Oyster knows what travelers look for in hotels. When we review properties in person around the world, we evaluate how every feature stacks up against the competition, from the rooms to the pools to the restaurants. So if you’re planning a family getaway and need a place to start, you’ve come to the right place. Take a look at our expert top picks for kid-friendly hotels in the Florida Panhandle and get inspired!
The Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort in Miramar Beach is a pretty, sprawling property with a total of 1,600 rooms. It is organized like a little town that can be broken down into four resorts and 30 separate neighborhoods -- each with different decor and price range, but all feature attractive rooms with upscale decor. Depending on the size of their group and budget, guests can choose between a standard hotel room, condo, villa, or town home. In addition to a village and market full of shops, restaurants, and entertainment, this resort is brimming with recreational activities that bring the Sandestin to the top of our kid-friendly list: 15 tennis courts, 19 pools, a kids' club, four golf courses, and over seven miles of beachfront.
The WaterColor Inn & Resort is reminiscent of its name, with beach-y whites, blues, and light greens dominating the color scheme throughout the luxurious lobby and rooms. The inn offers an airy and relaxing atmosphere, and sits right on a beautiful private beach. It's part of a larger resort community that's packed with amenities (but not quite as many as the Sandestin), including four restaurants, water sports, seven pools (one just for kids), free bike rentals, a kids' camp, and a long wooden pathway leading to the beach.
The first hotel to open under the Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville brand, the Margaritaville Beach Hotel offers a relaxed, tropical atmosphere right on a beautiful stretch of sandy coastline. The hotel's white and blue color palette, wicker furnishings, and palm trees add to the beachy atmosphere, as do the seasonal live entertainment, and a poolside Tiki bar. Rooms are sophisticated, clean, and airy with huge balconies, flat-screen TVs, and free Internet. The sweeping views of the white sand beach and Gulf of Mexico, viewable throughout the property and from the sleek outdoor pool, are a highlight. It attracts more couples than families, it's one of the nicest beachfront options for the kids. Rooms with two queen beds and cribs are available.
This 276-room, condo-style property located right on the sand in Panama City Beach is extremely kid-friendly. Beyond the bright colors and fun animal paintings, this resort also features an interactive water park, kids' club, arcade with mini bowling alley, and fun lazy river. Each of the cheerful, homey condos -- some of which can sleep up to 10 people -- offer kitchens, washer/dryers, and balconies with gorgeous views of the Gulf of Mexico.
Portofino Island Resort and Spa offers a total of five Mediterranean-inspired towers with two- and three-bedroom condo units. All rooms have balconies with great views over the beaches to the Gulf of Mexico or Santa Rosa Sound. Convenient perks in the condos include fully equipped kitchens and washer/dryers. Each tower has its own outdoor pool and the resort offers a long list of water and land sports, as well as a free dolphin cruise and a floating water park. While there is no direct beach access -- the beach is across a street -- and it does not have a kids' club, its many on-site amenities including three restaurants help make it a kid-friendly property.
As the name hints, the Shores of Panama by Oaseas Resorts sits right on the lovely white sands of Panama City Beach. Each of the 796 rooms offers balconies with beautiful ocean views, a full-size kitchen, and washer/dryer. A huge pool deck features a sprawling free-form pool and tall tropical palm trees, providing a tranquil feel despite the resort's size. There are special activities here for kids including face painting, movie nights, and Rock Band tournaments (although there is no kids' club).
The massive Emerald Grande at HarborWalk Village is a significant presence in the Destin skyline. It's perched above the shopping, dining, and entertainment destination HarborWalk Village, and offers great views of Destin Harbor. Spacious condos have balconies, full kitchens, and laundry facilities -- attracting families looking for space -- but decor can vary widely between units. Kid-friendly perks include a funky-shaped outdoor pool, a game room, and a nautical-themed playground, but the hotel does not have direct beach access (though it is right across the street).
Renovated in early 2014, the 216-room Four Points Sheraton Destin - Ft. Walton Beach on the Emerald Coast beachfront is a true kid-friendly hotel with plenty of appeal for adults. Room are spacious, with modern decor, free bottled water, and beach towels. With two heated outdoor pools, a shallow kid-dedicated splash pool, free on-site games such as ping-pong and beach volleyball, and direct access to the beach, this hotel is well-equipped to handle family members big and small. Bonus for summertime guests: the hotel has daily kid activities (magic shows, face painting, and more) every Tuesday through Friday.
Palmetto Inn and Suites is located right on the beach, near fun parks and attractions for families with young kids. The family-friendly, upper-middle-range hotel has 122 big rooms spread over seven floors; beachside rooms have views of the Gulf of Mexico. There's a great beach with a children's play area equipped with toys for toddlers, a game room with arcade games, and two swimming pools and a hot tub, all of which are kept in immaculate shape.
A solid mid-range choice for a beachfront, family-friendly stay in the Destin area, the 80-room Hidden Dunes Beach & Tennis Resort is on the main road near restaurants and attractions, but it’s still a quiet and peaceful setting with a private beach and three pools. Three pools and whirlpools are located throughout the resort, and there's also a basketball court with lighting for nighttime games, a top-notch tennis complex with six clay courts and a pro shop, plus there are scheduled children’s activities and babysitting is available.
Part of the 52-acre TOPS'L Beach & Racquet Resort, TOPS'L Tides is a mid-range condo tower located off the main road into Destin, bordered by the Gulf of Mexico and a nature preserve. The property includes a gorgeous beach, three pools, large fitness and tennis centers, and two restaurants. There is a good amount on offer for the many families that flock here, though. A poolside thatched-roof tiki bar serves food and drinks throughout the day, and there's a casual indoor dining area with ceiling fans for guests to escape the midday sun. From there, it’s just a short walk to the flat, sandy beach, which is clean and raked daily. There are plenty of supervised kid-friendly activities including weekly “dive-in" movies during warmer months.
The three-pearl, 235-unit TOPS'L Beach and Racquet Club RQ is a quiet and well-maintained resort community adjacent to a large nature preserve. It offers impressive amenities for families and couples alike, including three pools, large fitness and tennis centers, a private beach, and two restaurants, one of which has a beachside tiki bar. Supervised children’s activities are offered several times weekly, including some free events like poolside movies. Babysitting can also be arranged.