our area.

Destin is definitely Paradise Found…We have just been found by more folks. The publicity from the oil spill and the resulting BP dollars spent on promoting the area has been a big catalyst to the boom we have seen but in reality it was Hurricane Opel that wiped out a lot of old ramshackle houses that lead to a building spike that carried on for years. So if the old geezers want to blame someone, blame Opel!

Is the current Destin for everyone? Of course not. Many old timers can’t accept the traffic and the crowds. I can’t help but think that once they got here they didn’t want anyone else to find out about this slice of paradise. Personally I embrace the changes and love my hometown…warts and all.

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