By Rebecca Alwine, Army Spouse

Congratulations on being stationed on Florida’s Emerald Coast. Eglin AFB and Hurlburt Field are so close that they share housing and lots of amenities. The Florida panhandle is also a prime tourist location due to the weather and beaches. But before you ditch the coats and buy new bathing suits, let’s dive in and learn more about your new duty station and then head to PCSgrades.com to neighborhood hunt!

Where is Eglin AFB and Hurlburt Field?

The panhandle of Florida has some of the most beautiful beaches and has several military installations. About an hour and a half east of Pensacola, you’ll find Eglin Air Force Base and Hurlburt Field. Eglin is home to a variety of units, including Army Special Forces 7th Group and 6th Ranger Training Battalion, Navy EOD School, 20th Space Control Squadron, and the 919th Special Operations Wing. Nearby Hurlburt Field (they’re located about 12 miles apart) hosts the 1st Special Operations Group.

 

Eglin AFB & Hulburt Field Housing

On Base Housing

Installation housing at both Eglin AFB and Hulburt Field are operated by Corvias. With housing available in duplex and single-family homes, the usual positives of installation housing are included. As with most installation housing, being close to the commissary, the Exchange, and a short commute make base housing appealing. Since these installations are so close, families can choose to live at either location. 

Off Base Housing

For families interested in areas off the installation, nearby towns like Crestview (about 20 minutes north) and Niceville/Valparaiso (closer to the gates) are at the top the list. Destin and Fort Walton Beach are options, though they are very touristy and the traffic heading towards the beach will make commutes a bit more frustrating. The drive from Crestview to the installations isn’t too tedious. But for those looking for restaurants and things to do, living farther away from the center of it all may prove tiresome. 

Amenities

Schools are always top of the list of questions for incoming families with children. Luckily this area has some great options. This area has some of the top schools in Florida. As a whole, Okaloosa County Schools are some of the best in the state. Those who are living on Eglin are zoned for Eglin Elementary School, which is located on the installation. As far as on-base amenities go, Corvias is working to bring more amenities to their residents, including a new fitness center, resort pool, and computer lab. Currently, families can enjoy dog parks, gyms, pools, the Commissary, the BX, and the many activities at the Eglin Outdoor Recreational Center. 

BAH and Cost of Living

Okaloosa County in western Florida is home to more than 35,000 veterans and over 15,000 active duty families.

The overall cost of living for the Eglin/Hulburt area is 8% higher than the national average with the median rent cost at $1,300 and the median home purchase price of $218,8oo. There is no state income tax however making this an attractive place to purchase.

Need to find a REALTOR® in the Destin area? Your fellow military and veteran community has reviewed them for you at PCSgrades.com.

Florida Panhandle Weather

The Sunshine State is hot, and this area is no exception. For the most part, hurricanes aren’t a huge problem in the Florida Panhandle, but storms that come into the Gulf of Mexico almost always produce rain locally. If you are a military or veteran family needing extra insurance on your home due to storms, visit our friends at Armed Forces Insurance for a quote.

The average temperatures in the winter months may get as low as the high 40s, but the daytime high is still in the low 60s. Rain is pretty consistent year-round with the wettest months being July and August. Humidity, however, is greatly reduced when you’re on the beach!

Culture & Food

You really have to experience seafood when living so close to the water in Florida. Old Bay Steamer, Floyd’s, and Gillian’s are favorites among the locals and the military community in the area. While they may be crowded, the view at Floyd’s, Gilligan’s, and Pompano Joe’s are definitely worth the wait. Another highly recommended and fun restaurant is the Osaka Japanese Hibachi Steakhouse & Sushi Bar, where you can enjoy dinner and a show. For those living in Crestview, there are some good restaurants to choose from, including The Wild Olive and Azteca Mexican.

 

Area Attractions

Emerald Coast Science Center

Families moving to the area during the hot summer months may have a hard time getting involved, but the Emerald Coast Science Center and its extensive list of activities can help with that. They have a Storytime, preschool lab, and $5 admission every Friday. They also have a homeschool workshop monthly. Homeschooling in Florida is slightly more complicated than in states like Texas but is still very popular.

Okaloosa Island

This Island is a barrier island between Fort Walton Beach and Destin, has gorgeous beaches, great restaurants, and lots of family fun. Fishing off the pier or just sitting on the end enjoying the view is a favorite among visitors.

Air Force Armament Museum 

Located on Eglin Air Force Base, this museum shows the history of aviation warfare starting with the early 1900s, and World War I. Admission is free and includes the fastest plane ever built (SR-71 Blackbird) as well as bombs, missiles, and rockets. Interactive displays keep children and adults entertained. It also makes it a great option for the hot summer or a rainy day.

Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park

Animals are always fun to watch, and at the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park in Fort Walton Beach, education and fun go hand in hand. Since 1955, Gulfarium has served the people of Fort Walton Beach as an aquarium, a tourist attraction, and a scientific research center.

Indian Temple Mound Museum

Another classic place to visit in Fort Walton Beach is the Indian Temple Mound Museum, in the heart of downtown. This museum is just one part of the museums available (all for one ticket!) and features exhibits showing the Native American lifestyle.

The Eglin/Hurlburt area is a great duty station, with just enough to keep you busy without being overwhelming. Good food, family fun, and year-round good weather.

If you currently live in the Fort Walton Beach/Niceville/Destin area or have been stationed there recently, please tell other military and veteran families what you liked and maybe didn’t like about the area in a PCSgrades housing or neighborhood review.

AuthorRebecca Alwine is a PCSgrades’ Blogger Affiliate, freelance writer, army wife, and mother of three. Her writing experience includes military family topics, research pieces, guest blogging, and much more. She’s a contributing writer for ARMY Magazine, a regular contributor for several publications including to Homefront United Network, PCSgrades, ESME, and has also been published in Ms. Magazine and The Atlantic.

Rebecca Alwine