7 Places Near 30A to Enjoy in (Almost) Total Isolation - 30A



7 Places Near 30A to Enjoy in (Almost) Total Isolation

By: Lauren Sage Reinlie | Posted Aug 20, 2021

The beaches along Scenic Highway 30A have definitely been discovered by the rest of the country. And while that makes it fun and exciting to share this area with people from all over, some days you just want to be alone. We are happy to report that there are still plenty of options to get off the beaten path and find some relative seclusion. 

While most of these are just around the corner, a few others require a little bit of effort to get to. But we promise it will be worth it.

1. Topsail Hill Preserve State Park

Topsail Hill Preserve State Park

Topsail Hill Preserve State Park

It’s easy to lose yourself to nature at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park, a 1,640-acre preserve that’s home to 3.2 miles of pristine beaches, majestic sand dunes (some over 25 feet tall), three coastal dune lakes, wetlands, sand pine scrub, and long-leaf pine forests. 

The beach is accessible only by a paved hiking or biking trail that is about a mile long. This makes it challenging if you have a lot of gear, but perfect if you enjoy a walk in nature that leads to a beach with relatively few people. (A tram is also available.)

The state park has over 13 miles of deserted trails, a hiker’s paradise. The Morris Lake Nature Trail is a highlight. This 2.5-mile loop meanders through some spectacular white sand dunes and old Florida brush. Stop at one of the trail’s benches and enjoy some quiet with a gorgeous view of the lake.

Grab a paddleboard, canoe, or kayak (available for rent at the park) and explore Campbell Lake, an over-100-acre coastal dune lake. With plenty of water to explore, you’ll find yourself almost completely alone alongside an array of wildlife.

Cabins and campsites are also available for overnight stays. The campsites at Topsail are some of the most spacious in the area, giving campers room to spread out from their neighbors. 

2. Holmes Creek Paddling Trail

Northwest Florida is home to some of Florida’s renowned — and refreshing — cold water springs. A paddle along Holmes Creek to Cypress Springs is a great getaway, especially during the week. (On the weekends the springs can get relatively crowded with boaters and swimmers, but you still have plenty of space to find some solitude along the creek.) 

The paddling trail passes by swamplands and along some sandy shores perfect for pulling over for a picnic. Cypress Springs is a great spot to hop in for a swim and cool off. The temperature of the water flowing from the springs stays around 68-70 degrees all year. Bring a mask or snorkel. The crystal-clear water offers a great opportunity to see the spring opening, called a boil. Guided tours are also available.

The creek has several access points making it easy to plan out the length of trip you’re most comfortable with. Cypress Springs is located between Cotton and Culpepper landings. Find a map here

3. Coffeen Nature Preserve

Coffeen Nature Preserve

Lake Fuller is home to much wildlife including the American Alligator. It is joined by marsh to Coastal Dune Lake Morris.

A little to the west of Scenic Highway 30-A, an almost-hidden turn off U.S. Highway 98 transports you into near solitude at Coffeen Nature Preserve. This hidden gem not only offers access to spectacular, untouched nature but also a trip through time back to World War II. 

The U.S. Army Air Corps used this section of beach for highly secretive missile testing during the war. You can still view some of the beach ramps they used to launch missiles up to150 miles out into the Gulf of Mexico. After the military stopped using the land, different stewards have continued to protect this place and all the wildlife that calls it home. 

The only way to visit the preserve is with an appointment, but once you do you can find near solitude in over 230 acres of pristine forest with sand pines, oaks, magnolias, and hickory trees.

The preserve also includes a 40-acre coastal dune lake, marshland, and swamps. 

Call 850-622-3700 to schedule a tour.

4. Point Washington State Forest

Point Washington State Forest

Point Washington State Forest. Photo credit: Sean Murphy

Networks of sandy roads and hiking or biking trails criss-cross their way through 15,400 protected acres in Point Washington State Forest. The forest is home to ten different natural habitats, including sandhill, cypress swamps, basin swamps, wet flatwoods, and wet prairie communities. 

There are numerous public access points into the forest along Scenic Highway 30-A and its feeder roads. Once inside, it’s a breeze to find plenty of beautiful and quiet places to enjoy in complete seclusion. Walking or mountain biking are popular ways to enjoy the forest. Off-road driving is also allowed on certain roads and is another way to enjoy some time away from the crowds.

For overnighters, there’s even a primitive public campground with grills, picnic tables, and a bathroom…. but we’ll let you find that secret spot all on your own. =)

Point Washington, Florida ????️???? 30A

30A ????️???? visits Point Washington, a quiet wooded community of locals just north of Florida’s Scenic Highway 30A.

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Posted by 30A on Friday, 5 June 2020

5. The Intracoastal Canal (a.k.a. “The Ditch”)

The Intracoastal Canal

The Intracoastal Waterway is a 3,000-mile network of natural and man-made waterways along the Atlantic Coast and Gulf of Mexico that stretches all the way from Manasquan River in New Jersey to Brownsville, Texas. Basically, the Intracoastal Waterway enables barges, cargo ships, and small watercraft to travel from New York City all the way to the Mexican border, without ever having to be exposed to the potentially rough open seas of the Atlantic and Gulf. Here in South Walton, the Intracoastal Canal connects West Bay in Panama City Beach to the far east end of Choctawhatchee Bay.

Referred to as “The Ditch” by locals, this untouched narrow valley is difficult to access, but is so worth the effort. The easiest way to get there is by boat, kayak or paddleboard, as there are no official public trails or roads to help you reach the southern shore of the Intracoastal Canal. The shortest route by water is from the public boat launch in Point Washington or the kayak/canoe launch at Eden Gardens State Park.

Head north on the water from the boat ramp or state park and hang a hard right to find miles and miles of gorgeous canal shores to explore. If you’re lucky, you might even encounter a few dolphins making the Intracoastal trek between bays.

Beach Happy ????️ ???? Visits Intracoastal Waterway

Not many 30A LOCALS ever go here!!

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6. Choctawhatchee River Basin

The Choctawatchee Canal

A untouched channel off the Choctawhatchee River.

Beach Happy ????️ ???? visits Choctawhatchee Bay!

WOW!! ???? Did you guys know all this stuff??

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Posted by 30A on Thursday, 29 April 2021

If you want to delve a little deeper, explore the mouth of the Choctawhatchee River to discover some truly incredible pristine habitats. 

The Choctawhatchee River is Old Florida at its purest, so don’t be surprised to see bald eagles, giant osprey nests, turtles, blue heron, and if you’re lucky, an alligator. This is as good as any Costa Rican jungle tour, minus the howler monkeys. It’s quite a long paddle though unless you cross the bay and drop in from Live Oak Landing or at a public access point along Black Creek. If you don’t quite have that much paddle power, there are some fantastic local guides who will gladly give you the grand tour, including Backwater Tours

7. Hiking Trails at Eden Gardens State Park

Beach Happy ????️ ???? visits Eden Gardens State Park

How many of you have been to Eden Gardens State Park ???? just north of Scenic 30A?

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Posted by 30A on Wednesday, 19 May 2021

Just four miles north of Seagrove and Seaside, Eden Gardens State Park is a 161-acre trove of ancient moss-draped oaks, punctuated with views of Tucker Bayou. While you may not have this local treasure 100 percent to yourself, there’s plenty of room to spread out for a private picnic. There are also hiking trails starting from the north end of the pavilion picnic area, making Eden Gardens an ideal excursion. The park office offers free trail maps.

Did we miss your favorite spot to be alone along 30A? Let us know!

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Lauren Sage Reinlie is an award-winning freelance journalist currently living in Freeport, Florida. Her work has taken her across the South, where she has covered topics ranging from the wily ways of politicians at the Texas state capitol to the storied land of sunshine and swamp sharks (a.k.a. gators) in Florida. She can be reached at [email protected].