It stands to reason that the Florida panhandle town of Destin – self-dubbed “The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village” since the 1960s – is also home to a Gulf Coast museum dedicated to fishing.
While largely unknown and not appearing on state maps until well into the 1970s, Greek immigrants discovered Destin’s offshore treasures decades earlier in search of livelihoods. The Destin History and Fishing Museum documents and celebrates the history of those early days. Residing in the town’s original library building, it’s tucked away one block north of Highway 98 not far from the harbor entrance.
Photos, paintings, maps, and framed memorabilia beginning in the 1930s cover nearly every inch of wall space in the main rooms. Even the restrooms have original art and photographs. A massive diorama in the back room depicts the shades of turquoise water by depth, displaying taxidermy examples of at least one of each of the 50 different types of fish that make their home in the waters within 50 miles of the harbor.
Those varied depths hold a cornucopia of fish: mullet, tuna, wahoo, snapper, grouper, pompano, cobia, mackerel, and mahi-mahi. Even the elusive billfish, such as Blue or White Marlins and Sailfish, could be found nearby. Successful fishermen began by catching the fish to sell, but year by year the word got out, and one of the world’s largest charter fishing boat fleets grew into being.
Outside the building are an extensive array of exhibits, from Destin’s first Post Office building to the Primrose, one of the original wooden Greek fishing boats. It’s hard to miss the ridiculously large shark jawbone. The latter traces to the filming of Jaws II in the area in 1977 and was one of the catalysts that, finally, put Destin on the map.
Know Before You Go
The museum is a 501c3 non-profit. Children under six are free, and admission ranges from $3 - 5 per person above age six—discounts for seniors, students, and the military. The outside area also has a walkway of engraved historical information and a picnic and play area that is always open to visitors at no charge.