There’s a reason this stretch of the fabulous Florida shoreline is called the Emerald Coast: it’s because the water sparkles like a beautiful green jewel. Even better, the beaches bordering the Gulf here are blessed with powdery white sand – the kind perfect for stretching out on under the warmth of the sun, or building sand castles with the kids…which is why a Fort Walton holiday is just perfect for families.
Fort Walton’s barrier island Okaloosa has superb stretches of sugar white sand and it’s here you’ll find families picnicking, teenagers messing about in the surf, the odd game of volleyball in progress and fishing fans reeling in their catch from the pier. This is a something-for-everyone kind of place and there’s more going on behind the beach. The boardwalk is the place for a stroll, plus there’s amusements for the kids and a clutch of other attractions.
Watersports are big news on a Fort Walton holiday, and you can play in the waves any which way you want. There’s everything from water skiing to windsurfing and parasailing, or you might want to get up close to the ocean without getting wet – in which case you could take a sunset cruise, a glass-bottom boat trip or go dolphin spotting. The fishing here is also some of the best in America, and anglers are pretty much guaranteed a good haul.
The golf is top notch too on a Fort Walton holiday, and there are a couple of classy public courses, The Oaks and The Pines nearby, while championship courses like Destin’s Regatta Bay are also close at hand. Add in good shopping both downtown and along the boardwalk on Okaloosa Island, plus plenty of fresh seafood and buzzy nightlife, and you have the perfect recipe for a great holiday.
If the kids are happy, you’re happy. Right? So it’s just as well there’s lots to keep the littl’uns amused on a Fort Walton holiday. Days spent playing on the beach go without saying; but for a change of scene you can head to the splashy rides and slides of Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park or the amusements along Okaloosa Island boardwalk. Plus there’s plenty of putting fun at Goofy Golf.
The Gulf is teeming with fish around the Emerald Coast and neighbouring Destin doesn’t have the tag ‘The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village’ for nothing. Go out on a boat for a deep-sea fishing adventure or head out along Okaloosa pier and cast your line over the side. You’ll be pulling up mackerel, bluefish and tarpon before you know it.
Plane spotters and anyone interested in weaponry are in for a real treat at the Air Force Armament Museum. More than 5,000 aircraft, missiles and bombs from World War One onwards are on show, including a B-17 Flying Fortress, an SR-17 Blackbird, a B-52, and a B-25.There’s flight simulators too.
Just along the coast is Destin, which like Fort Walton has some perfect beaches – like the one at Henderson State Park. There’s good diving here as well, and the harbour is always a great place to hang out and watch the boats come and go whilst sitting waterside at a bar with a cocktail in hand.
Florida’s oldest continuously operating marine park is still one of the best. There’s otters, penguins, alligators, harbor seals, turtles, sharks and more to see, plus you can get up close and personal with the animals in one-on-one encounters and feeding sessions. There’s even dolphin and sea lion shows to enjoy.