Ultimate Beach Guide to Fort Walton Beach Okaloosa Island

Okaloosa Island is the beach destination in Destin-Fort Walton Beach Florida that offers 3 miles of sugar white super soft sand and the clear emerald green waters of the emerald coast beaches. Lying along the Florida Panhandle on the 24 mile stretch of the Santa Rosa Barrier Island between Navarre Beach, Florida and Destin Beach, Florida, Okaloosa Island is a family oriented destination that offers gorgeous beaches and options for everyone.

Ultimate Okaloosa Island Fort Walton Beaches Guide

What this Guide covers

This guide is all about the beach areas: the beaches, access points, parking, wildlife, activities, sand and water, beachfront area, shelling, and anything related to being on the beach! Everything you need to know about the beaches for a day, a weekend, a quiet moment, vacationing, moving or buying in the area.

Also see surrounding Beach Guides for Destin, Navarre, South Walton 30A, Panama City and our Ultimate Florida Beaches Guide for more beaches in Florida.

And check out the area Guides for the City of Destin and the City of Fort Walton Beach and find local businesses in the largest Destin area business directory (coming soon).

Beaches & Activities Along Okaloosa Island Beaches

Okaloosa Island has two distinct sides that are separated by the Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier and Boardwalk in the middle.

The Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier and Boardwalk

The Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier, also known as The Island Pier, along with the Boardwalk are the activity center of the beach area. Park at the Boardwalk where you can shop, eat, and play.

With a children’s playground and volleyball courts, picnic tables, a wide beachfront, and fishing pier, it is easy to enjoy a day at the beach that offers something for everyone in your family or group.

The Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park is located next to the Boardwalk and Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone is directly across the street.

Parking is free everywhere on Okaloosa Island.

West Side of Okaloosa Island

A stay at a hotel or vacation home on the beaches of Okaloosa Island is typically along the west side of the Pier area and provides direct access to the beaches with amazing views of the emerald coast shoreline.

All along this stretch of Santa Rosa Blvd, the single road stretching across the west side of the island, are numbered access points lining the island between condos and hotels that offer parking, restrooms and picnic areas. During the spring, summer and early fall seasons, go early because parking is limited, particularly on the weekends.

Each of these access points are ideal spots for accessing the beach and are very nicely designed, some with boardwalk lookouts and covered areas leading to the beachfront.

These spots are the perfect place to head to the gorgeous beaches.


East side of Okaloosa Island Fort Walton Beaches

To the east of the pier is the Gulf Islands National Seashore area with an access point at John Beasley Park. For those who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the Boardwalk and Pier, John Beasley Park is the perfect spot with pavilions, restrooms, and seasonal Lifeguards and vendors.

And the best feature of John Beasley Park is the dunes! Just gorgeous dunes that line the area going into the National Seashore where you can enjoy the most natural beachfront scenery.

Click here for our Google map of Okaloosa Island Access Points


Beach Life & Cultural Feel of Okaloosa Island

Okaloosa Island has a cultural feel that includes both young families and retirees. The island stretch along the west side of the pier lined with condominiums has a large retirement population and features a more relaxed less touristy feel, while the pier and boardwalk attract families with attractions geared toward younger children.

Not as busy as some of the Destin area beaches, this area is a perfect location if you want to be close enough to Destin, but a bit out of the more touristy areas.


Sand, Water, Beachfront & Shoreline

Pure white sandy beaches line the entire beachfront on Okaloosa Island.


Dunes line the most of the beachfront, even in developed areas. Dunes are an important part of the ecology and are protected so please cross the dunes in the designated areas and boardwalks.

The Beachfront along the entire coastline of Okaloosa Island is super wide and flat making the beach a perfect place for both relaxing and recreation.


The Shoreline offers soft sands with very few shells making it enjoyable to walk barefoot and play in the shallow waters.

The water is a gorgeous green blue color blending into a deep blue on the horizon.

Wildlife: Sealife and Shorelife

Dolphins and Sea Turtles frequent the areas waters. Dolphin watching is particularly good during late spring/early summer and they are more active in the morning and late afternoon hours. Sea Turtle season runs from May to October and is the perfect time to go on a turtle walk with volunteers who teach the respect for these immense creatures.

Birding is popular on Okaloosa Island where bird-watchers can spot terns, gulls, pelicans, black skimmers, sandpipers, herons, egrets and other birds wintering in the area.


Activities and things to do on Okaloosa Island

Hiking trails can be found all along the Panhandle with lots of state parks, local parks, forests and preserves that feature trails for both hikers and bikers. Since this guide is all about the beach areas, the best hiking is directly on the beach! Park at John Beasley Park and hike a couple miles along the water’s edge into the Gulf Islands National Seashore or walk toward the Pier. It is a beautiful walk along the natural dunes and pristine seashore.

Water Activities include swimming, snorkeling, body surfing, stand up paddleboarding, and boating and fishing excursions.

Surf Fishing is a common activity in the area. Be respectful of other beachgoers when choosing a location for surf fishing.

Shelling along the waters edge is a favorite pasttime and there are always shells to be found. While Okaloosa Island is not one of the top destinations for shelling, and some of the shells found are seasonal, it is always fun to search for that unique treasure from the ocean.


Uniquely Fort Walton Beach

Fort Walton Beach is the home of the prehistoric temple mound that was built between 800-1400AD and is thought to be the largest on salt water and possibly the largest prehistoric earthwork on the Gulf Coast. An estimated 200,000 basket loads of earth were used to create this earthen structure and many of the shells probably came from Okaloosa Island area which is directly across the sound waterway.


Scenery, Sunsets and Sunrise

Okaloosa Island features gorgeous sunsets and sunrises. During the winter months, from the angle of the earth to the sun, both sunrise and sunset can be seen across the horizon along the edge where the water meets the sky.


Where to Stay or Live

When visiting or moving to Okaloosa Island in Fort Walton Beach, you will find options for homes, condos, town homes, hotels, and beach homes. The area brings visitors and residents who are looking for a relaxed beach town lifestyle that is close to all of the Destin activities while remaining less crowded and touristy. It is also a popular location for those who are looking for their winter home or vacation rental investments.

Click here for our Complete Real Estate and Accommodation Guide to Fort Walton Beach 

For Local Businesses including Food & Drinks, Services, Health & Medical, Education, Sports & Recreation, Arts & Entertainment and more, click here.


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