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 wile away the day in this 180-acre park, swimming, beach-combing, hiking and fishing (both freshwater and saltwater).
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.)
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, of course, Grayton’s stunning sugar-white sand beaches.
Grayton Beach State Park features a campground loop with 34 rustic sites, and while Grayton’s campground is perhaps not quite as refined as Topsail Hill State Preserve’s RV facility further west on Scenic Highway 30A, hey, isn’t that the whole point?
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.
Deer Lake State Park is truly one of South Walton’s best-kept secrets. The beach here is isolated and undisturbed. Quiet your mind and listen to the sounds of the sea gulls, the rustling of the wind through the palmetto fronds and the chirps of the snowy plover. The quarter-mile dune boardwalk at Deer Lake State Park is incredible. It provides astounding views and is ideal for those who are not able (or do not wish) to trudge along a sandy path
For the more adventurous, try hiking the half-mile Blue Trail which borders Deer Lake, one of South Walton’s rare coastal dune lakes.
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.