November 06, 2013 12:00 PM

When he’s not building sand castles with his two daughters or catching Gulf-fresh fish for grilling at dinnertime, Justin Moore likes to do something he never used to try at the beach: nothing at all. “I’ve learned to be able to just chill out and relax,” says the Arkansas native, who grew up vacationing in the Florida Panhandle with his family. “Six, seven years ago, I couldn’t do that. Now I love doing that! I appreciate it. I don’t know if it means I’m getting old or what.”

At 29, the singer-songwriter is just getting warmed up. But with the release of his third album, Off the Beaten Path, and an upcoming 57-city tour, Moore is more grateful than ever for his piece of seaside R&R. After a few months of looking, this spring he and his wife of six years, Kate, 30, bought a sunny second home in Destin, Fla., with hopes of turning it into a family retreat for their daughters Ella, 3, and Kennedy, who turns 2 in November, as well as visiting grandparents, siblings and cousins. “It’s like they say: When you get a truck, you don’t know how many friends you have until they need you to move something,” says the singer. “I think that’s probably going to be the same with the beach house. But that’s okay!”

The area has special meaning for Moore and his wife, who met as high school seniors on a trip to nearby Panama City in 2002. “We just really love it here,” he says. “There’s a lot to do for kids, which five years ago wouldn’t have mattered to us. But now it does.” Among the family’s favorite pastimes: watching the sunset over the Gulf from their balcony and indulging in their own fresh catch. “I’ve literally eaten fish here 20 minutes after it was swimming around in the water,” he says. “It’s difficult to get really good seafood up in Arkansas. That’s a big thing for us.” Moore himself likes to tackle much of the cooking, and the home’s open kitchen was one of its main draws. “When I saw the layout of the kitchen, I said, ‘I’m sold!'” he says. “I’m a big cook. We spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and it was set up for that.”

One thing he’s not keen on handling himself: pool-cleaning duty. When they were house hunting, “I said, ‘I will not have a pool!’ Because dear old Dad is the one who has to take care of the pool. It ain’t Mom and the kids!” (Confession: “We finally broke down and got a pool guy.”)

Looking forward to spending his off-tour days in Destin this winter, Moore says he especially cherishes the downime with his daughters. “When we come here, I don’t have to pick up a phone or a guitar,” he says. “The girls think of the beach house as ‘Daddy’s home.’ They don’t have to share me down here.”

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