From sugar-white sands and the glittering waters of the Gulf of Mexico to Native American burial mounds, Spanish conquistadors, pirates, and a role in the Civil War, Fort Walton Beach is a place that is as fascinating as it is beautiful. Learn more about Fort Walton Beach below!
A Gorgeous Locale with a Rich History
In Fort Walton Beach, visitors can experience the best of a vibrant beach-going culture and the deep, storied past of this unique area along the Emerald Coast of the Florida Panhandle.
Fort Walton Beach was first populated as early as 12,000 to 14,000 years ago, with the first Native Americans leaving behind artifacts like arrowheads from other regions, tools made from shark teeth, intricate pottery, and incredible burial mounds like the Fort Walton Temple Mound, which is a National Historic Landmark.
Spanish explorers and conquistadors came to what is now Fort Walton Beach during the 16th century. During this time, they brought new diseases with them—just one of the many possible factors contributing to the extinction of the Native Americans in the area, with other hypothesized causes including crop failure, drought, war, and mass illness.
There is also debate over whether pirates used Fort Walton Beach as a base of operations, as the Gulf of Mexico was infamous for its pirate presence during the 1700s and 1800s. One famous figure, an 18th century adventurer named William Augustus Bowles (Captain Billy Bowlegs), or Eastajoca in the Creek language, supposedly plundered English, French, and Spanish ships and buried it along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. Fort Walton Beach residents reenact “Bowlegs’” invasion each year at the Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival, which includes a staged duel with the mayor on the landing of Fort Walton Beach.
Before Fort Walton
Before it was Fort Walton Beach Florida, our area was known as Camp Walton and served as a Confederate outpost during the Civil War, named for being in Walton County which was, in turn, named for Col. George Walton (secretary of West Florida during President Jackson’s time as governor and son of the 56th signer of the Declaration of Independence).
In the years following the Civil War, Fort Walton Beach became known as an excellent vacation destination, profuse with nightclubs, rental homes, a casino, and more that drew in average folks and celebrities alike—including, supposedly, the infamous Al Capone.
From classic amusements like mini-golf and aquariums to museums and science centers, there’s even more to experience in Fort Walton Beach beyond the beach (though you’d be hard-pressed to plan a vacation here without going to the beach during your stay).
More History to Explore in Fort Walton Beach
Today, the rich history and stories that are infused into the Fort Walton Beach experience provide visitors from across the map with appealing reasons to head this way and enjoy an adventure all their own. Whether travelers are taking time to explore the Heritage Park and Cultural Center, stroll the Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier, or enjoy time along the shorelines of the Fort Walton Beach Landing Park, they become an integral part of the story! Perhaps one of the most unique aspects of Fort Walton Beach is the relationship this destination and the surrounding communities share with the water. Fishing has long been a major economic contributor to the area and for centuries, defined how communities in the area thrived. Those looking to learn more about fishing’s importance and impact on how Fort Walton Beach and the region developed over time will want to be sure to check out the Destin History and Fishing Museum while they’re in town.
Located at 108 Stahlman Avenue in Destin, this museum is a great step into the past and a detailed look at an industry that has been foundational for the region’s success over time. Throughout the museum, guests can take time to browse and explore exhibits and displays that highlight the history of the region as well as the fishing industry and how it transformed through the years. The museum’s ultimate goal is to both document and preserve the fishing legacy that’s woven into the fabric of this area’s very being. More than 100 feet of wall space within the museum is set aside to depict the Gulf floor complete with examples of antique reels and rods as well as mounted fish species too. From photos of early area settlers to pictures that captured early boats, captains, and beach scenes—a trip here is truly a trip back in time. Those looking to plan a visit to the Destin History and Fishing Museum will want to note that this stop is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm. It’s a family-friendly stop that’s designed to remain engaging, making it a great place for visitors who are looking to enhance their itinerary with historical stops that are not only educational but equally fun and intriguing! Before you arrive, be sure to check out the museum’s event calendar for even more added fun. The museum often hosts events that are open to the public and some are particularly tasty. An example would be the gumbo contest and silent auction which pairs a focus on seafood with options to raise money for good local causes.
Fort Walton Beach Vacation
For more information on Fort Walton Beach and the variety of attractions and activities you can enjoy during your stay, contact our reservation specialists at Breakers Fort Walton and ask about booking your lodgings through us today.