Fort Walton Beach
By enjoyFloridaBeaches.com Staff January 6, 2017
Located in a region of the Florida panhandle known as the Emerald Coast, Fort Walton Beach is a wonderful beach town on the Gulf Coast. This family destination is loved by beachgoers of all ages and is popular for its emerald-green waters and powder-white sand.
Of course, no trip to Fort Walton Beach is complete without spending time on the beach. So, here are three beaches worth considering while visiting this laid-back Gulf community.
Wayside Park is adjacent to the fishing pier and features picnic tables, a playground, sand volleyball, and restrooms with changing rooms.
John C. Beasly Park features 2 dune walkovers to the Gulf of Mexico, 2 large pavilions, picnic tables, an octagonal platform, restrooms with changing rooms, and showers to rinse off the salt and sand. During peak season, there you can rent beach chairs, umbrellas, skim boards, and belly boards in the park, and purchase gifts from a small gift shop.
In nearby Destin, James Lee Park features 9 dune walkovers, 3 pavilions, picnic tables, a playground, and restrooms with changing rooms.
Besides the beach, Fort Walton Beach features numerous outdoor activities to enjoy with family and friends.
If you love to ride a bike, there are several trails, bike paths, and established bike routes on public roads to cycle throughout Fort Walton Beach. And if you like water activities, you can surf, kayak, ride jet skis, and parasail.
Ecotourism is also very popular in this eco-friendly beach town and can be experienced in a number of ways, including educational beach walks. The ecotourism hot spots in Fort Walton Beach include John Beasley Park, Gulf Island National Seashore, Veterans Park at Baywalk, Ross Marler Park, Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier, Indian Temple Mound Museum and Historic Buildings, and Sound Park.
If you like to see the sights from the water, cruising around the Emerald Coast is fun, exciting, and relaxing.
The Cattywampus catamaran features a unique, eco-friendly look at Fort Walton Beach and the surrounding area. You can choose from the dolphin cruise, seashell safari cruise, sunset cruise, and weekly fireworks cruise to find the perfect experience for your family.
In nearby Destin, Florida, the Buccaneer Pirate Cruise offers pirate-theme cruises, including family cruises geared toward children, adult cruises, wedding cruises, private cruises and more.
When you want to spend some time indoors and enjoy cultural activities, there are local museums that appeal to all ages. Here are a few of the museums to consider during your stay in Fort Walton Beach.
Emerald Coast Science Center
The Emerald Coast Science Center is located in downtown Fort Walton Beach and boasts interactive exhibits on human anatomy, physics, and other scientific principles.
The demonstrations, such as the Hall of Life and Under the Hood & Wind Tunnel, are designed to encourage families to explore science together.
Air Force Armament Museum
The Air Force Armament Museum is a must-see attraction while in Fort Walton Beach.
As an educational and cultural landmark, the museum has over 15,000 artifacts, including 29 full-sized airplanes on display and hundreds of pieces of armaments. Whether you are an aviation fanatic or just curious, the museum is bound to amaze the whole family. Plus, admittance to the museum is free of charge.
Heritage Park and Cultural Center
The Heritage Park and Cultural Center includes the Indian Temple Mound Museum, Camp Walton Schoolhouse Museum, Garnier Post Office Museum, Fort Walton Temple Mound, and the Civil War Exhibit Building.
From the original Native American settlements to the Civil War-era to early American life, you can learn about the region’s rich history at the Heritage Park and Cultural Center. And when you are interested in switching it up a bit, the center also offers a trail to follow Native American history throughout the area.
There’s a lot to do in Fort Walton Beach, with events all year round. Two of the most popular annual events are the Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival and Dog Daze.
Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival
The annual Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival honors the local pirate legend, Billy Bowlegs, with Mardi Gras style activities consisting of a parade, fireworks, and associated celebrations.
Locals dress up in “pirate” attire and watch a dramatic reenactment of Capt. Billy and his Krewe invade the city, while the Fort Walton Beach mayor works hard to protect his fair city and citizens.
The Dog Daze festival is a day of fun for friends and families with the dogs they love.
Over 1,000 dogs with their families gather at the Fort Walton Beach Landing Park for a day of canine-themed arts and crafts, performances, parades, races, and more.
Accommodations in Fort Walton Beach
Fort Walton Beach is a destination town filled with options for accommodations.
If you would like a resort experience during your stay, consider the Holiday Inn Resort. This on-the-beach hotel has a luxury pool that includes a lazy river, cascading waterfall, and hot tub, as well as a poolside tiki bar, family-friendly rooms, poolside movies, interactive shows, and many more amenities.
For budget-conscious travelers, the Days Inn offers a pool, free breakfast, and fantastic location to begin a day’s worth of adventure.
For travelers considering a longer stay, and perhaps wanting the comforts and privacy of a beach home, Fort Walton Beach has numerous vacation rentals that can be easily located online.