Bathed by the balmy waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the sugary sands of Fort Walton Beach are located on Florida's Emerald Coast. Continuously occupied for more than 12,000 years, this stunning Western Panhandle community attracts visitors who want to relax surrounded by towering palm trees, fragrant magnolias and panoramic views of the Gulf. From skydiving to golf and nature trails, both adults and kids can discover a playground here.
Pristine beaches and azure waters blend with leisure and cultural activities that include shopping, dining, exciting nightlife and historic sites at Fort Walton Beach.
Getting out on the water is easy when there are fishing, boating and water sports options off the coast. Climb aboard a Waverunner or strap on a parasail and enjoy a bird's-eye view of the spectacular land and seascape. Or head offshore to observe manatees, dolphins and sea turtles in their natural habitat.
Beautiful flora and fauna greet visitors who choose to visit nature parks like Blackwater River State Park or Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou. Fort Walton also boasts several challenging golf courses for both novice and experienced players seeking a challenging round. For something a little different, visitors can skateboard, rollerblade or race on a professionally-maintained BMX track at the Emerald Coast Dirt & Vert extreme sports complex.
The Heritage Park and Cultural Center is a complex of four museums and a national historic landmark. In addition to the Indian Temple Mound Museum, you can visit the Fort Walton Temple Mound, Garnier Post Office Museum and Camp Walton Schoolhouse Museum, as well as the Civil War Exhibit Building. The museums chronicle the legacies of various cultures, from prehistoric times to the present.
The Emerald Coast Science Center features interactive displays that enable guests to explore the natural world around them. Children can interact with exhibits about the human body, color, light and wind. The Air Force Armaments Museum examines aviation warfare from the canvas biplanes of World War I to today's high-tech stealth aircraft.
The Uptown Shopping District features more than 60 local and nationally-recognized retailers and eateries. It also sponsors a variety of special events throughout the year. The historic downtown area boasts unique shops, restaurants and galleries as well as stores that sell antiques and other collectibles, should you want an extra special souvenir. Local dining establishments offer a wide selection of fresh seafood dishes featuring crawfish, oysters and crab, as well as shrimp and grouper. In addition to Cajun-Creole and Tex-Mex, eateries serve Japanese, Thai, Greek and Korean cuisine.
Dine al fresco on waterfront seating to experience a majestic sunset. When the sun goes down, the Emerald Coast nightlife begins to shine. From harbor and beachfront gathering spots to comedy and dance clubs, plus theaters and live music venues, there is plenty of excitement for night owls.
The Winter Guest Fest is a tradeshow featuring displays related to the snowbird lifestyle. The parades, floats and festivities of the Mardi Gras on the Island celebration bring New Orleans-style flamboyance to the beach. Those looking to experience the music, dance and culture of the area's Native American people should head to the Musical Echoes Festival, while the Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival honors the community's buccaneering past.
Fort Walton Beach features a humid subtropical climate that produces long hot summers and short mild winters that rarely generate snow, ice or freezing temperatures. While the beach attracts visitors year-round, the busiest times are spring break, summer and the winter snowbird season. Spring and fall are warm, short and less crowded.
It is not surprising that resorts, inns and hotels in this area center around Fort Walton beaches. From condominiums with balcony views across the Mexican Gulf to resorts like Marina Bay where pools, hot tubs and spa facilities ensure you have everything for a pampered vacation, you can splash out or stick to a budget by cooking your own food and enjoying tasty outdoor barbeques.
Fort Walton Beach is served by the nearby Northwest Florida Regional Airport (VPS). Situated approximately 10 miles from downtown, VPS offers nonstop commuter services to various airline hubs throughout the United States. Guests of Fort Walton Beach hotels can also reach their accommodations by utilizing US Route 98 from Pensacola as well as US Route 331, which connects the beach community with Interstate 10 to the north. Once in the city, use the scenic seaside Miracle Strip Parkway or the Okaloosa County Transit Trolley to experience the serene ambience and thrilling family-friendly attractions on the Emerald Coast.