Niceville is a city of about 13,000 residents in western Florida’s Okaloosa County.
Along with Destin and Fort Walton Beach, it makes up one of the largest population centers in the otherwise rural panhandle, and its main natural attractions are the Gulf of Mexico, Boggy Bayou, and Choctawhatchee Bay.
Niceville and the panhandle in general draw visitors looking for relatively undeveloped beauty and a slower pace than is often found on the state’s Atlantic coast destinations like Daytona Beach and Miami.
Fishing and watersports are popular activities, and there are a variety of historical and cultural attractions nearby as well.
Below are 15 things to do in Niceville, Florida.
1. Boggy Fest
Boggy Bayou is one of Niceville’s most notable natural features, and the annual Boggy Fest takes place over three days in late October. It is a celebration of all things historic, unique, and downright fun about the panhandle city.
Former entertainment headliners included Trace Adkins and Colt Ford. In addition to a full spectrum of live entertainment, there’s a dedicated kid’s area called Kidapalooza.
Kidapalooza’s activities include pony and carnival rides, face painting, a petting zoo, and several team and family games.
The event takes place on College Boulevard in town, and there’s free parking on the Northwest Florida State College campus.
2. Children’s Park
Located on the grounds of Niceville’s Civic Center Complex, Children’s Park is a scenic, clean, and amenity-filled location that’s perfect for traveling families interested in enjoying the great outdoors without spending an arm and a leg and hoofing it across the state.
The park’s attractions include a playground and outdoor gym equipment, climbing structures, and even a Spray Park that’s a relatively new addition.
The park itself is open year-round, but the Spray Park portion is open seasonally from May through September.
Previous guests have noted that the park’s facilities were orderly and well-maintained and that the staff were pleasant and helpful.
3. Turkey Creek Nature Trail
Though it can get downright oppressive during much of the summer, the weather in Florida is perfect for most of the year; there are a variety of outdoor recreation options in Niceville for those looking to stretch their legs and burn a few excess calories.
Turkey Creek Nature Trail includes boardwalk and ground-level portions that wind their way through a variety of natural environments, and there are informative markers and plenty of covered seating areas as well.
The boardwalk is about a mile one-way, and there’s a slip for launching canoes and kayaks, which is a unique and exhilarating way to explore the surrounding waterways.
4. Mattie Kelly Arts Center
The Mattie Kelly Arts Center is located on East College Boulevard on the campus of Northwest Florida State College.
The venue offers a diverse array of productions year-round and is even the home of the Northwest Florida Symphony Orchestra.
From Broadway-style shows and visual arts to contemporary and traditional music, there’s a little something for everyone on their schedule. There are also two art galleries onsite that include both permanent and temporary exhibits.
With so much to see and do, it’s best to check the calendar of events on their website periodically to keep up-to-date with what’s going on.
5. Niceville Skate Park
The Niceville Skate Park is located on Campbell Drive in town and is a free attraction that’s popular with skateboarders, inline skaters, and bikers.
The park is open from Thursday to Sunday from the early afternoon until 8 PM and is comprised of five acres chock-full of ramps, drops, and other obstacles that make it exhilarating and challenging.
Whether you’re skating or riding a bike, helmets are required, so bring your own or plan on spending a few bucks to rent one.
The park includes plenty of seating areas near the action, so even for those who don’t plan on partaking in the fun, it’s still a cool place to hang-out and watch.
6. Henderson Beach State Park
Destin’s Henderson Beach State Park is one of the most diverse parks in the area, and its centerpiece is the mile-long stretch of glistening beach that fronts the Gulf of Mexico.
The park’s beach is accessible at various points, and there are large, covered pavilions that are perfect for when it’s time for a break from the oppressive sun.
Fishing, swimming, sunbathing, and shell collecting are popular activities, and there’s a large playground as well.
Nature trails lead from the beach to the park’s inland areas, and pets are okay as long as they’re kept on leashes and cleaned up after.
7. Niceville Dog Park
Niceville Dog Park opens at sunrise and doesn’t close until 10 PM, making it the perfect option for dog lovers with busy schedules.
The park is located near East College Boulevard and State Route 85, is open year-round, and is comprised of more than four acres, including separate, fenced areas for large and small dogs.
Guests are required to clean-up after their pooches, and there are plenty of hoses to refill water bowls when they need to stop for a refreshing drink of water.
As with most dog parks, there may be aggressive animals present, so scope the area carefully before letting yours loose.
8. Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Recreation Area
The Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Recreation area sits on more than 350 acres that, for much of its life, were a gunnery and bombing practice range.
The park is named after an Air Force officer who was primarily responsible for the park’s founding and construction in the post-World War II years and is now managed by the U.S. Forest Service.
The park’s main attraction is Rocky Bayou, offering visitors a variety of activity options like boating, fishing, and paddle-boarding.
The inland portion of the park includes pristine pine forests that are crisscrossed with trails offering plenty of shade and opportunities to view area wildlife.
9. Pounders Hawaiian Grill
Pounders Hawaiian Girl is located on Palm Boulevard North in Niceville, and previous visitors of Hawaiian descent have noted that it’s the most authentic food they’ve eaten on the mainland.
The restaurant is part of a multi-location chain, but you probably wouldn’t know it unless you’ve visited one of their other locations.
Pounders draws crowds during the lunch and dinner rushes, and many guests choose to grab their grub to go to avoid the masses.
In addition to traditional Hawaiian fare and some Spam-centered dishes, they also offer salads, wraps and a variety of refreshing drinks as well.
10. Rocky Bayou Country Club
Rocky Bayou Country Club is a popular golf destination for those visiting the Niceville, Destin, and Fort Walton Beach areas. The course is spread over more than 100 acres and is known for its well-manicured greens and fairways, abundant sand and water hazards, and aesthetic surroundings.
The club offers a variety of single day, short, and long-term membership options, and there are special discount rates for those who don’t mind starting their round after 3:30.
Depending on which option you choose, you may have access to their practice range and swimming pool. There’s a great restaurant and bar onsite as well.
11. Niceville Valparaiso Christmas Parade
Christmas in Florida is a truly unique experience that tends to wow visitors from parts of the country that are usually bombarded by snow and ice during the holiday season.
Every year, the towns of Niceville and Valparaiso team up to present a Christmas parade. There’s a different theme each year.
The parade is the event’s centerpiece, but there are a variety of activities and vendors selling great food and drink, arts and crafts, and other holiday and Florida-related items as well.
12. Festival of the Arts
Destin’s Festival of the Arts takes place late October and is one of the region’s most anticipated yearly events.
Two hundred artists from around the country feature their work each year, and there’s a juried competition that includes a variety of styles, mediums, and cultural influences that make it quite unique.
The festival is known for its live entertainment and tasty food and drink options. There are opportunities to not only watch many of the artist’s work, but to meet and interact with them as well.
It’s the perfect place to pick up a one of a kind piece and support the local community.
13. The Emerald Coast Science Center
The Emerald Coast Science Center is located on Memorial Parkway in Fort Walton Beach, and is one of those rare vacation attractions that keeps minds both young and old engaged and entertained at the same time.
The center’s interactive exhibits touch on animals, the natural world, robotics, aviation, and even physics. Regardless of the ages and interests of those you’re traveling with, you’ll likely find something suitable.
The center’s staff offer regularly scheduled programs and workshops, and many of them are during the summer months when schools are closed.
Previous guests have noted that though while not cheap, the cost of admission was reasonable and in-line with their experience.
14. The Fort Walton Beach Flea Market
The Fort Walton Beach Flea Market is an indoor shopping destination that features chilly air-conditioning and dozens of vendors selling everything from art and books to retro clothing and musical instruments.
The market is spread over nearly 14,000 square feet of space and is a popular attraction for those in dire need of a break from the intense Florida sun.
Like most flea markets, it’s possible to find a rare gem or two, especially if you’ve got the time and patience to comb through the items carefully.
There are a number of inexpensive food and drink options too, and a portion of each sale goes toward supporting a local wildlife refuge.
15. The Garnier Post Office Museum
Truth be told, for many vacationers, spending time in a post office museum is about as appealing as painting a stranger’s garage; but for historic-minded travelers who prefer to venture from the well-worn path, an hour in the Garnier Post Office Museum would be time well-spent.
The museum is part of the Fort Walton Beach Heritage and Cultural Center, and the grounds include a historic schoolhouse museum and country store as well.
The schoolhouse and post office date from the early portion of the 20th century and offer visitors an interesting look into the area’s founding, economy, and development. It shouldn’t take more than an hour to see everything.