The Destin Seafood Festival is an annual event held on the first weekend of October. Tourists from all around country and locals alike flock to the Destin harbor to taste amazing food, browse through local and visiting vendor stalls, and celebrate ‘The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village.’
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When and Where:
The 2023 Destin Seafood Festival will be held on October 6th, 7th, and 8th. The opening ceremony will occur at the main stage at HarborWalk Village at 4 pm on Friday, October 6th. All festival activities will take place between the following times:
- Friday, Oct. 6th: 4 pm – 10 pm
- Saturday, Oct. 7th: 10 am – 10 pm
- Sunday, Oct. 8th: 10 am – 6 pm
This event is completely free to attend, but bring spending money to purchase delicious food and souvenirs from the many local vendors including artists, photographers, and more.
The Seafood Festival spans nearly two miles of the Destin HarborWalk. Official festival activities will be located between Heron Harbor and Harborwalk Village. Festival entrances can be found at the east and west sides of the event; check the official site for a festival map and more information.
Click the image below to view a few year old map to get an idea of where things are located and what is available. Although it’s a bit dated, this map gives you a great idea of the layout and the scale of this event along the Destin Harbor Boardwalk.
Getting into the festival is totally free, but be sure to bring extra cash to partake in the delicious food, art vendors, and kids activities. You can also consider buying VIP tickets that give you access to private seating areas and unlimited food and drinks, which are available on the official Destin Seafood Festival website.
Restaurants and Food Vendors
It wouldn’t be a seafood festival without all of the truly authentic and amazing seafood dishes that Destin is famous for. The early fall breeze carries the smell of fresh-grilled fish through the crowd; just follow the steam and you’ll find a food vendor within just a few steps. Bring your appetite with you – you’ll want to sample nearly every dish that you walk past.
Festival food is caught fresh by Destin’s fishing fleet docked in the Destin Harbor and cooked by Destin’s finest restaurants. Annual food vendors include AJ’s, Boathouse Oyster Bar, Jackudas Seafood and Sushi, and many more.
Don’t forget to check out the smaller tents, too; you’ll find artisanal treats and unique eats from local restaurants sourced throughout the state. The festival is seafood themed, but many vendors also offer barbecue, ice cream, fried delicacies, and more.
Visit the official festival website for a complete list of participating vendors as the festival date approaches.
Beautiful Arts and Crafts
When you’ve had your fill of delicious seafood, browse through the festival’s many arts and crafts booths for a take-home souvenir. Florida’s best local artists (and even many out of state artists!) drive from every part of the state to participate in this annual event. Paintings, pottery, jewelry, and gifts will all be available for purchase. Visit vendor booths to see their talented work and find the perfect piece of art to take home.
The winning artwork from the 2019 Seafood Festival Art Contest will be displayed on posters and t-shirts available for purchase at the event. The artist, Michael Seth Williams of The Drift Gallery, has been awarded a complimentary booth to display more of his beautiful artwork.
The festival draws in a surprising number of unique artists and performers from around the state. Previous festivals have included body painters, fire spinners, and other amazing performances. Stop by every booth to see what fantastic creations the artist has in store.
This video gives great insight into what you can find at the festival each and every year.
Music at the Festival
Live outdoor music will play through all three days of the festival. Listen to the best local musicians while you enjoy the event. More musicians register as the festival approaches; check the official website for a complete program.
The HarborWalk Village Main Stage is the central gathering place for the entire festival. This stage is located at the west end of the festival; simply walk past the many HarborWalk Village attractions and you won’t be able to miss it. Live music, festival announcements, and the Saturday evening fireworks show will all occur at this stage.
The northern end of the festival features two outdoor music stages at AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar. The main Jumbotron Stage is located at the front of the restaurant. Head upstairs to the Bimini Stage to hear even more live performances. These stages will be moving with music all weekend; make sure you don’t miss your favorite act.
Festival Fun for Kids
The Seafood Festival is a family-friendly event with plenty for kids to do. Bring them along to taste the seafood, look at the art, and enjoy the live music. When they get bored or tired, head on over to the Kids Zones for games and fun.
The first Kids Fun Zone is located at the East Pass Marina. This zone features pony rides and a petting zoo. There are also games and activities geared toward younger children. Your kids will love to meet some of their favorite animals while parents cool down at a nearby seating tent,
There’s also a Kids Fun Zone in HarborWalk Village. Bring your kids here to check out the rock climbing wall and a zip line that travels right over the festival crowds. Giant hamster balls and fun games will provide even more entertainment for kids of all ages.
Finally, don’t forget to bring your kids to the annual Mingo Toss on Sunday at the Royal Melvin Heritage Park. Kids can toss mingos, a local fish, at targets for a chance to win prizes.
There are plenty of places to park around the festival and cheap shuttles services to take advantage of. Decide if you want to walk up, shuttle in, or be dropped off by your favorite ride-share app. View the map below to see parking locations and decide whether you want to try to fight the traffic or walk a bit. This area is incredibly busy during the entire event, especially in the evenings, so make sure you’re planning ahead or you might get caught out in traffic instead of enjoying the festival.
- Visitors can find free parking at Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park or the Emerald Coast Centre at Bealls Plaza. A $2 per person shuttle service will take you from these locations to the festival entrance.
- Ask your ride-share to drop you off at the main festival entrance located at the Destin Fishing Fleet Marina.
- Park and walk from private or free parking locations at Heron Harbor, HarborWalk Village, or the Destin Community Center. The festival is extremely busy, so parking at these locations is not always guaranteed.
- Park at the Destin Fishing Museum for a $15 fee per car. This fee also gets you three tickets to the museum and a coupon for AJ’s.
On the map below, green dots indicate the shuttle service locations while blue dots indicate self-service parking lots.
More Attractions at HarborWalk Village
HarborWalk Village is full of great attractions and fun things to do throughout the year. During the Seafood Festival, the fun ramps up with even more restaurants, activities, and excellent coastal adventures.
Some of HarborWalk’s best attractions include both America’s Fun Spots and Amusement USA. Take your kids through the mirror maze or let them experience the thrill of a bungee trampoline. Don’t forget to try one of Amusement USA’s aqua spheres; you can walk right across the water without getting wet.
HarborWalk Village also has several opportunities to rent jet skis, go snorkeling, take a dolphin cruise, or charter a boat to go fishing on the marina. The festival will be busy, so plan ahead and reserve your spot for a beautiful ocean adventure.
Catch the Fireworks Over the Harbor
Return to the main stage at HarborWalk Village at 9 pm on Saturday to see the festival’s gorgeous fireworks show. This exciting mid-festival ceremony will be a sight to remember. Live music will play on the main stage until right before the fireworks; arrive early to find the perfect spot and listen to an excellent local performance.
Enter the Destin Fishing Rodeo
The Destin Fishing Rodeo is an annual event that lasts throughout the month of October. Daily weigh-ins happen at AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar every day in October from 10 Am am through 7 pm.
Anglers need to register for this event at least 24 hours before their first weigh-in. You don’t need to stay all month to participate; prizes are awarded on a daily, weekly, and overall basis. Register on your first day at the festival and spend the next day angling for the biggest game fish you can find.
You are welcome to fish on a private or charter boat; you can also pay a $25 entry fee to fish right off the pier bridge jetty.
The Seafood Festival is the busiest weekend in the world’s luckiest fishing village. Bring your best fishing rod; you’ll be facing plenty of competition.
Where to Stay: Hotels in Destin
There are many lovely hotels and resorts throughout the city of Destin. Check out a few of these favorite places to stay during the festival.
- The Henderson Park Inn is a premier hotel for adults only. This romantic beachfront hotel is the perfect place to spend the weekend.
- Stay at the Sea Oats Motel for a family-friendly beachfront experience.
- The Emerald Grande at HarborWalk Village puts the festival action right out your front door. Relax at this premier resort and spend every minute enjoying the festival highlights.
There are also plenty of other hotels, resorts, and inns located across Destin. Make your reservations early; rooms fill up quickly as the festival date approaches.
If you have any questions about this fun annual festival, don’t be afraid to reach out to the festival staff on Facebook or on their official website. This festival has been held for more than 40 years; come celebrate seafood at one of Florida’s most popular annual events.