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Best Florida Family Beach Vacations; Ft. Walton Beach


Welcome to the next edition of “Florida with Kids” series centering on the best Florida family beaches and Florida beach vacations.

Taking a Florida family beach vacation on the Emerald Coast is one of the best things you and your family could do to really feel like you’ve had a real family vacation.  Besides playing in some of the best white sugar sand beaches in Florida, you will never run out of things to do in and around Ft. Walton Beach.

Ft. Walton Beach and the Emerald Coast offer something for everyone…everything from dolphin watching, adventure & water parks, zoos, kids’ science center, State Parks, Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival (first week of June annually), tons of super white sandy beaches, emerald clear water and so much more!

Also be sure to check out Angie’s write up of the Destin area about vacationing with kids in the Florida panhandle, (Angie is another one of bestkidfriendlytravel.com’s writers) See it here.

You may also want to Check out the Emerald Coast Online Visitor’s Guide.

Come see why Ft. Walton Beach and the Emerald Coast were voted as the “Number One Beaches in the South” and “The Best Family Destination” for 13 years in a row!

Best Florida Family Beach Vacations; WHERE?  FT. WALTON BEACH! Where is it that exactly?

Okaloosa Island is the Gulf front community of Fort Walton Beach. Fort Walton Beach is actually located across the bridge from Destin and Okaloosa Island, and is right on the Inter-Coastal Waterway as well as on the Choctawhatchee Bay.

Florida Family Beach Vacation: WHAT TO DO in and around FT. WALTON BEACH;

If you happen to be around Ft. Walton Beach, Florida for your Florida family beach vacation on the first weekend in June you have to see the annualBilly Bowlegs Pirate Festival”, it’s a treasure of a good time. See more about it at: http://www.fwbchamber.org/Billy-Bowlegs.bowlegs.0.html

The Boardwalk at Okaloosa Island

ft. walton beach
Ft. Walton Beach Boardwalk img. courtesy of- placesaroundflorida.com

The Boardwalk has a bit of everything that any family beach vacation could ask for, from shaded and covered picnic areas to volleyball nets, public restrooms, outdoor showers, tons of parking, loads of restaurants and places to shop. To make things a bit easier, park adjacent to the beach instead of trekking over the big sand dunes loaded down with all your beach supplies, you’ll be glad you did.

If you and your family love to fish, try the Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier which even has a snacks, sodas and other beverages, rods for rent and a bait and tackle shop right on the pier, and they even make their own rigs for kids that don’t have any hooks in them. Anglers restaurant is also conveniently located right at the end of the pier if the fish aren’t biting and the kids are looking to 😀

Dolphin Watching around Ft. Walton Beach:

Southern Star- 100 Highway 98, Phone: (850) 837-7741, Official Website

Sea Blaster – 116 Highway 98, Phone: (850) 837-1166, Official Website

Boogies Water Sports – #2 Stahlman Avenue, Phone: (850) 654-4497, Official Website

Olin Marler’s Charters- 102 Harbor Blvd, Phone: (850) 837-7095, Official Website

Ft. Walton and Area Zoo’s, Parks & Fun Things to DO:


Gulf Breeze ZooNew gift shop, picnic pavilion and spruced-up grounds. The zoo features about 600 to 700 animals. The entrance fee is $8 for kids and $12 for adults. Located at 5701 Gulf Breeze Pkwy. Phone: (850)932-2229.

ft. walton beach gulfbreeze zoo
Family fun on Florida’s Emerald Coast; Ft. Walton Beach Gulfbreeze Zoo img courtesy of; pensacolasgreatest.com

Sasquatch Zoo – CrestviewEducational & fun zoo visit with over 100 exotic animals from all over the world to experience. Open Wednesday thru Sunday. Located at; 5262 Deer Springs Dr. –Phone: (850) 682-3949

GulfariumThis is a mostly outdoor aquarium featuring touching tide pools, foot bridges over swimming rays and sharks, along with seal and dolphin performances to delight the crowd. Founded in 1955 , the Gulfarium is America’s second oldest marine park. It hosts Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, California sea lions, Peruvian penguins, Ridley turtles and more in 14 fascinating Gulf-edged exhibits. Dolphin stars, Princess and Delilah, will entertain you with their comedic soccer games and their huge leaps to the sky. Located at; 1010 Miracle Strip Pkwy. SE . – Phone: (850) 244-5169

Emerald Coast Science CenterVoted one of the best “Almost Free Activities” on the Emerald Coast, the Emerald Coast Science Center is a wonderful place to bring the kids. Stimulate your child’s imagination with amazing interactive science displays ranging from a reflecting Castle of Mirrors to over-sized bubble makers even a hair-raising Vandergraph generator and an electrifying Illuma Storm. Come see for yourself the great adventures you and your child can experience. Admission is only $3.75 for kids, and $5.75 for adults! (Kids 2 and under are FREE!!) Located at; 139 Brooks St., Ft Walton Beach, FL- Phone: (850) 664-1261

Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park An amazing waterpark, one of the best on the Emerald Coast, fun for the whole family during those hot summer months! Located at; 1007 US Highway 98 East, Destin, Florida 32541, Phone: (850) 837-8319.

ft. walton beach shipwreck island
Family fun on Florida’s Emerald Coast; Ft. Walton Beach Shipwreck Island Waterpark- img courtesy of; shipwreckisland.com

Shipwreck Island Waterpark– Not far from Ft. Walton at Panama City Beach… This tropical theme twenty-acre waterpark is filled with so many things to bring smiles to every member of your family, with lush landscaping, a professionally trained aquatics staff, and boasts one of the most hospitable attractions in all of North Florida. Shipwreck Island has been entertaining families for twenty-five years on Panama City Beach.  Admission is $33.00 for people over 50 inches tall and $28.00 for people below 50 inches tall. Children below 35 inches tall are admitted free.  Open April thru September. Located at; 12201 Hutchison Blvd. Panama City Bch, FL 32407-3424, ph#(850) 234-3333.

Gator BeachGator Beach is the region’s only alligator attraction. Here you will find over 100 live alligators. Experience a unique environment where you can see live Florida gators, participate in daily alligator shows, stroll through our Florida wildlife exhibit and even have your photo taken holding a live alligator. Gator Show times run everyday from noon – 4pm and admission is free. –Located at; 20001 Emerald Coast Parkway Destin, FL 32541, Phone: (850) 654-4200 ext. 40.

Goofy Golf- 401 N Eglin Parkway, Phone: (850) 862-4922.


Island Golf Center, Lost Lagoon Golf- 1306 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE. Phone: (850) 224-1612


Ft. Walton Beach Skating Center- 02 Racetrack Road Northeast, Ft Walton Beach, FL 32547, Phone: (850) 863-1222.


Fired Up! 201-B Miracle Strip Parkway Southeast, Ft Walton Beach, FL, Phone: Phone 850-302-0202. If you get bored of all the other great things to do, take the kids to make a handmade creative pottery piece they can take home. Choose from over 100 pieces of pottery and create your own souvenir. Next day pick up or shipping available.

Family fun on Florida’s Emerald Coast; Ft. Walton Beach – Destin Track- img courtesy of; the track family recreation center

The Track Family Recreation Center The Track in Destin is your family headquarters for fun! This action-packed recreation center features tracks like the “three-tiered go-kart/roller coaster hybrid”, “Wild Woody”, and big fun for little tykes at “Kids Country”. Also has miniature golf, bumper boats, or even a bungee jumping tower. See their website for 10% OFF and FREE shipping on tickets!- located at; 1125 Highway 98 East . Phone: (850) 654-4668.

Heritage Park & Cultural Center

Combining three museums, the Cultural Center represents the history of Fort Walton Beach’s Indian Temple Mound. This 6,000-piece exhibit, showcases America’s largest collection of Southeastern Indian ceramic artifacts. Journey through 10,000 years of four prehistoric tribes and experience the largest Indian mound discovered along saltwater (1400 A.D.) which stands guard beside the museum, Camp Walton Schoolhouse, and Garnier Post Office Museum. Located at; 39 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE. Phone: (850) 833-9595.
Official Website

And for your little nature enthusiasts be sure to check out these gorgeous areas:

The Grayton Beach State Park has these great bike trails through the shady pine trees, a lake to bring your kayak or canoe, as well as beach access and camping. There are daily fees for visitors but electing to camp here is pretty much a perfect mix of everything you need for a vacation to please the beach lovers, outdoor enthusiasts and shade seekers.- 357 Main Park Road, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459. Ph#-850 231 4210.

Indian Temple Mound Museumlocated on Highway 98 in the heart of historic downtown Ft Walton Beach, Florida, this museum has many exhibits depicting over 12,000 years of Native American occupation. With over 6,000 artifacts of stone, bone, clay and shell are here, as well as the finest collection of Fort Walton Period ceramics in the Southeastern United States. Exhibits also include artifacts from the European Explorers, local pirates, Civil War soldiers and early settlers. *Visit the Trail of Florida’s Indian Heritage new website for more in depth info about us as one of their seven featured sites!: at; http://www.TrailofFloridasIndianHeritage.org

Indian Temple Mound and Museum, Located at 139 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE, Ft Walton Beach, Florida,  ph#; 1 (850) 833-9595. www.fwb.org

Florida Family Beach Vacation; WHERE TO STAY & EAT in and around FT. WALTON BEACH, EMERALD COAST:

Kid-Friendly Restaurants in/near Ft. Walton Beach, Florida:

*The Crab Trap 1450 Miracle Strip Pky SE #204, Fort Walton Bch, FL (850) 301-0959 () ‎  2.4 mi SE. See44 reviews. The Crap Trap is very, very kid friendly, and a favorite tourist spot because it is one of the only restaurants that sits right on the beach. This is the best around!

*Black Pearl Wood Fired Seafood– 1450 Miracle Strip Pky SE #104, Fort Walton Bch, FL (850) 833-3016 () ‎  2.4 mi SE.22 reviews “Want great seafood and friendly service on Okaloosa Island? The Black Pearl is calling your name. This family-friendly restaurant, with its cozy-but-casual with great food” .

Magnolia Grill of FWB– 157 Brooks St SE, Ft Walton Bch, FL (850) 302-0266 () ‎  1.4 mi SE35 reviews “Magnolia Grill of Fort Walton Beach provides top-notch dining in a friendly atmosphere filled with local history. “

Floyd’s Fish House & Bar-1450 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE, Ft Walton Bch, FL (850) 243-2232 () ‎  2.3 mi SE-46 reviews– “The food was great and prices were on par for the food and service. The staff acted friendly and polite”.

*Mc Guire’s Irish Pub of Destin-33 Harbor Blvd, Destin, FL (850) 650-0000 () ‎  6.5 mi E- 272 reviews “This restaurant is great and very family friendly. Definitely try their 18 cent bean soup! For appetizer try their Irish boxtys. They have the best angus burgers too”.

Caffe’ Italia-189 Brooks St SE, Ft Walton Bch, FL (850) 664-0035 () ‎  1.5 mi SE.41 reviews, Fun, old world Italian-European food, simple fresh ingredients with a relaxed atmosphere.

*The Back Porch-1740 Old Highway 98 East, Destin, FL (850) 837-2022 () ‎  9.8 mi E-194 reviews “This restaurant was one of the most wonderful places we ate dinner while on our vacation. The restaurant is very family friendly and very relaxed dine.com

Florida Family Beach Vacation; Kid-Friendly Resorts and Family Friendly Hotels in/near Ft. Walton Beach, Florida:

ft. walton beach hotel
Ft Walton Beach Hotel

Holiday Inn Resort Fort Walton Beach


573 Santa Rosa Boulevard
Ft Walton Beach, FL 32548 US Map It

Highly recommended by families. Located directly on the Gulf Coast shores, Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort Gulf Island is located approximately 50 miles from Pensacola Regional Airport. … more

Hampton Inn Fort Walton Beach


1112 Santa Rosa Boulevard
Ft Walton Beach, FL 32548 US Map It

The beachfront Hampton Inn Fort Walton Beach is across the street from Emerald Coast Conference Center, a mile from downtown Fort Walton Beach, and approximately … more


Best Western Ft Walton Beachfront Hotel

380 Santa Rosa Boulevard
Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548 US
Located 0.8 mi / 1.3 km from the selected property.

Photos or Video

Located on the Island, this hotel is directly on the Gulf of Mexico with Sugar White Sand and miles of unspoiled beaches. … more

1500 Miracle Strip Parkway Southeast
Fort Walton Beach, FL US 32548 Map It

The Ramada Plaza Beach Resort is located directly on the beautiful white sands of the Gulf of Mexico and is next door to The Boardwalk entertainment complex … more

Emerald Coast Inn And Suites

1214 Miracle Strip Parkway SE
Ft Walton Beach, FL 32548 US Map It

Located on Okaloosa Island, between Destin and Ft. Walton Beach, directly across the street from the beach and within a close vicinity to Beach Pavilion … more



ft. walton beach
Family fun on Florida’s Emerald Coast; Ft. Walton Beach waterslide- img courtesy of; pensacolasgreatest.com

If you’ve stayed or visited on or near Ft. Walton Beach Florida with kids for your Florida Family Beach Vacation, leave me a comment about it, I’d love to hear about your family friendly adventures! Make sure to stay tuned for more of the “Florida with Kids” series.

If you missed the other editions, check out “Florida with Kids: Siesta Beach, Sarasota, Florida”, or ; “Florida Family Beach Vacation; Treasure Island, St. Petersburg”, or ; “Florida Family Beach Vacation; Clearwater Beach” for more family friendly vacation ideas.

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