Marathoner Dorothy Beal on Why South Walton is a Runner's Paradise - 30A

Marathoner Dorothy Beal on Why South Walton is a Runner’s Paradise

Posted Mar 31, 2021
By Dorothy Beal

One of my favorite things to do while on vacation is to make time to be active. Something about getting to workout vs feeling like I have to or should make a run, hike, gym session, or really any fitness activity I’d typically do at home, makes it extra pleasurable.

Before heading to South Walton I checked out the Watercolor Inn & Resort website, the place where I would be staying, to see if there was a gym or fitness center that I could use while there. Score – there was, so I packed gym clothing on top of what I was already bringing for running. Thankfully, because I was traveling from a colder climate (it was snowing in Virginia when I left) I didn’t feel the need to bring anything other than shorts and a tank for my runs and a tank and leggings for the gym. I also packed a bathing suit, plus quick-drying athletic apparel just in case I had time to squeeze in paddleboarding on top of everything else.

As a marathoner, I’m unfortunately accustomed to websites touting “miles of trails” and then arriving at a location and finding out that by miles of trails they mean a mile or two. More often than not the “path” that they claim is great for running is nothing more than sidewalks.

When I arrived in South Walton, I immediately saw the path that was mentioned on the Visit South Walton website, which was an actual path that truly went for miles – 18.5 to be exact!

The path ran along Scenic Highway 30A and went past absolutely darling towns like Alys Beach and Rosemary Beach. Not only is the path popular with runners it’s also a well-liked spot to ride a bike.

Next time I visit I definitely plan on renting a bike and exploring the various towns on two wheels vs just on my own two feet!



One of the many things I appreciated about South Walton, Florida, was the ease with which it was possible to log training miles. When I’m in the thick of marathon training, I often don’t want to travel because I don’t want to have to run what feels like a million little loops in order to fit in a long run. My typical long runs range in length from 16 to 22 miles, so you can imagine how fun running a one or two-mile loop over and over is – read: not that fun.

If I do have a vacation planned during marathon training, I’ll often move my long run to the day before I leave in order to not risk the loop scenario. The issue with that is, that then I’m typically tired and sore the next day. Nothing puts a damper on the excitement of a trip like not feeling one hundred percent yourself while sitting in cramped quarters in a car or plane.

South Walton felt like a runner’s dream. Not only did I have miles of paved paths to run on, but there were also plenty of soft trails in Grayton Beach State Park.

Because of the extensive trail system, there was no need to move my long run or skip it altogether.

Two of the trails that I would recommend if you are trying to rack up the miles is the Grayton Beach Flatwoods Trail, which is 4.5 miles, or the Timpoochee Bike Trail, which is 18.6 miles. The trails in South Walton were so cool that one morning after breakfast I went on a walk on the Grayton Beach Flatwoods Trail just to be able to admire the surroundings at a slower pace.

As a self-proclaimed running nerd, there are few things in life more enjoyable than running a long run and hanging out at the beach for the rest of the day. The white sand coupled with the emerald green water made Seaside an absolutely breathtaking place to hang out after being active.

As someone who loves to eat, and who is often RUNgry from all the miles, there were an incredible amount of options for delicious yet healthy food. I definitely recommend Black Bear Bread Company if you like good coffee and what felt like endless pastry and bread options. I’m gluten-free and was pleasantly surprised they had delicious gluten-friendly bread options.



If you are more the type who enjoys a post-run drink, I recommend the restaurant attached to the WaterColor Inn where I stayed at, Fish Out Of Water. When I say really liked, I mean it – one morning I went there for breakfast, another day I went there for a post-gym workout Bloody Mary and lunch, later I enjoyed a delicious dinner there on my last night. I promise you won’t be disappointed if you choose to head there! Oh, and did I mention the views? Want to watch the sunset one night? Ask to be seated on their seaside outdoor patio and enjoy watching the sun paint the sky the most glorious colors over the Emerald Coast.

I’d be remiss if I also didn’t mention one of the other restaurants I visited while down there, Surfing Deer. The food was amazing, the drinks were delicious and if you go at just the right time, you can catch the sky turning colors through the large front windows as the sun sets.

If you find yourself thinking, all that sounds lovely BUT I am someone who finds it hard to get motivated to be active on vacation, here are my tips for getting moving while also enjoying resting and indulging on vacation.


Prepare ahead of time by researching where you are visiting to see if they have trails, a gym, etc. Having a loose game plan ahead of time will help motivate you to act on it while on vacation.

Pack appropriate attire so you feel comfortable being active.

Be flexible! You might be someone who wakes up early and runs, but on vacation, you might want to sleep in or your family would like you to join them for breakfast. Be flexible with when you fit in your activity – it might not be at an optimal time but anytime you can fit it in is optimal in my book!

Focus on the ‘after feeling’. The last thing you might want to do is go for a run if you stayed up late enjoying drinks at one of the many delicious restaurants or bars South Walton has to offer. This might not be the best run of your life, but moving your body is a surefire way to kick-start your day and make you feel great.

Leave the stress behind and enjoy yourself. A vacation should be just that! Don’t stress about your workout, fit it in when you can, have fun, maybe try something new, or just generally be happy about whatever ends up happening. While yes you may be training for something and feel the need to fit in a long run or whatnot, the truth is, at the end of the day, missing a week of training isn’t the end of the world and who knows, maybe the extra rest and relaxation will benefit you in the long run, pun intended!

30A 🏝️ 😎 Grayton Beach, Florida

BEACH HAPPY 🏝️ 😎 ️visits Grayton Beach, Florida.

Presented by: Grady-White Boats | MarineMax Panama City Beach | MarineMax Fort Walton Beach | MarineMax Pensacola

Posted by 30A on Friday, 30 October 2020

Dorothy Beal (@mileposts) is an accomplished runner from Texas, and a significant presence on social media in the women’s athletics space.