The city of Fort Walton Beach may not be as famous as Key West or Palm Beach, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less impressive than Florida’s more popular beach resorts. Fort Walton Beach is located on the Florida Panhandle’s Emerald Coast, just a one-hour drive from Pensacola. Although this area gets quite crowded in the summer, you won’t have to deal with huge crowds of tourists like in Daytona Beach or Panama City Beach.
One thing all visitors to Fort Walton Beach share is a passion for fresh air and good clean fun. Whether you want to practice your golf stroke, fish, or just sunbathe for hours on end, Fort Walton Beach has everything you need for optimal relaxation.
If you’re considering a trip to “The Camellia City,” please take a quick look at the rest of this article. We’ll tell you everything you need to know about this city’s major attractions, plus we’ll let you know how to get into the city and where to stay once you get there. After reading this brief guide, you’ll have all the knowledge you need to plan a delightful trip to Ft. Walton Beach.
Main Attractions In Fort Walton Beach
Of course, the main attraction in Ft. Walton Beach is, well, the beach! Both the powdery white sands and clear blue waters attract visitors who desire an authentic Florida beach experience without droves of tourists. The most popular area for beach lovers is Okaloosa Island. All around Okaloosa Island you’ll have great views of the Gulf of Mexico, Choctawhatchee Bay, and the Santa Rosa Sound. Some of the most popular activities on the island include volleyball, water sports, fishing, and even visiting sea lions.
Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park
For those looking to camp out in this region, there are a few well-preserved state parks to check out. The most popular park is the 357-acre Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park. People are welcome to fish in two designated areas within Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou: the Rocky Bayou Aquatic Preserve and Freshwater Puddin Head Lake. Campers absolutely love setting up their tents in this idyllic sand pine forest near the wetlands.
Fort Walton Beach Golf Club
Although the beach and parks are major attractions in “The Sonic City,” thousands of tourists visit this region of Florida for one reason: golf. Specifically, they travel here to play a few rounds at the highly regarded Fort Walton Beach Golf Club. This 36-hole professional golf club has two main courses called the Oaks and the Pines. Voted by many pros as one of the finest golf courses in Florida, you’ll be treated to some calming views of nearby bayous as you play a great round of golf with friends and family.
Regatta Bay Golf & Yacht Club
By the way, if you’re a serious golfer, you might be interested to know that the Regatta Bay Golf & Yacht Club is only a 25-minute drive away. Regatta Bay Golf Club has been consistently rated one of the top golf courses in the USA by leading golf authorities in Golf Digest.
Other Things To Do In Fort Walton Beach
The Fort Walton Beach Heritage Park & Cultural Center is a great place to learn about the long history of the Southeastern USA. The Indian Temple Mound Museum here has an impressive display of Native American artwork and European artifacts. But perhaps the most amazing pre-historic structure preserved in this museum is the Fort Walton Temple Mound. This is a flattop pyramid constructed between 1,000 and 1,500 AD.
A few other exhibits in the heritage park include the Camp Walton Schoolhouse Museum, the Garnier Post Office Museum, and the Civil War Exhibit Hall. All of museums have different stories to tell about the long and complicated history of Fort Walton.
After you’re done taking in all that history, why not blow off some steam by jumping out of a plane. Literally. That’s right, there are parachuting companies all around Fort Walton ready to take you up in the air and give you the thrill of your life. If you feel up to it, be sure to plan your parachuting experience well in advance just to be on the safe side.
For those visiting Fort Walton in June, you might get a chance to participate in the annual Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival. This pirate festival is considered one of the oldest in the USA dedicated to those swarthy buccaneers of yore. During the festival, pirates actually “invade” Fort Walton. They try to recruit as many locals as they can into their ranks. Who knows, this year might be the one where those nefarious pirates successfully take over the mayor’s office. You’ll only know if you plan your trip to coincide with this charming family-friendly event.
Where To Stay At Fort Walton Beach
Since Ft. Walton Beach is such a wonderful Florida retreat, you’d better believe there are plenty of hotel options for all budgets. Below, we’ll detail a few of the best options to consider while browsing resorts online.
Anyone looking for a budget resort should seriously consider the Emerald Coast Inn & Suites. The only real complaint travelers have had with this resort is that the Wi-Fi isn’t particularly strong. Otherwise, this hotel offers all the amenities you need to get by. Furthermore, it’s in a great location on Okaloosa Island. Currently, Emerald Coast Inn is the top-rated budget hotel on TripAdvisor.
A few highly reviewed mid-range hotels in Ft. Walton Beach include the Holiday Inn Resort and the Comfort Inn & Suites. Both of these hotels offer great views of the beach, and they are extremely conveniently located. The Holiday Inn is in Okaloosa Island, but the Comfort Inn is in Ft. Walton Beach proper.
The most luxurious hotels located in Okaloosa Island include the Ramada Plaza Fort Walton Beach Resort, the Best Western on the Beachfront, and the Islander by Wyndham Vacation Rentals. In particular, the Ramada Plaza is in a prime location for families and fishermen since it’s located near the island’s Fishing Pier and the dinosaur-themed Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone.
How To Get To Fort Walton Beach
The closest airport to Ft. Walton Beach is Destin – Fort Walton Beach Airport (VPS). As you could tell from the name, this is the only airport that serves the city of Ft. Walton Beach as well as nearby Destin. A few big name airlines serviced at VPS include Delta, American Eagle, and United Express. Once you arrive at the airport, you should rent a car and drive down US 98 till you reach Ft. Walton Beach. The ride should take you no longer than 15 minutes.
While most visitors to Ft. Walton Beach come strictly for sand and surf, there’s plenty more to do in this amazing city. There are tons of attractions for outdoor lovers of all ages at this all-American beach resort. Heck, we didn’t even mention the dozens of top-rated seafood restaurants you’ll most certainly want to try.
Take a few moments to research all the things you want to see and do on your Ft. Walton vacation. Once you’ve compiled your list of “must dos,” pack up your sunscreen and hop on the next plane bound for sunny Ft. Walton.