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Is the beach calling your name?! We are fortunate to live in a beach town on the Florida Panhandle and thought it was worth sharing the perks of the area with you! Fort Walton Beach is known as a military town, and for good reasons. With two bases in town, it brings folks from all around the country! I mean… That’s why we currently live here!! 🙂 But one major perk of living in Fort Walton Beach, Florida is the BEACH! In fact, it’s neighbors to Destin, Florida! If you haven’t heard of this DESTIN-ation, you have to check out the craze of this area! In fact, we have a blog post all about Destin, Florida for you to check out!
I’ll warn you that the traffic can be a mad house at times during the peak season. And that’s where Fort Walton Beach, Florida might be a better vacation spot for you if you want to avoid the Destin traffic. 🙂 But no matter which beach town you visit around the country, inevitably there is “beach traffic.” No sugar coating it… But there are ways to avoid it so I hope this blog post makes your trip a stress-free, enjoyable vacation!
The Florida Panhandle has so much to offer!!! Between Pensacola and Panama City Beach, we have so many favorite spots to check out and share with you all. 🙂 We hope you enjoy our Florida blog posts so you have some inside knowledge of the best spots to visit, eat, and check out!
5 Pro Tips to Know Before Your Visit
1) The Best Time of the Year to Visit
Believe it or not, during the winter months (December-March), it can be COLD here!!! Like I’m talking low 30s at times… So when you think you’re visiting Florida during the winter months doesn’t always mean warm sunshine. But you might be lucky enough to find those days when we reach mid-60s!! 🙂
When it comes to the “sunshine state” mantra, come with the expectation that there can be stretches of rainy days in the early spring time. But also know that the Florida weather on the Panhandle is a gamble. Forecasters could predict rain all day and actually turns out to be sunny with the prettiest sunset! 🙂
Our favorite months are April-June and September-November!! Basically, when it’s not too hot and fewer crowds!! I guess when school is out is when it’s the busiest here. Although, tourist season started early this year (March)! Also, during June/July/August, we have “June Grass” that comes in and can make it hard to enjoy the clear water.
Place a grocery pick up order before you arrive!!! That way, when you arrive, you don’t have to deal with any crowded grocery stores. Order everything ahead of time and simply pick it up so you can enjoy the beach/vacation time to the fullest!!! 🙂
To avoid traffic, get to the beach early and leave mid-afternoon if you want the sunshine! Basically, beach traffic occurs 9:30AM to about 2PM depending on the day, and then leaving the beach 4PM until after sunset!! So pack a lunch or grab something on the way and stay for a while. 🙂
Also… Avoid Beal Pkwy as much as you can to avoid the stop and go traffic. 😉 We really prefer driving the bypass (Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd) even if Google says it’s a “few extra minutes” — It actually saves you time because you don’t have all of the stoplights!!
4) Rent Beach Gear
Why spend money on beach gear if you can’t take it home with you? Rent gear from local vendors like Lazy Days Beach Service!
5) Military Benefits
If you’re military, you can rent water equipment for CHEAP from the bases (Hurlburt Field AFB is a great resource)!!!
Do you want to have the Destin experience without really stepping foot in the tourist town? I have some areas for you to check out below!!!
Okaloosa Island/Fort Walton Beach
Where to Beach?
By far, Okalossa Island is our FAVORITE beach to hang out in the area!!! Although, I feel like everyone goes to the Crab Trap — If you want the party/people watching scene, this is the place to go! But there are other places to go to avoid the crowds. 🙂 So grab your 4-wheel drive car and pull off Hwy 98 in the sand to explore more remote areas close to John Beasley Park! In fact, we love it so much that Alex proposed to me on the island!! Just see why we love it so much … The sunsets, fewer crowds, dunes instead of hotels, clear water, HUGE sand dollars, squeaky sand, fishing, a great stretch of beach for a walk, and so much more!!!
This is a GIVEN. 😉 Fishing, kayaking, parasailing, sailing, paddle boarding, and so much more!!!
A variety of aviation displays and history of the area. Indoor and outdoor museum which is great for those rainy days!
Marine Adventure Park!! Dolphin encounters and shows with aquatic animals!
Just down the road from Fort Walton Beach is a local “hike” that has pretty scenery! The trail is super easy for anyone to do and it runs along the creek where people kayak, canoe, and float!
Trails, tennis courts, basketball court, playground, disk golf, pavilions, and more!
Why not enjoy one morning/afternoon golfing in Florida? After all, it’s the “thing to do!”
Playground, sidewalk paths, and events all occur in this beautiful little area behind the downtown strip!
Want to support the locals? Whether it’s food or art, there is something for everyone!! And it’s downtown so you can enjoy wandering around before and after the event.
Whether you are by yourself or with a group, go relax in a yoga class with Dragonfly Yoga Studio!! And they also offer hot yoga through their sister studio. 🙂 Check them out!!
Drive the Navarre Beach Scenic Road and Catch the Blue Angels Air Show
This suggestion isn’t necessarily Fort Walton Beach, but if you happen to stay a little longer, I HIGHLY suggest going to Navarre!!! The Scenic Drive is a beautiful one, especially when the colors of the water show off!!! And if you time it just right if you’re here in July/November, keep driving to Pensacola and catch the amazing Blue Angels Air Show!!!
Well, this is different!!! Why not do something really different and go axe throwing? Ha!
Do you have your dog with you? Include them in your local adventures!! There are gated areas for dogs to run and play as well as an area for them to play in the bay water!! Fortunately, there is a hose to wash your dog after the dirty play time. 🙂
Where to Stay in Fort Walton Beach, Florida???
Are you looking for a place to stay during your stay in Fort Walton Beach, Florida?
Beach front hotel with a variety of fun amenities! Located in a central location close to the attractions listed in this blog post. 🙂
Between the pools and the beach, you’ll be enjoying the Florida sunshine all day long!!
Looking for local food while you’re visiting???
This is one place we LOVE taking family/friends!!! It’s a chill, outdoor restaurant/bar with fire pits, lounge areas, twinkle lights, with the ability to host events!! Honestly, the food isn’t the best, but we highly advise going there for the atmosphere/drinks!!
Fine dining Italian food in downtown FWB that is YUMMY.
Against the popular opinion, we agree that their donuts are better than the popular Destin Donut Hole!!
A hole in the wall coffee shop!! With their unique signature drinks like Cookie Butter or Funky Monkey — There’s a latte for any coffee drinker! And their breakfast food is scrumptious as well!!!
Our personal favorite Italian restaurant!!! Oh man, come with an appetite! This was our last date night when I was pregnant with Jack. 🙂
A casual seafood restaurant on the water in Niceville (down the road from FWB). One of Alex’s favorite spots!!
Again, down the road from FWB in Niceville, this place has the juiciest meat!!! Hands down a restaurant we continue raving!!!
Coffee, acai bowls, avocado toast, and more! The cute food trucks in downtown FWB is a hot spot!! We personally love grabbing some fresh acai bowls from the Sunset Bowls food truck and enjoying them on the beach. 🙂
Located in Niceville (not too far away from Fort Walton Beach) is a fun hang out spot to enjoy some brews!!! They also have food trucks available over the weekends as well as live music. 🙂 So grab some friends and enjoy!!!
If you’re looking for gooooooood Poke, this is the place to go! Every time I indulge takes me back to Hawaii. 🙂 They also have yummy smoothies and acai bowls!!
Greek food that is fresh and soooooo dang GOOD. Don’t even get me started about their gyro… YUM.
This is the NEW hotspot in downtown Fort Walton Beach!!! And the donuts there are all the RAGE. Pick up some donuts on the way to the beach or hang out in their new restaurant and ENJOY!!!! They even have Keto (the right donut above) and Gluten-free options. 🙂
You have to go for their weekend brunch — $2 mimosas? Yes please!!! And their wine tastings during their happy hour!
A hole in the wall restaurant with AUTHENTIC tacos!!! If you want the best tacos around, this is the place! We love grabbing some of the tacos (I love the chorizo taco!!) and enjoying them on the beach. 🙂 One tradition I hope to do during our future visits!
Two locations (Fort Walton Beach and on Okaloosa Island) — Our favorite casual seafood restaurant in the area! Always check out the specials for the day because their fish selection changes based on the season.
A very popular restaurant in downtown Fort Walton Beach!!! If you’re a Mexican food lover, you’ll enjoy the burritos! 🙂 They have live entertainment over the weekends too, making it a fun hang out spot!