State Parks along the Emerald Coast!

Bridge in State Park

Grayton Beach State Park

Consistently voted one of world’s most beautiful and pristine beaches (and frequently hailed as the #1 beach in America), Grayton Beach State Park is a 2,000-acre national treasure that features camping, hiking, various YOLO board and eco tour activities, biking trails through sand dunes and pine flatwoods, two rare coastal dune lakes, a boat ramp, and, of course, Grayton’s stunning sugar-white sand beaches.

Grayton Beach State Park features a campground loop with 34 rustic sites, and RV facility is located further west on Scenic Highway 30A.

The park features 30 very nice two-bedroom, one-bath “cabins” (they’re more like nice duplex apartments) for rent, each with central heating and cooling and a full kitchen.

Eden Gardens State Park

Just a few miles north of Seaside and Seagrove, you can experience the dreamy romance of a bygone era at Eden Gardens State Park. This 161-acre park is a wonderland of ancient moss-draped oaks, punctuated by gorgeous views of Choctawhatchee Bay and Tucker Bayou. With March typically being the peak blooming season, camellias and azaleas still offer dazzling displays from October through May. Eden Gardens is also home to tended rose gardens, a butterfly garden and a reflection pond filled with lilies and Koi. Be sure to treat yourself to a tour of the Wesley House here, home to the second largest collection of Louis XVI furniture in the United States. Offered Thursday-Monday from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. ($4 for adults, $2 for children), this historical tour provides a showing of these rare antiques and an education on what South Walton was like in the pioneer days. Eden is a truly magical place for a picnic, or a wedding, if one is so inclined. You’ll see why.

Topsail Hill Preserve State Park

This gorgeous 1,640-acre park is home to 3.2 miles of pristine and isolated beaches, majestic sand dunes (some over 25 feet tall!), three coastal dune lakes, wetlands, sand pine scrub and long-leaf pine forests. Topsail Hill Preserve is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, and with over 13 miles of deserted trails, it’s also a hiker’s paradise.

Fisherman can try their luck on either the freshwater coastal dune lakes, or on the beach, where Pompano, Redfish, Spanish and King Mackerel might well be on the menu. (Please note that a fishing license may be required for both fresh and saltwater fishing.)

Topsail Hill Preserve is also home to one of the top-ranked RV and cabin rental parks in the nation. With 150+ shaded RV sites (big rigs welcome), 2-bedroom/2-bath cabins, 22 tent sites, a swimming pool and a stocked fishing lake, it’s little wonder that Topsail Hill Preserve State Park consistently ranks so high with ReserveAmerica customers. There’s even a free tram system that whisks campers and their beach gear out to Topsail’s blissfully undeveloped sugar white shores.

Camp Helen State Park

Just across South Walton’s eastern edge, adjoining Inlet Beach, rests Camp Helen State Park.

Bordered by the Gulf of Mexico and Lake Powell (one of Florida’s largest coastal dune lakes), Camp Helen whispers the promise of a very relaxing day getaway. You can wipe away the day in this 180-acre park, swimming, beach-combing, hiking and fishing (both freshwater and saltwater).

Once a corporate retreat for an Alabama textile mill (from 1945 until 1987), Camp Helen’s rich with history and is also home to a restored historical building which is available to tour.

Camp Helen’s an excellent spot for family reunions, company retreats, or just an afternoon picnic with the kids.

Point Washington State Forest

Over 40 percent of South Walton’s land is protected, and the majority of that acreage is part of the Point Washington State Forest system. A popular access point is the Eastern Lake Trail System, located along S. County Road 395. This particular trail system offers 3.5, 5 and 10-mile loops, ideal for both hikers and bicyclists. Pets are also allowed, if on a leash.

The 15,400-acre forest is home to ten natural communities, including sandhill, cypress swamps, basin swamps, wet flatwoods and wet prairie. Overnight camping is allowed in special primitive areas of Point Washington State Forest, and wonderful (and affordable) camp sites are also available nearby at Grayton Beach State Park and in Topsail Hill State Preserve‘s higher end RV Park. If you don’t mind getting your car a little dusty, feel free to turn down one of those little sandy roads and take a casual drive through the forest. But unless you’re in a 4-wheel drive, it’s probably best not to turn off the main corridors, as some of the smaller roads get pretty tight, pretty fast.

Deer Lake State Park

Tucked away along Scenic Highway 30A, just west of WaterSound, this spectacular gem of a State Park offers park goers a look at intact ancient sand dune ecosystems.

An elevated walkway guides you through a small wooded area, to the rolling dunes, then down to the Gulf of Mexico. Once on the beach, you can take a walk to the west, and discover the park’s namesake, a rare coastal dune lake that empties into the Gulf.

Located on Scenic Road 30A just east of Camp Creek Lake
• Restrooms • Parking • Nature trails • Picnic areas

Ponce de Leon Springs State Park

Just outside the Walton County line is one of the coolest places to take a dip in a spring, Ponce de Leon Springs State Park. As the water stays a constant 68 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, both locals and visitors enjoy this nature-made swimming pool, which is a convergence of two underground water flows, producing 14 million gallons of water daily.

 

TO BE CONTINUED…

Some information was taken from 30a.com.

 

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