The Destin History and Fishing Museum honors the legacy of Destin, Florida, known as the “luckiest fishing village in the world.” Over 5,000 square feet of exhibit space at the museum present the history of Destin and its trajectory from a small fishing village to one of the world’s biggest tourist destinations. Exhibits begin with the history of the Native Americans who inhabited the area, and follow through to the development of the village and the present day.
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Each exhibit tells a story with a combination of historical artifacts, photographs, and documents. Gone but Not Forgotten is a genealogical exhibit that traces the history of the founding families of Destin and allows visitors to do some of their own research as well. Over 75 mounted fish showcase the local catch and explain the science behind why fishing in Destin has been so prolific. Additional science-themed exhibits explain why the sand in Destin is white. The Rodeo Gallery seats up to 50 visitors and is used for presentations and the display of fishing videos. The Rodeo Fishbench is a new exhibit featuring scientific descriptions of the fish species caught in the annual tournament. The Destin Rodeo has been a yearly event in the area since 1948 and was instrumental in the growth of the town and its reputation as a fishing destination, as well as helping to coin the term “the luckiest fishing village.” Locals continue to debate whether this term was in honor of the amount and size of the fish caught, or due to the size of the early Rodeo prizes, which in the 1950s included a full set of kitchen appliances and even a small plot of land. A preserved 12-foot American alligator is a popular exhibit for photo opportunities. Outdoor exhibits include the historic seine boat, the Primrose, and a seine fishing net. A seine boat deploys a seine net for fishing, whereby the net hangs vertically in the water weighed down by weights at the bottom edge of the net. The boats were used primarily in the early 1900s. The Primrose was the last seine boat to be constructed in Destin. A mullet boat, the Lil Jimmy, is located on the campus of the museum. The 20-foot long boat belonged to local resident “Lil Jimmy” Shirah and was donated by his son Jim. The boat is one of the last examples of its kind used to fish mullet. Visitors can also see the original Destin post office, out of use since 1951, a handsomely restored single-room building complete with original mail slots. A small “Footprints in the Sand” memorial walkway begins at the museum.
History: The Destin History and Fishing Museum, a non-profit organization, opened in October of 2005. The museum expanded with the addition of outdoor exhibits in 2015. Local resident Matt Ronk restored both the Primrose seine boat and the Lil Jimmy mullet boat for the outdoor exhibits. The museum is currently in the midst of Project 100 Fish Mounts, with a goal to expand their collection from 75 to 100 by the year 2018. Species on the high priority wish list include grouper, alligator gar, bull shark, and triggerfish. A “wanted” poster is made available as a challenge to local fishermen who might wish to donate their catch to the museum. Other 2017 plans include the creation of a hands-on children’s exhibit and the addition of a commercial fishing exhibit. The museum’s current director, Kathy Marler Blue, is herself a descendant of one of the first families of Destin.
Ongoing Programs and Education: The museum can be visited via 45-minute self-guided audio tours or docent-led tours. Scavenger hunt programs are available for all ages. Group tours are available and may be centered on specific topics of interest.
Past and Future Exhibits: March is Florida Archeology Month and events at the Destin Museum included a series of lectures from Florida archeologists about their work and findings in the Northwest Florida region. Other events at the museum have included a book signing with local historian Hank Klein, who wrote Destin’s Founding Father: The Untold Story of Leonard Destin.
What’s Nearby: Additional things to do in Destin include a visit to the white sand beaches, a walk along the boardwalk, or a harbor tour aboard a charter boat and, of course, fishing. Destin is considered one of the world’s best destinations for salt-water angling.
108 Stahlman Avenue, Destin, FL 32541, Phone: 850-837-6611