So, one of the first things I noticed when I moved here from the Mid-West was the intense and copious amount of sea themed décor, businesses, and activities that exist in the area. The ocean’s influence is everywhere. Even when you’re miles away from it, it’s there… on a wall or sign…trying to Jedi mind trick you into visiting the beach. it’s inevitable that at one point or another anyone visiting Destin is going to be drawn to the water. For some, this simply means laying down on the sand and soaking in the sun rays. However, I’m aware that a lot of our readers won’t be satisfied until they get their feet wet, and try something a little more adventurous. So, for this installment of the Is It Worth It? Series, I will be experiencing different attractions in Destin. Hopefully catch a glimpse of some dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico too.
Before we go off on our cetacean inspired little adventure, let’s cover some of the basics:
Cost: These cruises vary in price depending on the company, area, party size, type of boat used, and time of day. Sunset/6:00-6:30 tends to be the most expensive time slot, so naturally that’s the one we chose. I made this choice mainly based on reviews and the assurance of the reservation agent that said dolphins were likeliest to be active during this period. (Though she also assured me that they were also very active through every other part of the day. So, go ahead and book for an earlier time if you have kids who have early bed times, if you just prefer the sun, or if you have something going on later in the day.)
*Company We Went With: Trip Shock/Olin Marler’s Dolphin Watch and Destin History Cruise. (The Boat was the “Hannah”, for those who wish to know.)
*Price Per Ticket: $26 for Adult $24 for Senior; *Note: You may need to bring an extra $10 for parking, if you decide to park in/near to the Harbor Walk Village. (This is a necessary step if you have anyone in your party who is/are unable to walk long(ish) distances or otherwise have mobility issues.
**What To Bring: Something to drink, Snacks, Comfy Clothes, Camera (Waterproof if possible.). SUNGLASSES!! (It will be bright for the majority of the time spent on the boat.) Possibly a hat. Definitely sunblock. If you don’t bring, or forget to bring, something to eat/drink, the crew also sells sodas and snacks starting at $1. (This may differ from other companies, so call and ask if there’s any doubt.)
***Also, note: If you want to do the decent thing and tip the crew at the end of your “voyage”, you will need to bring along whatever you can afford/deem appropriate. There was at least one sign notifying the passengers that the crew works for tips. I gave what I could, and in the future plan to include the tip in my expense expectations/budget. After all, it’s the crew that man the boat and allow you to safely go dolphin watching. (It’s also a crew member that has to jump in and rescue anyone who has the unfortunate luck of finding themselves overboard. So, just consider, is all I’m saying.)
How It Went:
So, my first bit of advice is to give yourself time, and queue up early. This will give you first crack at choosing the best seats. For those of you who get sea sick or experience motion sickness: I’d go with the middle of the boat. To those of you for whom this is not a problem: Try to find a seat in the front or the back. (The front was my overall favorite and provided very clear views. The best part of sitting in the front, in my opinion, was just feeling the wind, sun, and movement of the boat. It was very relaxing. I will say, however, that the back provided the most close-up view out of all the dolphin sightings. This may have just been a coincidence, but it was close enough for me to notice the dolphin in question do a double tap with it’s tail fin.)
The next thing I will say, is that you WILL see some dolphins if your trip ends up being anything like mine. I was actually surprised how quickly we spotted our first group. We saw dolphins within 10 minutes of leaving the harbor and it definitely wasn’t the last time. We spotted multiple groups and individuals. I lost count at seven different specific points in the trip. So, the crew definitely lived up to their promise in that regard. Sadly, we didn’t see any other forms of marine life. And, for all the sightings that were packed into the boat ride, it felt too short. It was a full hour and a half, and the sun was setting by the time we pulled in. I would have loved to have spent more time on the water. To recount the basic order of events: We traveled along the harbor while hearing a brief but entertaining facts about the Destin area. Then we went into short drive to the Gulf and just spent our time cruising in, around, and to areas where dolphins were likeliest to be active. We didn’t see any big flips or jumps, but we did see plenty of surfacing. We saw adults, adolescents, and even a baby. The atmosphere was really fun. The guests on the boat were encouraged to make noise and engage with each other and the dolphins. The crew were friendly, the guests were laid back, and the dolphins were present. It was actually a really great experience. Which leads me to the final part of this article:
If you have any interest in trying these tours out, I say “Go For It!” It was worth the money and time. And I left wanting more.