Okaloosa Island on the Emerald Coast

The Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier is one attraction on Florida’s Emerald Coast that visitors and locals always fall for—hook, line, and sinker. The unmistakable lure is the stately, elongated structure that stretches 1,262 feet over the sugar-white sand on the beach well into the vibrant blue-green waters of the Gulf of Mexico. At close to a ¼ mile in length, the Pier is easily observed from just about any place on the Island’s coastline and is frequently used as a landmark for directions and meeting points.

Five superior and testing golf courses are within easy reach of the Pier—Emerald Bay Golf Club, Ft. Walton Beach Golf Club, Indian Bayou, Kelly Plantation, and Regatta Bay Golf and Country Club. Before or after the round or from dusk on, all vacationing golfers should, at some time in their stay, walk the pier and sip a beer—maybe even substitute the driver for a rod and reel. The change of pace and the relaxed setting will be delightful.



The Fishing Pier is a busy ¼ mile off the Emerald Coast and a haven for fisherman, strollers, sightseers, and spectators. (Courtesy of okaloosaislandpier.com)


Whether it’s the fresh air, the brisk breeze, and the ocean’s salty scent that punctuate a leisurely stroll or whether it’s the amusement, the challenge, and the thrill that come from landing the big one, the Fishing Pier is one of the most popular sites on the Emerald Coast. “Coasting” is taking advantage of the area’s natural beauty and man-made recreation, and the Fishing Pier certainly provides a unique access to that appellation.

Okaloosa Island is surrounded by the waters of Santa Rosa Sound, Choctawhatchee Bay, and the Gulf of Mexico and is a water sportsman’s utopia. It is also the barrier island between Ft. Walton Beach and Destin, and these three vacation and holiday destinations represent the “Heart of the Emerald Coast.”

If the locals can brag that Destin is the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village,” then the Fishing Pier habitués can easily claim that their venue is “Where the Large Fish Feed.” Built in 1972 and then extended in 1998, the Pier tests the skills of its many anglers against the wiles of its many denizens of the deep. Although prime fishing spots are available up and down the Pier, the enlarged octagon shape at the end greatly increases the fishing area at the Pier’s deepest juncture.



Sunset on the Emerald Coast is a special time of day; watching the sunset on the Fishing Pier is a daily ritual. (Feature photo and this one by Vicky MacKay)


What’s on the menu? Cobia, dolphin, king mackerel, tarpon, and tuna are the heavyweights, but other species that still pack a punch are bluefish, bonito, jack crevalle, redfish, Spanish mackerel, and whiting. Pompano—the tastiest game fish in Florida—is also a favorite opponent, and ladyfish and blue runners are perfect for those with lightweight tackle. The “Gulf to Table” fresh fish dining experience that makes the Emerald Coast restaurants’ seafood so delectable can start right here on the Fishing Pier.

No rod and reel? No problem. A fully stocked tackle and bait shop is located on the Pier and will rent the equipment for $7-8 and will sell all the artificial and natural baits that will entice even the most finicky big ones. Sandwiches, sodas, beer, snacks, and ice are also available.



The Fishing Pier is a remarkable feat of construction and one of the Emerald Coast’s most recognizable landmarks. (Courtesy of okaloosaislandpier.com)


Fishermen are charged a nominal fee: $8 for adults, $7 for seniors 65+, $5 for children 6-12; free for children under 5. Spectators, visitors, and any non-fishermen six years and older are charged $2. The daily admissions are good from the moment you walk on the Pier until midnight. Once paid, you can come and go as you please.

And what pleases many of the Pier’s guests, besides the great fishing and the invigorating environment, is surveying the panoramic views up and down the coast and out to sea, the dolphins frolicking in their native domain, and the sun’s vanishing into the Gulf in late afternoon.

“Coasting” on both the Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier and the nearby great golf courses are two smooth ways to have a lot of fun.



Okaloosa Island, Fort Walton Beach, and Destin comprise the “Heart of the Emerald Coast.” (Courtesy of okaloosaislandpier.com)