What do Ernest Hemingway’s fishing rod, brigantine leather armor, and the fastest plane in the world have in common? They can all be found in Destin and Fort Walton Beach! While we love being professional beach bums, we like to mix it up with a little culture as well. You may find our museums a little quirky, but we think that’s what makes them special.
Destin is known as the "World’s Luckiest Fishing Village." It is also home to the largest charter fishing fleet in the United States. The Destin History & Fishing Museum pays homage to our roots.
The museum has over 75 species of fish mounted on its walls and counting. Did you know hammerhead sharks get suntanned? The Destin Fishing Museum has a mount of one with a reddish hue to prove it.
The museum also houses interesting artifacts like Ernest Hemingway’s reel and rod. A large collection of old photographs provides a glimpse into the past, capturing Destin when it was a small fishing village.
Exhibits in the outdoor Museum Historic Park Complex include Primrose, a historic seine boat originally used by the first fisherman in the area, and the original Old Post Office.
Military life is a huge part of our culture in Destin and FWB. The Air Force Armament Museum is the only museum in the world dedicated to artifacts that tell the story of Air Force weaponry.
The world’s fastest plane and biggest bomb are housed at the museum, along with important artifacts from WWII to present day. Many of the weapons were developed at nearby Eglin Air Force Base ― the largest Air Force base in the world.
Bring the kids and enjoy a picnic under the pines before exploring one of the 25 aircraft on site. Pretend to be a fighter pilot in the flight simulator, visit the gun vault, and learn about modern weapons systems all in a day’s visit. The museum is free and open to the public year-round.
With an impressive collection of early Southeastern Native American pottery, Civil War artifacts, and brigantine leather armor which was worn by Spanish settlers, the Indian Temple Mound Museum gives a view of early life in Fort Walton Beach. The museum’s archives houses over 1400 cataloged items to aid research and preserve history.
The Indian Temple Mound Museum is one of five buildings that makes up the Heritage Park and Cultural Center in Downtown Fort Walton Beach. Other outposts include the Camp Walton Schoolhouse Museum (children that visit are encouraged to play school), the Garnier Post Office Museum, the Fort Walton Temple Mound (you can climb to the top!), and the Civil War Exhibit Building set up as an interactive campsite.
The Emerald Coast Science Center in Fort Walton Beach is an interactive museum on all things science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM).
Meet the collection of birds, reptiles, and small mammals, each one named after a famous scientist. Meet Monica the citron cockatoo, named after Monica Turner a British ornithologist and Marie and Pierre the sugar gliders, named after chemists Marie and Pierre Curie.
You can also learn about ecology and the regional environment with The Emerald Coast Ecosystem Exhibit. Kids and adults can engage in activities about climate and weather, local terrain, and wildlife. The really cool feature of this exhibit is it uses an augmented reality sandbox, so you can make watershed models and conduct experiments with virtual rainfall. Ecology and planet science meet cutting edge tech!
The SMALLab uses cameras with motion capture to track your body’s movements, allowing you to solve puzzles and play games with your group. Essentially, it’s an iPad the size of the room that promotes team learning, problem-solving, and physical movement. Check the Science Center’s website for SMALLab hours.
If you’re staying in FWB for the summer, sign up the kids for STEAM summer camps, and also check out other events held year round like Planetarium Nights and more.
So, whether learning from the past or preserving the future, museums on the Emerald Coast tell the story of Native Americans, Civil War soldiers, Spanish settlers and founding families. Discover our culture and you may uncover part of your story along the way.