Destination: Okaloosa Island, Fort Walton Beach, Florida
So much to discover on Fort Walton Beach’s Okaloosa Island! Known for pristine white beaches, clear turquoise waters, and a laid-back vibe, Okaloosa Island has welcomed visitors for years. It’s no wonder, given the beautiful weather, friendly locals, and coastal charm found throughout the community. With a lifestyle surrounding the beach ingrained in the residents, you might be surprised to learn there’s more to this beautiful community than sun, sand, and sea.
Offering diverse outdoor activities, family-friendly attractions, and delightful eateries, Fort Walton Beach’s Okaloosa Island has a broad appeal, seeing young couples, friend groups, large families, and retirees returning annually. Packing so much fun into three miles isn’t easy, but one trip to Okaloosa Island and you’ll see what makes it a fun beach destination for groups of all sizes.
Where is Okaloosa Island?
Fort Walton Beach’s Okaloosa Island lies on the Santa Rosa Barrier island in the Florida panhandle between Destin and Navarre. Known to locals as simply “the island,” this three-mile stretch between the Santa Rosa Sound and the Gulf of Mexico draws visitors year-round to its sandy shores.
Okaloosa Island is a quick day trip from Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, with many making the five-hour commute from Atlanta via I-85 by car. Those traveling from Mobile, New Orleans, or Biloxi can hop on the I-10 corridor and see our gorgeous beaches in just a few hours. With several airports nearby, Okaloosa Island is also easily accessible by plane.
Fly into Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport and be on our sandy shores with a cool drink in hand in less than thirty minutes. The Destin Executive Airport is available for chartered flights and is less than ten miles from Okaloosa Island. Other options are the Pensacola International Airport to the west and Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport to the east, both just over an hour away.
Things to do on Okaloosa Island
Beach strolls, bike rides, and water play are just the beginning on Okaloosa Island. With proximity to nearby Destin and Fort Walton Beach’s popular downtown, you’ll find endless family fun on and off our beautiful beaches.
Water Activities on Okaloosa Island
Okaloosa Island offers several beach access points, clearly delineated, with parking, restrooms, and picnic tables. Although you’ll find plenty of room on our beaches, parking can be limited, so arrive early, particularly on weekends and holidays. Pack some snacks and beach toys, ice down the cooler, and plan to make a whole day of it. La Dolce Vita is ready to outfit you with your favorite beach toys, offering everything from bikes and golf carts to pontoon boats and jet skis.
Our warm Gulf waters make water activities enjoyable throughout the year, and you can take your pick from a variety. Try parasailing, kayaking, or paddle boarding; rent a wave runner at Crab Island Water Sports, or book a dolphin or snorkel cruise with Cattywampus.
Family-Friendly Activities on Okaloosa Island
When you’re ready for a break from the beach, you’ll find plenty of adventure to keep the whole family entertained nearby!
Young and old will enjoy learning about marine life at the Gulfarium, featuring animal exhibits, chats, and interactive encounters. See stingrays, penguins, dolphins, and more, or book a private function to commemorate a celebratory event.
Wild Willie’s Adventure Zone
With a ropes course, a bungee trampoline, and a bumper boat pool, Wild Willie’s Adventure Zone offers a refreshing break from the beach. Challenge each other on the go-karts, catch a 4D movie, then cool off with some refreshing frozen yogurt.
Eat, shop, and watch movies on the beach at The Boardwalk, a popular spot for locals and visitors alike. Located right on the beach, you’ll have a front-row seat to take in all the action during Emerald Coast Volleyball Week. Check out their live beach cam for current weather and surf conditions before heading out.
The Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier
Watch fishermen reel in their catch, view our local wildlife and catch gorgeous sunsets each evening at the Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier. Anglers can purchase their daily fishing pass, rent equipment, grab refreshments, and purchase souvenirs at the tackle shop on-site.
Okaloosa National Mini Golf and Ice Cream
Take in the ocean breezes and challenge one another at Okaloosa National Mini Golf and Ice Cream. With 36 fun and challenging holes, it’s a fun pitstop after dinner, offering 24 flavors of ice cream for a refreshing treat at the end of the day.
Family Fun Nearby
Just over Brooks Bridge lies downtown Fort Walton Beach, featuring boutique shops, fantastic restaurants, and clubs with live music. Swing by the Landing overlooking the Santa Rosa Sound for seasonal concerts, movies, and a farmer’s market with local vendors. With Destin just a few miles away, staying on Fort Walton Beach’s Okaloosa Island gives you easy access to Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park and The Track, less than ten miles away!
Where to Eat on Okaloosa Island
Okaloosa Island’s restaurants vary from famed local hangouts to newer waterfront eateries, all surprisingly delicious and many walkable from your condo or vacation home.
- AJ’s Oyster Shanty– start with smoked tuna dip or a dozen raw oysters, then move on to the crab cakes while taking in the balmy breezes and live music.
- Rick’s on the Island – for open-air dining with views of Choctawhatchee Bay, start with a fried crawfish tail salad and an ice-cold beer, then take your pick from seafood po’ boys, baskets, platters, and a wildly popular pizza menu.
- Old Bay Steamer – although renowned for the best-steamed seafood, steaks, pasta, and ribs also find their way on their diverse menu destined to be a favorite.
- Floyd’s Shrimp House – specializing in everything shrimp, you’ll also find steak, pasta, and fish, featuring all-you-can-eat Floyd’s Famous Ayce daily during limited hours.
- The Crab Trap – with three locations, it’s bound to be delicious; try the hot crab dip, Southern-style crab cakes, and Alaska snow crab and lobster with a frozen margarita.
- Fubar Pizza Bar – wings, pizza, live entertainment, and gorgeous views make this a fun local joint offering a free slice on Mondays to active-duty military and first responders.
- The Gulf – it’s all about the outdoor environment, seasonal menu, delicious cocktails, and fun games, and the gift shop is the perfect place for a souvenir.
- Rockin’ Taco’s – for tacos, tortillas, and tequila made to order at this fun open-air restaurant directly overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.
- AJ’s Beach Club – you’ll love the craft beer, the kids will go crazy for the milkshakes, and everyone will agree the burgers and specialty sandwiches are the life of the party.
- High Tide – hang with the locals, order a dozen raw oysters and an ice-cold brew, and settle in at this established favorite that’s been going strong for over 40 years.
- Vincenzo’s Italian Bistro- for delicious Italian cuisine, live entertainment, and gorgeous Gulf views that pair nicely with their signature cocktails.
Okaloosa Island Events
Fort Walton Beach’s Okaloosa Island loves to celebrate the outdoors, featuring events throughout the year. We’re also throwing in a few Destin events for good measure.
- The Fly Into Spring Kite Festival features free kite flying lessons, stunt kite demonstrations, and kites as large as 100 feet soaring over the beach, presenting awesome photo ops. Treat the kids to a kite from the Kitty Hawk Kite store while there.
- The Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival is a fun pirate-themed celebration at the Landing. Activities include a downtown pub crawl, block parties, fireworks, and concerts throughout the weekend. Event highlights include a parade and re-enactment featuring Billy and his crew arriving on the shores to take Fort Walton Beach.
- For those who like to stay active while on vacation, a mix of fun running events encourage walkers, joggers, and runners to exercise and enjoy the glorious Florida sunshine, many raising money for local charities.
- Catch your favorite movies on the beach throughout the summer and fall on the giant inflatable screen at the Boardwalk. Bring a blanket and your favorite beverage, and share a memorable experience with the whole family.
- Harborwalk Village in nearby Destin hosts annual events celebrating the changing seasons. Spring brings family-friendly activities, including the St. Paddy’s Day family party and Visit the Easter Bunny. All American Thursdays in June feature vintage air shows, fireworks, and live entertainment, and the Fat Tuesday parade is a definite must-see. Fall brings the Destin Seafood Festival and the Destin Fishing Rodeo, both signature events eagerly anticipated by locals and visitors alike.
Okaloosa Island Weather
With mild temperatures all year, Fort Walton Beach’s Okaloosa Island is pleasant year-round. Summers are warm, ranging from the mid-to-upper eighties, while spring generally sees ranges in the mid-seventies. Winters are mild, and our beautiful coastline rarely sees temperatures below forty degrees. Although water temperatures range from the mid-fifties to the upper-eighties, they are warmest in summer, making it the most popular season for visitors.
No matter when you come to Fort Walton Beach’s Okaloosa Island, we’re confident we’ll see you back time and again!