Fort Walton Beach, FL A Waterman's Paradise
About – Pinned in by two of the world’s largest and most active military bases, surrounded by water on the rest, and in close proximity to the beach has made Fort Walton Beach the economic center of the Emerald Coast for many years. The Fort Walton Beach area has a storied history from being an indian settlement and prohibition era alcohol smuggling hamlet to a top facilitator for military development and capacity. Today it still has a dual economy that focuses around being the hub of many of the businesses serving the tourist and construction economy as well as serving the two large military installations.
What You’ll Find – Fort Walton Beach is the most well-established of the Emerald Coast beach towns giving it a wide range of housing options. The Greater Fort Walton Beach area includes Mary Esther, Shalimar, Cinco Bayou, and Okaloosa Island (the beach). Fort Walton Beach is more expensive than the northern areas such as Crestview due to it’s convenience and proximity to the beach and the bases. Yet, it is more affordable than Destin and most of Niceville and has options that will fit almost any budget and lifestyle. Fort Walton Beach being nearly surrounded by water gives it an incredible amount of coastline, and it boasts some of the best overall waterfront anywhere and, certainly, has the best waterfront value and some of the finest, hidden, luxury waterfront property gems.
Lifestyle – Outside of the beaches on Okaloosa Island, Fort Walton Beach is mostly primary residents with a large number of military families as well. The people who live in Fort Walton Beach love it because they have the closest access to the beach, incredible access to the bay, and are still pretty much a “normal” town that is not overwhelmed with tourism in the peak months due to all of the tourist related activities happening at the far south end of the town on Hwy 98 and across the Santa Rosa Sound on Okaloosa Island. Fort Walton Beach also has a large boating culture, and the municipalities have fueled this by building a great number of water accesses and public boat ramp accesses. Finally, it also has the Emerald Coast’s only Yacht Club, which hosts regattas both locally and internationally on a regular basis and is well-known as one of the best venues in the world for small boat sailing.
Appeal – The Greater Fort Walton Beach area is sought after for it’s location convenience, beautiful waterfront, and “real town/authentic” feel. The best asset of the Fort Walton Beach area is it’s waterfront. The biggest contrast between Destin waterfront and Fort Walton Beach waterfront is that most of Fort Walton’s waterfront is deep enough for a boat, has clear water with a nice sandy bottom, and beautiful wide views. In Destin, a lot of the waterfront properties are on canals with limited views or the bay with limited ability to have a boat, while most of the properties on the bayou have a muddy bottom. Destin has the closest access to the Gulf of Mexico, but don’t overlook the value of the great, beautiful, clean water of Fort Walton Beach.
Amenities – The Fort Walton Beach area features most every amenity one would expect to find in a mid-size town, and has a large number of local shops and restaurants. Downtown Fort Walton Beach has been redeveloping for many years and has become a hub of nightlife, restaurants and entertainment. The area has two well-ranked high schools: Fort Walton Beach High School and Choctawhatchee High School. The Fort Walton Beach Medical Center is the largest hospital in the area and the only trauma center in the area. For military retirees and active duty, there is the Eglin Hospital also.
Market Info – For the purposes of real estate search, there are several different neighborhoods and areas of Fort Walton Beach that each have their own unique characteristics. Be sure to talk with one of our local agents to know about it. To the north is Shalimar and Poquito Bayou (the closest areas to Eglin Air Force Base) as well as Kenwood and Ocean City, while in the south part of town is Ferry Park and Elliott’s Point. Mary Esther and Wynhaven Beach cover the western part of the area leading out to Hurlburt Air Force Base. Okaloosa Island is separated from Fort Walton Beach by the Santa Rosa Sound, and it has all of the beachfront condo’s, restaurants, and some incredible public beach accesses.