Fort Walton Beach, a hidden gem nestled along Florida’s famed Emerald Coast, is not just a destination in itself but also the gateway to some of the Sunshine State’s most pristine and breathtaking beaches.
With sugar-white sands stretching for miles and the shimmering emerald waters reflecting the Floridian sun, these neighboring beaches are nothing short of paradise.
From bustling beach parks equipped with modern amenities to untouched sanctuaries offering peace and tranquility, the region promises a beach experience tailored to every visitor’s desire.
Discover the best and the nearest gems near Fort Walton Beach!
1. Wayside Park
- Distance from Fort Walton Beach: 3 miles
- Activities: fishing, hiking, scuba diving, snorkeling, surfing, volleyball, kayaking
- Facilities: parking, restroom, showers, playground, lifeguard, umbrella and chair rentals
Nestled in the heart of Okaloosa Island and just 3 miles from Fort Walton Beach, Wayside Park is the nearest beach option.
Visitors are welcomed by its pure white sands, clear waters, and a tranquil ambiance that makes it ideal for family outings.
The park is not just about the sun and sand; it’s equipped with a plethora of amenities including pavilions, picnic tables, restrooms, showers, and a children’s playground.
For the active traveler, it promises a host of activities: from volleyball, fishing, and bird-watching to jet-skiing, paddle boarding, and scuba diving.
Caution is advised for swimmers, owing to occasional rip currents.
Adjacent to a fishing pier, and a stone’s throw from The Boardwalk’s bustling eateries and shops, Wayside Park truly is Okaloosa’s beachfront treasure.
2. John Beasley Park
- Distance from Fort Walton Beach: 4 miles
- Activities: swimming, fishing, boating, picnicking, sunbathing
- Facilities: picnic tables, parking, restrooms, lifeguard, pavilions, boardwalk, umbrella and chair rental, showers
A stone’s throw from Fort Walton Beach, John Beasley Park offers a slice of serenity amidst its expansive beachfront.
A favorite among locals and tourists, this gem boasts pristine sugar-white sands and mesmerizing emerald waters that the region is celebrated for.
Visitors are treated to a myriad of activities: from relaxed strolls along the tall dunes, bird and dolphin watching, to swimming, fishing, and boating.
For those planning a day out, the park features 2 pavilions, 12 picnic tables, and an accessible boardwalk leading straight to the beach.
Highlighting its commitment to inclusivity, the park also provides beach wheelchairs, ensuring all can savor its beauty.
With ample parking, including 8 handicap spots, John Beasley Park is a must-visit when in Okaloosa.
3. Jerry Melvin Beachwalk
- Distance from Fort Walton Beach: 4 miles
- Activities: picnicking, kayaking, surfing, volleyball, sunbathing
- Facilities: pavilion, restroom, parking, shower, picnic tables, lifeguard, boardwalk, volleyball nets
A 4-mile drive from Fort Walton Beach, Jerry Melvin Beachwalk is one of the most popular public beach access points on Okaloosa Island.
This slice of paradise is characterized by its pristine white sands, clear aqua-toned waters, and mild waves, making it perfect for families and solo visitors alike.
Besides the natural allure, the beach is equipped with amenities ensuring a seamless experience for all: a pavilion for shade, restrooms, outdoor showers, and 18 parking spaces, including 2 for handicapped accessibility.
With its doors open from an hour before sunrise to an hour post-sunset, it promises ample time for sun-soaked memories.
While cocooned between two condominiums, this public beach ensures a less commercial, more intimate feel.
Moreover, its proximity to local eateries and entertainment spots adds to its charm, making it an undeniable Okaloosa gem.
4. Princess Beach
- Distance from Fort Walton Beach: 6 miles
- Activities: sunbathing, beachcombing, surfing, fishing, kayaking
- Facilities: parking
Tucked away from Florida’s bustling coastlines, Princess Beach stands as a mesmerizing sanctuary for those in search of tranquility.
Its immaculate, snow-white sands and crystal-clear waters offer a serene backdrop, perfect for relaxation and introspection.
While swimming and sunbathing are favorites, visitors are often delighted by spontaneous sights of baby sea turtles and distant dolphins, adding to the beach’s magic.
Though a permit is required for access, it’s effortlessly obtained and free, guaranteeing an uncrowded experience.
Beachcombers should note that amenities are minimal – no restrooms or rinsing stations, with parking a brief walk away.
However, the trade-off is a pristine, untouched coastline that evokes memories of how beaches once were.
Princess Beach: an undiluted, picturesque escape for every beach enthusiast.
5. Crab Island
- Distance from Fort Walton Beach: 8 miles
- Activities: fishing, swimming, boating, paddle boarding, kayaking
- Facilities: inflatables, boat rental, pavilion
Visible from the Marler Bridge and often buzzed about after Destin Parasail tours, Crab Island isn’t just a sandbar – it’s a phenomenon.
Initially a secluded spot where boaters dropped anchor to soak up the sun, it has now transformed into a lively gathering spot for both locals and tourists.
For those without a vessel, worry not; a range of boat rentals are available to ensure everyone can reach this aquatic playground.
Whether it’s drifting on a float to the beat of a song, trying paddleboarding, or even casting a line for some fishing, the choices are endless.
And, if you’ve forgotten to pack a lunch, floating vendors occasionally serve up delectable bites.
Whether you’re in the thick of the action or anchored away for some solitude, Crab Island offers an unparalleled experience.
6. O’Steen Public Beach
- Distance from Fort Walton Beach: 12 miles
- Activities: snorkeling, fishing, shell hunting, bodyboarding, fishing, kayaking
- Facilities: parking, umbrella and chairs, volleyball nets
Nestled along Destin’s coastline, O’Steen Public Beach beckons visitors with its serene ambiance and crystal-clear waters, ideal for both swimming and snorkeling.
Shielded from harsh waves by the Jetties, the beach is a hotspot for witnessing a vibrant array of marine life near the rocks.
Adventure enthusiasts should note the medium to heavy currents, especially when planning snorkeling ventures further out.
While the tranquil emerald waters are a highlight, the beach also boasts prime spots for sunset watching, dolphin sightings, and even fishing.
However, visitors might want to pack light for the longer-than-usual sandy walk up.
Whether you’re an avid snorkeler, a beach reader, or a sunset chaser, O’Steen offers an unmatched coastal retreat.
7. June White Decker Park
- Distance from Fort Walton Beach: 11 miles
- Activities: snorkeling, kayaking, swimming, sunbathing, jet skiing
- Facilities: restroom, shower, parking, umbrella and chair rental, boardwalk
Situated conveniently near local eateries and popular stores, June White Decker Park is a top choice for beach enthusiasts.
With its pristine white sands and sparkling waters, this public beach stands out not just for its beauty but also for its array of amenities.
For those in need, beach wheelchairs are available with prior reservations through the local fire department.
The park ensures accessibility, and the proximity of parking is an added convenience.
Visitors can indulge in various watersports or rent beach chairs and umbrellas for a day of relaxation.
Facilities include showers, restrooms, and a picturesque walking trail.
And as the sun sets, the adjacent Back Porch restaurant offers a delightful dining experience.
June White Decker Park is a beach lover’s paradise, combining natural splendor with unparalleled convenience.
8. Henderson Beach State Park
- Distance from Fort Walton Beach: 12 miles
- Activities: camping, fishing, biking, hiking, picnicking, swimming,
- Facilities: boardwalk, playground, campground, parking, pavilion, bathrooms, showers, picnic tables
One of the most popular state parks along Florida’s Emerald Coast, Henderson Beach State Park offers an unparalleled beach experience.
With soft white sands and mesmerizing clear turquoise waters, this 200-acre haven boasts not just beauty but privacy.
Unlike other crowded beaches in Destin, Henderson guarantees a spacious beachfront exclusive for campers.
A leisurely stroll or bike ride reveals endangered coastal scrub communities, while clear waters tempt snorkelers to dive in.
Campers enjoy secluded sites, clean bathhouses, and even laundry facilities.
Those who love angling can cast their lines in the surf.
A standout feature? Accessibility. Henderson offers beach wheelchairs, ensuring that everyone, including the differently-abled, can savor the beach’s wonders.
Modern amenities such as pavilions, picnic tables, and clean bathrooms with outdoor showers, complement the beach experience.
Whether you pitch a tent or just spend the day, Henderson Beach State Park promises an unforgettable escape.
9. James Lee Beach
- Distance from Fort Walton Beach: 14 miles
- Activities: fishing, swimming, sunbathing, picnicking
- Facilities: picnic area, playground, restroom, shower, picnic tables, pavilion, parking
Located halfway between Destin and Miramar Beach, James Lee Beach promises an unparalleled coastal escape.
This pristine beach, managed by Okaloosa County, offers ample amenities including three pavilions, 41 picnic tables, a children’s playground, and modern restrooms equipped with changing rooms.
With 166 dedicated parking spaces – a rare commodity in popular beach destinations – early birds are rewarded with convenient spots right by the entrance.
For those with gastronomic inclinations, a restaurant and cocktail bar stand ready to satiate, while a handy bath house ensures visitors leave as fresh as they came.
Though tropical storms might stir its waves occasionally, its consistent features – powdery white sand, crystal clear waters, and ample space – make James Lee Beach a must-visit.
Whether it’s for a family picnic or a solo retreat, this beach beckons with unmatched charm.
10. Miramar Beach
- Distance from Fort Walton Beach: 18 miles
- Activities: snorkeling, swimming, sunbathing, paddle boarding
- Facilities: parking, restroom, umbrella and chair rental, shower, picnic tables
A popular Gulf Coast resort town, Miramar Beach is a sparkling jewel where nostalgic coastal vibes marry modern amenities.
This slice of South Walton boasts pristine, white sands, arguably the whitest in the lower 48, and crystal-clear turquoise waters.
Vacationers are easily transported back to the beach towns of yesteryear, with scenic beach roads, classic surf shops, and a medley of eateries offering panoramic Gulf views.
However, it’s the contemporary touches that set Miramar apart.
Revel in jet ski adventures, parasailing, and a shopper’s paradise with designer outlets.
Noteworthy is the innovative artificial reef, enticing snorkelers for an underwater spectacle.
Beachfront accommodations offer a front-row seat to mesmerizing fireworks displays and those seeking safety will appreciate the diligent air patrol.
Clean restrooms, public access, chair rentals, and shower stations punctuate Miramar’s commitment to a superior beach experience.
A must-visit, Miramar Beach blends the old with the new in the most delightful way.
- Distance from Fort Walton Beach: 17 miles
- Activities: snorkeling, diving, shell hunting, paddle boarding, sunbathing
- Facilities: parking, boardwalk, bathroom, shower, lifeguard, picnic tables, pavilion
Situated west of Fort Walton Beach, Navarre Beach Marine Park is the epitome of a coastal paradise.
The park beckons with its almost luminescent, nearly white sands and its tantalizing blue-green waters.
Visitors can immerse in nature’s spectacle while benefiting from modern conveniences: abundant free parking, clean restrooms, outdoor shower facilities, and vigilant lifeguards.
Adventure enthusiasts can dive into the park’s underwater treasure – a snorkeling reef, as the waters calmly ripple with occasional waves.
The pier, modestly priced, promises captivating sunsets and glimpses of marine life like dolphins and sea turtles.
Additions like the Turtle Conservatory and local eateries enhance the experience.
Embodying the essence of the Emerald Coast, Navarre Beach Marine Park beautifully balances natural beauty with thoughtful amenities, offering an idyllic seaside retreat.