17 PHENOMENAL THINGS TO DO IN FORT WALTON BEACH

White sands and emerald green waters await the visitors to Fort Walton Beach. This coastal Florida town hides many treasures for its visitors. Home to pirate festivals, snowbirds, and ocean-lovers alike, Fort Walton Beach, Florida welcomes visitors with broad smiles and sunny weather most of the year.

But why does Fort Walton Beach stand out against Miami, Key West, and Naples? The answer is simple: Fort Walton has all the beauty and none of the fuss of Florida’s other major resort towns.

Of course, you’ll still find ocean-front exploration, golf clubs, museums, and more things to do in Fort Walton Beach, but you’ll get to have fun without the crowds of other major beaches. Fort Walton has all the fun and relaxation you need during your Florida vacation!

Here are 17 things to do in Fort Walton Beach that guarantee you’ll have a great time.

17 PHENOMENAL THINGS TO DO IN FORT WALTON BEACH
Courtesy of Visit Fort Walton Beach

FORT WALTON BEACH HERITAGE PARK AND CULTURAL CENTER

People have explored and lived in the area of Fort Walton Beach for thousands of years. This glittering coastal retreat has played host to Native American tribes, military bases, and settlers from many other walks of life in its lengthy history.

At the Fort Walton Beach Heritage Park and Cultural Center, you can explore the many parts of the city’s deep history.

INDIAN TEMPLE MOUND MUSEUM

For over 12,000 years, Native American Indians resided on the lands of what became Fort Walton Beach. Their story comes to life at the Indian Temple Mound Museum. The museum first opened in 1962, and continues to pursue its mission of educating the community about its indigenous predecessors.

You can explore over 1,000 artifacts from across Fort Walton Beach’s native history at the museum. Relics of stone, bone, and shell paint the story of the people who lived on the beaches here before Europeans came. You’ll also find artifacts from European settlers and the early pirates who flocked to the sandy beaches of Fort Walton to engage and trade with the native peoples.

CAMP WALTON SCHOOLHOUSE

Not far from the Indian Temple Mound Museum is the Camp Walton Schoolhouse. The two-room building depicts the environment and education of children from the early 1900s to 1930s that resided on the military base of Camp Walton. 

Though the school no longer occupies its original location across from the present-day Chamber of Commerce, it still accurately represents what Camp Walton students experienced in their primary years. 

GARNIER POST OFFICE MUSEUM

In 1906, a man by the name of Euphrates A. Mooney took up residence as the PostMaster of Fort Walton Beach. For over fifty years, the Mooney family delivered mail to the residents of the small village of Garnier Bayou near present-day Fort Walton. 

The Garnier Post Office closed by the late 1950s, but it was not until 1986 that the office became a museum. The building contains artifacts from the Mooney period. It stands in much the same shape as when it closed in the 50s. Since its dedication, the Garnier Post Office has stood as a testament to the Mooney family and the postal service’s dedication to Fort Walton citizens.

EMERALD COAST SCIENCE CENTER

The Emerald Coast Science Center is named for the gem-like waves of Fort Walton Beach. Inside the museum, you’ll find creatures from the deep, robots, dinosaurs, and many other educational exhibits. This family friendly, dedicated location holds plenty of adventures for an entire day!

The center provides a self-guided site for exploration, full of learning activities dedicated to all aspects of science. You’ll find exhibits on energy and physics next to displays of dinosaur fossils here. 

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the Emerald Coast Science Center is its cute animal ambassadors. The center has over 35 animal ambassadors living there, including exotic parrots, little sugar gliders, and water-loving sea turtles. Trust me; you’ll want to spend at least two hours exploring this science-filled spot!

GULFARIUM MARINE ADVENTURE PARK

When “adventure park” is in the name of a place, you know it’s got something fun to offer. That’s certainly the case at Gulfarium Adventure Park. The family fun offered at the park ranges from chats with wildlife experts to a dolphin encounter or two!

The team at Gulfarium dedicates its time to educating the public about local marine life and conserving the animals of the Fort Walton Beach ecosystem. In addition, the park focuses on interactions with local animals to help teach kids and adults about the animals that call the beaches and ocean around Florida their home.

Kids and adults love visiting Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park because they can get up close to ocean creatures here! At the Stingray Bay Snorkel experience, you can meet a few stingrays, swim next to bamboo sharks, and enjoy an afternoon swimming in calm waters. 

At Discover Harbor Seals, you can pet and chat with friendly seals — and be surprised by how much like dogs they are! Penguins, Gators, and Sea Lions are just a few other creatures ready to meet you at the adventure park.

A visit here is one of the best things to do in Fort Walton Beach!

JOHN C BEASLEY PARK

I come from a land of prairie grass and tiny parks with barely a tree to their name. So, the fact that John C Beasley Park sits on a white, sandy beach blew my mind! But if I thought the sand was killer, the waves and history waiting at the park were 1,000 times better.

John Beasley Park opened in 1960 in honor of its namesake, who dedicated much of his time to bettering the Fort Walton community. Its history is remarkable, with the park considered the only black beach in Northwest Florida during the United State’s segregation era. Here on the scenic beaches of John Beasley Park, African Americans could enjoy the beauties of the Gulf of Mexico without fear of racism. Today, this history remains one of the many reasons John Beasley Park is beloved by the Fort Walton Community. 

The park offers easy access to the ocean, with pavilions, picnic areas, and changing rooms, creating a welcoming environment for families looking to enjoy the beach. I recommend hitting up the beach in the late afternoon and sticking around for a gorgeous sunset – it’s a sight you won’t forget!

WILD WILLY’S ADVENTURE ZONE

Beaches aren’t the only thing waiting for visitors to Fort Walton Beach! At Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone, you’ll find plenty of thrills and 17,000 square feet of air-conditioned fun. 

Nowhere else can you find an animatronic T-Rex defending a golf course, pirates, and pizza under the same roof. The pirate mini-golf course has treasure and galore, while the bumper boats offer a cool retreat from the hot Floridian weather. Over at the T-Rex golf course, you’ll have to defend your ball from chomping dinos, before spending some time on the go-kart race trek!

Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone also offers giant slides, a rope course, an arcade, and even a “hatchling” golf course for your littlest adventurers. Plus, their pizza and ice cream stands have some pretty tasty snacks to keep you fueled for a day of fun!

OKALOOSA ISLAND BEACHES & FISHING PIER

Fishing and Florida go hand in hand! At the Okaloosa Island Beaches, you can spend an afternoon at the fishing pier before enjoying the beauty of the sugar-white beaches. 

The pier offers prime fishing and water sport activities. It also offers fantastic sunset views and fantastic photo opportunities! Near the pier, you’ll find sandwiches, ice cream, and shopping – so bring your appetite and souvenir checklist!

ISLAND PIER AND BOARDWALK

Enjoy stunning views of the Gulf of Mexico, ample shopping, and delicious food during your visit to the Okaloosa Island Boardwalk located on Miracle Strip Parkway. The boardwalk is a short walk from the previously mentioned fishing pier and has been a beloved fixture of the Walton Beach Community for years!

The Boardwalk offers a variety of entertainment options. Unique boutiques, coffee, gelato, and surf n turf restaurants provide plenty of food to fill you up after a day on the beach! Meanwhile, pirates jam out at the Al’s Beach Club Stage on Monday nights while fireworks light up the sky every Wednesday night during the peak season of March through August. 

AIR FORCE ARMAMENT MUSEUM

The city of Fort Walton sits right next to Elgin Air Force Base. Throughout the city’s history, it has played a role in many military events. Today, Elgin houses the Air Force Armament Museum.

The free museum offers an in-depth look at the weapons and artifacts that made the U.S. Air Force a powerhouse in the global military scene. During your visit, you’ll see everything from bombs to radar technology spanning the length of aeronautic war technology.

Younger kids enjoy a visit to the museum, too. Interactive displays offer an engaging, hands-on exploration of Air Force history, perfect for visitors young and old.

RATCHET HATCHET AXE THROWING

As an avid fan of ax throwing, I can tell you there is nothing more relaxing or fun than chucking an ax at a target and watching it stick! But, seriously, that thunk of the ax hitting the target is the best sound!

At Ratchet Hatchet Axe Throwing, you can experience the thrill of sending an ax flying through the air. The range also offers beer and beverages (it’s a blast toasting every time you hit the target!) and welcomes group parties. Remember that the range is best suited to guests who can understand the safety required to enjoy ax-throwing safely!

DOWNTOWN FORT WALTON BEACH FARMERS MARKET

Nothing’s better than spending a morning strolling the beach and enjoying locally made foods and crafts! At the Downtown Fort Walton Beach Farmers Market, you can get the best of both worlds by shopping at the farmers market before hitting up the beach!

The farmers market opens every second and fourth Saturday for visitors and locals alike to shop vendor stalls. You may find jars of honey, fresh tomatoes, crafts, or handmade soaps among the diverse selection at the market!

LIZA JACKSON PARK

At Liza Jackson Park, you’ll find 1,000 feet of waterway waiting for the fisherman or boater in your family. If you want a quiet, out-of-the-way space to enjoy water-front views, Liza Jackson Park is the place for you.

This park has ample amenities for families, including picnic tables, a playground, and restrooms. In addition, the park’s pier offers excellent fishing opportunities and a safe place to view the crashing waves for younger visitors. I recommend spending the afternoon enjoying a picnic before sticking around for a magnificent sunset view from the pier!

WATER FUN

Fort Walton Beach offers excellent opportunities for engaging in water fun! The city’s proximity to sandy beaches and the Gulf of Mexico make it an ideal space for beach activities and ocean exploration!

If you want to get out there and explore the waters up close, you’ll definitely want to check out the local pontoon rentals. From your pontoon, you can journey out onto the crystal waters of the gulf, catching sight of gulls and leaping dolphins while enjoying the crisp, salty sea air! 

Or, if you love getting an adrenaline rush, you can look into a jet ski rental! Plenty of adventurers love spending a day conquering the waves on a pair of jet skis!

If you’re looking for a day of leisure and calm on the waves, I highly recommend checking out a local fishing charter. You’ll get to enjoy top-notch views of the ocean while catching fish fresh from the sea!

DAY TRIP TO PENSACOLA

Just an hour away from the quiet oasis of Fort Walton Beach, the bustling city of Pensacola waits. This city houses a famous Naval base home to the Blue Angels, several museums, galleries, shopping, and more. You’ll love jumping into the busy scene of Pensacola before returning to the calming shores of Fort Walton.

Pensacola offers a large variety of activities for visitors. You can explore the Historic Pensacola Village, spend the day scuba diving, tour the Naval Aviation Museum, or even enjoy a trip to a local spa!

DAY TRIP TO CRAB ISLAND

Just a short drive away from Fort Walton Beach is a floating party zone called Crab Island. If you love home improvement channels as much as I do, you may have heard of this watery attraction!

Crab Island is not, in fact, an island. It’s actually a sandbar that happens to be the favorite hangout of hundreds of boats daily. This attraction offers an experience like none other, with floating food and restaurant boats offering unique meals, an inflatable water park, and scenic views of the ocean! It’s a novelty experience you won’t find anywhere else!

DAY TRIP TO DESTIN

Destin is another city near Fort Walton that offers activities for tourists of all ages and interests. It also happens to be right next to Crab Island, so you can make a day of exploring both locations if you want!

This ocean-front town offers sunset cruises, dolphin experiences, and plenty of fishing for water activity enthusiasts. Culture lovers enjoy strolling the Destin Harbor Boardwalk and exploring the Village of Baytowne Wharf’s restaurants and shops.

As for the kids, well, they’ll love Big Kahuna’s Water Park slides and have a blast feeding a gator at Gator Beach at Fudpucker’s!

MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO FLORIDA

WHERE TO STAY IN FORT WALTON BEACH

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