Fort Walton Beach, Florida
City of Fort Walton Beach
Fort Walton Beach City Hall, September 2014
Fort Walton Beach City Hall, September 2014
Flag of Fort Walton Beach, Florida
Official seal of Fort Walton Beach, Florida
"The Emerald Coast", "The Camellia City", "The Sonic City"[N 1]
"A City On The Move!"
Location in Okaloosa County and the state of Florida
Location in Okaloosa County and the state of Florida
Coordinates: 30°25′13″N 86°37′0″W / 30.42028°N 86.61667°W / 30.42028; -86.61667
Country United States
State Florida
County Okaloosa
Incorporated (city)1941
 • MayorDick Rynearson [2]
 • City Council
  • Nic Allegertto
  • Mike Holmes
  • Nathan Kelley
  • Kirby Locklear
  • MG Moran
  • David Schmidt
  • Travis Smith
 • Total7.72 sq mi (20.00 km2)
 • Land7.64 sq mi (19.79 km2)
 • Water0.08 sq mi (0.20 km2)
7 ft (2 m)
 • Total20,922 [1]
 • Density2,737.41/sq mi (1,056.99/km2)
Time zoneUTC−6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−5 (CDT)
ZIP Codes
32547-32549 [5]
Area code850
FIPS code12-24475[6]
GNIS feature ID0282710[7]

Fort Walton Beach, often referred to by the initialism FWB, a city in southern Okaloosa County, Florida, United States. As of the 2020 U.S. census, the population was 20,922,[8] up from 19,507 in 2010.[9] It is the principal city of the Fort Walton Beach−CrestviewDestin Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Fort Walton Beach is a year-round fishing and beach resort community. Its busiest time of the year is the summer, causing a boost to the local economy because of seasonal human migration.


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Prehistoric settlement of Fort Walton Beach is attributed to the mound building "Fort Walton Culture" that flourished from approximately 1100–1550 CE. It is believed that this culture evolved out of the Weeden Island culture. Fort Walton also appeared to come about due to contact with the major Mississippian centers to the north and west. It was the most complex in the north-west Florida region. The Fort Walton peoples put into practice mound building and intensive agriculture, made pottery in a variety of vessel shapes, and had hierarchical settlement patterns that reflected other Mississippian societies.

The first Europeans to set foot in what is now Okaloosa County and the Fort Walton Beach area were members of Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca's party, who traveled by boat from what is now Panama City Beach, Florida in 1528 to Texas, "Then we set out to sea again, coasting towards the River of Palms. Every day our thirst and hunger increased because our supplies were giving out, as well as the water supply, for the pouches we had made from the legs of our horses soon became rotten and useless. From time to time we would enter some inlet or cove that reached very far inland, but we found them all shallow and dangerous, and so we navigated through them for thirty days, meeting sometimes Indians who fished and were poor and wretched people".

The area is described at "40 deaths a day" in a Spanish map dated 1566. In later English and French maps the area was noted as "Baya Santa Rosa" or "Bay St. Rose". A number of Spanish artifacts, including a portion of brigantine leather armor, are housed in the Indian Temple Mound Museum.

Contrary to popular belief, there is no documentary evidence of pirates using the area as a base of operations. Piracy was rampant in the Gulf of Mexico from pirates working out of Hispaniola, the Caribbean, and the Florida Keys. Notable raids occurred in 1683 and 1687 against the Spanish fort at San Marcos de Apalachee (by French and English buccaneers), a 1712 raid against Port Dauphin (now Alabama) by English pirates from Martinique, and the actions of the late 18th-century adventurer William Augustus Bowles, who was based in Apalachicola. Bowles was never referred to as "Billy Bowlegs" in period documentation; his Creek name was "Estajoca".

During the era of Spanish and English colonization, the area of what was to become Fort Walton Beach was noted in several journals but no worthwhile presence was established.

Early settlers of Walton County, Florida were the first to establish permanent settlements in what is now Fort Walton Beach (the area was originally named "Anderson"). Two of the first settlers were John Anderson and Andrew A. Alvarez, who received land plots in 1838. The name "Anderson" is noted on maps from 1838 to 1884. It was not until 1911 that the name "Camp Walton" appeared on Florida maps.

In 1861, Camp Walton was a Confederate Army camp, a fortified post, made up of the "Walton Guards", an independent Company of Florida Volunteer Infantry from Walton County. At this time, Okaloosa County did not yet exist. Walton County received its name from Col. George Walton, who served as secretary of West Florida during Andrew Jackson's governorship (1821–1822) and whose father, George Walton Sr., was the 56th signatory of the Declaration of Independence. He is also the namesake of Walton County.[10]

Camp Walton was located between the Indian Temple Mound, now known as the Heritage Park and Cultural Center, and the Santa Rosa Sound, its mission was to protect the "Narrows" from Union ships. Although the "Walton Guards" did not see much action, they did keep busy by digging up prehistoric Indian remains buried in the Indian Temple Mound and displaying them at camp. The post was abandoned in August 1862, and the "Walton Guards" were assigned to reinforce the 1st Florida Infantry Regiment, with duty in the Western Theatre on the Tennessee front.[10]

On April 11, 1879, John Thomas Brooks purchased at a public auction in Milton, Florida, 111 acres in Section 24, Township 2, Range 24 of Santa Rosa County, a portion of the property of Henry Penny whose heirs had failed to pay the taxes on the estate.[11] This parcel on the Santa Rosa Sound became what is now downtown Fort Walton Beach.

The United States Post Office changed the official name on their cancellations from Camp Walton to Fort Walton on 1 March 1932.

The 1940 census counted 90 residents in Fort Walton.[12] Fort Walton was incorporated by a state senate bill effective June 16, 1941.[13]

View from Sound Park looking west towards Presidio Condominium.

The community's name was officially changed from Fort Walton to Fort Walton Beach on June 15, 1953, by agreement with the state legislature in Tallahassee, and incorporated a portion of Santa Rosa Island formerly known as Tower Beach.[14] Tower Beach, named for a tall observation tower at the site which was later destroyed by a hurricane, had been an amusement area operated from 1928 by the Island Amusement Company by future-Fort Walton Beach mayor Thomas E. Brooks,[15] with a boardwalk, casino, restaurant, dance pavilion, "40 modernly equipped beach cottages",[16] and concession stands which was largely destroyed by fire on Saturday, March 7, 1942. Wartime supply restrictions prevented a reconstruction.[17] This 875-acre parcel of Santa Rosa Island with three miles of Gulf frontage was conveyed to Okaloosa County on July 8, 1950, in an informal ceremony at the county courthouse in Crestview, Florida. The county paid the federal government $4,000 to complete the transaction, the result of the efforts of Congressman Bob Sikes.[18] The portion of Santa Rosa Island transferred is now known as Okaloosa Island. The remaining Tower Beach summer cottages were removed after the 1955 tourist season as the new Okaloosa Island Authority redeveloped the site with a new hotel and casino. The government was changed to a city manager form.[13]

A special census conducted in 1956 listed 9,456 residents, which grew to 11,249 by 1960.[19]

The last of three county-owned buildings on Okaloosa Island was torn down on May 31, 1995. The buildings had originally housed the Okaloosa Island Authority and more recently the Okaloosa County Council on Aging. The 1.3-acre tract on the north side of Santa Rosa Boulevard was sold.[20]


Fort Walton Beach is located at 30°25′13″N 86°37′00″W / 30.420199°N 86.616727°W / 30.420199; -86.616727 (30.420199, −86.616727).[21] According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 21.3 km2 (8.2 sq mi), of which 19.3 km2 (7.5 sq mi) is land and 2 km2 (0.77 sq mi), or 9.26%, is water.


Fort Walton Beach experiences hot and very humid summers, generally from late May to mid-September. Autumns, from mid-September to early December, are generally warm. Winters are very short and mild, from mid-December to late February. Springs are warm, from late February to late May.

Fort Walton Beach averages 55.35 inches of rain each year. The wettest season is summer and the driest season is autumn, although flood season continues into autumn.

Snow and freezing rain are very rare. Freezing rain occurs about once every 5 to 10 years. Snow occurs about once every 10 to 15 years. The most recent measurable snowfall was on January 31, 1977, when about 1 inch (25 mm) fell in Fort Walton Beach, while 3 inches (76 mm) fell on Crestview, about 27 miles (43 km) inland.[22] The most recent report of a trace of snow was on January 28, 2014.[23] The last report of freezing rain was on February 11, 2010.

The Köppen climate classification subtype for this climate is humid subtropical climate (Cfa),

Climate data for Fort Walton Beach, Florida (Destin–Fort Walton Beach Airport), 1991–2020 normals, extremes 1996–present
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 89
Mean maximum °F (°C) 74.1
Mean daily maximum °F (°C) 63.1
Daily mean °F (°C) 54.2
Mean daily minimum °F (°C) 45.3
Mean minimum °F (°C) 28.6
Record low °F (°C) 20
Average precipitation inches (mm) 4.52
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 10.0 9.4 8.7 7.9 6.4 9.7 11.2 12.4 8.2 6.1 8.9 10.6 109.5
Source: NOAA (mean maxima and minima 2006–2020[24][25]


Okaloosa County Transit Trolley, July 2011.


Nearby Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport (airport code VPS) serves Fort Walton Beach, as well as Valparaiso, Florida. Airlines that currently serve Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport are Allegiant Airlines, American Eagle, Southwest, Delta Air Lines, and Delta Connection. They provide non-stop service to Atlanta, Cincinnati, Charlotte, Dallas, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Las Vegas, Knoxville, Memphis, Oklahoma City, and St. Louis.

Okaloosa County Transit provides public transportation throughout Fort Walton Beach as well as Okaloosa County. Its main stop and transfer location is Uptown Station located on State Road 85, a little over 1 mile north of US 98.

Major highways

State Road 189 is a north–south highway from State Road 85 to US 98 in downtown Fort Walton Beach. State Road 85 is a north–south highway that leads north 27 mi (43 km) to Crestview, the Okaloosa County seat (also along Interstate 10), and ends at US 98 in downtown Fort Walton Beach. US 98 is an east–west highway, which runs through downtown Fort Walton Beach. The Brooks Bridge over the Santa Rosa Sound connects downtown Fort Walton Beach with Okaloosa Island, which is along the route of US 98. US 98 leads east 9 mi (14 km) to Destin and west 41 mi (66 km) to Pensacola.


Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census[26]

2010 and 2020 census

Fort Walton Beach racial composition
(Hispanics excluded from racial categories)
(NH = Non-Hispanic)
Race Pop 2010[27] Pop 2020[28] % 2010 % 2020
White (NH) 14,245 13,777 73.03% 65.85%
Black or African American (NH) 2,331 2,284 11.95% 10.92%
Native American or Alaska Native (NH) 104 65 0.53% 0.31%
Asian (NH) 618 828 3.17% 3.96%
Pacific Islander or Native Hawaiian (NH) 54 20 0.28% 0.10%
Some other race (NH) 31 122 0.16% 0.58%
Two or more races/Multiracial (NH) 586 1,382 3.00% 6.61%
Hispanic or Latino (any race) 1,538 2,444 7.88% 11.68%
Total 19,507 20,922

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 20,922 people, 9,246 households, and 5,195 families residing in the city.[29]

As of the 2010 United States census, there were 19,507 people, 8,657 households, and 4,950 families residing in the city.[30]

2000 census

As of the census of 2000, there are 19,973 people, 8,460 households, and 5,422 families residing in the city. The population density is 1,036.5/km2 (2,683.0/mi2). There are 9,007 housing units at an average density of 467.4/km2 (1,209.9/mi2). The racial makeup of the city is 78.84% White, 13.34% African American, 0.45% Native American, 2.72% Asian, 0.08% Pacific Islander, 1.22% from other races, and 3.36% from two or more races. 4.04% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

In 2000, there are 8,460 households out of which 26.0% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.3% are married couples living together, 12.6% have a female householder with no husband present, and 35.9% are non-families. 28.5% of all households are made up of individuals and 9.6% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.33 and the average family size is 2.85.

In 2000, in the city, the population was spread out, with 22.4% under the age of 18, 8.9% from 18 to 24, 29.3% from 25 to 44, 23.1% from 45 to 64, and 16.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females, there were 96.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 94.5 males.

In 2000, the median income for a household in the city was $40,153, and the median income for a family was $45,791. Males had a median income of $29,709 versus $21,641 for females. The per capita income for the city was $21,085. About 7.3% of families and 9.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.2% of those under age 18 and 4.1% of those aged 65 or over.

Notable people


The economy of Fort Walton Beach is driven by two primary factors: tourism and the military. There are two major Air Force bases which border Fort Walton Beach. Hurlburt Field is home to Headquarters, Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), the 1st Special Operations Wing, and the Joint Special Operations University.[34] Eglin AFB is home to the Air Force Materiel Command's Air Armament Center and the 96th Test Wing, Air Combat Command's 53rd Wing, and Air Education Training Command's 33rd Fighter Wing.[35] Eglin is geographically one of the largest Air Force bases at 724 square miles (1,880 km2), and thus home to joint exercises, and missile and bomb testing. For example, the 'Massive Ordnance Air Blast' or 'Mother of All Bombs' (MOAB) was first tested at Eglin AFB on March 11, 2003.

There is support industry in the area that benefits from the presence of the bases, including military contractors and the service industry.

The tourism industry is seasonal, with summer being the primary season, and a smaller peak season during spring break. The area also boasts a large snowbird population, which includes the Fort Walton Beach Snowbird Club.[36] The Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival is held annually in June.[37]

Top employers

According to Fort Walton Beach's 2010 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report,[38] the top employers in the city were:

# Employer Employees
1 Eglin Air Force Base 16,476
2 Hurlburt Field 11,171
3 Okaloosa County School District 3,278
4 Okaloosa County 1,383
5 Fort Walton Beach Medical Center 1,305
6 DRS Technologies 875
7 InDyne 786
8 Northwest Florida State College 763
9 ResortQuest 750
10 BAE Systems 700

Sister cities


  1. ^ Archaic, used from the 1950s to 1970s.


  1. ^ QuickFacts Fort Walton Beach city, Florida
  2. ^ "Dick Rynearson | Fort Walton Beach Florida".
  3. ^ "City Council | Fort Walton Beach Florida".
  4. ^ "2020 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved October 31, 2021.
  5. ^ ZIP Codes in Florida
  6. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  7. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. October 25, 2007. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  8. ^ "QuickFacts - Fort Walton Beach city, Florida". Retrieved May 4, 2022.
  9. ^ "US Census Quickfacts". US Census Bureau. 2010. Archived from the original on April 20, 2012. Retrieved November 22, 2011.
  10. ^ a b Roberts, Robert B., "Encyclopedia of Historic Forts", Macmillan Publishing Company, New York, London, 1988, Library of Congress card number 86-28494, ISBN 0-02-926880-X, page 212.
  11. ^ Santa Rosa County, Florida Deed Book "C", pages 465, 466, R. R. Sheppard, County Clerk, to J. T. Brooks, Milton, Florida, recorded December 14, 1883.
  12. ^ Hutchinson, Leonard Patrick. "History of the Playground Area of Northwest Florida". Great Outdoors Publishing. St. Petersburg, Florida, 1st ed., 1961, no Library of Congress card number, no ISBN, page 83.
  13. ^ a b Hutchinson, page 85.
  14. ^ Fort Walton Beach, Florida, Playground News, June 18, 1953, page 1.
  15. ^ Hamilton, Percy, "Tower Beach to End Colorful, 26-Year History as Pioneer Tourist Attraction", Playground News, Thursday 11 August 1955, Volume 9, Number 80, page 1.
  16. ^ Display advert, Okaloosa News-Journal, Crestview, Florida, Friday 2 September 1938, Volume 24, Number 35, page 5.
  17. ^ Crestview, Florida, "Amusement Area Of Tower Beach Is Destroyed By Fire", Okaloosa News-Journal, Friday 13 March 1942, Volume 28, Number 8, page 1.
  18. ^ Fort Walton, Florida, "Island Tract Turned Over To Okaloosa - Formal Transfer Completed With $4,000 Payment", Playground News, Thursday 13 July 1950, Volume 5, Number 24, page 1.
  19. ^ Fort Walton Beach, Florida, "County Hits 61,067 - Census Reveals 11,249 Is Population for FWB", Playground News, Thursday, June 9, 1960, Volume 15, Number "19" (actually No. 20), page 1.
  20. ^ Fort Walton Beach, Florida, "Today in Local History", Northwest Florida Daily News, Sunday 31 May 2015, Volume 69, Number 120, page B4.
  21. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. February 12, 2011. Retrieved April 23, 2011.
  22. ^ Roche, Cathy Steele (January 19, 1977). "Snow Misses Charlotte, But Cold's Here to Stay". The Charlotte News (Charlotte, North Carolina), via p. 1.
  23. ^ Wheeler, Deborah (January 31, 2014). "Ice on the beach, but it could be worse". McClatchy-Tribune Business News. Tribune Content Agency.
  24. ^ "NOWData - NOAA Online Weather Data". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved December 23, 2022.
  25. ^ "Summary of Monthly Normals 1991-2020". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved December 23, 2022.
  26. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  27. ^ "P2 HISPANIC OR LATINO, AND NOT HISPANIC OR LATINO BY RACE - 2010: DEC Redistricting Data (PL 94-171) - Fort Walton Beach city, Florida". United States Census Bureau.
  28. ^ "P2 HISPANIC OR LATINO, AND NOT HISPANIC OR LATINO BY RACE - 2020: DEC Redistricting Data (PL 94-171) - Fort Walton Beach city, Florida". United States Census Bureau.
  29. ^ "S1101 HOUSEHOLDS AND FAMILIES - 2020: Fort Walton Beach city, Florida". United States Census Bureau.
  30. ^ "S1101 HOUSEHOLDS AND FAMILIES - 2010: Fort Walton Beach city, Florida". United States Census Bureau.
  31. ^ "Department of Homeland Security Leadership structure". Retrieved February 24, 2010.
  32. ^ Associated Press (June 29, 2000). "Ex-Fort Walton Beach mayor, lawmaker dies". Tallahassee Democrat. p. 17. Retrieved September 20, 2022 – via Open access icon
  33. ^ Barlow, Kari (March 16, 2012). "Former Eglin Commander dies at 104". Northwest Florida Daily News. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
  34. ^ "Hurlburt Field - Home". United States Air Force. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
  35. ^ "Eglin Air Force Base - Home". United States Air Force. Archived from the original on January 19, 2013. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
  36. ^ "Fort Walton Beach Snowbird Club". December 7, 2014.
  37. ^ "Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival". Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival. Retrieved October 2, 2014.
  38. ^ "City of Fort Walton Beach CAFR" (PDF).
  39. ^ "Sister Cities". The Local Government of Quezon City. Archived from the original on October 1, 2017. Retrieved April 9, 2019.