ALOHA: Once the revolving restaurant Hawaiki, Destin landmark meets wrecking ball

Jessica Coker
Work on the Destin Sands Beach Resort has been underway for about 10 months. Until recently, it the iconic tower was thought to be left standing but is now part of the remodel.

Changes are again on the horizon in Destin.

Although walls have been falling and renovations have been under way for about 10 months at the Destin Sands Beach Resort, formerly the Holiday Inn on the Beach, a new vision is taking shape — and that means the demolition of a Destin icon. 

The original renovations, which began in September of last year, called for a remodel of the current rooms within the east building, upgrading them for a more modern look. Also part of the original remodel plan was the outdoor pool area, which was said to include a lazy river in its future, private cabanas and more.

The nine-floor tower at the Destin Sands Beach Resort was not originally slated to change in the blueprints, but, according to resort general manager Joe Farley, the plans had to be adjusted.

"After renovating the tower, giving the rooms and the building the same amenities as the east building, financially it didn’t make sense," said Farley. "Demolishing the tower and building something similar is a better investment."

The reason behind tearing down the tower was simple — it had to do with updating and making the experience optimal for guests. Now, all of the rooms within the hotel will be about the same size, with two queen-sized beds or one king-sized bed. The rooms will all have fantastic views and the amenities will be more plentiful and plush.

Farley told The Log that he was a little concerned about what the reaction of both locals and tourists would be when they announced they would in fact be leveling the tower, opting to build something similar but more modern in its place.

"We announced it on our Facebook page," Farley said. "Some people are concerned about the memories they made there with their family throughout the years, but it's just a building. We're only making physical changes to the building, not emotional. We're going to do everything we can do to make sure it's the same family-orientated place it’s always been."

Standing tall since the late '60s, the Destin Sands Beach Resort — originally the Quality Inn before becoming the Holiday Inn, was once the tallest building in Destin with an impressive nine floors. But, the most impressive feature the tower once boasted was the revolving floor and restaurant, Hawaiki.

While the restaurant itself didn’t rotate, a large ring of tables on a track gave diners a 360 degree view of an area that had more beach than condos. It took about an hour to come full circle, and the concept, which was hailed as “ahead of its time” took some time getting used to.

Farley said people still ask about the revolving restaurant like it closed just yesterday, but it's been gone more than 25 years.

“If you put your purse down in the wrong place, you’d be looking for it 30 minutes later,” remembered Jean Melvin, director of the Destin Fishing and History museum,

The hotel, located at 1020 Highway 98 East in Destin is slated to open sometime in the spring of 2015, according to Farley.

"We've had families visiting us for literally decades — generations. We are working very hard to keep the history the same, while giving the place an update," Farley said.


Click here for a Log video of the demolition.

To see a brochure from the days when the building was a Quality Inn, click here.

For the definitive history on Destin's old revolving restaurant, check out this pdf.


There was plenty of disappointment to the news on The Log’s Facebook page.

Aaron Weinstock: Every Destin landmark has been destroyed... nothing left!

Kristina Previto: I thought they said they were NOT going to tear it down! Just build the new stuff all around it to save one of our last landmarks. Geez! Does no one care about the history of the Old Destin we all loved and grew up with? They are determined to turn it into just another PCB just more expensive!

Derrick Gainey:  My father-in-law spilled a lot of blood and sweat there when he built that. It's kinda sad, but progress is progress. If I could make millions by tearing it down and rebuilding, I wouldn't think twice. It's a great sign in a sluggish economy. We should all be glad to see things happening.

Sandy Polous Overton: The Green Knight statue, now this? The old Destin is officially fading way

Mike Martin: What a shame. A true piece of Destin history gone.

Kibbie Marie Finn: I am so heartbroken. I can't imagine any new building, no matter how fancy or big or modern, ever taking the place of the iconic tower. So many happy memories there and so much history... I can't imagine what the discussion was that made them decide to demolish it. If there had been a public hearing I would have protested like crazy.

David Williams: A sad day in Destin!

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