State Parks and Forest
It’s understood that our sugar-white beaches, turquoise waters and natural beauty can soothe your soul, but did you know that more than 40-percent of land in South Walton is state-protected or part of a private preserve? South Walton is home to four state parks and a state forest, all prime for exploring.
You’ll find opportunities for camping, miles of hiking and biking trails, prime examples of Florida’s unspoiled natural vegetation, rare coastal dune lakes and diverse ecosystems.
Visit a state park and step into nature at one of South Walton’s ecological treasures:
Topsail Hill Preserve State Park is known for its towering sand dunes and 14 unique plant communities, and has been identified as the most pristine piece of coastal property in Florida. Topsail Hill showcases 1,600 acres of bald cypress swamps, nature trails that traverse mountainous sand dunes and two rare coastal dune lakes – Campbell Lake and Morris Lake. Visitors to Topsail Hill, which offers 3.2 miles of secluded beach, can spend the day soaking up sunshine, biking and hiking through the old growth long leaf pines, or reeling in bass and catfish. Want to stay longer than a day? Topsail Hill has more than 200 campsites and cabins to suite your style.
7525 W. Scenic Highway 30A, Santa Rosa Beach
Grayton Beach State Park has trails that wind through pine flatwoods and around small freshwater ponds, which are a natural habitat for wading birds, water birds and lowland birds. Plovers, Terns and Gulls are common sights in this popular bird-watching area. Grayton Beach State Park is home to two nature trails – The Flatwoods Trail and Western Lake Loop – that wind through acres of pristine landscapes. The park features a boat ramp, plenty of space for camping, sunbathing and exploring, whether by foot, bike or paddleboard. Speaking of paddleboards, Western Lake is the ideal spot to go for a leisurely paddle or kayak excursion. Grayton Beach State Park has been hailed as the “Best Beach in the U.S.” by Dr. Stephen Leatherman, aka Dr. Beach, and again ranked as a top 4 beach in the USA in 2017.
357 Main Park Road, Grayton Beach
Deer Lake State Park features a pristine coastal dune lake and bursts with a kaleidoscope of color from the summer wildflowers, plants and various species of birds and butterflies that make their home here. In Deer Lake State Park you’ll find southern magnolias, woody goldenrod and scrub oaks, in addition to rare varieties of plants like the Gulf Coast lupine and spoonflower pitcher plants. Take a stroll along the 1.5 mile Deer Lake Trail and explore the dune ecosystem, one of 11 natural communities in the park. Other favorite activities include fishing, enjoying a picnic lunch or just sunbathing and relaxing on the beach.
6719 E. Scenic Highway 30A, WaterSound
Eden Gardens State Park is home to the Wesley Mansion, which was occupied by lumber baron William Henry Wesley and his family in the 1800s. Nowadays, visitors can tour the historic mansion or stroll through the carefully manicured gardens at Eden Gardens State Park. With gorgeous moss-draped ancient live oaks, camellias and azaleas sprinkled throughout the park, there are plenty of sights to soak up. The approximately 163-acre park is the perfect place to enjoy a serene lunch, an easy stroll through the park ground, fishing in Tucker Bayou, or even host a wedding.
181 Eden Gardens Road, Santa Rosa Beach
Point Washington State Forest boasts 15,000 acres and more than 27 miles of distinct trails that meander through coastal scrub, wet prairie, swamplands and longleaf pine flatwoods. Point Washington is a haven for bikers and hikers who can traverse trails that vary in length from the more relaxed 2.5-mile Western Trail to the more challenging 11-mile Orange Loop. There are four primitive campsites in Point Washington where visitors can stay the night. While camping you might notice the several species of plants and animals, such as the gopher tortoise, flatwoods salamander and white-topped pitcher plants that are listed as threatened or endangered.