The Courtyard Marriott Fort Walton Beach West Destin is the perfect property for a families looking to experience a beachfront vacation on the Emerald Coast and Gulf of Mexico without huge crowds or minimum night guarantees. It offers the sugar white sand beaches and sunset views in modern and comfortable surroundings perfect for families with young children or families with teenagers but also the flexibility of booking short-term and with short-notice.
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My family had an amazing time at the Courtyard Marriott Fort Walton Beach in Fort Walton Beach, FL. We felt like it offered us the best part of the Emerald Coast; beach time, sand play and amazing views without the larger crowds found in Destin or Panama City Beach. The Courtyard is one of only a few hotels in the area and captures all the charm of a small town hotel property with the luxury comforts of the worldwide Marriott brands that we’re familiar.
What Works For Families
- Courtyard Marriott Fort Walton Beach is truly beachfront but also offers a pool so we could swim even when the water was rough.
- The wifi was free and available throughout the hotel.
- Onsite parking is free and located directly under the hotel, making me feel very safe with a late night arrival.
- For a tech connected family, there were plenty of plugs for a family to recharge all their devices.
- All rooms have a mini-refrigerator and microwave included.
What Doesn’t Work for Families
- The sofabeds in the rooms are only twin sized, so if you have a child used to sleeping in a larger bed at home or wanting to sleep with a sibling they will be disappointed.
- Not all of the rooms have bathtubs, so bathing young children may have to be done by shower.
- The onsite restaurant only offers breakfast and dinner with the closest dining options a short drive away. There is a pool bar that offers a limited selection of sandwiches during the day for lunch.
Room cost: $$ ½ for a standard two queen room during our visit in July 2016.
- The Details
Courtyard Marriott Fort Walton Beach actually faces the Gulf of Mexico, on the southernmost area of Fort Walton, Santa Rosa Island with stunning views from the moment of check-in. The key reason I considered the Courtyard is that because it is a hotel, it didn’t require any minimum stay, even during the busy summer months. We were able to book a long weekend after I spent a few days working in Alabama, even on short notice.
Our main objective for this vacation was the beach and sand play because my sons and I were bringing along a cousin who had never seen the beach. For our next visit, we made note of all the attractions in the area we plan to visit, including the Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone, Air Force Armament Museum, Elgin Air Force Base and the Okaloosa Day Use Area in the Gulf Islands National Seashore, a National Park. We were able to catch a sunrise at the Gulf Islands National Seashore and look forward to searching for seashells there.
If you choose to drive like we did, the property offers free onsite parking and five hour drive from Jackson, MS or Atlanta, GA and seven hours from Orlando, FL. Flying in, the property is only a 20 minute drive from the Destin-Fort Walton Beach airport and there are plenty of cabs so renting a car isn’t necessary.
Courtyard Fort Walton Beach is a new property (opened in January 2016) and reflects the updated design of Courtyard properties. Upon arrival, the design is welcoming from the lobby area that doubles as the bistro dining area to the library and computer room area. The lobby/bistro area serves as the centerpiece of the hotel. It has plenty of space for relaxing and full length windows that showcase the beachfront appeal. There are also dining sectionals that seat up to 5 people. Each sectional has its own TV that I could see as a popular area for playing games with family/friends during rainy day down time.
When my family arrived, we were told that the property was overbooked and sent to an overflow hotel in downtown Fort Walton (not beachfront!). It was disappointing to say the least but the Courtyard provided us a complimentary night and two meals during our stay as well as offering full use of their facilities on the day of our check-in. Talking with one of front-desk clerks at check-out, I was told that it happens frequently because guests stay over. The bright side is that my family took full advantage of the facilities on the day of check-in and rose early to see the sunrise from the beach. The assistant manager and staff overall were very apologetic and provided great service for the remainder of our stay.
We hit the beach first thing in the morning when we came but were equally excited to see that there was a pool if the water had been too rough. The pool is outdoors and directly next to the sand, approximately 25 yards down a boardwalk from the hotel. It’s rather small (maximum depth of 5 feet); however, it provides a good alternative to the beach. Courtyard also offers a small but well-equipped fitness room if you must get in a workout while on vacation.
- The Rooms
Our room was an ocean view deluxe room with a one king and a sofa bed. The décor in the room felt very luxe but also welcoming to families. We loved soft comforter on the bed that we sank in right away for a quick nap. There was a stunning wall mural behind the bed that brought the beach theme inside and reminded me that we were on vacation at the BEACH every time I glanced up. A microwave and small refrigerator in the room were disguised in a storage cabinet. It was nice to have the refrigerator for cool drinks after being outside at the beach all day.
Our room was family-friendly luxe! We couldn’t wait to take a nap here. Source: Kendra Pierson, Long Weekend Traveling Mom
In addition to a generous sized closet, there were several cubby areas for storing extra items like our beach toys. Finally, while I wasn’t working this trip, there was a large combined desk/counter area. It had enough space to hold my laptop and files as well as my eight year old son’s tablet and my teenage cousin’s cell phone for charging. It also provided my four year old son a coloring area.
Our bathroom had an oversized shower with plenty of space on the counter for multiple shampoos, sunscreens and other products. Some of the rooms offer shower/bathtub combinations. If that feature is important for your family, be sure to note that request at check-in/when making the reservation.
The Courtyard doesn’t offer any children’s programming or resort-like amenities onsite, but there are plenty of attractions nearby. There was an independent business set-up directly in front of the Courtyard that offered rental of beach chairs and umbrellas. If you choose to buy rather than rent, there are stores within a half mile that sell all the beach items you would need such chairs, umbrellas, towels, cover-ups, etc.
While the hotel is beachfront with an unobstructed view of the water, there is a 30 yard walk to the water on a wooden boardwalk. The boardwalk ends at a set of stairs for ease of climbing over the sand dunes to reach the water. Beach towels are available for pick-up in the pool area, which is located off the boardwalk. The pool nor beach have life guards on duty but beach patrols drive along the area periodically.
The property is only four stories high and fits in with the landscape of the area. The condos in the area aren’t the high-rises found along other areas of the Gulf beaches. In general, Fort Walton Beach felt like it was more laid-back area than its popular neighbors of Panama City Beach and Destin but offered the same great white sand beaches and emerald waters.
The Bistro is the onsite restaurant and offers both breakfast and dinner. It offers Starbucks coffee and beer/wine options for dinner. My family was able to find items that we all enjoyed. The kids menu provided standards like chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese, while the adult menu had updated choices such as salads, flatbread pizzas and traditional items like baked chicken.
For lunch, the only option onsite is Island Pool Bar, located next to the outdoor pool with a variety of sandwich options. There are hotel room rates that include dining options that you may want to consider when booking (similar to a dining plan). Other restaurants ranging from Waffle House to local pubs and fine-dining are located within a half mile. The downtown area offers even more choices a three mile drive away.