Okaloosa Island Travel Guide

Surrounded by Santa Rosa Sound, Choctawhatchee Bay and the Gulf of Mexico is breathtaking for visitors of Okaloosa Island. This barrier island between Ft. Walton Beach and Destin is famous for pristine beaches, water sports and awesome family attractions. Come play beach volleyball on sand so clean it squeaks underfoot. Laugh with the sea lions at the world’s oldest, continuously operating live marine show. Land a big one from the 1,261-foot-long fishing pier. Find out for yourself why families return here year after year, generation after generation, to build memories in the sand.  Read our Okaloosa Island Travel Guide, and find all information righ here to plan you vacation now.  Visit the area beaches on Okaloosa Island and along the Emerald Coast.

Okaloosa Island Weather – When to Visit

The best time to visit Okaloosa Island is between mid-September and October when both spring breakers and family vacationers have departed the city, leaving the beaches, attractions and restaurants devoid of peak season crowds. The weather is still moderate this time of year, and the risk of hurricanes wanes, too. The late fall and winter months of November through February are considered low season, with dropping temperatures and room rates. Heavy crowds of students and families swarm the city and its beaches in peak season’s early spring and summer to take advantage of the prime beach weather.

Top Okaloosa Island Attractions

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is OKIsalnd-Boardwalk-300x200.jpgOkaloosa Island Boardwalk

Spending all day at the beach is easy at the Boardwalk. There’s a pier, picnic areas, restaurants, shops, and even volleyball nets, everything is just a short walk in the sand. Pick up a kite to fly, get some beach toys, shop for some coastal clothes and souvenirs, all at the boardwalk shops. There are also plenty of restaurants on the boardwalk.

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This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is OK-Island-Fishing-Pier-1024x439.jpgOkaloosa Island Fishing Pier

Take a stroll down the fishing pier, where sea turtles and dolphins gather as gulls circle overhead. Watch fishermen cast their lines and reel in their catches. Herons hover nearby hoping to snag an easy snack. You can also rent poles and buy fish and tackle.  The pier provides your fishing license for everyone who pays the daily fishing fee.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Gulfarium-Marine-Adventure-Park-300x95.jpgGulfarium Marine Adventure Park

The Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park offers up-close and hands-on encounters with aquatic animals. Tour the exhibits, starting with a windowed floor-to-ceiling tank of dolphins at the door. Touch starfish and sea urchins, or have graceful stingrays “fly” by under your fingertips. There is a bird sanctuary and for reptile lovers, there are lizards, snakes and turtles. You can also feed and play with the dolphins, sea lions and more.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Wild-Willys-Adventure-Zone-300x122.jpgWild Willy’s Adventure Zone

Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone lets you fly like a Pterosaur on a reverse bungee trampoline and climb to the treetops on a 60-foot-high ropes course. The largest family entertainment center in Northwest Florida, it also features a spinning roller coaster, remote-control battle boats, laser maze, 4D movie theater and a 16,000-square-foot arcade with more than 65 of the latest high-tech games.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is John-C-Beasley-Park-300x225.jpgJohn C Beasley Park

John C Beasley Park is the perfect place to get to know the beaches, Gulf waters, dunes, wildflowers, and wildlife of Okaloosa Island. Overhangs provide shaded picnic spots, while restrooms and freshwater shower heads are available for rinsing off. Short boardwalks, including a handicap ramp, take you to the beach itself, while Indian Blanket and Dune Sunflowers bloom near the parking area. The waters here are emerald green, and can be absolutely calm or provide fun waves, depending on the weather.

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Things To Do in Okaloosa Island

Destiny Water Adventures

They’re a full service water sport excursion that gives you unlimited access to a wide array of water sport toys including jet skis, paddle boards, kayaks, mini-water park, as well as many other activities. Food and drinks are also included. They also offer wave runners, pontoons, kayaks, SUP and fly boarding.  Telephone:  850-503-7607  Web:  Destiny Water Adventures

Cattywampus Eco Tours

Enjoy unique eco cruises off the shores of beautiful Fort Walton Beach, Okaloosa Island, and Destin aboard the power Cattywampus catamaran. They offer some of the best sights and experiences with their catamaran cruise. Whether you are in Fort Walton Beach, Okaloosa Island, Destin or surrounding areas, the Cattywampus catamaran is the perfect vessel for an unforgettable experience.  Telephone:  850-586-0450  Web: Cattywampus Eco Tours.

Fort Walton Beach Parasail

Parasailing is a wonderful way to see the Island and a great way to highlight your vacation experience. Fly high and see the entire area, add a banana boat ride and do a combo, with photo packages available as well.  Telephone:  850-438-5555  Web:  Fort Walton Beach Parasail.

Destin Airboat Tours

Ride along the shore of Choctawhatchee Bay & Santa Rosa Sound aboard PUC DAT, their Diamondback 15 passenger airboat! Ages 2 thru 11 –  $25 Ages 12 & over – $45 Discount Coupons available @ Fudpucker’s.  Weather and seas permitting they offer daily departures. Telephone:  850-461-9585 Web:  Destin Airboat Tours.

Fuddpuckers Watersports

Fuddpuckers Watersports is the perfect place for riders of all levels and ages. Never attempted a water sport? Not to worry! Their mission is to ensure that our customers have a fun day out on the boat, whether it is swimming, inner tubing, or just sun bathing. They are there to make sure that you have to great time out on the water.  Telephone:  850-424-7625  Web:  Fuddpuckers Watersports.

Top Okaloosa Island Restaurants

Old Bay Steamer  $31 – 60

Old Bay Steamer is an independent, locally owned  and operated seafood restaurant in Fort Walton Beach FL.   They opened in 1995 on Okaloosa Island just in time for Hurricane Erin.  Shortly thereafter, Hurricane Opal delivered a spectacular smack down.  Against all odds and pathetic customer counts, they did not perish.  Word of mouth and local support, has been the foundation of their success. The Place for Steamed Seafood in Ft Walton Beach FL : Maine Lobster Tails • King Crab • Snow Crab • Royal Red Shrimp • Clams • Mussels • Oysters.  Telephone:  850-664-2795  Web:  Old Bay Steamer.

Soi Bistro  $11 – 30

The healthy alternative, Soi Bistro features an inventive and traditional mix of sushi paired with the largest selection of sake. Prepared with the freshest ingredients, they offer a dining experience full of creative flavors, combined with a casual relaxed atmosphere. Indulge in our signature rolls or Asian inspired dishes.  Telephone:  850-586-7645  Web:  Soi Bistro.

Blue Collar Cafe  $Under 10

Fresh-baked goods, yummy breakfast (their maple bacon makes life better; trust us) and mouth-watering deli sandwiches!  Go and try Marc’s famous scratch-made bagels–or even better, get a B.O.B. (Breakfast on a Bagel).  A selection of fresh gourmet coffee; beans roasted in-house!  Telephone:  850-586-7211  Web:  Blue Collar Cafe.

Marina Cafe  $31 – 50

Take a drive to Destin and head to the wonderful Marina Café.  At Destin’s most awarded restaurant, Marina Café, it is all about sensational food, attentive service and breathtaking harbor views from the candlelit dining room that envelopes you in soft colors, and high ceilings. Relax and enjoy their extensive wine collection with over 100 wines that perfectly complement the wonderfully progressive cuisine. With fresh daily seafood selections, USDA prime steaks, pastas, sushi and wood-fired pizzas, there is something for everyone at Marina Café.  Telephone:  850-837-7960 Web:  Marina Café.

Louisiana Lagniappe  $11 – 30

Another great Destin restaurant. In 1984, Louisiana Lagniappe in Destin was opened and established inside Sandpiper Cove condominiums.  A loyal following was quickly established, in no small part, to the quality of the food and the attention to detail of the service.  Since then, Louisiana Lagniappe has consistently served only the freshest seafood and steaks.  The Gulf seafood is prepared with a Creole flair, the attire is casual, yet an upscale waterfront dining experience is provided for the entire family.  Telephone:  850-837-0881  Web:  Louisiana Lagniappe.

Best Okaloosa Island Bars & Nightlife

Angler’s Beach Side Grill

Delicious seafood, burgers, steaks, and various entrees and appetizers with a beachfront view overlooking the gulf of Mexico!  They range from fresh shucked oysters from Apalachicola, fresh caught grouper and mahi- mahi, to well prepared rib eyes and mouth-watering steak filets. Their beach baskets have big portions that are suitable for a king!  While you’re there try their signature beach freeze frozen drink (strawberry daiquiri,  pina colada, blue raspberry – all mixed into one drink!) maybe a margarita or a delicious Bloody Mary. They have quite the assortment of beers on tap ranging from your regular domestics to their local brews.  Telephone:  850-796-0260  Web:  Angler’s Beach Side Grill.

The Crab Trap

The Crab Trap is the perfect place to begin or end your day at the beach. Serving local favorites such as Hot Crab Dip, Seafood Gumbo, and daily specials ranging from Grilled Sirloin to Alaskan Crab Legs, The Crab Trap has something for everyone. The kids will love the special menu designed just for them.  Telephone:  850-301-0959  Web:  The Crab Trap.

Giovanni’s One89

They offer their patrons a variety of experiences – a restaurant, a wine bar, beach dining, a summer-time Tiki Beach Bar, deep water and beach docking plus live music on Thursdays and special events.  Telephone:  850-664-0035 Web:  Giovanni’s One89.

Rick’s Crab Trap

They offer fresh seafood straight from the Gulf, as well as other favorites, shipped to us fresh.  Add in tasty appetizers, fresh salads, great sandwiches and wraps, plus lots of steamed, fried, and broiled entrees. They have something for every taste.  In addition to being a family restaurant, and a full service bar, they also LOVE sports.  Every night you will find the game on one of their dozen or more TV’s   From  NFL, NCAA, MLB , NHL and NBA, to soccer from the world stage, they have the sports you are looking for.  Telephone:  850-664-0110  Web:  Rick’s Crab Trap.

McGuire’s Irish Pub

McGuire’s Irish Pub first opened in 1977 as a small neighborhood pub in a shopping center. In 1982 McGuire’s moved to its current location; Pensacola’s original 1927 Old Firehouse. Inside the pub you’ll find a turn-of-the-century, New York Irish Saloon themed 615-seat restaurant.  Telephone:  850-650-0000  Web:  McGuire’s Irish Pub.

Best Okaloosa Island Hotels

Town Place Suites Fort Walton Beach


The only mid tier, pet friendly all suite extended stay property with full kitchens located in the Fort Walton/Eglin AFB area offering apartment living with the comfort of hotel amenities, services and breath taking water front views. Minutes away from world renowned sandy beaches , golf courses and within close proximity to various restaurants and shopping.

Holiday Inn Resort Fort Walton Beach


This hotel is perfect not just for family vacations, but for romantic getaways, meetings and events, and business travel. We have the best pool in the area with a lazy river, waterfall, and hot tub as well as an an indoor pool, American Grill, pool bar, family suites, supervised children’s activities, ‘Dive-Inn’ movies, interactive pirate and mermaid shows, private beachfront balconies, 24 hour fitness center, 24 hour business center, free WiFi, and free parking.

La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham Fort Walton Beach


The La Quinta Inn & Suites, Fort Walton Beach awarded 2010 Inn Of The Year and recently named a 2011 Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence award winner, is located less than one mile away from beautiful white sandy beaches. The La Quinta Inn & Suites is near plenty of fun activities nearby including water sports, boating, waterparks, fishing excursions shopping outlets and golfing.

Best Western Ft. Walton Beachfront

The Best Western Ft. Walton Beachfront hotel boasts luxurious amenities, on-site entertainment and close proximity to exciting activities. This boutique-style hotel adds a touch of class to the traditional Best Western family-friendly atmosphere. Hotel amenities include an on-site outdoor pool with adjacent cabana bar and meeting facilities.  Every guest room is decorated in a stylish art deco design and boasts extras such as free high-speed Internet access, microwave and refrigerator.

Hilton Garden Inn Fort Walton Beach


The Hilton Garden Inn Ft. Walton Beach hotel is located on Okaloosa Island, with coastal views. Our warm, inviting guest rooms provide a great base for your beach side vacation. Experience our Lazy river with rock waterfalls, heated indoor pool and a beachfront hot tub. Guests can also enjoy on-site dining at our restaurant and bar.

Booking.com

37 Comments

  1. Deborah

    what does the crowd look like on Okaloosa Island after Labor Day

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      After labor day, the crowds thin quite a bit and you will find it to be a lot more enjoyable. Personally I like the beach when it is not wall-to-wall people.

      Reply
      1. Deborah

        Thank you this will be our first time visiting Okaloosa Island and we do like smaller crowds can’t wait to come down

        Reply
        1. Leahrae (Post author)

          You will enjoy! Avoid spring break for sure, it’s horribly crowded then. I made that mistake one year LOL.

          Reply
  2. Art

    I have never actually stayed on Okaloosa Island but my wife and I come to Destin two times a year absolutely love it.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Destin is wonderful, and I think that you would really love Okaloosa Island. Just more of the same beautiful beaches. Matter of fact you won’t find it any better than the pristine beaches of Okaloosa Island! Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  3. Kim

    LOVE LOVE LOVE OKALOOSA ISLAND!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I do too Kim!

      Reply
  4. Steven Varley

    Florida! love the look of this place. I really want to travel to lots of places in the USA.

    What’s the humidity like here I heard its quite high?

    The sea and beach at Okaloosa Island looks beautiful, I think me and the misses could agree on this holiday.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Yes, it is humid. The relative humidity typically ranges from 50% to 92% (very humid) over the course of the year. The air is driest around October 24, when it will drop below 63%. It is most humid around March 24, exceeding 89%. I am from Texas and we are less humid, but I don’t think it feels that humid along the Emerald Coast. Yes, it is beautiful, you will love Okaloosa Island.

      Reply
  5. Veronica

    Hi Leahrae! 🙂
    Congratulation on the wonderful beach guide you’ve made! It really makes me dream of all these lovely places! I’v been several times in Italy but I’ve always visited cultural sites mainly. With your post on best beaches in Italy you gave me a totally new perspective of this country. Thank you for sharing! I’ve also got curious about the best time to buy a flight ticket set at 03:00pm on Tuesday. Does it refer to the airlines’ website’s airfares or the airfares in the global distribution systems?

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Hi there, I am glad you liked Beach Travel Destinations 🙂 The flight ticket price refers to how each airline price their tickets 🙂 which is generally cheaper at that time.

      Reply
  6. Tyson

    Wow! This site has proven to be so useful time and time again! What is amazing is the structure, it is presented in a way where when you read you feel like the organizational factor of your holiday is completely taken care of! Keep up the brilliant posts, again I cannot wait to read your next one,
    Tyson 😀

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thank you so much Tyson and I am really glad you enjoyed reading 🙂 It’s a passion of mine for sure. And then of course, who doesn’t like to read about white sandy beaches?

      Reply
  7. Linda Åkerlund

    Fantastic place, thanks for sharing! I wold love to go there some day:) I have read about the Emerald Coast, just never imagined there was so much there. Have you been?

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Yes, I agree it is a pretty awesome place! And yes, I have driven all up and down the Emerald Coast. The beaches are amazing. Thanks for visiting!

      Reply
  8. Asen

    Hey there,

    Another great place and a great beach to visit.
    Your article proves that really in USA there are some beautiful beaches.
    The Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park brought my attention.
    It looks fantastic and I love adventure parks and waterparks.
    A question- how about the taxes for the beach stay and the umbrellas? Is it expensive?

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      No, the whole area is very inexpensive. I am comparing it of course to say California, which is much, much more expensive. There are no taxes in Florida. Is that what you mean? You can rent a cabana, with lounge chairs and umbrella top for about $20 for the whole day. But this is large and has usually at least two lounge chairs, and generally big enough for the entire family’s visit.

      Reply
  9. falubaba

    Well informative and excellent write up. I have no doubt that it is a popular vacation destination for many, especially during the summer months. I’ve heard so much about the pristine and beautiful beaches of Florida and the Keys, and what I just read is another nearby destination for everyone to consider. I like the set up on the article as it gives an overall information for those reading it. As I try to develop my site I will be visiting this and other related sites to see what I can glean and apply to my own site. Thanks for an article well written.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments. I am glad you enjoyed visiting Beach Travel Destinations!

      Reply
  10. falubaba

    Great article, and an in-depth one that give a great overview of this particular destination. Evidently, this is a get away for many during the summer months.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Yes, it can be a busy place. There are quite a few beaches along the Emerald Coast, and I really don’t find the beaches overcrowded. The traffic is kind of busy during peak times, but then that is because there is only one highway going thru the area.

      Reply
  11. Alan Roy Hocking

    What a fantastic and in-depth review of Okaloosa Island Leahrae.

    It looks absolutely beautiful and somewhere I will definitely be adding to my retirement bucket list of “must-visit-destinations.”

    I live on the Costa del Sol and have spent the last 20 years in the travel industry and I have to say that you have really done your research and covered everything anyone would need to know if they were planning to visit Okaloosa Island.

    Thanks.

    Alan 🙂

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thank you Alan, it is so good to hear. I feel like I have such a long ways to go as one post, takes entirely too much time! I am glad you enjoyed visiting Beach Travel Destinations.

      Reply
  12. Ryan

    Wow, this looks amazing, never heard of Okaloosa before but after reading your post I know so much about it now, looks amazing, the temperature guide graph is a real help also and the bars and nightclub venues and restaurants look really superb, thanks for letting me know so much about Okaloosa!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are so welcome Ryan! Really, Okaloosa Island is so beautiful and runs along the front of the Emerald Coast. It is definitely worth while to take a drive down the whole coast and experience all the wonderful beaches and places along the way.

      Reply
  13. Jasmine Ungaro

    Wow! Okaloosa looks like paradise! What sold me was the temperature, lol. Where I live we have 100+ degree summers, so those temperatures sound amazing. I definitely want to vacation there. Thank you for all this information on airports, restaurants, hotels, etc… I’ve got to try the seafood gumbo at The Crab Trap. I’m a true southerner so anytime someone says there’s gumbo, I’ve got to try it! I’m going to show this to my husband. Valentine’s day is coming up and this is what I want, lol! 🙂

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Yay, you will love it. I was there last summer, drove and stayed all along the Emerald Coast (you can do it in one day 🙂 If you go, check out Watercolors, it’s amazing and so is the beach!

      Reply
  14. Brent

    Another great review!!! Yes this place looks like a lot of fun for all!! That Eco trip looks intriguing to me. Great work!!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Yes, I think anyone would enjoy the Eco Tour. Okaloosa Island has a lot to offer for fun, besides the beautiful beaches 🙂

      Reply
  15. Lureita

    I love your article and can tell you have put a lot of research into it. Overall, I think you have a nice, clean webpage, with lots of useful information. You have beautiful pictures in just the right places. Its easy to read and very comprehensive. I enjoyed this post!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thank you Lureita for reading about Okaloosa Island Travel. The Emerald Coast is a beautiful place to visit.

      Reply
  16. Lureita Worth

    I love your article and can tell you have put a lot of research into it. Overall, I think you have a nice, clean webpage, with lot’s of useful information. You have beautiful pictures in just the right places. It’s easy to read and very comprehensive. Great job!

    Reply
  17. Matthew Leiker

    My name is Matthew and I am from Kansas. This is a wonderful site. Well put together. You have all your bases covered. You definitely done your homework. Plan to visit here one day!!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thank you Matthew! I am glad you enjoyed reading about Okaloosa Island travel. The Emerald Coast is very beautiful, and a place everyone should enjoy!

      Reply
  18. Katie

    Hi Mattysmom!

    Wow, you have done some extensive travel and research. It makes me want to go to all the places you mention! I love your comprehensive information on airfare, hotels, transfers, packages, etc. What’s your favorite beach in the United States to visit? Where do you suggest is the best place for a family to vacation? Happy trails to you!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      My favorite beach hands down is St. Pete Beach, Florida. It just has a laid back atmosphere, the beach is wonderful, the people friendly…just all around the best. You can go a lot of places for a family vacation. If your kids are small, I recommend staying in Orlando and visiting the different Disney resorts. The beaches on either coast are just an hour away. So you can have the best of both worlds. If they are small children, I recommend the west coast of Florida as the water is warmer and much calmer.

      Reply

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