What to do in Downtown Fort Walton Beach [Plus 10 Fun Activities & Attractions]
March 29th 2021
From the shores of sparkling Okaloosa Island, to the bustling and historic downtown district, Fort Walton Beach, Florida, offers endless opportunities for family fun and adventure. This fantastic vacation destination touts a rich history and culture, an appreciation for the arts, and scenic beauty as far as the eye can see. Fort Walton Beach also has tons of fascinating tours, attractions, and things to do, offering something for everyone in your group!
Downtown is the heart of Fort Walton Beach, and should definitely be added to your itinerary. Whether you decide to stroll the streets while shopping at unique boutiques, or want to feel as if you’ve been transported back in time at the historic Indian Temple Mound and Museum, you’re in for a treat. Keep reading and discover what to do in downtown Fort Walton Beach to maximize your time in this quaint and coastal city, and make this vacation one for the books!
Table of Contents
- Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park
- Okaloosa Island Boardwalk and Fishing Pier
- Sunset Cruises
- Pontoon Boat Rentals
- Paddleboard Rentals and Tours
- The Ratchet Hatchet Axe Throwing
- Historic Sites and Museums
- Shopping and Dining
- Day Trip to Downtown Destin
Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park
Dolphins jumping for joy at the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park
Just minutes away from downtown, the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park is one of the top kid friendly activities in Fort Walton Beach, and should definitely be added to your family vacation check list. In fact, all ages will love this awesome aquarium, as it is home to an abundance of amazing animals, daily shows, interactive exhibits, marine-life encounters, and more! The Gulfarium combines learning and fun, and allows the chance for an up-close experience with penguins, sharks, dolphins, stingrays, sea lions, and other wonderful creatures.
A trip to the Gulfarium is sure to create an afternoon of fun and adventure, as it has been entertaining families and creating memories since its opening in 1955. The Gulfarium is one of the world’s oldest marine animal parks, and has had many significant impacts on not only the industry, but also the community, scientific research, and marine animal care and training. Below are just a few of the many marvelous milestones reached by the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park over the years:
- The Gulfarium was the first marine park to perform shows underwater using SCUBA gear.
- This aquarium was the first to record a dolphin jumping over 21-feet high!
- Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park was the first aquarium to successfully raise a stranded baby bottlenose dolphin.
- They were the first to develop the synthetic milk formula for bottlenose dolphins, which is still being used today!
Okaloosa Island Boardwalk and Fishing Pier
Pictured above is the Okaloosa Island Boardwalk, as seen from the fishing pier at night
Just next door to the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park is the Okaloosa Island Boardwalk and Fishing Pier, and its location on the gorgeous Gulf of Mexico has been attracting visitors here for ages. Aside from the beautiful beaches, this area is the place to be for shopping, dining, and entertainment on Okaloosa Island. For more information about this fantastic destination, visit our recent TripShock blog outlining the best way to spend the day at the Okaloosa Island Boardwalk!
The Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier sits adjacent to the boardwalk, and provides scenic views and fun for everyone! Fishing is one of the top things to do here, attracting anglers of all ages and skill levels. The pier has everything you need to catch keepers all day long, including bait, equipment rentals, and temporary fishing licenses. Popular types of fish you may reel in on the Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier include the following:
- King Mackerel
- And MORE!
And let’s not forget to mention the breathtakingly beautiful views! The pier stretches out 1,262 feet into the Gulf of Mexico’s crystal-clear waters, providing picturesque panoramic views. Be sure to keep an eye out for massive schools of fish, dolphins, stingrays, sharks, sea turtles, and other marvelous marine life below. Herons, pelicans, and other majestic water birds can be found strolling down the pier, as well. The scenic shoreline and shimmering waters provide unparalleled views you have to see to believe!
Spectacular view from a sunset cruise departing from downtown Fort Walton Beach
Sunset cruises offer something for everyone, from couples on a romantic getaway in Fort Walton Beach, to families in search of the perfect way to end an unforgettable day at the beach! Not only do many cruises depart from downtown Fort Walton Beach, they also come in all shapes and sizes, meaning there’s something for everyone in your group. Take it slow and steady on a private sailing charter, and take in incredible views on island time, or jet out into the Gulf of Mexico at maximum speed in search of dolphins, excitement, and adventure, the options are practically endless! Whichever tour tickles your fancy, be sure to keep an eye out for scenic sunsets, playful dolphins, pelicans, herons, stingrays, sea turtles, sharks, and more!
Family enjoys a high-flying parasailing adventure from downtown Fort Walton Beach
When deciding what to do in downtown Fort Walton Beach, consider joining in on a scenic and exciting parasailing excursion! Guests will soar up to heights of 400 feet in the sky, and enjoy the smell of the salt air, the sun and breeze on their face, spectacular scenic views, and the adventure of a lifetime. Not only that, parasailing trips will allow three guests to fly at a time, depending on weight and age restrictions, so this wonderful experience can be enjoyed with your favorite people. This is a great way to witness the area’s natural beauty and wonder from a whole new perspective, as well as amazing wildlife like dolphins, stingrays, sea turtles, and more!
Pontoon Boat Rentals
Crab Island pontoon boat rental departing from downtown Fort Walton Beach, FL
Another great thing to consider when choosing what to do in downtown Fort Walton Beach is its close proximity to Santa Rosa Sound and Choctawhatchee Bay. This makes getting out on the water and making a splash a cinch, and while there are tons of watersports and activities to choose from, renting a pontoon is definitely a favorite among locals and visitors alike! The area’s smooth and scenic waters are perfect for boating, as well as enjoying some family fun in the sun. If this sounds like just what the doctor ordered, check out these awesome places to explore from your downtown Fort Walton Beach pontoon rental:
Paddleboard Rentals and Tours
Father and son on a paddleboard tour in downtown Fort Walton Beach
When searching for something unique to do in downtown Fort Walton Beach, paddleboarding should definitely do the trick! This awesome activity combines relaxation and adventure, offering the best of both worlds when it comes to watersports. Participants will love the serenity that comes with slowly paddling through the area’s calm and scenic waters, as well as the excitement of up-close encounters with mother nature at her finest! With different tours and rentals available, accommodating all ages and skill levels, you can be paddling through the beautiful Choctawhatchee Bay in no time!
The Ratchet Hatchet Axe Throwing
Discover your axe-throwing skills at The Ratchet Hatchet in downtown Fort Walton Beach
Still stumped on what to do in downtown Fort Walton Beach? Why not channel your inner viking and hit the bullseye at The Ratchet Hatchet. The Ratchet Hatchet is an awesome indoor facility with multiple axe-throwing lanes, and a variety of throwing axes to choose from like viking axes, tomahawks, and even shovels! Axe-throwing is fun for all occasions, and anyone can participate, as long as they can comfortably hold the axe over their head.
Historic Sites and Museums
The Indian Temple Mound Museum in downtown Fort Walton Beach
If you’re searching for what to do in downtown Fort Walton Beach for history buffs, then you’re in luck! This city has a rich history that dates back thousands of years, with plenty of historic sites and museums to showcase and preserve it. Below are a few of the top historic sites and museums to visit when in downtown Fort Walton Beach:
- Heritage Park & Cultural Center: Located in the heart of downtown, the Heritage Park & Cultural Center is a museum complex that showcases Northwest Florida history dating all the way back to 12,000 B.C. Visitors can check out five magnificent museums here including the Indian Temple Mound Museum, Fort Walton Temple Mound, Camp Walton Schoolhouse, Garnier Post Office Museum, and Civil War Exhibits.
- Air Force Armament Museum: The Air Force Armament Museum is about six miles away from downtown at Eglin Air Force Base, but is definitely worth the trek! This awesome museum offers visitors tons of information, exhibits, and displays, and features dozens of historic planes, rockets, missiles, and more. Admission is free!
- Emerald Coast Science Center: Kids, including kids at heart, will love the Emerald Coast Science Center! This interactive science museum combines education and fun, offering hands-on exhibits, robotics, animal encounters, and so much more.
Shopping and Dining
Unique boutiques and delicious eats line the streets in downtown Fort Walton Beach, offering something for all styles and tastes
When deciding what to do in downtown Fort Walton Beach, be sure to make some time to soak up the area’s small town charm. Downtown Fort Walton Beach is home to a variety of locally-owned shops, galleries, restaurants, and tons of fun for the whole family! With that being said, if you’ve worked up an appetite enjoying all that downtown Fort Walton Beach has to offer, be sure to grab a bite at one of these wonderful neighborhood eateries:
- Burrito Del Sol
- K.C.’s Sandbar & Grill
- Taste Tapas & Wine Bar
- Maas Coffee Roasters
- The Boardroom Pub and Grub
- And MORE!
Many downtown establishments also showcase some of the best local music and art. In fact, downtown Fort Walton Beach prides itself in supporting local artists, as many stores are either homegrown, or are filled with pieces from artists who are from the area. From upscale apparel, to handmade jewelry, downtown Fort Walton Beach offers a variety of options for all sorts of shoppers!
Day Trip to Downtown Destin
Aerial view of downtown Destin, FL
After exploring all of the delightful things that downtown Fort Walton Beach has to offer, it’s time to head through the scenic Gulf Islands National Seashore, and over the iconic Marler Bridge to Destin, “The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village!” Downtown Destin is just six miles away from Fort Walton Beach, and offers a myriad of magical things to do. From catching keepers on a kid-friendly fishing charter, to searching for Flipper on an unforgettable dolphin cruise in the Gulf, a trip to Destin, FL, offers plenty of ways to create amazing memories with the ones you love.
With so much to see and do in this charming coastal city, it’s easy to see why so many travelers choose to visit this slice of paradise each and every year. Still unsure of what to do in downtown Fort Walton Beach? Visit TripShock for everything you need to know about this wonderful city, including the best rates on the top Fort Walton Beach things to do, and more!
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