Last week, we took the kids to a family reunion in Destin, Florida. For those who've never been (as I hadn't prior to last week), here are some observations from my experiences.
- Highway 98, the main arterial road that runs up and down the peninsula, is seemingly always crowded. This is especially true on Saturday and Sunday. We sent some folks on a grocery run to a Sam's Club when we arrived on Saturday. It was 16 miles away, and it took them nearly an hour to get there. The rental office was five miles from the bridge where we crossed to the peninsula, and it took nearly 20 minutes to cover that distance.
- The sand (at least on Crystal Beach, which is where we stayed) is simply astonishing. Pure white and very soft, with nary a hard shell to poke you in the foot.
- The water temp near the surface was 80F+, and very pleasant. Waves are generally small, but large enough for the kids to enjoy some boogie boarding. We went scuba diving one day (though Destin isn't the greatest of dive destinations), doing two relatively short dives (as they were somewhat deep). One decent picture at right.
The water temp was about 73F to 77F at 60 to 85 feet; we wore 3mm wet suits, which kept us warm enough for the two dives.
- Deep sea fishing trips are worth it if you enjoy fishing--some family members went out one day, about three hours offshore, and had a great day. I'm not one who enjoys fishing all that much, so I didn't go.
- We played golf on two courses, Regatta Bay and Kelly Plantation. Both are highly recommended, though they are costly--I'd not be able to afford them on a regular basis, but for two rounds of vacation golf, it was doable. These two courses are located to each side of the Destin end of the Mid Bay Bridge, and were only about a mile from our rental home. I particularly liked hole eight at Regatta Bay and hole four at Kelly Plantation.
Get an early tee time to keep things somewhat reasonable from a heat perspective, though it will still be very hot when done.
- Did I mention it's warm there in July? Also quite humid. The highs ran from 88F to 92F, with high humidity. We went to the beach in the morning, and then hung out by the pool (which was in the shade) in the afternoon. Unless you really like it hot, mid-afternoon in Destin is a time to find some shade and cool water.
- Due to the insipid pricing model of the airline industry, we actually flew into New Orleans instead of Ft. Walton Beach. We paid $200 less per person, easily covering the cost of two hotel room nights in New Orleans. (We were going to need a rental car anyway, so that was a sunk cost.)
The drive on I-10 from New Orleans to Destin is pleasant, with one glaring exception: Mobile, Alabama. Both times we drove through Mobile, we waited a longggg time to get through the George Wallace tunnel that crosses the water in mid-town Mobile. It was particularly ugly heading east, where many lanes condense to two for the tunnel--it took nearly an hour to go but a few miles. Headed west, there aren't as many lanes to vanish, and it seemed a bit smoother.
If I ever drive I-10 through Mobile again, I'll make sure to find another way around, even if it takes longer--anything to keep moving and not sit stuck in traffic. Both times, by the way, were on Saturdays, so I can't blame the delays on rush hour.
Travel was mostly trouble-free, right until the final leg from Houston to Portland. We got off the plane from New Orleans, and found (hooray!) that our Portland flight was leaving from the same gate. At least, it was going to leave from the same gate until (noooooo!) a baggage handler drove his truck into the cargo door, damaging it enough that it wouldn't close properly. That led to a gate change (the other end of the concourse, of course), a plane change (to a smaller plane, so many folks were left behind), and a two-hour delay.
Still, though, that was our only delay across four flights, and the kids were great on each flight--can't ask for much more than that! Overall, we had a great week, and the kids had a blast playing with their cousins for a full week.