One visit and you will understand why Fort Walton Beach, located in Okaloosa County on the west coast of Florida, known as the Florida Panhandle, is a favorite of many mature travelers. Almost perfect weather, a beautiful ocean, white powdery sand, and lots of things to do in the community for the 50+ traveler to enjoy are just a few of the reasons.
Fort Walton Beach has a population of 22,740 according to the 2020 census figures, so you can enjoy that small beach town feel with lots of activities in the town and many others nearby. Destin is right next door.
Several major highways link Fort Walton Beach to the rest of Florida. It is about 208 miles from New Orleans and 338 miles from Orlando.
The mature traveler will find plenty to do in Fort Walton Beach and neighboring Destin. Let's look at a few favorite experiences.
1. Hit The Beach
When you go to a beach, the top thing to do is enjoy the ocean, and there is much to enjoy at Fort Walton Beach. The sand is white and powdery. The kind you just can't wait to sink your toes into. It isn't gritty, and there are very few shells along the edge of the ocean. The waters are a gorgeous emerald green color, and water temperatures are great for swimming from the middle of May through the end of October.
Whether you just want to spend a lazy day sitting in the sun, walking along the beach, or swimming in the ocean, Fort Walton Beach is the perfect place for the mature traveler to relax and enjoy some "sea therapy."
2. Enjoy A Walk Through Liza Jackson Park
The Liza Jackson Park is located near the Miracle Strip Parkway and opposite the Gulf Island National Seashore. It has over 100 feet of waterfront. There are fishing piers, boat launches, walking trails, restrooms, picnic pavilions, and lots of free parking. Swimming is permitted, but there are no lifeguards.
If you have pets traveling with you, they will love the park section just for dogs. There is a small dog park and a large dog park where the dogs can run and roam around. There is even a section of the beach just for the dogs.
3. Visit The Boardwalk On Okaloosa Island At Fort Walton Beach
Okaloosa Island is a destination within itself. Located between Fort Walton Beach and Destin, this 3-mile stretch of white sand beaches is top-notch. The Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island is the place to shop, dine, and play. There is tons of shopping available and many great food options for a quick snack or a full sit-down dinner. Check out Floyd's Shrimp House or The Crab Trap. There is a full beach available for playing along with volleyball courts and a fishing pier.
Visitors can spend a few hours or a few days on Okaloosa Island trying new activities. Get the full Okaloosa Island guide.
4. See The Exhibits At Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park
A single price gets you into all the exhibits at the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park. But there is so much more to do at this exciting destination. Gulfarium strives to care for marine life while entertaining guests. Open for over 60 years; they seek to entertain guests with live shows, exhibits, training demonstrations, and animal encounters.
You can sign up for mini-tours or unique encounters that allow you to pet dolphins, stingrays, and harbor seals. Interact with penguins, visit turtles, and more.
5. Fly Through History At The U.S. Air Force Armament Museum
Airplane lovers and history buffs will love this museum. It ranks among the top attractions in Fort Walton Beach. The only museum dedicated to the Air Force armament, the U.S. Air Force Armament Museum, houses special operations displays, historic firepower, missiles, modern weapons, and decommissioned aircraft and equipment from previous wars.
Some of the items available to view include B-52 Bombers, and an AC-130 Gunship like ones still being used today, and an SR-71, which is the fastest aircraft on the face of the planet.
More than 29 different aircraft can be viewed from WWII to the present day. All guests enjoy free admission.
6. Step Back In Time At The Camp Walton Schoolhouse Museum
Learn the history of schooling in Florida at the Camp Walton Schoolhouse Museum. The school was initially created to educate soldiers' children from the Camp Walton neighborhood. Used as a school from 1911 until 1936, visitors see what school was like in the early 20th century.
The Camp Walton Schoolhouse Museum is part of Heritage Park and is easily accessed via Highway 98. It is close to the Indian Temple and Mound Museum, so you can easily do both during your half-day visit.
7. Learn About History At The Indian Temple And Mound Museum
The Indian Temple and Mound Museum showcases Native American heritage. It shines a spotlight on the tribes that lived in the local area and highlights some ethnic groups. The first city-owned and operated museum in Florida, it today features more than 1,000 artifacts.
Learn the story of 12,000 years of Native American culture through the exhibits. The Temple Mount is an archeological site uncovered in the 1930s. Scientists and historians believe it was built around 850 A.D. and used for important religious ceremonies. You can see creations made with bone, clay, shell, and stone, along with some prehistoric ceramics.
8. Get Active At Ferry Park
Ferry Park has everything an active mature traveler would enjoy. Lighted tennis courts and disk golf are big hits. There are also running tracks, basketball courts, soccer fields, playgrounds, and picnic pavilions.
9. Hit The Links At Fort Walton Beach Golf Course
Two different 18-hole golf courses are available for your enjoyment at the Fort Walton Beach Golf Course. One is a bit more complicated in skill level, but both are well maintained. You will also find a driving range and a putting range.
10. Play Goofy Golf
If mini-golf is more your speed, be sure to check out Goofy Golf. Enjoy two courses designed for fun and a little bit of healthy competition. Both 17-hole courses share the 18th "snake's mouth" hole. Goofy Golf is an excellent mid-morning or evening activity.
11. Build A Castle While Taking Sandcastle Lessons On The Beach
Have you ever tried to build that great sandcastle that turned out to be a sand flop? I sure have. Take a sandcastle-building lesson to learn how to make the perfect sandcastle.
Sandcastle Lessons on the Beach with Beach Sand Sculptures is a workshop that teaches you and your kids or grandchildren how to make 3.5-foot-tall beautiful sculptures out of the sand.
This is an activity everyone can enjoy because it creates great memories and is a wonderful photo opportunity. Sandcastle building lessons last for around 2 hours and are suitable for just a few people or a family crowd.
Enjoy a demonstration, instructions, and assistance as you strive for sandcastle masterpiece success.
12. Feel Young At Heart At The Emerald Coast Science Center
My husband and I usually visit science centers on our trips. They are full of fun exhibits and activities for the kid in all of us. I always learn something new.
Located on Memorial Parkway, the Emerald Coast Science Center is the best place for all ages to learn about all things science. They have indoor and outdoor exhibits on everything from robotics (you can build your own robot), animals, the planets, engineering, electricity, color, light, sound, and so much more. Check out the Hurricane Simulator and the Augmented Reality Wall. The Sip and Science Show sounds like a fun way to view the stars.
The Emerald Coast Science Center is also renowned for the number of presentations it provides to the community. Check out their schedule online to see what might be of interest during your visit. You will want to plan for a minimum of half a day enjoying the Emerald Coast Science Center.
13. Take An Emerald Coast Beach And Dune Tour
During this beach walking tour, you will learn about wildlife, dunes, beaches, and waters that make the beach ecosystems unique. This fun and educational walking tour is an excellent activity for all ages.
A marine biologist with 40+ years of experience leads the Emerald Coast Beach and Dune Tour on a nearby beach along the northwest Florida coast. You not only can enjoy the beauty of the beach but also learn how it has evolved and ways to protect it so future generations can continue to enjoy it.
This is the perfect activity for the mature traveler to learn in a relaxed and laid-back manner about the beautiful Emerald Coast Beach's living world.
14. Shop The Downtown Arts And Entertainment District
Shop for local artists’ crafts. Downtown Fort Walton Beach is a walkable area with restaurants, boutiques, bars, scenic views, and down-home southern hospitality.
Shop stores selling antiques, beach gear, fashions, collectibles, and accessories. Guests also have easy access to health-related services, such as spas, yoga classes, and salons. Plus over a dozen local restaurants.
Fort Walton Beach welcomes visitors year-round, but spring and fall are the best time to visit when temperatures average between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. As the temperatures rise to over 100 degrees in the summer months, so does the number of tourists in the area.
Enjoy all the fun of the major vacation beach spots, without the fuss. These are just a few of the reasons to add Fort Walton Beach to your bucket travel list.