Olin Marler Dolphin Cruises – Destin, Florida

What: Dolphin cruise; Where: Destin, Florida; When: Cruises run daily; reservations recommended; Cost: Adult : $25.00; Seniors (60+): $20.00; Child (4-12): $13.50; Child (3 and under): Free

Today, I am welcoming my pal Jay to Pensacola with Kids as a guest poster.  Jay and his family had the opportunity to check out the Olin Marler Dolphin Cruise a few months ago and I was so excited when he offered to do a write-up about his experience.  We haven’t had a chance to do a dolphin cruise and after reading his account and seeing the pictures, I can’t wait to schedule a tour!

We got a great deal through Groupon to drive over to Destin for the Dolphin Cruise on the Olin Marler. We called ahead and made our reservations for a morning cruise which left at 11:30 and stayed out for about two hours. The drive over was easy enough. We arrived 30 minutes early, as suggested by the staff at Olin Marler. We had enough time to find a potty for our 3-year-old and check out a guy cleaning shark jaws on the pier and then it was time to board the “Hannah Marie.”

The boat was not too crowded; plenty of places to sit/stand/lean as we headed out. There is even an indoor cabin for folks who want to stay out of the wind. As we left the harbor, the Captain introduced himself and his 3 man crew and began the narrated tour of Destin Harbor.

Olin Marler advertises its cruises as “family friendly,” and it really was. There was plenty of shade, a snack bar ($1 for chips, sodas, crackers, etc.), and the Captain and crew were very personable and answered all of our 6-year-old’s many questions. As we got out into more open water, the crew came to the back of the boat and showed the kids how they could feed popcorn to the seagulls; one took a piece right out of my hand.

We had asked, in the phone call beforehand, how certain it was that we would see dolphins and were informed that every cruise this season had seen some. Sure enough, we were soon spotting dolphins at a distance and the Captain adjusted our course to get closer. We did not just see a few isolated dolphins, we were treated to a show as 10 – 15 dolphins played and jumped around the boat for better than 30 minutes straight. The Captain continually adjusted course to keep us within a few short feet of the action and stayed on the microphone making sure we missed nothing. The kids loved it!

After a solid hour of non-stop dolphin sightings, we began heading back toward harbor. The Captain announced that the wheelhouse was open for kids to come in and steer the boat and take pictures, which we did, and once again the kids were thrilled.

The only thing I could say that would be a negative is regarding the Glass Bottom Viewing area.  The boat did have a portion that was glass-bottomed, but it did not provide any interesting viewing. Between the glass itself being thick and somewhat opaque and the water beneath it churning as the boat moved, you couldn’t really see anything at all. This did not bother me or the kids at all; however, because there was so much to see up top that we wouldn’t have wanted to be down below anyway.

Olin Marler is pretty easy to get to, but it is easy to miss the final turn-off to the harbor if you aren’t looking carefully. The harbor itself is end to end fishing charters and dolphin cruise boats. There are several seafood restaurants flanking the boats and a shopping area which looked like mostly stores that were out of our price range. We did notice; however, that almost every restaurant there advertised “Kids Eat Free” specials after 4 P.M.  

Jay McElroy is a Pensacola native who recently moved back to his home town after spending the last 15 years in California. He returned with his wife Amber, whom he met while living in Fresno, CA, and their two children: J.T. (age 6) and Jillian (age 3 ½). Jay is, happily, a stay at home dad during the summer but will be returning to work in August as a 6th grade ESE reading teacher at Workman Middle School.


  1. This looks like a good day trip 🙂
    Next time we have guests visiting from out of town, we’ll do this with them.