Last year our good friends from our California ward, whom had recently moved to Texas, stayed with us for the weekend. While Brad and Sarah were in town we planned a fun long weekend trip together where each couple would drive 9 hours to meet half way. We were super happy because halfway from our house to Houston, Texas is the gorgeous beach town of Destin, found in the panhandle of Florida. We planned our trip to be over Labor day weekend so our husbands wouldn't have to take days off work.
Once it was planned Dallas and I had kind of forgotten about it. Our summer was so crazy with traveling out to see family, that our Destin trip really snuck up on us. I remember a week before we were to leave looking at the calendar and getting right to work lining things up for our road trip. We have good friends, the Stoker family, in Gainesville (the halfway point from our house to Destin) so we thought it was the perfect excuse to stay with them for the night. They were so kind to let us crash at their place, feed us yummy food, and stay up late chatting. We love the Stoker so much!
It was really cute to see all the boys bathing, splashing, and being crazy together. I am madly in love with little Dru's eyes. That kid can see right into my soul!
We arrived in Destin in the early afternoon and checked into our condo. Brad and Sarah found a great condo for all of us to share. It worked out perfectly since it had our own rooms and private bathrooms, kitchen, dining room, and living room. It was also only yards away from the GORGEOUS beach!
After settling into the condo and eating a quick bite, we all walked down to the beach. I love the picture of Daxton and Shawn riding on their daddy's shoulders.
We felt immediately at home and fell in love with the soft sand of the gulf coast of Florida. If I'm remembering correctly it may have been Leah and Shawn's first times at the beach. You can tell from everyone's faces that we LOVED it!
Love these cute pics I snapped of Sarah and Leah playing in the waves. I love Sarah so much! What a dear friend she is to me.
Daxton immediately started to rip his clothes off and run into the waves. I don't know why we thought it would just be an evening stroll along the water. I mean that kid is a fish!
He had also borrowed some of Leah's beads. It totally looked like he was ready for Mardi Gras or something.
The waves were bigger than expected so we had to watch Dax closely, but he mostly just wanted to stay along the beach with the waves crashing at his ankles. The sunset cast beautiful colors across the clouds and water.
Daxton loved getting hit with the waves. He kept sitting down right where they would crash against his belly and then up to his face. He would stand up and laugh and then sit right back down.
Such a crazy kid!
I couldn't get over how soft, beautiful, and clean the sand was there. It reminded me of the softness we had felt in Clearwater, so maybe it's a Gulf of Mexico thing. We had so much fun that night playing in the waves and building sand castles. We all came home covered in sand and wet to the bone. Oh how I love my beach time!
The next day we actually ended up sleeping in a little which was a nice surprise. But right after breakfast we were out on the beach by 10am. The waves were a bit too strong for Daxton on his own, but he did love playing along the shoreline again. The water was absolutely stunning with such gorgeous colors.
Brad and Sarah's kids had such different sleep schedules from Daxton that we oddly didn't spend too much time during the day with each other. We tended to overlap for an hour here or there in-between naps of food. That's why I was so glad we were all staying in the same place together so we were eating meals together and staying up late watching movies together.
Love this picture of Leah and Daxton playing in the sand.
Dallas, Daxton, and I ended up staying on the beach for almost 5 hours straight that day. Daxton made good friends with another cute little girl who had some fun shovels. When they went in for lunch, they left all their things outside and said we could use anything we liked. Maybe I'm a bit jaded from California or something, but I just had to smile at the southern kindness that we find down here, especially in northern florida and the southern states. It has a magic in itself.
Daxton had so much fun playing with their large shovel. He would dig a hole, fill his shovel with sand, and then run it down to return to the ocean. He did this for about an hour which is probably why he was exhausted by the time we finally went inside!
Yeah, it's pretty obvious this child loves the beach!
That night we all got tickets to go on a dolphin harbor tour that left from Destin's marina. It left at 5:30 and lasted about 2.5 hours so we were able to watch the sunset on our cruise as well. I thought it was pretty awesome they let us also bring on coolers of food for our dinner as well.
The marina was gorgeous. The beginning of the tour took us through the waterway with gorgeous mansions on either sides of the shores. It reminded me of a much smaller version of Fort Lauderdale's waterways. It was very beautiful and the kids had a ton of fun watching all the different boats and birds that zipped by.
Shawn and Daxton had a blast together.
Sadly, Leah got pretty motion sick right off the bat. She snuggled with Sarah for most of the tour, but then ended up throwing up all over the top deck. We felt so bad for sweet Leah. She looked so much better after she threw up though.
Family pics as we pulled away from the pier.
The tour also took us to the main harbor and under the bridge that connects the different islands. It was so gorgeous with the sun going down and the light reflecting off the water.
He kept trying to throw his goldfish crackers off the side for the birds to eat, but the birds weren't too interested.
While in the harbor, we were able to see several different dolphin! I fully realize that I have seen a massive amount of dolphin in the wild over the course of my life throughout the world, but I still squeal with delight at each sighting. There is something so fun and magical about seeing animals in their natural environments. Dallas just sits back and laughs at me now with my obnoxious excited reactions.
Another thing that was absolutely amazing was the deep purple smack of jelly fish we floated through. Yes, a big group of jelly fish is called a smack, and yes I know I'm a total nerd for knowing that! I had never seen so many in the wild. I loved that we were on the second story of the boat and yet could still see them all perfectly. There were hundreds of them and all a rich deep purple. A Mara purple.
Midway through the tour Dallas and I took Daxton and Shawn down to meet the captain. Sarah and Brad were taking care of a sick Leah so we figured if we could get Shawn out of hair for awhile it would be helpful. Daxton was super excited about getting to steer the ship, but he was not happy about Daddy taking his picture. Afterwards, they gave him a little Captain's certificate which was pretty cute.
The sun had gone down by the time our tour finished. Sarah and Brad were eager to get back home since Leah was having such a hard time, but we were all still a bit wired. Dallas, Daxton, and I ended up exploring the lively marina shops. It was so much fun! There was live entertainment and music, great restaurants and shops, train rides, and other fun activities for people to do. Daxton chose the train ride of course. It was pretty funny to watch Daddy squish into the little caboose in the back with Dax. It was the perfect way to conclude a super fun day!
The next day Brad and Sarah wanted to relax at home and let their kids nap and get feeling better. So we figured it would be better to get out and let them have a quiet house (Daxton tends to forget his inside voice...)
We decided to check out the Gulfarium, an aquarium in the neighboring town. We were so glad we did, because it was awesome! There were so many fun exhibits with lots of different marine life to interact with and observe. Plus it was all right on the ocean! Literally the beach was our view. Can't get much better than that!
I love these pictures Dallas took of Daxton and I below. It shows our excitement for marine life perfectly.
I also loved that several of the exhibits were outside. I guess that's one of the perks of living in a tropical environment. The sharks exhibit was quite interesting. Their tank full of several nurse sharks was built in a complete diameter of a circle with an island built in the center. The water was kept at a constant current since sharks need to keep water pushing through their gills to survive.
We loved the center island with a replica of a shark cage. Daxton loved it because he wanted to climb up and down the walls. I thought it was cool to get an idea of what it would feel like to swim with sharks!
They also had several cool touch ponds and tide pool areas for kids to interact with different marine life. Daxton was really interested in the rays and horseshoe crabs.
Views from the touch pools outside...pretty gorgeous!
Daxton and I also had a ton of fun playing in the mist.
It's an absolute must in the heat and humidity of Florida living.
After a fun morning/afternoon at the Gulfarium, we drove back to Destin for a very entertaining lunch. We had seen this place called Fudpuckers (not to be confused with Fudruckers) which was also attached to a place called Gator Beach, where for a small fee you could feed gators. It was such a funny concept and so so Florida that we had to check it out.
Inside the restaurant was interesting with wall to wall covering of peoples' signatures in black sharpie marker. The food was fine and tasted like your typical beach dining.
After lunch we explored Gator Beach, let Daxton climb on all the fake gators, and watched people feed gators with fishing poles. It was quite funny and I'm so glad we ended up stopping by.
That night we had another yummy dinner with Brad and Sarah. We couldn't leave the next morning without another quick visit to the beach so we planned on taking a short stroll along the shore before bedtime. Once again I should have realized that we can't ever go to a beach without getting totally wet.
At first it started out simple with us just putting our feet in the ocean as waves crashed at our ankles, but little by little Daxton scooted further and further. Until waves were crashing at his waist. I hope I never become the type of mom who gets upset or restricts fun because they don't want their kids to get wet. How could we not let him play when he was so happy to be in the water!?
The colors of the sunset were absolutely stunning and once again reflected perfectly in the clouds and water.
The picture above, where Daxton's looking in the camera, is when he said, "Mommy play with me!" He quickly grabbed my hand and pulled me down on the sand. He sat right next to me and started laughing loudly as wave after wave crashed over us.
I'm so grateful Dallas was there to capture this moment.
It will forever be one of the sweetest experiences I've had with my little man. I hope he sees this picture someday and recognizes that his mommy loved playing by his side.
We had such a wonderful time in Destin. It was great to catch up with Brad and Sarah. I'm so grateful for Sarah's friendship and the kind example she's been to me. I only wish that they'd pack up and move to Florida so we could have many more fun adventures together!
Thanks again for the fun weekend, Reynolds family!
We love and miss you guys!
Thanks again for the fun weekend, Reynolds family!
We love and miss you guys!