Southern Star Dolphin Cruise is a family-friendly experience offered in Destin, Florida, taking guests on a two-hour excursion to learn about the wonders of the Emerald Coast and delight in the pods of dolphins jumping above the waves beside the boat.
Few animals are as majestic to encounter in person as Atlantic Coastal bottlenose dolphins. Luckily, for people spending time in Destin on Florida’s Emerald Coast, these strong, peaceful, creatures are in abundance just off the coast. Locally owned and operated, Southern Star Dolphin Cruises are known for their family-friendly excursions into the Gulf of Mexico, during which pods of dolphins swim up alongside the boat and put on a playful display in the waves. The comfortable two-hour cruises, which take place on 80-foot double-decker glass-bottom boats, are a fun way to kick back and relax on the bright green water and enjoy one of nature’s greatest wonders.
What Makes It Great
Designed to cater to families and laid-back groups of dolphin watchers, the Southern Star cruise departs six days a week, three to four times per day, into the Gulf of Mexico with up to 149 people on board. Popular due to both word of mouth and being featured on CNN’s Earth Matters, National Geographic’s Earth Watch and multiple travel publications, the cruise puts passengers up close and personal with the many dolphins that inhabit the emerald green waters of the Destin-Fort Walton Beach area.
On days when the gulf’s waters are too choppy, never fear. The cruise diverts to Choctawhatchee Bay, where the ride is smoother and dolphins still frolic alongside the boat. To enhance the experience, light meals, snacks and non-alcoholic beverages are available in the galley (alcohol may be brought on=board as long as it isn’t in a glass container), and the captain plays island music to set the mood of the trip. The boat crew takes the time to educate passengers on all things dolphin-related, heightening your understanding and appreciation for them when they appear in the waves nearby. If there are children on board, they’re often given an opportunity to “drive” the boat and become a “Junior Captain”—a moment they’re sure to remember well into adulthood.
Who is Going to Love It
If you want to observe and interact with some of the Emerald Coast’s most treasured neighbors in a relaxing cruise where all you have to do is sit back and enjoy, this two-hour excursion is sure to please. Beginning with a tour of Destin Harbor, during which you’re given food to feed the seabirds, the captain then guides the glass-bottom boat into the mouth of the Gulf of Mexico, where dolphins respond to the claps and cheers of crew members encouraging them to jump, frolic and ride the waves just yards away. Anyone with an appreciation for these graceful creatures will enjoy the narrated experience, likely learning something new as you take in all the action.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Look for the red ticket booth to the left of Margaritaville at HarborWalk Village Marina, a quarter of a mile from the Destin Bridge. Parking is available at HarborWalk Village, in the Emerald Grande parking garage, and across the highway at Destin Community Center (next to Whataburger).
It’s advisable to arrive an hour before your cruise time in order to park and pick up tickets. Boarding begins 30 minutes before the cruise departs. Reservations are recommended at least 48 hours in advance, and it’s wise to bring sunscreen year-round and a jacket in colder months.