Fort Walton Beach Travel Guide

Discover the best places to visit, things to do, and where to stay in Fort Walton Beach, Florida with this comprehensive tour guide.

Introduction to Fort Walton Beach

Located in the heart of the Emerald Coast, Fort Walton Beach is a popular vacation destination for anyone looking for the perfect mix of sun, sand, and sea. This charming city in the Florida Panhandle is a paradise for nature lovers, with stunning beaches, parks, and trails that provide endless opportunities for adventure and exploration.

List of Places to Visit in Fort Walton Beach

Whether you’re looking to soak up the sun, explore the local culture, or get your adrenaline pumping, Fort Walton Beach has something for everyone. Here are some must-visit attractions in the area:

Culturally Important Attractions: Museums and Historical Places

Fort Walton Beach has a rich history and culture that is reflected in its museums and historical sites. Here are some places to visit if you want to learn more about the city’s past:

  • Indian Temple Mound Museum: This museum showcases the history and culture of the Native American tribes that once inhabited the area. Visitors can explore the temple mound, which is the largest prehistoric mound in Florida.

  • Camp Walton Schoolhouse Museum: Located in the heart of Fort Walton Beach’s historic downtown district, this museum is housed in a restored one-room schoolhouse that dates back to 1912.

  • Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park: This marine park features a variety of exhibits, shows, and interactive experiences that allow visitors to learn about the creatures that inhabit the Gulf of Mexico.

Natural Attractions of Fort Walton Beach: Outdoor Adventures and Scenic Views

Fort Walton Beach is known for its stunning natural beauty, with miles of pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and lush parks and trails. Here are some of the best places to explore the great outdoors:

  • Okaloosa Island: This scenic barrier island boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, with sugar-white sand and emerald-green waters.

  • John Beasley Park: Located on the shores of Choctawhatchee Bay, this park offers stunning views of the water and plenty of opportunities for fishing, boating, and other water sports.

  • The Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island: This waterfront promenade is lined with shops, restaurants, and attractions, and is the perfect place to take a stroll and enjoy the sea breeze.

Hiking/Biking Routes of Fort Walton Beach

One of the best ways to explore the natural beauty of Fort Walton Beach is by hiking or biking along its scenic trails and paths. Here are some of the best routes to take:

  • The Timpoochee Trail: This 18-mile paved trail runs along the coast from Miramar Beach to Dune Allen and is perfect for a leisurely bike ride or a scenic walk.

  • Blackwater River State Park: This park features miles of hiking trails that wind through lush forests, past crystal-clear springs, and over rugged terrain.

  • Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park: This park offers several nature trails that showcase the area’s unique flora and fauna, as well as stunning views of Choctawhatchee Bay.

Best Things to Do in Fort Walton Beach: Activities and Tours

Fort Walton Beach offers a wide range of activities and tours that cater to all ages and interests, from snorkeling and scuba diving to dolphin-watching and sunset cruises. Here are some of the best things to do in the area:

  • Snorkeling and Scuba Diving: The clear waters off the coast of Fort Walton Beach are home to an incredible variety of marine life, including colorful fish, sea turtles, and even shipwrecks.

  • Dolphin-Watching Tours: Visitors can take a boat tour to see these playful creatures in their natural habitat, or even swim and interact with them for a truly unforgettable experience.

  • Sunset Cruises: A sunset cruise on Choctawhatchee Bay is the perfect way to relax and take in the stunning beauty of the area, as the sky turns shades of pink, orange, and purple.

Week-Long Itinerary for Fort Walton Beach

If you’re planning a week-long trip to Fort Walton Beach, here’s a suggested itinerary:

Day Activities
1 Explore the beaches of Okaloosa Island, visit the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park
2 Take a fishing trip or boat tour on Choctawhatchee Bay, visit John Beasley Park
3 Hike or bike the Timpoochee Trail, visit Indian Temple Mound Museum
4 Go snorkeling or scuba diving, take a dolphin-watching tour
5 Visit the Camp Walton Schoolhouse Museum, stroll through the historic downtown district
6 Take a sunset cruise on Choctawhatchee Bay, enjoy dinner at one of the waterfront restaurants
7 Explore the natural beauty of Blackwater River State Park, relax on the beach

Food and Drink Scene of Fort Walton Beach

Fort Walton Beach has a vibrant food and drink scene, with a variety of local specialties and international cuisine to choose from. Here are some must-try dishes and local beverages:

Must-Try Dishes

  • Seafood: Fort Walton Beach is known for its fresh seafood, including shrimp, crab, and oysters. Try them fried, grilled, or in a seafood boil.

  • Key Lime Pie: This classic dessert is a staple of the Florida Keys, but can be found in many restaurants and bakeries throughout Fort Walton Beach.

  • Grouper Sandwich: This local delicacy features fresh grouper served on a bun with lettuce, tomato, and tartar sauce.

Local Beverages

  • Beer: Fort Walton Beach is home to several craft breweries that offer a variety of unique and flavorful beers, such as the Grayton Beer Company and the Destin Brewery.

  • Rum drinks: The area’s tropical climate and proximity to the Caribbean make rum a popular choice among locals and visitors alike. Try a classic rum punch or a fruity rum cocktail.

  • Key Lime Margarita: This refreshing twist on a classic margarita features key lime juice and local tequila for a taste of the tropics.

Where to Stay in Fort Walton Beach: Hotels, Hostels, and Guesthouses

Fort Walton Beach offers a variety of accommodation options to suit all budgets and preferences, from luxury beachfront hotels to budget-friendly hostels and guesthouses. Here are some of the best places to stay in the area:

  • Hilton Garden Inn Fort Walton Beach: This beachfront hotel offers stunning views of the Gulf of Mexico, as well as a pool, fitness center, and on-site restaurant.

  • Islander Condominiums: These fully furnished condos offer all the comforts of home, including a kitchen, living room, and private balcony with ocean views.

  • Hostel in the Sun: This budget-friendly hostel offers dormitory-style accommodation and a communal kitchen, perfect for backpackers and budget travelers.

What to Buy in Fort Walton Beach: Souvenirs and Local Products to Bring Home

Fort Walton Beach offers a variety of souvenirs and local products that make great gifts and mementos of your trip. Here are some of the best things to buy in the area:

  • Sea Shells: Fort Walton Beach’s beaches are home to a variety of beautiful and unique seashells, which can be collected and used for crafts or decoration.

  • Local Artwork: The area is home to a thriving arts scene, with many local artists and galleries offering paintings, sculptures, and other unique pieces.

  • Craft Beer: Fort Walton Beach’s craft breweries offer a variety of beers that can be purchased in bottles or cans to enjoy at home.

Local Culture and Customs of Fort Walton Beach

Fort Walton Beach is a friendly and welcoming community, with a laid-back atmosphere and a strong sense of local pride. Here are some customs and traditions to keep in mind when visiting the area:

  • Respect for nature: Fort Walton Beach’s natural beauty is a point of pride for locals, and visitors are encouraged to keep the beaches, parks, and trails clean and free of litter.

  • Southern hospitality: The area is known for its friendly and welcoming locals, who are always happy to offer tips and recommendations to visitors.

  • Military influence: Fort Walton Beach is home to several military bases, and the city has a strong military culture and tradition.

Best Time to Visit Fort Walton Beach

The best time to visit Fort Walton Beach is from April to September, when the weather is warm and sunny, and the beaches and outdoor attractions are at their most vibrant. However, this is also peak tourist season, so be prepared for larger crowds and higher prices.

Do’s and Don’ts of Fort Walton Beach

Here are some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when visiting Fort Walton Beach:


  • Respect the natural environment by disposing of trash properly and avoiding damage to plants and wildlife.

  • Take advantage of the many outdoor and water-based activities available in the area, from fishing and snorkeling to hiking and biking.

  • Try the local cuisine and beverages, especially the fresh seafood and craft beer.


  • Litter or damage the beaches, parks, or trails.

  • Disturb the local wildlife, including sea turtles, dolphins, and birds.

  • Ignore potential safety hazards in the water, such as rip currents or jellyfish.

Safety and Health

Fort Walton Beach is a safe and healthy destination, with excellent medical facilities and emergency services. Here are some tips for staying safe and healthy during your visit:

Safety in Fort Walton Beach

  • Be aware of potential hazards in the water, such as rip currents, jellyfish, and other marine life.

  • Stay hydrated and protected from the sun by wearing sunscreen and a hat.

  • Use caution when driving, especially on unfamiliar roads or in bad weather.

Health in Fort Walton Beach

  • Fort Walton Beach has several excellent hospitals and clinics, including Fort Walton Beach Medical Center and Twin Cities Hospital.

  • Be aware of the potential for heat-related illnesses, especially during the summer months.

  • Protect against insect bites by using insect repellent and wearing long sleeves and pants if necessary.

Getting to Fort Walton Beach: Transportation Options and Logistics

Fort Walton Beach is easily accessible by air, land, and sea, with several transportation options available. Here’s a breakdown of how to get there:

Airports Near Fort Walton Beach

The closest airport to Fort Walton Beach is Northwest Florida Regional Airport (VPS), which is located about 8 miles from the city center. Other nearby airports include Pensacola International Airport (PNS) and Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport (DSI).

Bus Stations Near Fort Walton Beach

Greyhound operates a bus station in nearby Pensacola, Florida, which is about 50 miles from Fort Walton Beach.

Other Options

Fort Walton Beach is also accessible by car, with several major highways connecting the city to nearby destinations. Additionally, several cruise lines offer service to nearby ports, including Pensacola and Mobile, Alabama.

How to Get Around in Fort Walton Beach

Fort Walton Beach is a fairly small city, and many attractions and beaches are within easy walking or biking distance. However, there are several other transportation options available, including:

  • Rental Cars: Several car rental agencies operate in Fort Walton Beach, including Enterprise, Hertz, and Avis.

  • Taxis: Several taxi companies serve the area, including Beachside Taxi and Emerald Coast Taxi.

  • Public Transportation: Okaloosa County Transit operates several bus routes throughout the city and surrounding areas.

Where to Go Next from Fort Walton Beach: Nearby Destinations and Excursions

Fort Walton Beach is surrounded by several other charming cities and towns that are worth visiting, including:

  • Destin: Just a short drive from Fort Walton Beach, this popular vacation destination is known for its stunning beaches, shopping, and night life.

  • Pensacola: Located about an hour’s drive from Fort Walton Beach, Pensacola is home to a rich history, culture, and arts scene, as well as stunning beaches and historic sites.

  • Tallahassee: The capital of Florida is located about 200 miles from Fort Walton Beach and offers a variety of attractions, including museums, art galleries, and historic sites.


Fort Walton Beach is a hidden gem in the Florida Panhandle, offering stunning natural beauty, vibrant culture, and endless opportunities for adventure and relaxation. Whether you’re looking to soak up the sun on the beach, explore the local museums and historical sites, or try the delicious seafood and craft beer, Fort Walton Beach has something for everyone.