Ideal for anglers, sunbathers, and families on vacation, Fort Walton Beach is a popular beach resort community in the Sunshine State with a family-friendly atmosphere, complete with museums, parks, aquariums, and golf courses, in addition to sugary white sand and salty green surf.
Have as much fun here as you would at the leading vacation spots, but with fewer crowds. Get away for a stress-free Emerald Coast beach vacation, and keep your budget intact while staying in this affordable, fun seaside town.
Where is Fort Walton Beach, FL?
Located along North Florida’s shimmering Gulf Coast (also called Emerald Coast) between Pensacola and Panama City Beach - at the mouth of the Choctawhatchee Bay, Fort Walton Beach is the main route to historic, kid-friendly Pensacola to the west and the beautiful fishing village of Destin to the east. Brooks Bridge takes you over the Santa Rosa Sound to Okaloosa Island.
Family-Friendly Attractions in Fort Walton Beach
Get hands-on with robotics, wildlife, and more at the Emerald Coast Science Center, or discover the city's rich history at the Heritage Park & Cultural Center, which boasts a Civil War exhibit, Indian Temple Mount Museum, Camp Walton Schoolhouse Museum, and more. The Air Force Armament Museum displays rockets, missiles, and aircraft, perfect for children and the child at heart! The Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park is home to seals, dolphins, sea lions, and penguins. Feed a penguin a fishy meal by hand, or get up close and personal with a dolphin! Goofy Golf is perfect for little ones, or those not ready for an 18-hole course. Uptown Station is home to Central Park, which offers splash pads and water features for the kiddos, a playground, train, and family movie nights in the park on a 30-foot screen!
Restaurants and Nightlife in Fort Walton Beach
Recognized as the best pub restaurant in Fort Walton Beach, Fokkers Pub serves up excellent German fare, as well as everything from hand-tossed pizza to wings and sandwiches, all in an edgy yet relaxed atmosphere. Affordable and suitable for kids, while also catering to adults with a variety of cold beers on tap, Fokkers is a great choice for young and old alike.
If you're looking for a venue that stays open until the wee hours, give the Salty Duck a try. With over 90 American craft beers and over 35 on tap, beer aficionados and newbies alike will have no problem finding a brew that suits them. Sample a few affordably priced craft beers while you engage in some friendly competition over a game of air hockey or foosball.
Coasters is another option for late, late night socializing. Great food and local and out-of-town bands have turned this popular sports bar into one of Fort Walton Beach's go-to venues. If you want a casual environment, diverse menu options, and delicious food in ample portions, along with quality entertainment, this is your place. Try the Cajun shrimp appetizer, one of their yummy steamers, or their seafood gumbo.
The Districts of Fort Walton Beach
Fort Walton Beach has two distinct districts offering an immense variety of shopping, dining, arts, and entertainment.
The city's more eccentric boutiques are located in the Uptown Shopping District, which features more than 60 retailers and eateries. Artesano Boutique offers handcrafted art, jewelry, and apparel while De France Antiques & Flea Market offers quality antique furnishings and other items. Liquid Surf and Sail is Florida's premier watersports outfitter, and Liz Fashions offers upscale women’s swim and resort wear.
The Downtown Arts & Entertainment District boasts more boutiques, as well as waterfront parks, fine restaurants, arts, and entertainment. Treat yourself to a gourmet cupcake or a meal out at one of the diverse restaurants in this area. Paint your own souvenir at the pottery gallery, indulge in a spa day, or take in a movie. It's all possible in downtown Fort Walton Beach. And if you're in town anytime between March and September take in the Art Walk, which happens on the third Friday of every month and features local artists, food vendors, and live music.
Outdoor Recreation in Fort Walton Beach
Fort Walton Beach boasts two championship golf courses: tee off at The Pines, which features a challenging course through pine forests, or perfect your putt at The Oaks, which offers oak-lined fairways and difficult water hazards.
Take the outdoor adventure up a notch at Emerald Coast Dirt & Vert, ideal for adrenaline junkies and extreme sports enthusiasts. The facility offers a skate park and street course, a BMX racing track, rails, dirt jumps, and more for bikes, roller blades, and skateboards. Joggers and bicyclists alike will enjoy the Timpooche Trail, which offers a gravel trail along the beautiful coastline. Okaloosa Island is the most popular destination to explore the beach by car, foot, or bike. Enjoy shrimp cocktails and margaritas at The Boardwalk after a long day of boogie boarding, or drop in your line for fishing off the pier.
When you treat yourself to the vibrant, eclectic Florida panhandle, with its family-friendly attractions and thriving nightlife, as well as plentiful shopping and dining - all tailored toward the budget-minded - you'll see why Fort Walton Beach, with its small-town charm, is called the "Treasure of the Emerald Coast."
Photo credit: Steven Frame via Shutterstock