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Okaloosa Island looks appealing - any tips?

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Pickerington, OH
posts: 10
reviews: 49
Okaloosa Island looks appealing - any tips?

My wife, my teen daughter and her friend and I are looking to book a rental in the panhandle area of Florida in mid-July, driving down from Ohio.

Poking around on here, it looks like the Ft Walton Beach/Okahloosa area is interesting... I want something off the beaten path a bit, no high-rise condos or resort hotels, but not quite ready for a beach shack or whatever.

Found a spot at Emerald Isle condos, looks very peaceful and relaxing, right on the water. Anyone have experience or feedback on that development?

Any suggestions or tips for the area? Favorite local hangouts for a good meal (we're tired of chain restaurants)? How about somewhere where we can get a frosty adult beverage and take in some local color?

Valparaiso, Indiana
posts: 227
reviews: 42
1. Re: Okaloosa Island looks appealing - any tips?

Regardless of where you elect to stay, you'll definitely want to have a meal at Old Bay Steamer. Fantastic seafood that's not of the "fried fast food" variety.

posts: 346
reviews: 109
2. Re: Okaloosa Island looks appealing - any tips?

I think Emerald Isle is an older building, but that really makes little difference if the condo is updated. Make sure you read some reviews on VRBO because this is pretty late for a unit to have vacancy in July.....I would wonder why it's still available. Okaloosa Island is pretty quiet overall. The condo buildings are not over 7 stories tall, but July will be one of the busiest times of year. If you want more beach space, then possibly look into the west end of Okaloosa Island because that borders air force land that's all vacant.

There are a few restaurants on Okaloosa Island but we usually venture into Destin for the meals we eat out. There are many good choices right over the bridge once you get into Destin (McGuires, Dewey Destins, Harborwalk restaurants, etc) so you're not trying to travel all the way though Destin. However, Okaloosa Island has the Old Bay Steamer (as mentioned), a new one call the Oar House (never been there), Helenback Cafe which is on the bay and you can definitely get a frosty beverage there and some pizza.

Based on your criteria you might also like Navarre Beach which is just a little west of Okaloosa Island.

Chicago, Illinois
posts: 1,039
reviews: 89
3. Re: Okaloosa Island looks appealing - any tips?

I was also going to suggest Navarre. Much less traffic, more laid back and you can actually have the beach to yourself at times. There's some high rise buildings but others are not. Fewer restaurants and activities, but if it's the beach you want.....you can't beat it.

I'd avoid going into Destin to eat because the traffic there is unbelievable in the summer. Navarre is about a 7 mile drive along a beautiful stretch of undeveloped national seashore to Pensacola Beach where there's an assortment of restaurants.

Pickerington, OH
posts: 10
reviews: 49
4. Re: Okaloosa Island looks appealing - any tips?

I decided to book a condo at Emerald based on the reviews and description (updated condo, photos look good). The vacancy we jumped on was a partial week -- I'm guessing that's why it wasn't booked. But looking on VRBO there were quite a few rentals in the panhandle that were still available -- many of them *overpriced*.

I liked the views of Emerald and its proximity to the beach and a close pool for the days when we don't want to venture into the sand. We'll see how it works out.

Two votes for Navarre beach so far. It looks like it might be worth a day trip over there to explore a bit, but after driving from Ohio, i doubt they'll be interested in driving much distance at all.

I'll try to check out the Oar House, Helenback and the Old Bay Steamer. Sounds intriguing. Reviews for Old Bay say it's a bit pricey and long wait times. Not good... particularly since we'll be there in the busiest time of the year.

Thanks for the tips, MsCheap1, FlyStayEat and bpasphalt.

Woodbury, Minnesota
posts: 645
reviews: 6
5. Re: Okaloosa Island looks appealing - any tips?

The reviews for the Oar House have not been good. We like Pandoras - they do a prime rib special on Sundays and Wednesdays, you need to make reservations. We also like Pranzo which is on the Island. Caffe Italia has changed ownership, and their new menu looks interesting. I know the Old Bay Steamer is popular - but most of the seafood the serve is frozen. There are so many other restaurants that serve fresh local seafood, we have avoided going there.

Chicago, Illinois
posts: 1,039
reviews: 89
6. Re: Okaloosa Island looks appealing - any tips?

You're very welcome, Buckeye. Have a great vacation.

BTW, I've heard that Stewby's in Ft Walton is a good place to eat. Have not been there myself, but maybe ttrixielou will give us her thoughts on it.

Pickerington, OH
posts: 10
reviews: 49
7. Re: Okaloosa Island looks appealing - any tips?

Solid tips, ttrixielou. we'll keep those spots in mind. Appreciate it.

Any good spots for live music and/or dancing in the area?

posts: 731
reviews: 3
8. Re: Okaloosa Island looks appealing - any tips?

Stewbys is excellent. We ate there last year and will again next year. You can find live music at a couple of places on the boardwalk by the pier. Have a great time. We stay at Beachbums Hideaway in the Cloisters Townhomes, a couple of doors down from Emerald Isle

posts: 2,130
reviews: 32
9. Re: Okaloosa Island looks appealing - any tips?

We love Stewby's, too....but a few other suggestions, closer to Emerald Isle....

Magnolia Grill for old southern atmosphere & great food...or Angler's, Crab Trap, & Black Pearl are right on the beach (restaurant & bar combos). High Tide is also good.

Another good pizza place is Folker's. (another vote for Pandora's, Pranzo's, & Helenback, too)

For nightlife, look at Howl At The Moon (we've not been, but seen good reviews).

Not sure how often they do this, but we've been there a couple of times when they've been doing a Friday evening art festival in FWB town (just across the bridge). Fun time with various types of musicians playing, crafters selling stuff, etc.

IMO, I think you'll be very happy you chose FWB over Navarre! :-)

Pickerington, OH
posts: 10
reviews: 49
10. Re: Okaloosa Island looks appealing - any tips?

There is a "Howl at the Moon" here in Cowtown -- a sing-along piano bar, and big fun. GREAT suggestion if it's the same venue.

Thanks for the great tips, thinkin'vacation and ScubaGirl77. I'll plug all these spots into my iPhone and be sure to check them out.

Watch for the reviews I'll be submitting when we're down there in July!