Fort Walton Beach, Florida, is a vibrant coastal community with plenty of attractions to keep visitors busy. There are many outdoor activities to enjoy in the area, including fishing, swimming, and hiking. The city also has various museums and historical sites to explore.
If you’re looking for an adventure, Fort Walton Beach is the perfect place to visit. This visitors guide will give you a glimpse of all that Fort Walton Beach offers.
The Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island
The Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island is a favorite local attraction for anyone visiting the Emerald Coast. The boardwalk is one of the best places to enjoy the beautiful Florida coastline, with great views of the Gulf of Mexico.
It is also a great place to people watch, as residents and visitors enjoy the sunny weather and laid-back atmosphere. The boardwalk is home to many shops and restaurants, making it the perfect place to spend a day or evening.
If you are looking for a spot to grab a bite to eat after a day at the beach or want to pick up some souvenirs, the Okaloosa Island Boardwalk is a family-friendly place to explore.
Henderson Beach State Park
Located in neighboring Destin, Florida, Henderson Beach State Park is a fantastic spot for anyone spending time in the area. The park offers sugar-white sand beaches and a nature trail that winds through shifting dunes and local coastal vegetation.
Camping, fishing, and hiking are popular activities at Henderson Beach. The campground has 60 campsites for tents or RVs, with back-in and pull-through sites. Each site has water and electric hookups but doesn’t have sewer connections.
Playing in the waves and building sandcastles are popular beach activities. With its location on the Emerald Coast, Henderson Beach State Park offers some of the best coastal views in Florida. Henderson Beach State Park is also a great place to kick back, relax and read a book.
Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park
Let me introduce you to Magnolia, an albino American alligator. Magnolia is just one of the remarkable marine animals you can visit at Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park in northwest Florida. This popular tourist destination is home to many creatures, including dolphins, sea lions, stingrays, and more.
Visitors can experience the park in various ways, from attending educational shows and feedings to getting up close and personal with dolphins. You can even go snorkeling with the stingrays.
Make sure you check out the dolphin show, which is worth the price of admission. Gulfarium has group rates and also hosts birthday parties. General admission tickets for non-Florida residents are $25.95 for adults and $17.95 for kids.
Big Kahuna’s Water Adventure Park
The Destin-Fort Walton area is full of fun things to do. If you are looking for a way to escape the heat, Big Kahuna’s is the perfect place to cool off, where there is a water park and an adventure park.
On the water park side, there is a lazy river for those who want to enjoy a relaxing float, or thrill-seekers can test their nerves on the towering slides. With names like Cobra Twister, Jumanji, Honolulu Half Pipe, and Kowabunga Racer, what’s not to love?
The adventure park has a Sky Coaster and a mini golf course. The park is open seasonally, so ensure it will be open during your stay before you go. They also offer event packages for birthday parties, group, and corporate events.
Big Kahuna’s is a great way to keep the whole family entertained while visiting the Emerald Coast.
Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival
Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival is an annual family-friendly event in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. The festival offers visitors a fun-filled day of pirate activities for kids and adults, including a parade, arts and crafts, and live entertainment.
Visitors will enjoy plenty of food and drinks, including pirate-themed cocktails. The festival pays homage to the local legend of Billy Bowlegs, an 18th-century pirate who pillaged the Florida panhandle.
Today, the event is a popular tourist attraction that draws people from all over. Check the calendar for exact dates, as it tends to vary yearly.
Fort Walton Beach is an excellent place for water sports lovers. Kayaking, paddle boarding, jet skiing, and boating are popular activities.
No gear? No problem. Local rental companies will show up with a fully loaded kayak trailer so you can head out for a paddle with the whole family.
If jet skis or parasailing are more your speed, there are a lot of opportunities to conquer some waves or take in a birds-eye view of the area. Another option is renting a pontoon boat to experience the Gulf of Mexico up close. You might get to see dolphins playing in your wake.
Indian Temple Mound Museum
The Indian Temple Mound Museum is an excellent place for anyone interested in the history and culture of the Southeast. The museum is home to an extensive collection of artifacts from early settlers and local pirates.
In addition, the museum offers a variety of educational programs and events, making it an ideal destination for children and adults. The Heritage Park and Cultural Center house this museum and three others. Admission is affordable, at just $5 + tax for adults, and gives you access to all four museums.
Looking to perfect your swing on the Emerald Coast? Then you’ll want to head to one of the many great golf courses in the Fort Walton Beach area. The Fort Walton Beach Golf Club offers two public golf courses, perfect for players of all skill levels.
Emerald Bay Club in Destin has excellent views of the bay and plenty of water features to test your golf game. When you finish your round, check out the full-service pro shop or have a bite to eat at The Grille overlooking the 18th green.
There’s nothing like playing a round of golf in one of America’s pristine beach destinations, and Fort Walton Beach delivers.
Emerald Coast Science Center
Emerald Coast Science Center is a great place to learn about science and technology. They offer programs for kids and adults and have fun exhibits about robotics, space, and more.
The staff is friendly and knowledgeable and always happy to answer any questions. In addition, the center is clean and well-organized, with lots of opportunities to learn something new.
The science center is open Wednesday through Saturday. Tickets are just $12 for adults and $10 for kids. So if you are looking for an affordable, family-friendly activity in Fort Walton Beach, the Emerald Coast Science Center is a great place to spend some time.
Fort Walton Beach’s next-door neighbor, Destin, is known as the “world’s luckiest fishing village,” so you know that fishing is a huge part of the local culture. A very popular place to go fishing is The Island Pier, formerly known as the Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier in Fort Walton Beach.
It costs $2 to walk on the pier and $8 to fish. Even if you don’t fish from the pier, you might see sharks, dolphins, and turtles there, which makes the experience worth the price of admission.
Another option for anglers is to take a fishing trip through one of the local charter companies. You can book a half-day or full-day deep-sea fishing trip; they will provide everything you need.
Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone
Let your inner child run wild at Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone. Wild Willy’s has indoor and outdoor activities and sells a package for each. This family-friendly park has go-karts, laser tag, mini golf, an arcade, and more.
They have various pricing options. You can buy individual activities, or the indoor and outdoor packages are $49.99 each. Visitors can also buy the Around Wild Willy’s package, including indoor and outdoor activities, for $89.99.
If you’re looking for a day trip to explore the local area, you can’t go wrong with a trip to Pensacola, Destin, Crab Island, or Panama City.
Pensacola is home to the Blue Angels and white sandy beaches. The beautiful drive from Fort Walton to Pensacola travels along the Santa Rosa Sound and passes through Navarre beach.
Destin, Florida, is known for its clear emerald waters and white sand beaches. In addition, Crab Island is a must-see; it’s a floating party with food, drink, and music. It’s the perfect place to relax and soak up the sun.
Further east is Panama City. Panama City Beach, which is considered the “spring break capital,” is a great place to experience the beautiful emerald-green waters of the Gulf Coast.
Places To Stay in Fort Walton Beach
There are plenty of great places to stay when visiting Fort Walton Beach, including beach resorts and vacation rentals.
Wyndham Garden is a great option if you’re looking for a beachfront hotel. This hotel is located on Santa Rosa Boulevard, offers direct beach access, and includes an outdoor pool and hot tub. Visitors can sit beachside or poolside – whatever fits the bill.
The Island Resort
The Island Resort is another excellent option, offering suites with beautiful ocean views. There’s also an outdoor pool, a fitness center, and a business center.
If you are interested in a beach condo, Waterscape is a great choice. Waterscape has oceanfront units with balconies or condos that overlook the pool. Visitors can spend the day lounging in beach chairs and watching beautiful nighttime sunsets.
Tthe former Best Western is undergoing an extensive renovation and is rebranding to Beal House Destin-Fort Walton Beachfront, part of the Tapestry Collection by Hilton. The Beal House’s new identity mixes contemporary aesthetics with a healthy dose of history.
“The name honors the legacy of Dr. James Hartley Beal, a fascinating man of many accomplishments,” says Todd Turner, CEO of OTO Development. “Dr. Beal was an early citizen of Fort Walton Beach whose vision continues to impact the community today.”
The six-story Beal House will comprise 100 guest rooms — 60 with oceanfront balconies — as well as a fitness center, outdoor pool and direct beach access. An onsite restaurant/bar will be called The Remedy, another nod to Dr. Beal, and will specialize in “Coastal Fresh with a Dash of Cajun.” The venue will serve everything from morning coffee to late-night cocktails, with a dinner menu centered around locally sourced seafood and a bar menu heavy on martinis.
Beal House Destin-Fort Walton Beachfront, part of the Tapestry Collection by Hilton, will be located at 380 Santa Rosa Blvd. in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. The property is located less than one mile from the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Convention Center, the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park and the Okaloosa Island Boardwalk; it’s part of a strong drive-to market that’s popular with leisure travelers while also catering to military and government guests with proximity to Eglin Airforce Base, Hurlburt Field and private-sector defense companies.
Places To Eat in Fort Walton Beach
There are plenty of options in Fort Walton Beach when it’s time to eat. One spot that you don’t want to miss is The Shack. They have a wide variety of food options, including seafood and bar food. The Shack is the perfect place to go if you’re looking for a casual meal with friends.
Another great option in Fort Walton Beach is Stewby’s Seafood Shanty. They have a great selection of seafood, and their prices are very reasonable.
There are plenty of fun things to do in Fort Walton Beach, and this blog post highlighted some of the best. Whether you’re looking for outdoor activities, a family vacation, or a romantic getaway, there’s something for everyone in this dynamic coastal town.
This post originally appeared on Savoteur.
Steve is the owner of Paddle About, a blog that's all about helping people get out and enjoy nature. He loves to kayak, camp, hike, and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not out exploring the great outdoors, Steve enjoys writing about his adventures and sharing tips for getting the most out of your outdoor experiences. He has a lot of interesting stories to share, and he's always happy to help others get more out of life.