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Your guide to Fort Walton Beach
This Emerald Coast beach vacation comes with a large scoop of fine white sand, a splash of the clear green Gulf, and a sprinkling of military installations. There are a couple of Air Force bases right on the beach, and the neon-lit “Miracle Strip” (as the highway through Fort Walton Beach is sometimes called) tends to cater to that population. While this isn’t exactly a tourist town, its strip malls, beachfront condos, and waterfront fish shacks have an unpretentious vibe that suits a low-key traveler. Families will appreciate the parks and museums, and outdoor enthusiasts will adore nearby Okaloosa Island for its dreamy beaches, lively boardwalk, and abundant watersports.
When is the best time to stay in a vacation rental in Fort Walton Beach?
Summers are popular with visitors, and they are also rainy, humid, and hot, with temperatures sometimes creeping into the 90s Fahrenheit. Spring and fall are still pretty warm, with temperatures hovering between the high 60s and low 80s, and not as rainy as the summer, but with fewer visitors. Meanwhile, winters are fairly short and not too cold, with temperatures ranging from the high 30s to the mid 60s. The best months to visit are April and May, when conditions are perfect and summertime crowds have yet to arrive. Regardless of when you’re traveling, be sure to pack your sunscreen, sunglasses, and sunhat. And don’t forget your raincoat in the summertime.
What are the top things to do in Fort Walton Beach?
Okaloosa Day Use Area
Just across the Choctawhatchee Bay from Fort Walton Beach, this windswept swath of the Gulf Islands National Seashore features sandy dunes and sea oats, gentle waves, and picnic tables. A boat launch offers opportunities for kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding in the crystal-clear water.
Okaloosa Island Pier and Boardwalk
Ideal for wandering, this popular fishing pier extends a quarter-mile into the Gulf of Mexico, and offers rental gear and illuminated night fishing, with redfish, ladyfish, mackerel, and tarpon regularly getting reeled in. The adjacent boardwalk features oyster bars, casual eateries, and fine dining restaurants along with cafes and shops. There’s also a nearby beach with soft sand ready-made for castling.
Indian Temple Mound Museum
Perched in Fort Walton Beach’s historic downtown, this small museum contains more than 1,000 Native American artifacts along with interpretive exhibits on Native American and Florida history. Across the street is a large earthen mound built by the Pensacola culture many thousands of years ago.