Okaloosa Island is on the quieter side of Destin. Sometimes people associate this with meaning "There isn't any place to go." Nothing could be further from the truth, however. There are so many places you can go without ever getting in your vehicle. Now I get it, a lot of people are averse to walking. This is unfortunate. There is no better way to explore!! So, where should you go?! Keep reading!
Breakfast Asiago's Skillet is directly across the road, behind AJ's. This is a local treasure, the little hole in the wall that doesn't get all the media attention. Based on the previous sentence, you already know it's good. They have a honey-butter biscuit that's not on the menu; ask for it. Danica said so. Their portions are delicious and generous. There is also a Waffle House just over the bridge. I will talk about the bridge later in the article.
Lunch & Dinner We really don't have any places that I can think of that just serve lunch OR dinner, so I am grouping these together. The top five are my favorite but in random order because I would honestly have a hard time picking a favorite. They all offer something different. Stewby's offers up the freshest, most delicious SEAFOOD in the most casual atmosphere you could ever dream up. Think of wooden tables lined inside a covered porch, or outside in the setting sun! If you want fresh seafood, you cannot go home without eating here. Plus, if you have kids, THIS IS THE PLACE. You don't need to try to keep them quiet or seated here. Anything goes here, and also, BYOB! They don't serve alcohol so they welcome you to bring your own. The Gulf is located across Hwy. 98 (at the red light). Just go straight across past the souvenir shops and you walk into this little blue old-conex-trailer GEM! Fresh, delicious food, and ON THE WATER! On a Fall Day, go midday...that sun feels so fresh and crisp on your shoulders. In summer, let me suggest sunset! Yes, that would be a WATERFRONT sunset. There is a park right next door so take kiddos there after dinner to get their wiggles out. Fubar is a pizza joint just a block away. Their pizza is delicous, and they are also waterfront. This is another great place to take in dinner and the view. Yummy! Vincenzo's is the new kid on the block and let me tell you what... THEY NAILED IT! This is 5-star Italian Food. After eating one of the best meals I have had on the Island, I was greeted at my table by their Sous Chef. You can make reservations here, which is not common in the Destin area. The restaurant is located inside the Marriott Hotel on the island, and is a little father walk than the previous things listed. It's a "whopping" 0.6 miles. Y'all don't be lazy now! You'll need the exercise after you visit, trust me. Let's not forget to end our day with Okaloosa National Mini Golf and Ice Cream! One scoop or two? Decisions decisions! YUMMY!
Other walkable places to eat: AJs Oyster Shanty Rick's on the Island Bucetti's Pizza (brand new, and they also deliver!!) Old Bay Steamer (white tablecloth, across the road) High Tide Restaurant At the Pier (and read more about the pier on down the page) Angler's Beachside Bar & GrillThis probably has the best food at the pier. The Crab Trap Rockin' Tacos Al's Beach Club (Delicous Burgers, and they have sweet potato fries which makes them a winner to me!) Floyd's Shrimp House (All You Can Eat Popcorn Shrimp)
Now that we have some of our best restaurants out of the way, let's look at where else your legs can take you!!
The Island Pier is a place you should definitely visit while you are here. This is a 5-10 minute walk down the beach or you can also go streetside down the sidewalk. You can rent fishing gear here and fish (24 hours a day during summer months). It is inexpensive and hot fun! I have caught a fish there myself with NOTHING but the pole and bait I got from the tackle shop there. If you don't want to fish, go check it out anyway. You can often see sea turtles and other wildlife. It's $2/person to walk out.
Wild Willy's Adventure Zone is the best putt-putt in town. Their course is VERY well done. It's all about dinosaurs and you might actually learn something along the way. They also have go-carts, bumper boats, laser tag, and 4D movie experience, and an obstacle course. If you need to get your kids' energies out...this is the place!! I love it!
The Gulfarium has just undergone a HUGE redesign and is a fantastic place to watch dolphins, seals, and sea lion shows. One price gets you in for the full day which means all the shows they have! You can spend lots of time here. It's fun for the whole family. They also have a dolphin encounter experience, which is very limited to only a few people per day, so do book well in advance for that.
Downtown Fort Walton Beach Downtown opens up an entire new world for you. So now it's time to talk about the bridge. Getting over the bridge is not a long walk. It IS a BEAUTIFUL walk...I love looking down the Santa Rosa Sound as I cross over the water. However, the bridge's pedestrian friendliness does leave a lot to be desired. The sidewalk IS separated from the traffic, but the sidewalk is slender, only 2' wide when you are accustomed to a 3' sidewalk. It is slightly elevated from the road traffic, so there is a small barrier feeling. But if you are a nervous person, this may not be for you. I have walked over the bridge, even with my small children, at least thousands of times. But, I just want you to be prepared. You MUST hold your kid's hands! So what is over there? EVERYTHING! Farmers Markets, free concerts, amazing parks, restaurants, the grocery store, a vintage movie theater, art walks, a museum, library, and shops! Oh, I forgot to mention Parlor Donuts, oh my goshhhhhh the BEST donuts...if you don't have one, why did you even come?
Here are some other notable places Downtown....remember we are still walking!!
Jake & Henry's (no website, facebook only). This is my weekend jam. They have live music most every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night. Great food, great company! Ali's Bistro (Italian themed, DELICIOUS, and also takes reservations. Locals paradise. Don't tell anyone!) Taste of Tapas has the best Bloody Marys perhaps in the county! Sunday Brunch there is highly recommended! The Boardroom has a great breakfast also! Fokkers Bar and Grille Great pizza here! Burrito del Sol Yummy! There is nothing on here I don't like. KC's Sandbar has daily specials (including 75 cent wings on Wednesdays!). Live music and karaoke are frequent on the nighttime scene. Maas Coffee Roaster If you aren't a morning person, make a stop here to get your smiles on.
Here is a secret from Danica!! You absolutely MUST take a look at Suds-n-Cinema. This is a vintage theater...the original building that was constructed as a one-movie-showing in 1940. Still today...just one showing a day, so check out the link to see what is playing. The coolest thing about this theater is that you sit at a dining table and you are served DINNER while watching your movie. They have popcorn and beer too. It's a new spin on the movies...or maybe just an old spin that modern ways have forgotten! Super cool experience here! NOTE: there is a secret food truck joint across the road here. Sunset Bowls has wonderful Acai Bowls, and there are other treasures here too! Our closest grocery store is Publix. If you booked through Waterscape Rentals by Owner, you will be offered grocery delivery with your reservation. So if you don't have a car, there is no worry. Your groceries will be in the condo when you arrive. However, if you forgot a thing or two, just hop over the bridge and grab it. Easy walk! There are also two great souvenir shops right across Hwy. 98 at the red light, plus some shops down at the pier (aka The Boardwalk).
Do you JUST want to walk? I LOVE to walk. Okaloosa Island (go out of Waterscape and turn left) is exactly 2 miles long. It's a beautiful walk to the end and back, and there are 7 public beach access points along the way.
Want to rent a boat? You can WALK to that too. No need to go to Destin for that. Just drive your boat to Crab Island instead. You can also rent jet skis. Adventure Marina is on the south side of the bridge and Crab Island Watersports is on the north.
So, Do you need a car? I would say no, certainly not. The grounds at Waterscape will keep you busy for a week or more! There are PLENTY of places for you to eat, explore, and play. Uber is readily available as well, anywhere you want to go, anytime. And if you rented at Waterscape with Danica, she will send her personal driver for you at the airport, if scheduled in advance. :-)