If you are looking for a laid-back road trip filled with beautiful sandy beaches, rich history and delicious food, look no further. The trip from Dallas to Destin will take you from the heart of historic Texas to Florida's Emerald Coast through iconic cities and charming small towns.
The 1,110-mile road trip from Dallas to Destin takes about 18.5 hours to drive. Key sites include Houston, Austin, Gulfport, Biloxi, the Texas State Capitol, the Alamo, Johnson Space Center, the French Quarter in New Orleans and Bay St. Louis.
Your adventurous side will not be disappointed since this road trip also offers tons of outdoor activities, including fishing, boating, golfing, and zip lining. Keep reading to explore all the things to see and do along our favorite routes as well as where to stop and the best time to travel.
How far is Destin from Dallas, and how long will the road trip take?
|The Coastal Route||1,110 miles||18 hours 35 minutes|
|The Inland Route||750 miles||13 hours 10 minutes|
The Coastal Route from Dallas to Destin covers 1,106 miles and takes about 18.5 hours and five minutes without stops.
If you're short on time, try the Inland Route, which covers 751 miles in just 13 hours and 10 minutes if you drive direct.
We recommend taking at least three days to make the journey, but if you really want to soak in the culture and history of the region, give yourself a week to explore.
Best road trip route from Dallas to Destin
The Coastal Route showcases some of Texas' most famous cities and takes you through New Orleans and other gems of the Gulf coast before arriving in Destin on Florida's Emerald Coast.
This route is super scenic and laden with culture, music, and good food. If you've got the time, this route makes for a memorable journey.
But if you're in a hurry to dip your toes in the white sand and emerald waters of Destin's amazing beaches, the Inland Route is the fastest route to get you there and there is still plenty of culture and history to scoop up along the way!
The Coastal Route
Leaving Dallas, head south on Interstate 35 (I-35) South toward Austin, Texas' capital and home to a vibrant music scene. Continue on the interstate south to San Antonio to explore its famed River Walk and the Alamo. Head East on I-10 until you reach Houston.
If you'd like to make a stop at some of the beautiful beaches on the way, then you can take a detour south about an hour to Galveston to explore its 30-plus miles of beaches, 14 museums, and 20 art galleries.
From Houston, head straight for the music, food, and history of “Big Easy,” as locals call New Orleans. Hug the coast on I-90 East as you explore the coastal Mississippi towns of Bay St. Louis, Pass Christian, Gulfport, and Biloxi.
Hop onto I-10 and cross into Alabama to check out Mobile, Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and the rest of its amazing coastline. Follow 292 East on into Florida and drive through Pensacola. Keep following Florida's Emerald coast until you reach the white sand beaches of Destin.
The Inland Route
Take I-30 East out of Dallas to Tyler, which is home to the Texas Rose Festival and known as the rose capital of the United States. Hop on I-20 East, crossing into Louisiana and check out the riverboat casinos in Shreveport on the Texas/Louisiana border.
Continue on I-20 East, crossing into Mississippi until you reach the state's capital of Jackson, which is steeped in civil rights history. Retrace the steps of civil rights freedom fighters before heading south to De Soto National Forest to stretch your legs amongst the vast expanses of winding rural roads and greenery.
From De Soto National Forest, drop south to cross into Alabama and head to Mobile and then follow the same routing as on the Coastal Route toward Destin.
Best places to stop between Dallas and Destin
Whether you choose the meandering Coastal Route or the more direct Inland Route, you will want to make time to stop and soak in your surroundings. Below are a few of our favorite places to stay where you can both recharge and delight in culture and history.
Experience the “Big Easy”
The “Big Easy” is one of a kind with its rich history, unique festivities, incredible music and food scenes. No trip along the Gulf Coast would be complete without stopping to experience New Orleans, which is about three-quarters of the way to Destin.
Dripping with French influence and Creole and Cajun culture, New Orleans is famous for its food (you must try the Beignets at Cafe Du Monde!), music (jazz and blues abound), and the architecture and party atmosphere of its French Quarter.
Wander the historic Garden District with its stunning houses with ornate balconies spilling over with flowers and vines. To double up on the true NOLA experience, rest your legs while enjoying the sights from the St. Charles Streetcar.
Stay at the Royal Sonesta New Orleans and people watch from one of the intricate balconies overlooking iconic Bourbon Street, soak in the outdoor pool set amidst the lush garden in the hotel's enclosed courtyard, and enjoy the on-site jazz club, cocktail bar, oyster bar, café, and restaurant.
Located in the heart of the French Quarter, the Royal Sonesta New Orleans's historic building will make you feel as though you've stepped back in time. From here you can easily walk to New Orleans' main sights.
New Orleans is also especially known for its two-month celebration of Mardi Gras, which culminates with a big parade each year in late February or early March. Music lovers will enjoy Big Easy's annual Jazz Festival, which takes place each year in late April/early May.
Trace Civil Rights History in Jackson
Jackson is five hours and 20 minutes from Destin, making it roughly the halfway point for the Inland Route. The capital of Mississippi, Jackson, is steeped in civil rights history and a perfect stop to explore a journey through time.
Retrace the steps of civil right freedom fighters along the Mississippi Freedom Trail, which runs through the city, and visit some of the civil rights movement's most famous sights. Jackson is home to pivotal civil rights landmarks like the Medgar Evers Home Museum and the Mississippi State Capitol Building.
The Westin Jackson is the perfect jumping-off point to explore the city since it is within walking distance of the city's most famous sights and local dining. This four-star hotel has everything a road-tripper needs to relax and recuperate.
After re-energizing, you can take a dip in the fantastic indoor pool, work a sweat in the fitness center, or pamper yourself at the spa. There is also a bar, and restaurant on-site, so make sure to sample the offerings before heading out to explore the historic town.
Check out a free bike from the hotel to cruise around town or visit the many nearby attractions on foot. The Mississippi Coliseum is a short walk away and you will be able to visit the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, which is a few blocks away from the property.
Where to stay when you reach Destin
Destin's emerald waters and white sand beaches will have you mesmerized. While you're there, stay at the Henderson Beach Resort. You won't want to leave this coastal chic four-star resort. The architecture, color palette, and furniture will leave you wanting swatches to replicate its cozy feel in your own home.
Soak in the sun at two meandering resort-style pools, which include a lazy river. Wander along pristine white sand at the hotel's private beach. Enjoy the full-service on-site spa, fitness center, fire pit, bars, and three restaurants.
While in Destin, stroll around the shops and restaurants at HarborWalk Village, have a picnic at one of the covered pavilions next door to the resort at Henderson Beach State Park, enjoy a dolphin-watching cruise, and – if you're up for it – don't miss the chance to check out the party atmosphere and floating bars and restaurants at Crab Island!
Things to see on a road trip from Dallas to Destin
Whichever route you choose, adventure awaits! Here are some of our favorite sights and experiences to check out along the way:
The Coastal Route
- Austin, Texas - The capital of Texas, Austin is known for its renowned for its vibrant music scene, including the annual Austin City Limits which draws music lovers from around the world every October. Don't miss the bat watching under the Congress Avenue Bridge!
- Texas State Capitol - Visit this beautiful 19th century building, which was once the tallest capitol building in the United States.
- LBJ Presidential Library - One of 14 presidential libraries run by the National Archives, the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library showcases the life and presidency of the 36th President of the United States.
- San Antonio, Texas - Home to the Alamo, you will fall in love with San Antonio's rich history and even richer Tex-Mex cuisine. Stroll down the famed River Walk and enjoy excellent dining and shopping along this picturesque outdoor promenade.
- The Alamo - Though it is best known as the site where the Texans defeated the Mexicans in the 1836 Battle of the Alamo, a pivotal event in the Texas Revolution, this stone garrison dates back to 1718 and has been controlled by six different nations since it was built.
- Houston, Texas - Beyond its reputation for space flight, Houston is teeming with cultural and culinary opportunities, including its legendary Texas BBQ.
- Johnson Space Center - “Houston, we have a problem.” Space aficionados will be enthralled by seeing NASA's Historic Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center, which was on the receiving end of this statement during the 1970 Apollo 13 mission.
- Galveston, Texas - Kick off your Gulf Coast tour with over 30 miles of beaches, 14 museums, and 20 art galleries.
- New Orleans - Dripping with French influence and Creole and Cajun culture, New Orleans is famous for its food (you must try the Beignets at Cafe Du Monde!), music (jazz and blues abound), and the architecture and party atmosphere of its French Quarter.
- National WWII Museum - This New Orleans-based museum is incredibly immersive and does an excellent job of bringing the history of World War II to life. Visitors of all ages will enjoy the exhibits, which include riding on a PT boat and walking through the jungles of the South Pacific.
- NOLA's Garden District - This historic neighborhood features stunning houses with ornate balconies spilling over with flowers and vines. To double up on the true NOLA experience, rest your legs while enjoying the sights from the St. Charles Streetcar.
- The French Quarter – Located on the banks of the Mississippi River, the architecture, music, nightlife, and food of the French Quarter is a must for any trip to New Orleans.
- Jackson Square/St. Louis Cathedral - Jackson Square is a great place to sit and people watch or take in an impromptu jazz band while exploring the French Quarter. Pro Tip: Grab coffee and beignets from Café Du Monde to enjoy in the square.
- Bay St. Louis, Mississippi - Voted one of the best places to live in Mississippi, Bay St. Louis is a quiet seaside town with a calm beach front where you can peacefully enjoy white sand beaches, art galleries, antique shopping, golf, and fishing without throngs of tourists.
- Pass Christian, Mississippi - Known as “The Pass” to locals, this laid-back coastal town is packed with historic homes and sweeping oak trees.
- Long Beach, Mississippi - This hidden gem offers amazing dining, serene beaches, and a bike-friendly downtown.
- Gulfport, Mississippi - Enjoy an array of outdoor adventures, including fishing and zip lining, charter a boat to explore neighboring islands, relax on the white sand beaches, and stroll the bars and restaurants of Gulfport's entertainment district.
- Biloxi, Mississippi - Enjoy casinos, resorts, championship golf, and historic sites amidst calm waters and sandy beaches.
The Inland Route
- Tyler, Texas - Home to the Texas Rose Festival, Tyler is known as the Rose Capital of the United States. Visit the stunning Tyler Rose Garden, a jaw-dropping 14 acres of roses that reach their peak in early November, during your visit!
- Shreveport, Louisiana - Located on the Texas/Louisiana border, Shreveport is known for its riverboat casinos but is also home to several history and science museums and a great small aquarium.
- Louisiana State Exhibit Museum - Admission is free at this museum, whose excellent dioramas showcase Louisiana's history and art in a unique, round 1930s era building.
- Barksdale Global Power Museum - Military history aficionados and aircraft enthusiasts alike will love the battle exhibits and aircraft at this museum. Book your trip in advance since you will need to complete an online background check to get access since the museum is on a U.S. Air Force military base.
- Jackson, Mississippi - The capital of Mississippi, Jackson is steeped in civil rights history. Retrace the steps of civil right freedom fighters along the Mississippi Freedom Trail, which runs through the city, and visit some of the civil rights movement's most famous sights.
- Mississippi Civil Rights Museum - Learn about how the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement shaped the course of U.S. history at this powerful, moving, and interactive museum. Pro tip: Admission is free on Sundays! While you're there, check out the Museum of Mississippi History, which shares the building with the Civil Rights Museum.
- Mississippi State Capitol - Styled after the U.S. Capitol building, the Mississippi State Capitol was made famous as the rallying point for the 1966 “March Against Fear,” during which 20,000 people gathered to hear Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr speak.
- Medgar Evers Home - Tour the 1960's era home of Medgar and Myrlie Evers to learn about the work of these civil rights activists. Run by the National Park Service, the home normally offers guided tours but check before visiting to see if it is operating.
- Mississippi Museum of Natural Sciences - Check out Mississippi's animals, both past and present, see over 200 living species at the giant aquarium, and explore two miles of nature trails at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Sciences.
- De Soto National Forest - A great place to stretch your legs and take a break from a long drive. Enjoy winding rural roads and plenty of space for camping and picnicking.
On Both Routes
- Mobile, Alabama - You might not think of amazing beaches when you think of Alabama, but one visit to Mobile will set you straight! Mobile packs a punch with amazing beaches and rich historical offerings, including the WWII-era USS Alabama battleship.
- Gulf Shores/Orange Beach, Alabama - Both beach towns offer pristine white sand beaches and emerald waters without the crowds of tourists that you'll find elsewhere. If you're looking for a quiet place to relax, these towns have it all!
- Pensacola, Florida - Enjoy excellent fishing and boating in this low-key beach town that is also home to the U.S. Navy's Flight Demonstration Squadron, better known as the Blue Angels. Check out their Air Show calendar so you don't miss their dazzling stunts and formations.
Best time to go on a road trip from Dallas to Destin
Summer is peak season in Destin. Highs average around 88 degrees Fahrenheit between June and August. Watch out for hurricane season in August though as conditions can change rapidly.
Destin is a year-round destination, but cooler winter temperatures mean you'll be doing more walking on the beach than swimming in the ocean so plan accordingly.
That said, winter is a great time to have Destin (relatively) to yourself. You can still enjoy the peaceful beach feeling that the shore offers despite the cooler temperatures. Highs range between 60-68 degrees from January through March.
Spring and fall are excellent times to visit so you can take advantage of nice weather and lower prices. The weather can vary quite a bit though so bear in mind that a cool spell could mean a pivot to more land-based activities.
Highs average around 75 degrees Fahrenheit in April and May and 68 to 86 degrees from September to November.
September is the secret gem of the season, with summer-like temps enduring for most of the months and highs in the mid-80s. October is festival season with the annual Destin Seafood Festival, Harvest Wine and Food Festival, Baytowne Warf Beer Fest, and Destin Fishing Rodeo!