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Fort Walton Beach
This coastal town dates from the Civil War but had to wait more than 75 years to come into its own. Patriots loyal to the Confederate cause organized Walton's Guard (named in honor of Colonel George Walton, onetime acting territorial governor of West Florida) and camped at a site on Santa Rosa Sound, later known as Camp Walton. In 1940 fewer than 90 people lived in Fort Walton Beach, but within a decade the city became a boomtown, thanks to New Deal money for roads and bridges and the development of Eglin Field during World War II.
Today the military—Eglin Air Force Base, off-limits to civilians, encompasses 724 square miles of land with 10 auxiliary fields and 21 runways—is Fort Walton Beach's main source of income, but tourism runs a close second. Despite inland sprawl, the town has a cute little shopping district with independent merchants along U.S. 98.
Fort Walton Beach at a Glance
Elsewhere in The Emerald Coast
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