Fort Walton Beach is famous for its white sand beaches
, both commercial and recreational fishing fleets, and water activities. It's not unusual to see a kite surfer or even a dolphin when you're at the beach for a day. As with many Panhandle destinations, the busiest time of the year is no doubt spring break, however the fishing
is great year 'round and the beautiful beach resorts are always welcoming. There are many golf courses and beachside parks for families to enjoy also. While you're there, be sure to visit the Emerald Coast Science Center
. It's a great place to make summer learning fun for the kids.
Things to do in Fort Walton Beach
Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island
There's something wonderfully refreshing about the Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island
, other than overlooking white sand beach and crystal clear water, is that they provide a covered picnic area right there where you can enjoy the view while you enjoy your lunch. The boardwalk is centrally located, close to many hotels and resorts on the island. The beach itself is a great place to play volleyball, with the provided nets set up, or just to relax. When you're ready to head up to the boardwalk for some lunch or shopping
, you can use the showers provided there to get the sand off. The Crab Trap
is a great place to cool off inside, but they have a great deck you can get a tropical drink or a delicious fish sandwich at and watch all the action on the beach.
At the Black Pearl
, you can get a wood fired steak, the freshest fish or shellfish the gulf has to offer, and enjoy it all in an elegant, yet casual atmosphere. In the mood to shop? Get a great island style T-shirt at or get a cool, unique kite to fly on the beach at one of the Boardwalk stores. If you'd like to try your own hand at flying, there are merchants with the things you need to take up kiteboarding.
After the sun goes down, you can dance the night away at the Swamp
or check out at one of the many concerts hosted there. If you're in the mood for being part of a crowd participation type evening, head down the boardwalk to one of our favorite bars - Howl At the Moon
. This is a bar with dueling pianos; they play what the crowd wants for tips, and the fun part is that you get to sing along!
Fort Walton Beach Pier
Officially known as the Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier
, it was first built in 1972 and was 962 ft long; and in 1998, when the current pier opened, it was lengthened to nearly a 1/4 mile at 1262 feet. The Okaloosa Island Pier is all about catching the 'big' one, and indeed some huge fish have been caught off the pier, including a Tarpon that weighed over 100 pounds and a 42 pound King Mackerel. Other fish that have been caught off the pier are Cobia, Redfish, Jack Cravelle, Pompano, Ladyfish and Bluefish. The end of the pier is shaped like an octagon which gives one the maximum fish fighting room. There is a bait and tackle shop on the pier and they even make their own rigs for kids that have no hooks in them. You can also buy snacks, sodas and other beverages too, and if you don't have a rod, you can rent one there for your day of angling. After a long, hot day, wither you're just feeding or fighting the fish, you too can get a bite at Anglers, which is conveniently at the end of the pier.
Places to Stay in Fort Walton Beach
Located very near Destin
, Fort Walton Beach has no shortage of hotels and resorts either. One to check out is the Four Points by Sheraton Destin-Fort Walton Beach, this has a sister hotel in Cocoa Beach as well as one in Orlando. You could spend a week at the Cayo Grande Suites Hotel and for the smaller budgets they have a Super8 Motel and an Econo Lodge Fort Walton Beach. If you'd like to stay on the Bay try Hermitage By The Bay.
View Fort Walton Beach Hotels »
History and Overview
Over the years, it would seem that many people have either lived in or visited Fort Walton Beach. There is archaeological evidence, such as pottery, of five different and distinct periods of Indians living there between 600-1650 A.D.. From 1500-1800 various pirates and marauders sailed the waters of Fort Walton Beach, the most infamous being Billy Bowlegs; there was also a Civil War encampment here. In fact, it was due to finding a Civil War cannon here in 1932 in an Indian mound that Fort Walton Beach got it's name. This cannon was believed to have been left by the Walton Guards who were camped here during the War, thus the name.
In 2004, the population of Fort Walton Beach was estimated to be almost 20,000 people although in recent years that number is believed to be nearer to 22,000 people. If you're a football fan, you might recognize the name Danny Wuerffel. He won the Heisman Trophy in 1996 when he was the quarterback of the University of Florida Gators; he attended Fort Walton Beach High School. With so many things to do, Money magazine named Fort Walton Beach the #10 Best Place to Live out of 300 largest metropolitan areas in America in 1997.
Okaloosa Regional Airport, located within Eglin Air Force Base, serves the area and provides non-stop service to Dallas, Chicago and eight other Southeastern cities, including Atlanta and Memphis. Over 800,000 people flew out of there in 2007 and they are hoping to break ground on new gates to expand its terminal in 2009.
The subtropical climate, mild winds and few weather extremes make Fort Walton Beach a great place to live or visit year 'round. Winters are mild, with January and February being the coolest months, and the summer is hot and sunny. The temperature stays roughly between 70-92 degrees, and the gulf waters average 80 degrees most of the year.
By Beverly Martinez-Collins – PlacesAroundFlorida.com