Fort Walton Beach is a Florida city that is situated in Okaloosa County. This city covers an area of eight square miles and has a population of about twenty thousand residents. The settlement of the area has been traced back to mound builders known as Fort Walton Culture who first appeared in the area around the eleventh century. This group of people had an extensive program of agriculture, worked with pottery and practiced mound building. European contact to the area would occur around the sixteenth century, when Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca’s exploration party traveled to the area. During this time of Spanish exploration, the Fort Walton Beach area was alluded to in several publications, but no permanent settlement was established. The first settle to the area was John Anderson in 1838. From 1838 to 1884 the name of the area was Anderson. in 1861, Camp Walton was built in the area and was occupied by Florida’s First Regiment. At this time, Okaloosa County wasn’t yet incorporated and the area was named Walton County after Colonel George Walton. In 1941, Fort Walton was incorporated and in 1953 its name was changed to Fort Walton Beach.
Fort Walton Beach has a climate that can be characterized as sub-tropical. It has hot, humid summers that last from late May to the middle of September. Autumns run from the end of September to early December and are usually warm. Winters in the area are short and mild. Fort Walton Beach receives seventy inches of rain annually, with the wettest season being during the summer. The economy of the city is based upon two industries; the United States military and tourism. There are several military installations which include Air Force Special Operations Command, 1st Special Operations Wing, Eglin AFB and the Joint Special Operations University. Tourism in the city attracts visitors from all over North America and Europe.
A prominent attraction of Fort Walton Beach is the Air Force Armament Museum. This museum is located near Eglin Air Force Base and is the only museum in the United States that has Air Force armament as its primary focus. It was started in 1975 and was originally situated in a gymnasium on the northern edge of the airforce base. The Air Force Armament Museum has a large selection of historical aircraft, rockets, missiles and bombs. It also features the Sikes Antique Pistol Collection which has a gun collection of over one hundred and eighty antique pistols. Airplane exhibits located here include planes such as the Republic P-47N, North American Cavalier F-51D, Lockheed F-80C-10, BQM-34A Firebee, TB-25J-25-NC Mitchell, TC-47B-25-DK Skytrain, B-17G-97-DL Flying Fortress, RB-47H-1-BW Stratojet, C-131B Samaritan, AGM-28 Hound Dog, RF-4C-32-MC Phantom II, MQM-105 Aquila, A-10A Thunderbolt II and a F-16A Block 15A Fighting Falcon.
Fort Walton Mound is another prominent attraction in Fort Walton Beach. This mound was constructed by the Fort Walton Culture and is situated near the intersection of United States Route 90 and Florida State Road 85. The mound is believed to have been built in the fourteenth century and is listed as a National Historic Landmark. It features a museum that displays a collection of pre-Columbian artifacts. It also has a collection of exhibits that relate to Florida history and the history of Native American tribes. Two other museums that are located here include the Camp Walton Schoolhouse Museum and the Garnier Post Office Museum. The Camp Walton Schoolhouse Museum was founded in 1976 and contains a collection of educational artifacts which include a collection of twentieth century desks. The Garnier Post Office Museum is situated in an old rural post office and was opened to the public in 1988. Its main collection includes postal artifacts that range from the early 1900s to the present day.
Okaloosa Island is another destination in the Fort Walton Beach area that is very popular among tourists. This island has hundreds of residential homes and is also home to major motels and hotels. It contains sugar white sandy beaches and is part of Florida’s Emerald Coast. This island is connected to Fort Walton Beach by the Brooks Bridge. It is also connected to the city of Destin by the Destin Bridge. Okaloosa Island has to its north, Choctawhatchee Bay and Santa Rosa Sound. To its south is the Gulf of Mexico. Located between the city of Destin and Panama City Beach is Grayton Beach State Park. This is a state park of Florida and covers an area of twenty-two hundred acres. It features rentable duplex cabins and access to the popular beach called Grayton Beach. Located just about an hour and a half from Fort Walton Beach is a water park named Shipwreck Island Water Park. This water park features a half million gallon wave pool, a sixty foot slide called Racing Slide and other rides which include Zoom Flume, White Knuckle River and Skull Island. Shipwreck Island Water Park covers about twenty acres of land.
Other attractions in and around Fort Walton Beach include Fokkers Sports Pub, Jolee Island Nature Park,Timpoochee Trail, Emerald Coast Science Center, The Sound Music & Coffee House, Howl at the Moon Piano Bar, Florida’s Gulfarium, Kelly Plantation Golf Club, Village of Baytowne Wharf, Gator Beach, Emerald Bay Golf Club, Silver Sands Outlet Mall, Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, Harbor Docks, The Back Porch, Country Inns & Suites, The Emerald Grande, On The Beach Hotel, Crab Trap, Breakers of Fort Walton Beach, Best Western Ft. Walton Beachfront, Cayo Grande Suites Hotel, Emerald Coast Inn & Suites, Super 8 Fort Walton Beach, La Quinta Inn & Suites, Navarre Beach, Seaspray Condominium, Ramada Fort Walton Beach Resort, Days Inn Fort Walton Beach, Inn On Destin Harbor, Four Points by Sheraton Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Brooks & Shorey Resorts, Value Place Fort Walton Beach, Fairfield Inn & Suites Fort Walton Beach, Pirates Bay Community Association and Aunt Martha’s Bed & Breakfast.