Gulf Islands National Seashore (Florida) | OKALOOSA AREA

Gulf Islands National Seashore's Okaloosa Beach

Gulf Islands National Seashore’s Okaloosa Beach

The Okaloosa Area of Gulf Islands National Seashore in Florida is a Choctawhatchee Bay beach that is open for day-use only from 8 AM to sunset. There is a fee to enter, and you can purchase a pass in advance online at Recreation.gov or with cash or check at the self-service pay station at the beach. A park volunteer lives at the beach, so see this person if you need help. The pass is good for seven days and gets you into all other areas in Gulf Islands National Seashore. For the current prices, visit the National Park Service’s official Entrance Fees web page for the park. Annual National Park and Gulf Islands National Seashore passes are also accepted.

Path to the Okaloosa Beach at Gulf Islands National Seashore

Path to the Okaloosa Beach at Gulf Islands National Seashore

Okaloosa Beach is located on the eastern end of Santa Rosa Island near Fort Walton Beach. A C-shaped road runs through the park, exiting off of Highway 98 at one end and connecting back to it at the other end. The eastern entrance has a National Park Service sign, whereas the western entrance is just a nondescript left turn with a small sign a few hundred yards from where the developed real estate ends. You must keep a watchful eye out for the road signs indicting the turn.

Satellite view of the Okaloosa Area (click to enlarge)

Satellite view of the Okaloosa Area (click to enlarge)

The beach parking lot is very long and parallels an equally long stretch of beach. It can hold approximately 175 vehicles. Earthen pathways—some sandy, some grassy—lead to the water. Stick to the paths because there are small, ball-like briers growing in the brush area, and these will stick into your feet or to the bottom of your footwear.

Beach parking lot at the Okaloosa Area of Gulf Islands National Seashore

Beach parking lot at the Okaloosa Area of Gulf Islands National Seashore

Grassy path connects the parking lot to Okaloosa Beach at Gulf Islands National Seashore

Grassy path connects the parking lot to Okaloosa Beach at Gulf Islands National Seashore

Beach width varies, with some places barely wide enough for a single person to sunbathe without blocking those walking up and down the beach, to areas wide and inviting. The widest and sandiest part of Okaloosa Beach is at the east end of the parking lot.

Wide section of Gulf Island National Seashore's Okaloosa Beach

Wide section of Gulf Island National Seashore’s Okaloosa Beach

Okaloosa Beach can get narrow in spots, Gulf Islands National Seashore

Okaloosa Beach can get narrow in spots, Gulf Islands National Seashore

The Okaloosa Area beach has the look and feel of a city beach, not something you would find at a “National Seashore.” However, despite its humble appearance, the beach is very popular—one of the most crowded I visited during Spring Break—and it is the beach where my 8-year-old daughter had the most fun. There are plenty of smaller kids here whose parents are looking to avoid the larger waves of the Gulf-side beaches. My daughter and a group of kids assembled a zoo of crabs and other sea critters, for they are easy to find in the bay. The water is shallow, so kids can venture out quite a ways without getting in over their waists.

Calm and shallow waters of the bay at Gulf Island National Seashore's Okaloosa Beach

Calm and shallow waters of Choctawhatchee Bay at Okaloosa Beach

Choctawhatchee Bay is a popular area for wind- and kitesurfing, and plenty of sportsmen use Okaloosa Beach is as their launching point.

Okaloosa Beach at Gulf Islands National Seashore is a popular staging point for wind- and kitesurfers

Okaloosa Beach at Gulf Islands National Seashore is a popular staging point for wind- and kitesurfers

Kite surfer in Choctawhatchee Bay off of Okaloosa Beach, Gulf Islands National Seashore

Kite surfer in Choctawhatchee Bay off of Okaloosa Beach, Gulf Islands National Seashore

There is one restroom with an outdoor rinse-off shower located on the west side of the beach parking lot.

Restroom and outdoor shower at Gulf Islands National Seashore's Okaloosa Beach

Restroom and outdoor shower at Gulf Islands National Seashore’s Okaloosa Beach

On the west end of Okaloosa Beach is a parking lot for a boat ramp used to launch canoes, kayaks, and other hand-paddled watercraft into the bay (see the Okaloosa Area Boat Ramp web page for details). Just to the right of the boat ramp are two more small parking lots that service the park’s official picnic area. While there are picnic tables spread all along the beach, most are located here, with some on the grass and others tucked away behind brush and small trees. There are no covered pavilions or grills. This is not a picnic area meant for a corporate outing or a family reunion, just a place to grab a snack while enjoying a day at the beach.

Picnic area parking lot at Okaloosa Beach, Gulf Islands National Seashore

Picnic area parking lot at Okaloosa Beach, Gulf Islands National Seashore

Grassy picnic area at Okaloosa Beach, Gulf Islands National Seashore

Grassy picnic area at Okaloosa Beach, Gulf Islands National Seashore

Picnic tables are scattered around the west end of Okaloosa Beach, Gulf Islands National Seashore

Picnic tables are scattered around the west end of Okaloosa Beach, Gulf Islands National Seashore

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Last updated on April 28, 2022
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