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Meet the Communities of Okaloosa County

Explore the charming towns of this vibrant West Florida region.

By Kevin Litwin on December 30, 2022

HarborWalk Village in Destin, Florida
Destin-Fort Walton Beach Tourism

Thinking about moving to Fort Walton Beach and Okaloosa County? You are invited to take a tour and discover all the corners of the county, made up of well-known tourism destinations and picturesque communities that beam with Sunshine State pride.

Crestview

Population: 27,820 | Typical home value: $301,800

The county seat of Okaloosa County, Crestview is named for its location on an elevated stretch of land between the Shoal and Yellow rivers. A pretty downtown resulted from the city being designated a Florida Main Street Program Community in 1997, and other quality-of-life assets include Crestview Public Library and Bob Sikes Airport.

Destin

Population: 13,956 | Typical home value: $661,400

Known as a tourism destination and for its fishing industry, Destin is nicknamed the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village” and harbors the largest fishing fleet in Florida. Its Gulf of Mexico beaches are graced with beautiful white sand, and popular destinations include Destin HarborWalk, Henderson Beach State Park and Big Kahuna’s Water & Adventure Park. Annual events include a Destin Fishing Rodeo and Destin Seafood Festival. Celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones both own homes in Destin.

Liza Jackson Park Boat Ramp in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.
Mike Haytack

Fort Walton Beach

Population: 20,879 | Typical home value: $352,700

Entertainment and cultural amenities include Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, Indian Temple Mound Museum, Air Force Armament Museum and Emerald Coast Science Center, and the city’s Uptown Station shopping district has 60 stores and restaurants. Central Park is a great recreation destination, and Fort Walton Beach has the world’s largest flagpole at 170 feet over Uptown Station – on special days, it flies an American flag as big as two tennis courts.

Laurel Hill

Population: 582 | Typical home value: $189,900

Laurel Hill, located in the northern part of the county, was established in 1821 – the same year that Florida was acquired by the United States. Laurel Hill’s cost of living is an attractive 20.5% lower than the U.S. average, and Holiday Hills Music Park is a live music venue most popular for its bluegrass acts.

Mary Esther

Population: 4,370 | Typical home value: $335,200

Named for a daughter of the city’s first postmaster, Mary Esther was incorporated in 1946 and is situated right outside the main entrance to Hurlburt Field. Santa Rosa Mall is a popular shopping plaza anchored by Dillard’s and a 10-screen United Artists cinema. For those who would rather be outside, recreation opportunities include parks like Liza Jackson Park and Old Tree Nature Preserve.

Niceville

Population: 15,946 | Typical home value: $460,000

Named Florida’s Safest City of 2022 by SafeWise, the beautiful city of Niceville is located near Eglin Air Force Base and along the Boggy Bayou. The median income is a comfortable $75,000. Top schools in the city include Northwest Florida State College as well as Collegiate High School at Northwest Florida State College.

Valparaiso

Population: 5,669 | Typical home value: $332,900

Home to the Heritage Museum of Northwest Florida, Valparaiso is located adjacent to the Eglin Air Force Base’s East Gate, and about 500 of the city’s residents live on Eglin AFB itself. The median income for Valparaiso residents is a comfortable $65,000. The city’s cost of living is 7.9% lower than the U.S. average, and the typical commute time for motorists is 16.3 minutes compared to the national average of 26.4 minutes.

Two Georges Marina in Shalimar, Florida.
George Fussell Jr.

Shalimar

Population: 830 | Typical home value: $410,000

With its slogan, “By the Beautiful Water,” Shalimar is a town that was originally occupied entirely by military personnel when first established in the 1940s. Today, Shalimar is an upscale bedroom community that has a small business corridor condensed near State Road 85.

Cinco Bayou

Population: 670 | Typical home value: $313,500

As part of the Fort Walton Beach-Crestview-Destin metropolitan statistical area, Cinco Bayou is known as a Purple Heart Town due to many Air Force veterans who have retired here. The community is only 0.2 square miles in size (109 acres) and completely surrounded by Fort Walton Beach.

Home value source: Zillow

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