Taking that long-awaited beach trip with your family and friends can be overwhelming with last minute decisions on where to stop along the way. I personally hope this can help make the trip a little bit easier. For this particular trip let’s navigate from our coverage area to Fort Walton Beach. There are many places along the way, so make some extra time for beyond the beach. I’ll highlight a few from a recent quick weekend trip that you might find helpful.
Before you depart, take a look at the map to make sure this guide lines up with your directions. Many of you that go to Fort Walton Beach specifically will drive I-85/south to I-65/south from Montgomery to Georgiana, Alabama, and head south into Andalusia. This is where our beyond the beach guide begins!
Andalusia is home to many interesting historical things and also some new retail and restaurants. Recently the Covington Mall Shopping Center underwent a massive renovation with the addition of a Marshalls into the former JCPenney along with a Five Below, Burkes, Harbor Freight, and Big Lots. Marshalls isn’t quite open yet, but Five Below should be by the time Spring Break is here. A Zaxby’s also sits in the parking lot.
For those of you looking for a cold treat from Dairy Queen, take the historical mural tour around downtown Andalusia and you’ll discover a really neat Dairy Queen with an original sign! A train museum is also open on select days of the week, and you’ll want to pop into Ward & Co. to see all of the model trains around the shop on Court Square.
As you leave Andalusia you’re not too far away from the beach with one more additional stop on the way. You’ll find yourself going through Wing, Alabama, and Baker, Florida, to get to Crestview. This is our next stop beyond the beach! In downtown Crestview, which is the county seat of Okaloosa County, Florida, a treasure trove of delicious baked goods awaits. Back Home Bakery Cafe is a must-stop type of place and home to one of the most savory and flaky croissants I’ve ever tasted. I stopped here heading back to Georgia in the morning, so I knew the croissant was warm right out of the oven! What a gem.
Now you’re only about 40 minutes away from the ocean waves of Fort Walton Beach or 45 minutes from Destin. You might just now discover you forgot a bathing suit or need to pick up some water and other beach items. A new shopping center is wrapping up construction in Crestview near I-10. Aldi will open soon as well as Ulta, Burlington, and another Five Below. Chick-fil-A is nearby. There is also a wonderful semi-new Fairfield Inn and Suites located off this exit for those that don’t want to pay beachside prices for hotel accommodations. I stay here with my Marriott Bonvoy points. Sign up or learn more about Marriott Bonvoy here.
You might be asking or wondering, “Well what about my trip to Panama City, Rosemary Beach, etc.?” Great question! I do have a few things to show you. You’ll see some photos below of what Rosemary Beach looks like along with Aly Beach.
Keep in mind that in order to access the beach in this area you need a private entry keycard. A new Publix shopping center has opened at Watersound Town Center 11291 US-98, Inlet Beach, Florida 32461. This is about 15 to 20 minutes from Pier Park and five minutes from Rosemary Beach. A new Chick-fil-A is also being built just south of Defuniak Springs on US 331. This area which links Defuniak Springs to South Walton County (Seaside, Grayton Beach, Rosemary Beach) is growing by leaps and bounds.
I hope this has been helpful to you as you prepare for your Spring Break!