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Stay Fit and Healthy in Okaloosa County, FL

Enjoy bountiful outdoor activities and superior health care in Fort Walton Beach and the surrounding communities of West Florida.

By Cary Estes on December 30, 2022

Kayaking in Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park in Niceville, Florida
Kossina Creative

Okaloosa County sparkles with sun, surf, abundant outdoor activities and superior medical services that benefit residents as well as summer guests and winter snowbirds, who all enjoy the natural beauty of the Emerald Coast.

Outdoor recreation in Fort Walton Beach and Okaloosa County includes plenty of fun in the sun. There are nearly 30 parks – several have water access. The Fort Walton Beach Tennis Center provides 11 tennis courts, four pickleball courts and more. Golfers can enjoy the 36-hole Fort Walton Beach Golf Club.

One highlight is Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park. Located in Niceville, the park combines natural beauty with a fascinating World War II history.

Hit the Water

Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park is a popular location for boating, paddling and fishing. A boat launch provides easy access to Rocky Bayou, Choctawhatchee Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

In 1940, the U.S. Forest Service ceded Rocky Bayou to what was then known as the U.S. War Department, which transformed 800 square miles into a testing area. Test-bomb pieces are believed to exist in the park.

After the war, Col. Fred Gannon of Eglin Air Force Base proposed to convert the range to a public-use area. In 1966, the lands were purchased by the state and became part of the Florida State Parks.

On land, there are three trails that travel through the park. Visitors can enjoy the shade of impressive red cedar trees, look for aquatic plants at Puddin’ Head Stream, or take in the breathtaking views along the shoreline of the bayou. The park also offers 42 campsites for RVs or tents.

For article about health care in Fort Walton Beach and Okaloosa County, Florida.

Stellar Health Care in Fort Walton Beach

High-quality hospitals, walk-in/urgent care centers and a large multispecialty, outpatient physician group help keep this an active and healthy community.

It is an exciting time of growth at the recently rebranded HCA Florida Fort Walton-Destin Hospital, formerly the Fort Walton Beach Medical Center. The facility, which has provided the region excellent health care for nearly 50 years, recently marked the grand opening of the first phase of a $100 million expansion plan.

The space includes a new four-story, 95,000-square-foot patient tower and 10,000-square-foot renovated cafeteria, complete with a kitchen and dining area. Also, the hospital bed capacity will increase by 42 to 309 with 10 in ICU, eight for cardiovascular ICU patients, and surgical care will add 24 – all larger and equipped with modern technology. More than 100 spaces will be added to the parking garage in 2023 during the next phase.

Did You Know?

The hospital is one of the largest employers in the county and offers an ER with a pediatric emergency room. It is also home to the region’s only Level II Trauma Center and Level II Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Patients can also use free-standing ERs in Destin and Navarre.

“HCA Florida Fort Walton-Destin Hospital is committed to continuing our work to meet the needs of this growing community,” says CEO Zach McCluskey.

“We wanted our facility to reflect the enormous talents of our colleagues. By equipping our team with the latest technologies in an updated, modern space, we hope to provide a more healing environment.”

Students can soon earn health care industry certifications at the newly formed Academy of Northwest Florida. The dynamic venture is a partnership between HCA Florida Fort Walton-Destin Hospital and the Okaloosa County School District.

Other Great Health Care Options

In Niceville, the 65-bed HCA Florida Twin Cities Hospital has an eye on the future, too, with plans for an ER expansion scheduled to start in late 2022. More than 3,000 square feet will be added to the building and a portion of the existing emergency room will be renovated.

Crestview has the North Okaloosa Medical Center. The 150-bed facility offers an ER department as well as inpatient and outpatient services.

Meeting the needs of their patients is the highest priority of the White-Wilson Medical Center, one of the largest multispecialty outpatient physician groups in the region that is locally owned and operated. For more than 75 years, the practice has served generations and has been a leader in providing primary care in family medicine, internal medicine and pediatrics.

About White-Wilson Medical Center

The main clinic at Fort Walton Beach also offers comprehensive health services, an in-house laboratory and diagnostic imaging services, plus walk-in care. Other locations are located in Crestview, DeFuniak Springs, Destin, Niceville and Navarre.

A newly launched 24/7 connected care program allows patients who have been diagnosed with chronic illnesses and need additional support to reach their medical team any time day or night.

The holistic, team-based approach is designed to provide greater convenience and better health management.

“Each day, we strive to live up to our core values by delivering the best medical care,” says White-Wilson Medical Center CEO Alan Gieseman. “As part of that work, we focus on identifying opportunities where we can enrich our patients’ lives and help them preserve their wellness and quality of life. It is an ongoing and long-term job and one that is only possible when you have earned your community’s trust.”

Patsy B. Weiler contributed to this article.

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