Florida

Fort Walton Beach, Florida

A- Overview:
With a reported 343 average days of sunshine per year, Fort Walton Beach is a sun lover’s paradise. Combine beautiful weather with magnificent beaches, great attractions, dolphins playing in the surf, a host of activities, as well as great food and entertainment, and you have the ideal formula for a perfect vacation.

There is even significant evidence of pirates visiting the area, the most notorious being Billy Bowlegs, between 1500 – 1800; not to mention artifacts dating back thousands of year. Be sure to visit the Indian Temple Mound and Museum which offers glimpses into Indian civilizations of the past 10,000 years.

When it comes to near perfect weather, Fort Walton Beach can top the list. With a moderate climate year round due to its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico and its western Florida location, each season has something special to offer. Winter and summer are the two busiest times of year, although late February and the entire month of March become quite crowded when thousands of spring break students hit the area. In the winter, people from the north enjoy coming south for the warmer temperatures and numerous activities the city has to offer. With so many sunny days, any time of year is perfect for watching the dolphins display their “dancing” abilities in their natural surroundings while you sip on a cool drink.

For a change of pace, visit the US Air Force Armament Museum. This indoor-outdoor museum is located on one of the world’s largest air force bases and displays aircraft and weaponry of the American military from WWII to the Gulf War. The museum’s showpiece is the SR-71 Blackbird spy plane, but a variety of other fighter and bomber planes are on exhibit as well. It’s an interesting and educational experience not to be missed.

For a day with the family, there are numerous opportunities available. The Gulfarium is one of America’s oldest marine parks. It hosts Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, California sea lions, Peruvian penguins, Ridley turtles and more in fascinating Gulf-edged exhibits. Watch these amazing animals fascinate adults and children alike as they soar towards the clouds while performing the “Dolphin Dance”.

For top enjoyment in water sports, visit the Okaloosa Island Pier. It’s a perfect vantage point for surfing and fishing as well as people-watching and catching a quick bite to eat.

Special events abound throughout the year including Spring Break, the annual Boat Show, as well as concerts, ballet and the performing arts. No matter what the interest, Fort Walton Beach has it.

Easily accessible and quite affordable, this Florida Panhandle destination has just the right mix of things to do and see to make it a “let’s do it again” destination. Bring your camera, Fort Walton Beach is waiting.

B- City Information:
Population: 19,973

Elevation: 18 feet above sea level

Land Area: 7.4 square miles

Location: Located on the Gulf of Mexico in the Florida Panhandle

Time Zone: Central Time Zone (when it’s noon in Fort Walton Beach, it’s 1:00pm in New York City and 10:00am in Los Angeles

Weather:

Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec

Average temp. (°F)
49.4
52.6
58.7
64.8
72.5
78.8
81.4
81.0
77.5
67.4
58.8
51.7

High temperature (°F)
61.4
65.0
70.9
77.7
84.4
89.8
91.4
91.0
88.3
80.4
71.4
63.8

Low temperature (°F)
37.4
40.2
46.6
51.9
60.6
67.8
71.3
70.9
66.8
54.3
46.1
39.5

Precipitation (in)
5.9
5.3
6.6
4.2
4.4
6.3
8.9
6.8
6.4
4.3
4.6
4.4

Climate:

Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec

Days with precip.
10
9
9
6
7
10
14
13
9
5
8
9

Wind speed (mph)
9.0
9.3
9.8
9.5
8.6
7.6
6.9
6.7
7.6
7.9
8.2
8.8

Morning humidity (%)
82
82
84
86
87
84
86
87
85
82
82
81

Afternoon humidity (%)
65
61
62
60
62
61
65
66
63
57
61
65

Sunshine (%)
48
53
61
63
67
67
57
58
60
71
64
49

Days clear of clouds
8
9
9
10
9
7
4
6
10
13
11
9

Partly cloudy days
7
7
8
9
11
15
17
15
11
9
8
7

Cloudy days
16
13
14
11
11
8
10
10
9
9
11
16

Snowfall (in)
0.1
0.1
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0

Local Seasons:

Fort Walton Beach has a very moderate climate year round due to its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico and its western Florida location. Winter and summer are the two busiest times of year, although late February and the entire month of March become quite crowded when thousands of spring break students hit the area. In the winter, people from the north enjoy coming south for the warmer temperatures and numerous activities the city has to offer. Even in January the temperature averages a comfortable 50 F., with highs approaching 70 F. Summer is busy as many people visit the area for its relaxing atmosphere, entertainment, and proximity to the beach, not to mention temperatures averaging a warm 81 F. Perfect for a day of watching dolphins display their “dancing” abilities in their natural surroundings while you sip on a cool drink.

How to Get There:

By Air:

The Okaloosa County Regional Airport
1701 Hwy 85
North Eglin AFB, FL 32542
850-651-7160

The Okaloosa Regional Airport (VPS), situated on Eglin Air Force Base, provides essential scheduled commercial air passenger service for a large proportion of the Northwest Florida area. It is served by most of the major airlines connection carriers. It does not provide service for private aircraft, due to its location on Eglin Air Force Base.

By Car:

Easily accessible from the east or west via Interstate 10. Take I-10 to U.S. Highway 85 south to U.S. Highway 98.

By Train:

Fort Walton Beach is not served by Amtrak

By Bus:

Greyhound

101 Perry Ave. SE
Ft Walton Beach FL 32548

850-243-1940

Getting Around:

Free Local shuttle bus service for tourists and residents June – September

Hours of Service: Every day: 8am – 10pm
850-833-9168

National Holidays:

New Year’s Day, January 1

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the third Monday in January

President’ Day, the third Monday in February

Memorial Day, the last Monday in May

Independence Day, July 4

Labor Day, the first Monday in September

Thanksgiving Day, the fourth Thursday in November

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, December 24 and 25

New Year’s Eve, December 31

C- Attractions/Things To Do:
Emerald Coast Science Center

139 Brooks St
Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548
850-664-1261

Hours: Weekdays, 9am – 4pm, Weekends, 11am – 4pm. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday and the Fourth of July

Admission Charged
The Science Center is a museum for children and families filled with more than 250 touchable, interactive exhibits that teach about natural phenomena and basic scientific principles. It stimulates the imagination with exhibits such as a reflecting Castle of Mirrors, “adult-sized” bubble makers, a hair-raising Vandergraph generator, an electrifying Illuma Storm and more.

Indian Temple Mound and Museum
139 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE
Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548

850-833-9595

Hours: Call for additional information

Admission Charged
Situated at the base of a pre-Columbian earthen mound, this museum offers glimpses into Indian civilizations of the past 10,000 years. The collections include over 4,000 artifacts, and feature some exceptional ceramic pieces for which the museum is famous. The mound, which once served as a ceremonial site, was headquarters for the Mississippian Indians and is one of the largest earthen structures in a salt-water setting.

Fort Walton Beach Art Museum
38 SW Robinwood Drive
Okaloosa Symphony Building
Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548

850-244-1893
Hours: Vary by season, call for additional information

Admission charged
This local museum has some fascinating items and can satisfy a number of artistic tastes. Among its offerings are American paintings, Chinese artifacts and collections of sculpture and 14th-century pottery. There are also regularly-changing exhibits in addition to these permanent collections.

US Air Force Armament Museum
100 Museum Drive
Eglin Air Force Base
Fort Walton Beach, FL 32542

850-882-4062

Hours: Vary by season, call for additional information

Admission Charged
Military buffs will love this indoor-outdoor museum located on the world’s largest air force base. Displays of aircraft and weaponry chart the American military presence from WWII to the Gulf War. The museum’s showpiece is the SR-71 Blackbird spy plane, but a variety of other fighter and bomber planes are on exhibit also. Inside, there is a video on the history of Eglin Air Force Base, a gun vault that features aircraft weaponry, and a gift shop that sells military-related items.

Newman Brackin Wayside Park/Okaloosa Island Pier

Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier
1030 Miracle Strip Pkwy.
Ft. Walton Beach, FL 32548
850-244-1023

Located on Santa Rosa Island across the bay from Fort Walton Beach, this is a 40-acre park with a fishing pier. The pier area is frequented for surfing and fishing, as well as people-watching and light dining.

Beasley Park

1550 Miracle Strip Parkway (Hwy 98)

Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548

Admission Free

Situated on the largest stretch of public beach on the Gulf side of Okaloosa Island, 22-acre Beasley Wayside Park includes picnic pavilions and a 400-seat restaurant, a beach club, children’s playground, beach volleyball and plenty of fun for everyone.

Gulfarium

1010 Miracle Strip Pkwy. SE
Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548
850-244-5169
Hours: Vary by season, call for additional information

Admission Charged
The main attractions of Gulfarium are the 4 live marine shows that can be seen any day of the week, rain or shine. These shows include bottlenose dolphins, a scuba diver performance, a humorous sea lion show and lastly; dolphins and a sea lion performing side-by-side. There are exhibits featuring loggerhead turtles, salt water aquariums, a sanctuary for injured birds, alligators, river otters, seals and sea lions, sharks, a sting ray pool, a touch pool, tropical penguins from South America, and tropical birds.

Island Golf Center, Fenway Park Batting Cages, Lost Lagoon Golf
1306 Miracle Strip Pkwy.
Ft. Walton Beach, FL 32548
850-224-1612

Hours: Vary by season, call for additional information

Admission Charged

Enjoy some fun outdoor activity with miniature golf, batting cages and more.

Nearby attractions

Old Destin Post Office Museum
Stahlman Ave
Destin, FL 32540

850-837-8572
Hours: Vary, call for additional information

Admission Charged
This little white building houses memorabilia detailing the 19th-century settlement of Destin. It includes photographs of past days and is a tribute to the early beach communities of the region. Although its open hours are minimal, the museum is an interesting glimpse into the beginnings of a community that has transformed itself into one of the top resort areas in the Southeast.

Heritage Museum
115 Westview Ave
Valparaiso, FL 32580

850-678-2615

Hours: Vary, call for additional information

Admission Charged
Charting the settlement of Okaloosa and Walton counties from their earliest inhabitants, this museum marks the presence of American Indians as well as the area’s European pioneers. It features artifacts and memorabilia from all time periods, including items related to the lumber and railroad industries as well as fishing and agriculture. Along with these exhibits, there’s a research library of historic maps and papers and a gift shop of local crafts. The museum also offers classes in basketry, tatting and quilting.

D- Family Fun Attractions:
Emerald Coast Science Center

139 Brooks St
Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548
850-664-1261

Hours: Weekdays, 9am – 4pm, Weekends, 11am – 4pm. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday and the Fourth of July

Admission Charged
The Science Center is a museum for children and families filled with more than 250 touchable, interactive exhibits that teach about natural phenomena and basic scientific principles. Visitors can learn about robotics, health, and the power and impact of hurricanes. It stimulates the imagination with exhibits such as a reflecting Castle of Mirrors, “adult-sized” bubble makers, a hair-raising Vandergraph generator, an electrifying Illuma Storm and more.

US Air Force Armament Museum
100 Museum Dr.
Eglin Air Force Base
Fort Walton Beach, FL 32542

850-882-4062

Hours: Vary by season, call for additional information

Admission Charged
Military buffs will love this indoor-outdoor museum located on the world’s largest air force base. Displays of aircraft and weaponry chart the American military presence from WWII to the Gulf War. The museum’s showpiece is the SR-71 Blackbird spy plane, but a variety of other fighter and bomber planes are on exhibit, too. Inside, a video on the history of Eglin Air Force Base plays to visitors, a gun vault features aircraft weaponry, and a gift shop sells military-related items.

Newman Brackin Wayside Park/Okaloosa Island Pier

Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier
1030 Miracle Strip Pkwy.
Ft. Walton Beach, FL 32548
850-244-1023

Located on Santa Rosa Island across the bay from Fort Walton Beach, this is a 40-acre park with a fishing pier. The pier area is frequented for surfing and fishing, as well as people-watching and light dining.

Gulfarium

1010 Miracle Strip Pkwy. SE
Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548
850-244-5169
Hours: Vary by season, call for additional information

Admission Charged
The main attractions of Gulfarium are the 4 live marine shows that can be seen any day of the week, rain or shine. These shows include bottlenose dolphins, a scuba diver performance, a humorous sea lion show and lastly; dolphins and a sea lion performing side-by-side. There are exhibits featuring loggerhead turtles, salt water aquariums, a sanctuary for injured birds, alligators, river otters, seals and sea lions, sharks, a sting ray pool, a touch pool, tropical penguins from South America, and tropical birds.

Island Golf Center, Fenway Park Batting Cages, Lost Lagoon Golf
1306 Miracle Strip Pkwy.
Ft. Walton Beach, FL 32548
850-224-1612

Hours: Vary by season, call for additional information

Admission Charged

Enjoy some fun outdoor activity with miniature golf, batting cages and more.

E- Events & Entertainment:
Events

January

Annual Mardi Gras on the Island Festival and Parade

Usually held near the end of January
850-244-8191
The Magical Mardi Gras Ball kicks off a fun-filled weekend on Okaloosa Island. The festival includes live music and entertainment, food and craft vendors and kid’s activities. The parade usually has over 70 floats.

Martin Luther King Memorial Celebration

Fort Walton Beach Civic Auditorium
Usually held mid-January

850-243-2786
This three day event features a memorial program, a parade and a rally.

Potters Invitational

ADSO Gallery
Usually held late January through late February

850-244-1271
Local potters are invited to participate in an exhibit.

March

25th Annual Fine Arts Show
Creative Senior Community Center

Usually held mid-March

850-833-9586

12th Annual Archaeology Day
Indian Temple Mound Museum

Usually held mid-March

850-833-9595

An open house is held at the museum.

April

Scout-O-Rama

NW Florida Fairgrounds

Usually held early April

850-683-0330
Sponsored by the Boy Scouts, the event features kid’s activities, displays and demonstrations throughout the day.

Musical Echoes

Ft. Walton Beach

Usually held in late April
850-243-4405
Annual event features music and dance performances by Native American artists, seminars on flute making and playing, and an outdoor market with Native American art, beadwork, clothing and more.

Emerald Coast Boat Show

Ft. Walton Beach

Usually held in mid-May

800-940-7642
The annual event at the Emerald Coast Conference Center on Okaloosa Island offers excitement for boaters and anglers of all ages. The show features over 400 types of boats, a vast selection of marine accessories, fishing clinics and kid’s activities.

June

Sprint Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival and Torchlight Parade

Fort Walton Beach Landing
Usually held early June

850-244-8191
Festival features food vendors, arts and crafts fair, music and entertainment and fireworks display. Parade rolls north on Eglin Parkway from 2nd Street in Fort Walton Beach.

September

Annual Photography/Digital Arts Exhibition

Usually held early September – mid-October
Location: Ft. Walton Beach

850-244-1271
Arts and Design Society of Fort Walton Beach presents a judged competition of photography and digital art.

October

NW Florida Fair and Fine Arts Show

NW Florida Fairgrounds
Usually held late October

850-862-0211
Family event featuring carnival rides, games, food and fun.

Sandollar Motorcycle Club Pumpkin Run

Liza Jackson Park

Usually held late October

850-244-0376
Join the fun ride across NW Florida and a chance to win lots of prizes in this charity poker run.

November

St Simon’s 2004 Arts and Crafts Fair
Usually held early November

850-862-5685
The event features over 100 local and regional vendors.

42nd Annual Camellia Show
Usually held mid-November

850-651-0385
Exhibitors from several states in the southeast compete for prizes in various categories. Plants are available for sale.

World’s Greatest Baby Shower

NW Florida Fairgrounds

Usually held mid-November

850-833-9284
Pregnant women and new parents of children up to 3 months old are invited to visit display booths on prenatal health, well baby care, parenting, immunizations and more.

December

Jingle Bell Run 5K/10K

Fort Walton Beach

Usually held early December

850-863-4238

Christmas on Main Street

Usually held early December

Downtown Fort Walton Beach

850-664-6246
Enjoy breakfast with Santa, a merchant open house, Christmas tree lighting, lighted boat parade and more.

Community Chorus Christmas Production

Fort Walton Beach Civic Auditorium
Usually held mid-December

850-651-3563
The Fort Walton Beach Community Chorus presents their annual Christmas production.

Eggnog Jog

Fort Walton Beach

850-863-4238

Usually held mid-December
5K race.

Arts and Entertainment

First Arts

United Methodist Church

103 First Street

Ft. Walton Beach, FL 32578

850-243-9292

First Arts is a program of concerts, performing arts, and visual art events sponsored by the First United Methodist Church, Fort Walton Beach. The concert series is aimed at bringing quality, affordable entertainment for the entire family to the Fort Walton Beach area and the surrounding communities. Programs have varied from chamber music to mime.

Northwest Florida Ballet

310 Perry Avenue Southeast
Fort Walton Beach, FL 32549

800-664-7787

Founded in 1969 by Bernadette Clements, the Northwest Florida Ballet is one of the longest running arts organizations in Northwest Florida. The Northwest Florida Ballet is a semi-professional company that provides cultural enrichment for communities throughout Northwest Florida. The company presents many outstanding dance productions each season including the family favorite, The Nutcracker, classics such as Giselle and Cinderella and mixed repertory programs with live music. During the spring, the ballet packs up its stage and presents free outdoor performances in area parks which are very popular with the public.

Stage Crafters Community Theatre

Fort Walton Beach Civic Auditorium on Highway 98

850-243-1101

Stage Crafters is one of the area’s oldest community theaters. It was formed in 1972 and has grown steadily in quality and audience appeal. A season consists of four shows, which usually include a musical, a drama, a farce, and a romance or mystery.