Grayton Beach State Park hosts a mile of large coastal dunes with emerald waters lapping at a pristine sugar-sand beach on the beautiful Florida Gulf Coast, located in the middle of the panhandle region. So special is this stretch of beach that Dr. Beach crowned it Best Beach in America in 1994. Yet while the beach grabs the spotlight, it’s just one sliver of this diverse park.
Here you’ll also find the second largest coastal dune lake in the Florida panhandle, Western Lake. Coastal dune lakes are exceedingly rare, found only in 5 places on the planet (Florida & Oregon in the U.S.). Our WonderMap (below) from the hike out to Western Lake will take you right there. Two other coastal dune lakes are within the park, but only Western Lake is on the trail. If you want to see more of this rare phenomenon, the Timpoochee Trail is just down the street.
The Timpoochee Trail is an 18-mile trail skirting the coastline, designed for both bicycling and walking. Running alongside Scenic Highway 30A, you’ll see several of Walton County’s 15 named coastal dune lakes. If you prefer to stay within the park’s grounds, you’ll find 4.5 miles of hiking/biking trails through the Pine Flatwoods, a great coastal pine forest. Want to go further? No problem – these trails connect to others for many more miles of exploration.
A full 40% of South Walton’s 56,000 acres is owned by the state, protecting it from future development. It’s certainly a nature lover’s paradise and Grayton Beach State Park is one of its jewels. Camping and cabins are available, as are boating (ramp on site), paddling, and all things beach related.
As with every Florida State Park we’ve visited, the staff was very friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. The cabin we stayed in was actually a duplex. It was clean and comfortable, and though we had neighbors with 6 kids in the other half of the duplex, we never heard a peep. And while it can seem you’re miles from civilization when in the Pine Flatwoods, every conceivable convenience is right down the road, from quaint coffee houses (Grayt Coffee House) to a Walmart SuperCenter.
Grayton Beach State Park is home to 2 Florida Natural Wonders – one of the best beaches in the country and the second largest coastal dune lake in the region. See for yourself: Check out our photos, videos, and the maps below, then put this on your Florida Bucket List and make a point to visit. You’ll be glad you did.
This Google Earth image shows another view of the drive from our cabin to the trailhead (located across from the park entrance), our hike through the Pine Flatwoods, around the Lake Loop that took us by Western Lake and back. For more details about the hike with photo waypoints, see our WonderMap above. Check out all that white sugar-sand! (The cabins are about 2 miles west of the park entrance and trailhead.)
PS – Our visit to Grayton Beach State Park was during Thanksgiving, 2013. A massive storm stretched from the Gulf of Mexico into the Northeast and the tail end of it was just winding down as we settled in. For 3 days and 2 nights it was windy and cold — cold enough for frost on my car Friday morning. Obviously it was not ideal beach weather, yet the beach was beautiful; that said, you may notice some dark areas on the beach among the pictures, which was debris churned up from the storm. Otherwise, you’ll see the clean white sand all the way up through the dunes…and even on the forest trails. Even in the cold, when the sun came out, it was really nice hiking the trails.