Livin’ Like a Local – Local Recommendations

LIVIN’ LIKE A LOCAL! Easy Vacation Services’ recommendations:

Local restaurants we recommend & where we eat:

  • The Gulf – Okaloosa Island – New! Great outdoor dining, drinks & fun! Right on the Bay.
  • Sushi – Harbor Docks – Destin – best ever!  BE sure to sit at the Sushi Bar. They actually ship all their fish regionally…. yum!
  • Italian – Giovani’s 189 – little more upscale and just over the bridge (under the bridge) in Fort Walton – EXCELLENT Italian food & wine!  Usually pretty busy and closes early in the winter/cooler months, so go before 8:00pm. Sometimes they have live music & they have a great deck! One of our favorites 🙂 Closed Monday
  • Tail Fins in Destin on the Harbor Walk – 4 story restaurant and bar right on the water with FABULOUS view, service and good food! TVs, music and a seagull’s view 😉
  • Stewby’s – Seafood Shanty – in Fort Walton. NO view, not much seating, order at the window, always a line, nothing fancy, locals favorite. EXCELLENT fried shrimp and seafood!
  • Breakfast – Asagio Skillet is on the island (next to Helen Back) and they only do breakfast. It’s relatively okay, but the atmosphere is dingy.  The same people own the Crab Island Cafe in the Wyndham (right next door) and they have a standard breakfast (again nothing fancy, but its decent).
  • Clemenzas – In Fort Walton. Excellent pizza & upscale Italian. Good wine list. No view and located in a shopping mall, but totally worth it 🙂
  • The Wyndham (next door) also has a small Tiki Bar (The Manatee Grill) that is open in season. Manatee Grill – what you would expect at a “snack bar”, but they have an excellent Mahi Sandwich. They have a restaurant also…. It’s okay food, but not what I would recommend.
  • Props Brewery – just over the bridge (in the Publix shopping center) – great craft beer, bar food, burgers and sometimes music. They now have a TapRoom in Mary Esther.
  • SwizzleStick – locals bar INSIDE the Best Western. TINY, but all locals and live music. You can walk – by beach or sidewalk. No food, just drinks. They have a small Tiki Bar outside by the pool in season, but again, no food.
  • World Famous AJs – dancing and partying all night! – In Destin. Host of the Destin Fishing Rodeo! AWESOME outdoor seating/deck with amazing Jumbotron for FOOTBALL!
  • THE NEW location AJs Shanty now open on Okaloosa Island!!!! Oysters, burgers, etc. You passed it on your way in…
  • Rockin Tacos – The Boardwalk (at the top of the Island) – one of our favorites! Really good Mexican food, but even BETTER view and drinks! We go here EVERY time we are on the Island.
  • Coffee Maas – downtown locals hipster coffee shop. Patio out back.
  • Burrito del Sol – Excellent Mexican food with a groovy atmosphere. Very Casual.
  • Marina Café – Destin – upscale fine dining with a FABULOUS view & wine list.
  • TradeWinds – Niceville – RESERVATIONS only. Limited hours. Wonderful Italian!

A few others worth mentioning:

  • Ali’s Bistro (Ft Walton)
  • Boshamps (Destin) – awesome deck& a little more upscale
  • The Boathouse (for oysters)
  • McGuires (Destin)
  • Donut Hole (several locations)
  • Taste (Ft Walton) – Tapas and wine bar.  GREAT weekend brunch
  • *Anglers (on the Island) – over priced, and just okay food, but on the pier (you can walk) and they have bottomless mimosas on Sundays 🙂 Good for families.
  • KC’s Sand Bar (Ft Walton) – TOTAL locals place. Great drink prices, live music, outdoors.


  • The beach! Nothing beats the sugar white sand and the warm Gulf! There are paddleboards & Kayaks available for rent right from our beach service.
  • Stroll downtown Fort Walton Beach! Great restaurants, art galleries, boutiques, etc. Lots of “local” art and flair 🙂
  • Beach portraits! – Couples or families – your beach vacation memories to last a lifetime! We recommend Marcia at Gulf Reflections – call early to book! 850-863-2288 – – we use her and several of our guests have raved about her 🙂
  • Painting With a Twist – Perfect break from the beach!
  • HarborWalk is in Destin and it is cool to stroll along – lots of shops & restaurants and charter boats- right on the water (touristy, but fun 🙂 Usually special events, fireworks, etc. Check our Facebook page or our Twitter for upcoming events!
  • Wild Willys Adventure Island is cool for the kids & they have good pizza 🙂
  • Okaloosa Island Pier – great view!
  • New! Putt-Putt open on the Island – tiny, but close by!
  • Fishing – literally some of the best shore, charter, bay and Gulf fishing in the country!
  • Golf – Shalimar Pointe Golf & Tennis – 850-651-1416 –
  • Golf – Fort Walton Beach Club – 850-833-9525 –
  • Massages & Spa – A Day Away – right on Okaloosa Island – 850-362-6263 –
  • Boats & boat rentals – Adventure Marina – right at the top of Okaloosa Island – bait shop, fuel, service, storage (wet slips & yard) – 850-243-5721 – com
  • Water Sports – Power Up Water Sports – right on Okaloosa Island – jet skis, paddleboards, pontoon rentals, kayaks, etc – 850-461-1034Water Sports – Power Up Water Sports – right on Okaloosa Island – jet skis, paddleboards, pontoon rentals, kayaks, etc – 850-461-1034 –
  • XLKites – – 850-243-5483 – Kite Surfing
  • Bob’s Bicycles – – 850-243-5856 – for local rides, bike maintenance, repair, etc.
  • Surf Shop Dog – 850-226-8019 – no website, but on Facebook. Right over the bridge.
  • Gulfarium – – 850-243-9046 – on Okaloosa Island – Dolphin shows! Great for the kiddos!
  • Run With It – – Local running store. Tuesday evening drop-in 5K runs with free beer! They also sponsor and host numerous races throughout the year.

Places where we DON’T go (either food & service are yucky OR too touristy and over-priced): Old Bay Steamer (on the Island), High Tide (on the Island), Crab Trap (on the Island), Fudpuckers (on the Island), Margaritaville (Destin), Harry Ts (Destin), Floyds (on the Island), Sea Land downtown Fort Walton, Shrimp Basket (everywhere), Louisiana Lagniappe (Destin), Dewey Destin Seafood (the little one is cool,  under the Destin Bridge)


There is ALWAYS something going on down here! Here some extra notable events, if you can ever make plans to attend, these are worth your time:

  • Destin Fishing Rodeo! – October 1- 31st – Every day there are fish weigh-ins, live music, arts, crafts and lots of locals! (This is the event we wait for ALL year!)
  • Billy Bow Legs – Pirate Festival – Usually the first weekend in June
  • Shrimp Festival – usually the opening of the Fishing Rodeo – First weekend in October
  • Numerous fishing tournaments
  • And dozens of festivals, concerts, races, etc!

Lastly, you don’t have to wait in line at the grocery store! Publix delivers!  Use Instacart – Use the zip code 32548. The address to your unit is on your refrigerator and/or your Welcome Document 🙂 They also have an app. Free Delivery for new orders 🙂

Please let us know if we missed anything you are interested in…we lived here for 7 years and love it!

Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest & Twitter…..we are ALWAYS posting about the cool things happening!!

Toes in the sand,

CareySue & Capt. Paul


Easy Vacation Services