One of few museums highlighting Native American culture, artifacts, and ancestry in the Southeastern U.S., the Indian Temple Mound Museum in Fort Walton is a must-see if you’re in town. Though it’s located within the hustle and bustle of the city, you don’t feel any of the hurry, noise, or tension once you step onto the museum grounds. Camellia bushes form a beautiful (and effective) natural sound barrier, so you won’t hear the city traffic or noise. Beautiful, garden-like grounds feel miles removed from the city, giving the grounds a quiet, sacred atmosphere that you can’t help but notice.
Here you’ll find one of the world’s largest and finest collections of ancient ceramics, crafted from contemporaneous Pensacola people. As you stroll through the museum, you’ll see artifacts stretching as far back as 25,000 B.C. all the way through the 1950s. These artifacts range widely, from elaborately detailed ceramics to early evidence of early maize agriculture. Hands-on exhibits demonstrating tasks like basket weaving and hand-drilling are great for younger visitors as well as adults.
Much of the museum is made up of the peaceful grounds surrounding the museum building. These ancient Native American burial grounds were used for centuries; the mound itself was a religious, ceremonial and political landmark, built around A.D. 850 by the Mississippi Pensacola Tribe. Visitors can climb to the top of the mound, which has plenty of space to relax and enjoy the quiet atmosphere. On the museum grounds, you’ll also see a 1912-era one-room schoolhouse; step in with a guide, and you’ll feel like you’re stepping back in time. The friendly, knowledgeable guides make every step of the tour enjoyable.
The museum and grounds aren’t large; it doesn’t take more than 2-3 hours to see all the exhibits and explore the schoolhouse and mound itself. If you just have a short morning or afternoon to explore a bit off the beaten path in the Fort Walton Beach Area, it’s a no-brainer–conveniently in town just across from the Fort Walton Beach Landing Park, unexpectedly peaceful, and brimming with the area’s history and native culture.