We had the best Spring Break! After falling in love with the Emerald Coast during our trip to Pensacola Beach last year, we headed to Fort Walton Beach on Okaloosa Island this year. We partnered with The Island by Hotel RL during our stay, and are so excited to be sharing our family-friendly Okaloosa Island Travel Guide with you! You can shop everything we wore on our trip to Okaloosa Island in this post.
Like most people on vacation we did three things: beach, pool, and out to eat. So I am breaking up this guide by where we stayed, what we did, and where we ate. You can check out our vlog from the trip here, and scroll down for all the details!
Where we stayed on Okaloosa Island
As I mentioned above, we partnered with The Island by Hotel RL for this travel guide. The hotel, located at 1500 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE, Fort Walton Beach, FL, is currently under renovation, and is going to be nothing short of amazing when it is completed! The hotel is broken up into a few buildings, with the pools in the center, then the back building (where we were), then the beach. We were in a Queen Suite room, with an amazing view of the Gulf, on the 5th floor (this building is 6 stories). Our floor was renovated, and very modern, but the lower floors were still undergoing construction/updates.
Our room had a separate room to sleep in, with the queen beds and the bathroom with a private balcony. The main space had a kitchenette, a bar/sitting area, a pull out sofa, and its own balcony. There was enough space for a roller bed, too!
The staff was friendly, and we were able to extend our stay one more night, as we couldn’t bring ourselves to leave the property. The location and views were amazing. We could enjoy the sunrise and sunset from our balcony, and walk to the pier/boardwalk and area restaurants.
The main lobby was beautifully renovated, and we made a habit of hanging out for a bit after breakfast each morning so the girls could play checkers. Breakfast was buffet-style with a few warm options each day, cereals, bagels, and fruit or yogurt.
One thing to note is that room service was not available to us during our stay, and while there was a lobby bar in the restaurant, we could not get drinks sent up to the room. As the renovations wrap up, more amenities will be available to guests. The hotel, however, is very close to a Publix, so you can stock up on food/drinks, and the Tripp Tide Beach bar is fantastic. They offer 3 different drink options served in buckets, as well as “regular” drinks!
There is a small grill near the pool area, which we did not eat at, but it had a nice, shaded seating area. There is also a coffee truck, which is a great photo-op, but it was not open.
Here is a view of the pool (more on that in the What We Did section below), with the construction. I will say, we were never disturbed or annoyed by the construction while enjoying the pool/beach.
Where we ate on Okaloosa Island
I mentioned the property’s proximity to the boardwalk. We could either walk down the sidewalk, or take the beach. The boardwalk hosts a handful of shops and restaurants.
Al’s Beach Club
We partnered with Saltwater Restaurants, and visited Al’s Beach Club Friday for a small photoshoot. The food here is amazing, and we ended up going back on Monday as well! It’s beachy-casual, and you can walk right up from the beach (bikini, sand, and all), and order your food/drinks at the bar. You’ll get a buzzer that will alert you when your food is ready.
Al’s has amazing burgers! I ordered the tuna burger each night and had no regrets. They also serve up drinks in souvenir palm tree cups. Their milkshakes are SO good, too! There is a small splash pad area for kids to play on, as well as a big Connect 4 set, and cornhole boards in the sand. There is also a stage for live entertainment, and while we were there, we were able to catch a pirate magic show which was hilarious; Peyton was even called up on stage during the show. Since it’s connected to the Boardwalk, there were a few shops near it, as well as a woman doing airbrush tattoos!
Al’s is located at 1450 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE, Fort Walton Beach, FL.
Rockin Tacos is also located in the Boardwalk! It wins one of my top two favorite places we ate at while on Okaloosa Island. I cannot get over how friendly the staff was, the amazing view, the atmosphere, and the amazing pineapple margarita. I ordered the fish tacos and David had the cheeseburger tacos – which were SO unique with a spicy kick! You get chips and salsa when you’re seated, and we jazzed it up, and ordered table-side guacamole, and our server was amazing (and so was the guacamole). They also have chicken tenders and tots for kiddos, so it was a win-win.
We had rain one afternoon, and headed back to Rockin Tacos for lunch. I had the shrimp burrito this time and it was amazing (but huge!). One thing to note, this place was packed for lunch – and we were told it could be 40 minutes for a table. Thankfully, it was more like 10, but keep that in mind, as they do not take reservations.
Rockin’ Tacos is located at 1450 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE, Fort Walton Beach, FL.
Floyd’s Shrimp House
Also located in the Boardwalk, Floyd’s Shrimp House features all-you-can-eat shrimp daily from 4-6pm! I ordered their specialty drink: The Fish Hook, which is served with Swedish Fish, it was adorable and tasty! We opted for the fried pickle appetizer, and for dinner I had the mahi-mahi. I requested a pineapple chutney that was on the menu with another dish, and it was the perfect sauce for the jerk seasoning on my fish!
Again, it was very busy, as there are not a lot of dining options on Okaloosa Island, so keep that in mind if you’re headed for dinner!
Find Floyd’s at 1450 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE, Fort Walton Beach, FL.
The Crab Trap
The Crab Trap is located in the Boardwalk, and has a great deck area with Gulf views – however, we were seated inside. The calamari appetizer was SO good, and we had the key lime pie for dessert.
I will throw it out there, if you’re visiting with a potty-training toddler or a little one in diapers, you’re not going to love the bathrooms. But, the margs and key lime pie make up for that 😉
The Crab Trap is located at 1450 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE, Fort Walton Beach, FL.
The Surf Hut
The Surf Hut is tied for my favorite place to eat with Rockin Tacos. If we didn’t have to drive through construction into Destin, it probably would have been the winner. It took about 40 minutes to get there at 6pm due to the traffic and construction delays.
While we were there, there was nearly a 2 hour wait for people to be seated – but there is an amazing space behind the restaurant with stairs down to the beach, Connect 4, cornhole, hula hoops, and picnic tables for people to wait at. The coolest part was the people who were waiting to be sat could order drinks and apps to eat outside while their kids ran around. That alone is an example of how accommodating the staff was. I got crazy and ordered a fun, tropical drink and didn’t love it (it was very sweet – nothing against the bartender!), but the bartender came over to ask if something was wrong and offered to remake it, after I ordered a margarita from our server. Even though it was just a personal taste preference, I give The Surf Hut major points for customer service.
We started with calamari (so good), and I ordered mahi-mahi again, and it was my favorite from the whole week. Dave had bacon-stuffed shrimp, and we both stole some of the girls’ popcorn shrimp. Peyton could not stop raving about the calamari and the hula hoops for the rest of the trip. If The Surf Hut can impress her, then it’s worth the drive 😉
The Surf Hut is located at 551 Scenic Gulf Dr, Destin, FL.
Papa John’s Pizza
Ok, ok. Hear me out! Thursday night, it was pouring so we ordered pizza for delivery. While it did take about an hour and 10 minutes (and that is with paying the $3 line jump thing), they came right up to the 5th floor to deliver to us. We also saw a Domino’s delivery car in the parking lot. So you have some options for delivery if it rains.
Dock on the Island
When we walked up to Dock on the Island, my first thought was that scene from Sweet Home Alabama where she’s like, “You have a baby… in a bar!” It looked very much like the place the locals go for a drink, but we were pleasantly surprised! We were on the bay side, so it was different view, which was fun.
The food was amazing. We had the pretzel appetizer, and Dave had the burger while I had the fish tacos – all VERY good.
A few things to note: it’s a one-stall bathroom and they did not have a dessert menu.
Find The Dock on The Island at 1318 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE, Fort Walton Beach, FL.
The Village Door
We spent one morning at The Village of Baytowne Wharf in Sandestin Resort, and grabbed lunch at the Dockside Restaurant in The Village Door. While it appeared to have a nightclub vibe at night, it was family-friendly during the day! They also had HUGE 45oz specialty drinks, which was fun – I shared the Unicorn Passion with Brittany!
Since it was an early lunch, I opted for the TNT Shrimp appetizer, and then Brittany and David both ordered it as well. While David thought it was pretty spicy, I thought it was perfect.
The Village Door is located at 136 Fisherman’s Cove, Destin, FL.
Nineteen66 is the Southern Grill and Tap House inside The Island by Hotel RL. While we couldn’t get food there yet, the drinks were great, and they had complimentary chips and snacks out during the day.
For breakfast, I mentioned above they had different hot options for the breakfast buffet. Each day, there were eggs and then bacon or sausage, and then they rotated between tater tots, fried potatoes, biscuits and gravy, and pancakes.
While I wished I could have had a mimosa with breakfast, the bar was not open, and drink options were limited to water, orange juice, and a small coffee bar. They are in the process of adding an espresso bar that looks like it will be a self-serve bar! So fun!
Kids 4 and under eat for free, but breakfast was pretty pricy (around $14) if you did not have a breakfast pass during your stay!
What we did on Okaloosa Island
Okaloosa Island is small a small strip, but that doesn’t mean it is short on family-friendly fun!
The beach on the Emerald Coast is unrivaled. The sand is like sugar and the water is so clear. The Island by Hotel RL is on a prime stretch of Gulf Coastline, and a short walk to the pier.
We spent most days on the beach, and rented the chairs/umbrellas. We had the cutest beach toys from B.Toys. Pro tip: rent for the next day in advance to ensure getting a front row spot – which is important if you have little ones! This was the perfect spot for Adaline to cozy up in the shade, and take a mini beach nap!
Shop the girls’ Hanna Andersson swimsuits here.
Shop my suit and the girls’ Tea Collection suits here.
As far as shells go, we didn’t see a ton of big, amazing shells. Lots of smaller scallops and some colorful coquina shells. Peyton and I woke up early one morning to walk the beach, look for shells, and watch the sunrise. We ended up finding a handful of sand dollar doves and a tiny, perfect sand dollar!!
The Okaloosa Island Boardwalk and pier are just a short walk down the beach, so there was public beach access, but we never had an issue with it being too crowded. There are a few volleyball nets closer to the hotel, and the Tripp Tide Beach Bar was open in the afternoon for us to get drinks.
One thing to note is that there is NOT a bathroom close to the beach. You’d have to go into the hotel and use the one by the elevators or go around to the pool areas.
The main pool at The Island by Hotel RL has an amazing rock waterfall, and a grotto bar underneath. Unfortunately, it was not open during our stay, but the fact that you can enter from the patio in back, or swim up for your drink will be really cool once it is open!
We found the pool areas not entirely kid-friendly, as most of the pools were 8 or 10 feet deep. There was one heated pool at The Island by Hotel RL, and since most days it was a little breezy, that pool was PACKED. There was a little square wading pool for kids, which was about 1.5-2 feet deep. It was small and cold, but our girls didn’t mind, and had a blast splashing around.
Peyton’s goggles are from Bling2o, and you can save 10% with code: JENNA.
The property used to have a splash pad, which was removed during renovations. I am told there are plans to re-open something similar down the road, and I hope they do!
Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park
Just East of the Okaloosa Island Boardwalk, you’ll find Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park! They hosted us for the morning one day, and we had a blast!
The majority of the park is outside, so be sure to bring sunscreen (or a jacket, depending on weather!). They have a fun dolphin show, and many different encounters! Peyton and I did the Discover Dolphins encounter. It was short, but Peyton was smiling ear-to-ear. The group was huge for this, but they broke us into smaller groups. We were in a group of 5 with a trainer and a dolphin, and we were able to feed her, pet her, and have her do a few tricks.
Later in the day, Peyton and London did the Discover Stingrays encounter. It was a much smaller group, with only 2 other little girls. The trainer showed the girls what a stingray barb looked like, and they got to hold a stingray tooth! The stingrays in the tank were pretty active, and the girls had a lot of time with them!
The park is fairly compressed, so there isn’t a ton of walking. I would recommend not dealing with a stroller if you have the option! There is also a small cafeteria, where we grabbed lunch.
Gulfarium Marine Park is located at 1010 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE, Fort Walton Beach, FL.
The Island Grounds
The Island by Hotel RL had SO many fun things for kids to do! In the space between the hotel and the beach, there was a green space with putting greens and cornhole! The girls had a blast here.
There is also a green space, where the hotel hosts weddings, and the girls loved running around here. It was a great way to let them get some energy out before bedtime 😉
Near the pools, there is a little covered space with giant Jenga, lots of seating, and 2 giant Connect 4 boards!
The Village of Baytowne Wharf in Sandestin Resort
We had one morning that was too cold to be a beach day, so we headed into Destin to check out Baytowne Wharf. We had to get a parking pass, which ended up being free – finding parking turned out to be more difficult.
It was the cutest little village – and you can see more in my “The Island” InstaStory highlights. There are multiple shops, restaurants, and bars. We headed to a cute shop called Coconut Kidz, and they carried Tea Collection which is one of our favorites! There were also a few surf shops, an arcade, a golf chipping challenge that Dave had fun with, and a carousel!
You can find the Village of Baytowne Wharf at 9300 Emerald Coast Parkway, West Miramar Beach, FL.
Island Time is located across the street from The Island by Hotel RL. They offer pontoon and jet ski rentals, as well as parasailing excursions around Okaloosa Island, offering amazing views of the bay and Gulf. We did the arcade after dinner one night. It was very small, and there were not a lot of games geared toward little kids.
Island Time is located at 1318 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE, Fort Walton Beach, FL.
Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone
Down the road a bit from the property, you will see Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone. This place is massive! They have a tiny, flat mini golf area catered toward younger kids, as well as a 9 hole Pirate-themed course, and an 18 hole dinosaur-themed course. We had a lot of fun here!
Inside, there is another arcade, but it was super crowded. They did have a smaller back area which catered toward little kids, with smaller, kid-friendly arcade games!
They are in the process of adding go karts and laser tag!
Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone is located at 1306 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE, Fort Walton Beach, FL.
Okaloosa Island and Fort Walton completely won our hearts over, and I am already day dreaming of visiting The Island by Hotel RL again!
If you sign up with RLH Corporation’s new Hello Rewards loyalty program, you will earn 10 Hello Bucks for each qualifying stay at all participating RLH Cooperation-branded hotels. This program caters to the everyday traveler vs the frequent business traveler. Since 1 Hello Buck is the equivalent of 1 dollar, you can apply your Hello Bucks on your next reservation, or save them up for a free night!