16 Cool Things to Do in Fort Walton Beach On Your Florida Panhandle Vacation

Planning a getaway to Okaloosa County? Fill your itinerary with all of the best things to do in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Located on the Florida Panhandle just west of Destin, Fort Walton Beach is a dream Emerald Coast destination with everything you need for a family-friendly beach holiday.

Exploring the top tourist attractions in Fort Walton Beach, you can cruise through blue waters with dolphins dancing around or hit the links at some of Florida’s top golf courses. If you’ve got the kiddos in tow, peruse family-friendly science museums or tackle the beach town’s wild adventure park.

Ready to discover what to do in Fort Walton Beach? Start dreaming of your ultimate Florida Panhandle vacation with this guide to the best places to visit in Fort Walton Beach, FL.

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Emerald Coast Science Center

Traveling with kids and want some mind-boosting activities for the whole family? Toss the Emerald Coast Science Center into your Fort Walton Beach itinerary.

The Emerald Coast Science Center opened its doors in 1989 as FOCUS: Families of Okaloosa County Understanding Science. Its original goal was to give families the opportunity to learn about science together—and its mission remains alive today.

Kids will love the interactive exhibits and fun activities at the Emerald Coast Science Center. Learn about gale-force winds in the center’s Hurricane Center or step back into the prehistoric period at When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth. Get a better grasp of Florida’s maritime heritage at the Marine Exhibit or its most precious marine life at the Sea Turtle Sanctuary.

The Emerald Coast Science Center is open from Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm.

Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park

Looking to dig into Florida’s sea life? Play with dolphins and sea lions as you make your way around the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park. Born in the mid-1950s, the center on Okaloosa Island lets the entire family interact with Florida’s marine life and learn about its preservation.

Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park

At the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, you’ll not only get the chance to see the animals but can experience a close encounter with them. Pet the friendly turtles and harbor seals or brush up against the baby gators and stingrays. You can even have a chance to chill with the cute African penguin chicks!

RELATED: Top Tourist Attractions in Destin

The Gulfarium Marine Park is open year-round from 9 am to 5:30 pm (last admission at 4:30 pm). If you want to hop onto an animal encounter tour, be sure to make your reservation in advance on the official site.

Liza Jackson Park

Looking to escape the buzz of the Florida Panhandle? Slot Liza Jackson Park into your Fort Walton Beach itinerary. Featuring over 100 feet of frontage on Santa Rosa Sound, this public park is the perfect spot for family-friendly fun.

Bring along your rods and reels to cast off the fishing pier at Liza Jackson Park. Or start a boating adventure from the park’s boat launch to explore Santa Rosa Sound.

RELATED: Most Beautiful Florida Panhandle Beaches

Brought your pup along? Take a walk along the pet-friendly sandy beach and stop for a relaxing picnic under the trees. For the perfect end to your day in Fort Walton Beach, grab a seat on the pier to watch a magnificent sunset as ducks bob on the waves.

Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone

Ready for some family-friendly fun around Fort Walton Beach? Head to Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone on Okaloosa Island’s Miracle Strip Parkway.

The name says it all: Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone offers 17,000 square feet of untamed indoor & outdoor activities that’ll be a blast for the entire crew.

Challenge your family to a round of mini-golf at T-Rex Island Adventure Golf or the pirate-themed Island of Tortuga Adventure Golf. Or show off your agility up to 60 feet up in the air at the Tree Top Challenge Ropes Course.

On a rainy day, tackle Wild Willy’s fun indoor activities, including Urban Assault Laser Tag, The 4D Movie Experience, and the 16,000-square-foot Redemption Arcade.

John Beasley Park

Need a break from exploring Okaloosa Island’s usual attractions? Venture down to John Beasley Park on Miracle Strip Pkwy SE. With two dune walkovers unveiling beautiful Gulf of Mexico beaches, this family-friendly area is one of the top points of interest in Fort Walton Beach for beachfront fun.

From the visitor center, it’s a short walk to laze on the sugar-white sands of John C. Beasley Park and dip your toes into the crystal-clear waters of the Emerald Coast.

If you’re lucky, you might catch the park’s beautiful Indian Blanket and Dune Sunflowers in bloom as you make your way to the beach from the parking area.

RELATED: Most Beautiful Beaches in Destin

On top of its natural beauty, John Beasley Park is a notable landmark in Florida’s history. During the segregation era, the park was the site of the only black beach in Northwest Florida. 

Indian Temple Mound Museum

For a taste of Northwest Florida’s ancient history, pencil in a visit to the Indian Temple Mound Museum. Opened in 1972, the museum preserves treasures from the native inhabitants of the Fort Walton area, spanning 12,000 years of their history.

Roam through the exhibits at Indian Temple Mound Museum to see over a thousand artifacts made from various materials, including bone, clay, and shells. The museum also hosts an impressive collection of prehistoric ceramics that’s among the finest in the Southeast.

As the Indian Temple Mound Museum is part of the Fort Walton Beach Heritage Park & Cultural Center, admission also includes entry into the Camp Walton Schoolhouse Museum and Garnier Post Office Museum.

Goofy Golf

Opened in the late 1950s, Goofy Golf has been one of the most popular places to go in Fort Walton Beach for family fun for over 70 years.

The decidedly old-school Goofy Golf features two 17-hole courses. Each course shares “The Snake’s Mouth” as its 18th hole. The hole difficulty varies—some are easier; others are more challenging. Either way, kids will love spending a morning putting away at this retro mini-golf course!

On your way into the mini-golf course, don’t miss snapping a picture with “Hammy,” Goofy Golf’s 23-foot-tall T-Rex.

The Boardwalk, Okaloosa Island

For good times ashore, set your compass for The Boardwalk, Okaloosa Island. This family-friendly area has it all, from clothing shops and delicious restaurants to public beach access and recreation spots.

Okaloosa Island

Head to the beach to gather up the crew for a game of volleyball or to cast out a line at the Okaloosa Island Pier with a backdrop of stunning views over the emerald waters.

To unwind, chow down on burgers and sip cocktails at Al’s Beach Club and Burger Bar. Or settle down for all-you-can-eat shrimp or gator bites at Floyd’s Shrimp House.

Every Wednesday night during summer, the skies around The Okaloosa Island Boardwalk light up with a fireworks show. Grab a front-row seat at one of the area’s waterfront restaurants or from the white-sand beach.

Camp Walton Schoolhouse Museum

Set back into the early-20th century at the Camp Walton Schoolhouse Museum. Located in the Heritage Park & Cultural Center complex, the two-room schoolhouse assembles a collection from Fort Walton Beach’s early days, when it was known as Camp Walton.

The historic building dates back to 1911 when it was built as a one-room school to accommodate 15 students spanning eight grades. In 1927, the schoolhouse expanded to include a second room for high-school students. The original students were children of the Confederate soldiers who were stationed at Camp Walton since the mid-19th century.

At the Camp Walton Schoolhose Museum, you’ll experience the teaching environment of the early- to the mid-20th century. Enjoy an immersive experience as you walk among the original furnishings and check out the historic teaching materials.

Garnier Post Office Museum

Continue your journey back into Fort Walton Beach’s early history at the Garnier Post Office Museum. Also located in the Heritage Park & Cultural Center, the museum offers a quick glimpse at the county’s burgeoning postal system in the mid-20th century.

The wooden Garnier Post Office Museum showcases a small collection of postal items, including old letters, packages wrapped in old brown paper, and stamps with vintage designs.

Entrance to the Garnier Post Office Museum is included in the admission fees for the other museums within the Heritage Park complex.

Air Force Armament Museum

If you’re military buff, head less than 15 minutes northeast of Fort Walton Beach to peruse the Air Force Armament Museum. Located on Eglin Air Force Base, the largest airbase in the world, the museum has operated since 1976 and is the only museum of its kind in the world.

Air Force Armament Museum

At the Air Force Armament Museum, you’ll see an impressive display of more than 29 different aircraft and hundreds of armaments, including guns, bombs, and missiles. Among the collection’s highlights is the MOAB, the most powerful non-nuclear bomb in existence.

The Air Force Armament Museum is open from Monday to Saturday between 9:30 am and 5 pm. Entry is free.

Fort Walton Beach Landing Park

Looking for a leisurely day on the shores? Head to Fort Walton Beach Landing Park in the heart of downtown. Perched upon Santa Rosa Sound, the clean and pet-friendly park is the perfect spot to enjoy a relaxing family day around FWB.

Start your visit at Fort Walton Beach Landing Park by leashing up Fido for a relaxing walk along the shoreline. Admire the calm waters, adorned by boast rocking in the tide. Bring along your fishing gear to cast a line off of the fishing pier.

If you’re visiting on Saturday, browse the weekly farmers market for fresh produce and locally-made food.

The Island Pier

If you’re a fishing enthusiast, you’ll love spending the day on The Island Pier, formerly known as the Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier. From the 1,262-foot pier, marvel at scenic views of dramatic sunrises and sunsets on the Gulf of Mexico.

The Island Pier

As you cast your line into the crystal-clear water at The Island Pier, keep on the lookout for marine life, including dolphins, stingrays, sea turtles, pelicans, and herons.

The Island Pier is open between 5 am and 9 pm, suiting both early-bird and twilight fishermen. Didn’t bring your fishing gear with you to Florida? Rent your fishing equipment and stock up on tackle at the pier’s bait house.

Wat Mongkolratanaram

One of the most unique experiences along the Emerald Coast is to check out Wat Mongkolratanaram. Located in uptown Fort Walton Beach, the Buddhist temple offers a rare glimpse into the practice of Thai Buddhism in the United States.

Wat Mongkolratanaram

Even if you’re not Buddhist, Wat Mongkolratanaram is a must-see for your Florida Panhandle itinerary. Marvel at the temple’s gleaming golden Buddha statues. If inspiration strikes, seek out a moment of zen with a calming meditation session.

On top of its usual religious functions, Wat Mongkolratanaram also hosts a weekly Thai market. Running from 10 am to 1 pm on Sundays, the market offers guests delicious Thai cuisine favorites like pad Thai. (Arrive early—the food is often sold-out by noon!)

Fort Walton Beach Flea Market

On the search for a quirky souvenir from your Northeast Florida trip? Zip over to the Fort Walton Beach Flea Market. Located in the Downtown Fort Walton Beach Antique District, the 14,000-square-foot market hosts over 70 vendors, selling everything from everyday items to bizarre antiques.

Visit the lively Fort Walton Beach Flea Market to stock up on jewelry, furniture, clothing, ceramics, books, and movies. Best of all? The veteran-owned market uses proceeds from its sales to raise money for various local and national charities.

Cattywampus Aquatic Adventures

With its crystal-clear waters and diverse marine life, the Emerald Coast is the ideal place for water activities. Join in on an excursion with Cattywampus Aquatic Adventures to have your pick!

Bring the whole family on a catamaran day cruise with Cattywampus Aquatic Adventures. Captain Tony and his crew will whisk you off on an Emerald Coast adventure, including dolphin-watching, swimming, and snorkeling.

If you want a quieter and dreamier ride, book yourself onto a sunset cruise, where you can sip your favorite wine and revel in the emerald and gold Gulf tides.

For the ultimate show, opt for a fireworks cruise. This unique cruise departs on Wednesday afternoons during the summer months. Join in to watch the sunset and dolphins frolicking before witnessing a majestic coastal fireworks show.


Ryan O'Rourke is a seasoned traveler and the founder & editor of Treksplorer, a fiercely independent guide to mid-range luxury travel for busy people. With over 20 years of extensive travel experience, Ryan has journeyed through over 50 countries, uncovering hidden gems and sharing firsthand, unsponsored insights on what to see & do and where to eat, drink & stay. Backed by his travel experience and in-depth research, Ryan’s travel advice and writing has been featured in publications like the Huffington Post and Matador Network. You can connect with Ryan on Twitter/X at @rtorourke.

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