Okaloosa County includes Baker, Crestview, Destin, Eglin Air Force Base, Fort Walton Beach, Holt, Mary Esther, Niceville and Valparaiso. With 24 miles of spectacular sugar-white sand beaches and transparent green waters, Okaloosa County is commonly referred to as Florida’s Emerald Coast and is one of the many reasons the beaches of Okaloosa County continue to be named the #1 beach in the south by Southern Living Magazine. Additionally, Destin has been named “one of the 10 best places to live and boat” (Boating Magazine, June 2011) and rated “one of the top 25 destinations in the United States by Trip Advisor” for 2011. While Okaloosa County is heavily influenced by its diverse community – tourism, military and rural areas – it continues to grow to near 190,000 residents.
In addition to the tourism industry, Okaloosa County is home to distinctive museums and is continuously finding creative ways to celebrate its history and culture:
- The Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce’s Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival began as a water skiing festival in 1953 and has turned into a festival that celebrates “a pirate of controversial authenticity whose alleged dastardly deeds were widespread throughout the area.” The event begins with a Grand Torchlight Parade and features treasure hunts, fireworks, athletic events and a wide showcase of costumes.
- The Boggy Bayou Mullet Festival is an annual seafood and arts festival in Niceville that serves nearly 4 tons of mullet, a fish found in abundance in the local bayous, to fans during its three-day festival.
- Established in 1948, The Destin Fishing Rodeo is the ultimate fishing tournament for saltwater anglers of all ages. The Rodeo is a month long event that brings in more than 30,000 competing anglers throughout the month. A tournament that exemplifies one of the many reasons Destin is nicknamed “The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village.”
- The Annual Destin Seafood Festival is hosted along the Destin Harbor and HarborWalk Marina, during the same month as the Destin Fishing Rodeo. With more than 60,000 locals and visitors in attendance, the festival pays tribute to the rich history of the Destin Harbor, the Fishing community and the local business community.
- Destin’s Annual Cobia Tournament is a month long event presented by HarborWalk Marina that attracts hundreds of anglers from around the area.
- Opened in 1974, Eglin Air Force Base’s Air Force Armament Museum allows visitors to experience the aviation warfare armament from the early days of World War I through today’s high tech planes and bombs. It is the “only museum in the world dedicated to the collection, preservation and exhibition of artifacts and memorabilia associated with Air Force Armament and its platforms of delivery.”
- The Old Spanish Trail Festival salutes the area’s rich heritage along the Old Spanish Trail – a trade route launched in 1915 between St. Augustine, Florida and San Diego, California – in Crestview.
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Disclaimer: the above list does not include all cities and/or towns in Okaloosa County.